This article accompanies Ford's Turn.
Felicia Fields, group vice president of human resources and corporate services, seemed predestined to work for the Ford Motor Co. After all, her paternal grandfather retired from Ford's Wixom Assembly Plant, and in 1986, her dad retired as general supervisor at Ford's National Parts Distribution Center in Livonia, Mich.
As a psychology major at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s, however, Fields had designs on attending law school, not working at Ford. It was her father who suggested she try it out when Fields graduated a year early (she had done a college summer internship there, in IT of all places).
"I told him I would be quitting in a year to start law school," Fields says with a laugh. "I should have known better. We never had a vehicle in our driveway that was not a Ford."
Fields ended up starting her first job at Ford a month after her father retired, joining the IT group (based on her summer internship). She felt comfortable with learning and development, so she moved into HR work at several of the company's manufacturing plants. Since 2000, Fields has served in HR executive roles, and in 2005, was named vice president of human resources by Joe Laymon, her mentor and predecessor at Ford (Laymon left Ford in March 2008 for the top HR spot at Chevron).
"Joe clearly prepared me for the HR transformation Ford was about to undergo," she says. "He moved me around, sometimes much faster than I would have liked. But it turned out to be the right thing."
When Laymon left, Ford had just announced its first Q1 profitability in several years. But in short order, the recession roared in and the seeming Ford comeback was derailed.
"The world just fell apart," Fields says. "Joe knew I was cultivating a vision and had a strong desire for building a new HR organization, and I got my chance pretty quickly. The One Ford plan has been a perfect catalyst to fuel that vision."