Published on Monday April 14, 2003
Anne Stevens ’80 Materials 2003 Outstanding Alumna of the Year
Stevens addresses Society of Women Engineers while on campus to receive award
On Friday, April 11, 2003 the Department of Materials Science and Engineering announced their 2003 Faculty and Alumna of the Year Award during their visiting advisory board meeting. This year’s Outstanding Teaching Award went to Dr. Alan Lawley, Grosvenor Professor of Metallurgy in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The Outstanding Research Award went to Dr. Michel Barsoum, Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. The Outstanding Service Award went to Dr. Richard Knight, the co-director of Drexel’s Plasma Institute.
This year’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering Oustanding Alumna Award went to Anne Stevens ’80. Vice president of North America Vehicle Operations for Ford, Stevens oversees 80,000 employees and the operations of twenty-nine automotive assembly plants across Canada, Mexico, and the United States and is responsible for every Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury built in the U.S. The highest-ranking female at Ford, Stevens was included in Fortune magazine’s “Fifty Most Powerful Women in Business” list for the past two years in a row. A member of Drexel’s board of trustees, Stevens was honored with the College of Engineering’s Circle of Distinction award in 2001. In 2002, Stevens was also appointed to the board of directors of Lockheed Martin Corporation.
While on campus, Stevens took time out to address the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in a lecture titled “Survival Skills 101, or How Women Can Thrive in Corporate America.” In her talk, Stevens addressed the fact that career is “only part of your life.” She discussed how she fulfills the various roles she plays—successful career woman, wife, mother and grandmother. She also stressed that in finding the often precarious balance, you should make sure you don’t give all of your self away to either home or work; make sure to keep some of you just for you. This can include cultivating hobbies that are fulfilling to you or can just mean making time for physical activity. Stevens herself told the audience that despite a hectic schedule, she makes sure to fit in a workout five times a week.
“Today’s career model isn’t what it was thirty or forty years ago,” Stevens also observed. Instead, she suggested that employees—and particularly women—should consider the model of a dimmer switch. There are some times in your life when working 12, 14 or even 16 hour days is what you should and can do. And then there are other times—perhaps when a partner or children or a sick parent enters the picture—when that is no longer a healthy or viable way to approach work. That doesn’t mean one has to stop working, she stressed, but it may mean that at times, family comes first; at others, work does. A long, slow approach rather than concentrating on a meteoric rise may be the key. “You can have it all, but it’s unreasonable to think you can have it all in ten years.”
Stevens also identified both success techniques and survival skills she wanted to pass on to the students in the audience. The success techniques included understanding a job’s objectives and requirements, and then focusing on over delivering in both regards; recognizing a company’s protocol and office politics—and ensuring that you don’t violate either; knowing your image, and understanding how to manage it; ensuring that your perceived eccentricities, or deviations from the ‘norm,’ are surpassed by your perceived competency; identifying and forming a relationship with a sponsor at your company who will take an interest in your career and will advocate you; and recognizing opportunity when it strikes.
Survival skills Stevens has spent a lifetime cultivating included not dwelling on failures, but accepting them as inevitable and then making up for them by quickly moving into repair mode, and fixing the problem; remembering to network “up, down, over and out,” or both in and outside of your organization, and at both your peer level as well as with your superiors; remembering to build a support structure for yourself; keeping yourself in balance.
She concluded by stressing that career development today is tough, and that to give yourself the best chance to succeed, you should be specific. Identify what it is that you want so that you can then ask for it. And don’t expect your company or organization to simply take care of you; it’s up to you to ensure that you are pushing your career forward.