SHERYL CONNELLY: GLOBAL TREND EXPERT LEADS FORD INTO THE FUTURE
Sheryl Connelly, Manager, Global Trends and Futuring
- As manager of Ford Global Trends and Futuring, Sheryl Connelly tracks consumer trends and collaborates with people throughout the Ford system to see how that information may impact future products
- In addition to her job at Ford, Connelly is a licensed attorney and a gifted artist
Imagine being able to look into a crystal ball and predict the future. Metaphorically speaking, that's what Sheryl Connelly does on a daily basis in her role as manager of Global Trends and Futuring for Ford Motor Company. But instead of a soothsayer's ball, she relies on an ever-expanding repertoire of knowledge, a keen ability to research and analyze information, and a natural gift for communicating with others.
"My job is to look outside the automotive industry to understand what's happening in social, technological, economic, environmental and political arenas so that we can understand shifts that are coming that may influence consumers' values, attitudes and behaviors," said Connelly. "I look for those insights and collaborate with people in Ford Design and Product Development who try to turn them into business propositions."
For example, Connelly says that consumers coming out of the recent economic recession are being more careful about their purchases, holding on to products longer and making incremental purchases as opposed to buying everything they want right away.
"Translated into car speak, that means consumers may keep an existing vehicle instead of buying a new one and try to upgrade it to get the new features they want," she explained. "So the company might take that concept and look at ways of making more cool accessories available through vehicle personalization or explore the development of new technologies with software that can be easily updated."
Connelly says one of the reasons she loves her job so much is because it keeps her in touch with people.
"I enjoy discovering what motivates people – what captures their hearts and imaginations," she said. "I also enjoy collaborating with people because I believe that anytime I have the honor of sharing the work I do with someone else, I'm always going to learn something from what they say in response to it."
Connelly is openly passionate about her work but readily admits that the road that led her to where she is today included a few unexpected twists and turns.
When she was a child growing up in Huntington Woods, Mich., she dreamed of being an artist and was especially fond of whimsical drawing – a talent she still nurtures today. But realizing that art would likely not be a lucrative career choice, she decided to take another "more prudent" path.
She graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor's degree in finance and went on to earn a law degree and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Detroit-Mercy. But after doing a short stint as a civil litigation attorney in Buffalo, N.Y., Connelly says she realized quickly that practicing law might not be the ideal fit for her.
"I wasn't happy, so I decided to look for the sweet spot of intersection between finance, business and law," she said. "I also wanted to move back home to Michigan."
A few job applications later, Connelly landed an entry-level position at Ford in the company's Marketing and Sales division, where she learned about everything from dealer relations and owner loyalty to new product launches and government regulations. Six years ago, she landed in Global Trends and Futuring.
"I took an unconventional path to get here, but I think everything I learned along the way helped me. Law school taught me how to put together a persuasive argument and how to research, analyze and distill information," she said. "And I think my love of art helps me understand how to think visually and reinforce complex ideas with simple images."
Connelly is a resident of Birmingham, Mich. She is married and has two young daughters, Kate and Tess.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 198,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and, until its sale, Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com .
April 19, 2010