ESSENCE Network: Confessions of a Black Woman in the Auto Industry

As Crystal Worthem settles into her new role as Ford's marketing director in Dubai, she shares her strategies for creating a life and career you love.

Crystal Worthem knows first hand that the sky is the limit when it comes to success. After burning out the transmission on her first car because she never got a oil change, Worthem went on to have a global career with Ford. As she settles in to her new role based in Dubai, she shares her strategy to creating a life and career you love.

Name: Crystal Worthem
Age: 30s
Title: Director, Marketing, Middle East and Africa at Ford Motor Company
Location: Dubai
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Twitter: https://twitter.com/crystalworthem
 
The gig: I am the new marketing director for the Middle East and Africa division at Ford. It’s an exciting new chapter after 17 years with the company. I’ve worked in various roles from working with dealerships to helping bring Ford to ESSENCE Festival.

The journey: When I went to school at Florida A&M I was very focused on working in business. I had no clue about automotive. I literally burned out my transmission in my first car because I never got an oil change. I did a variety of internships, including Ford, which was the right fit for me. I’ve stayed and grown ever since.

Confessions of Black woman in the auto industry: Black women are spending trillions of dollars in the industry so we are critical to car companies. It’s a very male dominated industry but it's getting a lot more diverse which is great. You have the moments, especially when you're working with a lot of older men that can be challenging. But once you establish yourself as trusted force, people take note. Once I was calling on dealers in a very rural area of Pennsylvania and I would rarely ever see another Black person. I was really concerned about that but quite frankly the dealers, knew that I would do anything for them and they just took care of me like nobody's business and in turn, I took care of them.

Her favorite new car trends: There's lots of new safety technology out there to look for so like, rear view camera which is a must in my mind. There's technology that'll have you in cruise control and kind of minimize your speed or increase your speed depending on traffic. One of the new things that we're launching for Ford Motor Company is sync connect. You can operate your vehicle from your phone including starting the car, checking fuel and locking the doors.

Biggest lesson learned: One of the biggest things that I've learned is to ask for what you deserve. Ask for the money because as women, and especially Black women, sometimes we're just happy to be at the table. But the guy next to you that may be less qualified from you is asking for everything.
 
Her work/life hustle: I got married and had children later but it's all worked out really well. It gets tough sometimes but there are sacrifices you have to make on both sides. Sometimes you have to make a little sacrifice on the family side, sometimes you've got to make a little sacrifice on the work side. But you can have a great career and raise healthy children.

Her best career tip: Own your career. There's probably only been maybe one or two jobs that other people picked for me, everything else I picked myself. If I'm in a particular job, I'll already know two years from that job, what I want to do next that'll help develop me. And then I'll make that very known to the team that's going to make that decision, what I want to do. Don't let other people force you into things that you're not interested in. Do things that are going to take you to the next level in your career.

In her downtime: Once a year, me and 18 of my girlfriends get together and go to Savannah. We rent a big old house and we do a whole a lot of nothing. Then we get a photographer and we dress up with big hats and big dresses and go have a photo shoot.
 
Her go-to power accessory: I am all about the statement necklace. They are perfect to add some personality when traveling.

Her go-to song: “Hotline Bling” by Drake.

What is one of the biggest career lessons you've learned?

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