Ford hires away from Apple again, woos energy executive to lead DC team

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press

In its ongoing effort to add muscle to the Ford leadership team, the Dearborn automaker announced Monday two key hires including another high-profile executive from Apple.

This is all part of the evolution of Ford Blue, Ford Model e and Ford Pro, divisions that focus on the gasoline-powered vehicles, electrification and technology and business clients, respectively, that Ford CEO Jim Farley unveiled earlier this month.

The latest:

  • Jennifer Waldo, currently vice president of "people business partners" at Apple in Cupertino, California, will soon become Ford's new chief people and employee experiences officer. She'll foster high-performance culture, scale talent and organizational capability in technology, innovation, the Ford news release said.
  • Chris Smith,  vice president of government policy and public affairs at Houston-based Cheniere Energy for five years, the world’s second-largest liquefied natural gas operator, moves into a Ford lobbyist role in Washington, D.C., to help Ford navigate new regulations.

Waldo, who will report directly to Farley, moves into the top human resources role currently held by Kiersten Robinson. She will oversee the Ford Blue Family Vehicles division of SUVs, and assume the "critical global operating role within Ford Blue as president of Mexico and Canada," Farley said in a news release.

Kiersten Robinson,  chief human resources officer, presents to a Ford global town hall from her home in Franklin via Webex on May 28, 2020.

Robinson is "a transformational leader who has been instrumental in supporting Ford’s business and global team for nearly three decades," Farley said.

She will report to Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford Blue.

The transition is to occur sometime during second quarter, spokesperson Ian Thibodeau told the Free Press. Waldo still had her Apple affiliation listed on her LinkedIn professional profile Monday afternoon.

Ford noted that Waldo, who has worked in Michigan and Ohio prior to landing in Silicon Valley, has extensive experience leading organizational change. 

“Jen has incredible experience and a track record of helping companies across different industries build talent and culture to support innovation and growth,” Farley said. “She will be an invaluable addition as we build a diverse, high-performance team to deliver the Ford+ plan.”

Jennifer Waldo will leave Apple to become human resources officer at Ford Motor Co. during the second quarter of 2022, the company announced March 21, 2022.

Before working at Apple, Waldo spent nearly two decades working for GE business units, including GE Digital, which provides software and Internet of Things services to industrial companies, the news release said.

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She led the hiring and building of software talent across GE’s industrial businesses. Earlier, Waldo was with GE Aviation, starting in manufacturing plants and later being promoted to global responsibilities. She is experienced with inclusion and diversity, recruiting and executive development, the Ford release said.

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Waldo has a bachelor's degree in political theory and a master's degree in human resources and labor relations from Michigan State University.  

Chris Smith

Christopher Smith takes a role that is exceptionally valuable during times of regulatory change in the U.S. and globally. Issues relating to privacy, security and environmental impact fall within his purview.

He succeeds retired chief government affairs officer Mitch Bainwol.

Smith will report to Steven Croley, Ford general counsel.

“Chris has devoted his career to shaping progressive energy policy and driving toward a more sustainable future,” said Steven Croley, Ford general counsel said in the news release. “He brings tremendous passion and expertise to Ford as we shape the future of transportation.”

Chris Smith moves from being senior vice president of policy, government and public affairs at Cheniere Energy, the world’s second-largest liquefied natural gas operator, to lead the Ford Motor Co. government affairs team in Washington, D.C., the company announced March 21, 2022. He begins April 4, 2022. He served as assistant secretary for fossil energy at the Department of Energy during the Obama Administration.

Smith oversaw policy, international engagement, and research and development during his eight years and two positions at the U.S. Energy Department, according to the news release. Prior to that, he held analytical positions at Chevron for 11 years in Bogota, Colombia, and in Houston, Texas, as well as Citibank in New York and JPMorgan in London, according to his LinkedIn professional profile.

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Smith, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he earned a bachelor's degree in engineering management, served as a task force engineer in the U.S. Army and a platoon leader, according to his LinkedIn professional page.

He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from American Public University in Charles Town, West Virginia, and an MBA from the University of Cambridge in England.

In February, Ford announced hiring Alan Clarke, a top engineer at Tesla for the past 12 years. He is a key player in the advanced electric vehicle development department and reporting to Doug Field, a former Tesla engineer who joined Ford in September and now runs its advanced technology and embedded systems.

Ford has a new policy where ages of new hires are not released, Thibodeau told the Free Press.

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Contact Phoebe Wall her on Twitter@phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.