Coatbridge woman named in Autocar's top 100 Great British women in car industry


A driven Coatbridge mum is delighted to have been named as one of Autocar’s top 100 Great British women in recognition of her success as a quality director for Ford.

Fiona Plaxton-Smith, who now lives in South Africa, heads up the motoring giant’s quality operation in Africa and the Middle East.

The 40-year-old left Coatbridge in 1998 — after becoming the first female in the UK to gain an honours degree in Automotive Engineering — to work for Ford in Essex.

And speaking to the Advertiser during a North American business trip, Fiona said: “I didn’t expect to be recognised and included in Autocar’s Top 100 Great British women.

“It is a fantastic acknowledgement and one which I am very grateful for.

“I find it humbling and surreal, as I have never looked for recognition – I just get on with my job.”

Fiona with her husband Steve and daughter Isla, 7.
Fiona with her husband Steve and daughter Isla, 7.

Fiona, who lives in Pretoria with husband Steve and seven-year-old daughter Isla, went on: “I came to South Africa three years ago to help strenghten the local team, and seeing that happen has been very rewarding.

“I oversee the quality strategy for the region and my role includes designing and implementing the team structure required to give Ford what’s needed to operate, monitor and evolve its five-year business plan to ensure world-class quality in the region.”

Fiona, whose family own Coatbridge engine reconditioning company, T.M. Smith, credits her upbringing as being instrumental in her success.

Click here for more from Airdrie and Coatbridge

She said: “I value that I came from a working-class family and my roots keep me grounded and real to myself.

“I have had to work hard to get to where I am and it gives me great appreciation of what I’ve got.”

The former Coatbridge High pupil move to South Africa in 2014 has proved a life-affirming experience.

Fiona explained: “It is a cultural education. I work extremely long and hard hours but when I get time off I enjoy some South African adventures with my family.

Fiona on graduation day with parents John and Lyn
Fiona on graduation day with parents John and Lyn

“Steve also works at Ford and he was fortunate to get a transfer to the Pretoria site.

“It is a wonderful place with lots of opportunities.”

Fiona’s parents John and Lyn still live in Coatbridge and she admits feeling homesick from time to
time.

She said: “I miss my family and friends in Coatbridge and the surrounding areas.

“I’ve been home twice since I took up the role but my family prefer to visit me in South Africa — they love the safari and wild animals!

“If a suitable automotive-based role came up in the area then I would consider returning, but living abroad in a country with lots of hardship has opened my eyes and shown me a different persepective.

Fiona and her daughter Isla get close to a cheetah
Fiona and her daughter Isla get close to a cheetah

“We now think about how we can help others and even our daughter Isla gives her toys and clothes to an orphanage.”

Fiona added: “As part of my job we spend time going into the local community assisting different charity organisations and schools who need help.

“Watching the joy spread across the community as you help them is priceless.

“Helping people develop their skills is very rewarding and I love doing that.”



Source link