Elizabeth Baron: Technical Specialist, Virtual Reality & Advanced Visualization, Ford Motor Company

Elizabeth Baron

Meet one of Little PINK Book’s Top Women in Technology 2012

By Caroline Cox

Baron says electronics, gizmos and science have always fascinated her. She runs (and helped create) Ford’s Immersive Virtual Environment Lab, a state-of-the-art space that uses virtual reality to help designers and engineers envision and ensure safety of a vehicle before it’s actually built. Her work is so impressive that NASA personally called to ask for a tour.

She lives with her husband, who was a stay-at-home dad for 17 years, and four children in Saline, Mich.

Education: Eastern Michigan University

Other work experience: Constitution Committee Chairperson, Bethel Church

LPB: Where did you get your passion for technology?

EB: Basically, I am a geek by nature. When I was young, I loved gizmos, photography and science. I was fascinated by the physics of light, color and optical properties. I learned the art and science of developing and printing photographs. I followed that calling and it lead to an education and career in computer graphics.

LPB: What was the biggest career obstacle you faced?

EB: There was a substantial contingent of people at Ford who did not believe in the value of immersive virtual reviews. For many years, immersive VR (and my professional reputation) was thought of as experimental at best and a waste of resources at worst. Fortunately, I convinced several people in management about the benefits of the technology. They supported it on a limited basis. We built a foundation with very little budget. The result is that most negative opinions have turned positive, and immersive virtual reality is an accepted part of the development process at Ford.

LPB: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

EB: One of my hobbies is cycling. I ride with a group, and one of the rides takes us through Hell, Michigan. So I can say I rode 104 miles on my bike to Hell and back.

LPB: How can more women be successful in the technology field?

EB: Trust in yourself that you are equipped to succeed. If you believe you’re on the right path and have facts on your side, you don’t need every detail solved to proceed. Have faith in your approach and continue, make corrections when they’re warranted and get the job done.

LPB: What’s your success secret?

EB: Persistence, determination and passion for what I do. I am determined to be joyful about the opportunities I have to make a difference at Ford. Some “opportunities” are major challenges that can seem insurmountable. I try to keep a positive perspective. I focus on the result [and] use a challenge as an opportunity to be resourceful and innovative. Also, I have the privilege of working with an amazing team. We inspire each other.

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