She grew up in a car family and intends to continue the tradition. Living and going to school in Motown has certainly provided motivation.
How did you get so interested in cars/the auto industry?
My interest began almost at birth. My dad has had a bunch of sports cars. When it was time to pick me up from the hospital when I was born, he pulled up in his Ford Mustang. My mom was mad at him because it was really hard to get the car seat in, but we laugh about that now.
I’ve been around cars my entire life. My mom works at Ford and did back then, too. My dad has always really liked cars - Camaros, Mustangs, trucks. We had them all growing up. I love airplanes, too. I guess you could say I just love transportation.
So, when did it get serious for you? In high school. I took a class in small engines and then another in auto technology. We hoisted the cars up and worked on the engines. We also looked at different parts of the vehicle. I was the only girl in the class, so that was interesting. Since I’ve always liked cars, I tried to do as many engine and car classes as I could.
In high school, I did a Ford program where I went to Ford’s campus on Saturdays. They would talk about all the different jobs at Ford. I learned that if I applied and did an internship, I could also apply for a scholarship. I was really fortunate that I was awarded one.
Who was your biggest influence growing up?
My mom. She helped me with my school work and studying. When I was younger, I wanted to be a mechanic. To give me a taste of the industry, my mom would take me to bring-your-child-to-work day at Ford where I learned a lot. She also helped me find the Ford high school stem program and meet people who would answer all my questions.
Describe your experience at Wayne State so far.
I started at Schoolcraft Community College, but I knew I wanted to be in Detroit to complete my bachelor’s degree because I love being in the city. Plus, Wayne State’s campus is only about 10 minutes from my dad’s house. Everyone I’ve met at Wayne State has been so helpful and encouraging. It’s a fairly small urban campus, but I wasn’t looking for big. I like that it’s not far to walk or bike downtown. I can see the iconic RenCen (GM’s Renaissance Center) from my room, and that’s pretty cool.
What’s been the toughest part so far?
Now that classes are getting more focused on engineering, they are getting harder. I’ve had to learn how to study differently, adjust my work load and manage test schedules.
What automotive aspect interests you most?
Product development. I just finished my internship at Ford in Vehicle Evaluation Verification in product development. That and my part time job at Performance Driven Workforce have made me realize I like hands on work with vehicles. At PDW, I have the chance to drive Ford fleet vehicles and do customer evaluations on them - Bronco, Mach-E, F-150 Lightning, and many others.
What would you like to do when you graduate?
I would like to be an engineer in product development. I understand there are a lot of different opportunities there, and I love working on car features.
Talk about your enjoyment of motorsports.
My first experience with motorsports was watching the Herbie movies over and over again when I was a child. I also have a friend who works in motorsports. I love watching him race and talking to him about how much he is enjoying his career. I’ve just begun to understand how development on race cars can transfer to consumer vehicles.
How do you approach the challenges of being a minority engineering student in what has been traditionally a non-minority career path?
I have not seen many women of color in my classes, and there are noticeably a lot more men than women. I keep an open mind and I hope they do too. I work to build friendships with my classmates, but the hardest part sometimes is simply to begin the conversation. But I know building relationships is essential to learning and doing well in your career. There are challenges, for sure.
Prediction about the auto industry 10 years from now.
EVs (electric vehicles) definitely. Cars talking and communicating to each other. Different connected features. Way different than it is now. I don’t know how common autonomous cars will be, but I know cars will be talking to each other. That’s one thing I’ve seen at Ford. The Bronco Sport, for instance, can send data to Ford and have the Ford app tell you when your car has an issue or needs maintenance. That app can even make your cell phone your key. It sends you a notification every time your door is opened, so if anyone breaks into your car, you would know about it.
Tell us a little bit about the personal side of Ashley Jones. What do you like to do for fun? To relax?
I read everything. I like to keep up with current news. And I love to walk my dogs. Belle Isle is a great place for the dogs and to do bike riding and canoeing. I also like to travel a lot. My dad has his own moving company so sometimes we’ll join him when he goes to cool areas of the country – Atlanta, Florida, D.C., the beach. I also really like Detroit’s famous Woodward Dream Cruise. It happens every August . . . and just car after car after car.
What do you personally drive?
I have a Bronco Sport. I had to have something with a horse name. I loved horses growing up, so I figured I’d end up with a Mustang, but when the Bronco came back out, I knew I had to have one of them. Great for the dogs!
ABOUT STEAM SPORTS FOUNDATION
The STEAM Sports Foundation scholarship for “Women of Color” seeks aspiring female engineers and technicians who desire careers in the automotive or motorsports industry with an emphasis on engineering, alternative energy, or autonomous vehicle development. The $5,000 per year grants are open to rising college juniors and technical school students. Applications open in March and can be located at www.steamsportsfoundation.org.
In its effort to support racial diversity, equity and inclusion, STEAM Sports Foundation believes very strongly in providing unique career opportunities to those who previously were not encouraged to explore these innovative fields or believed those opportunities did not exist for them. The foundation desires to be leading agents and advocates for change.
Scholarships this year were provided through 23xi Racing's SPEED Institute.