People of Stanford Research Park: Flavia Rodriguesby SRP on December 1, 2023
Get to Know: Flavia Rodrigues, Called by Curiosity
ADAS Simulation Technical Program Manager, Ford Greenfield Labs
Spend just a few minutes with Flavia Rodrigues of Ford Greenfield Labs, and you’ll grasp that she hasn’t met an idea that doesn’t pique her interests, a topic that doesn’t tug on her love of learning, or even a language that doesn’t lure her in. As a native of Brazil who’s worked in the US since 2012, she speaks Portuguese and English. She also speaks French and Spanish fluently, has studied some German, and learned the Arabic alphabet.
While Flavia is constantly learning for her own enjoyment, her relentless curiosity has positioned her well for the kind of cross-pollination of ideas and knowledge that can engender innovation and fresh thinking. She graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and, in 2001, took a product development job at Ford Brazil, where she was responsible for managing all 3D vehicle digital assets in South America. Through 2012, she held seven different roles across five different departments at Ford, all the while amassing the kind of knowledge that allowed her to begin to understand the massive corporation that is Ford from a higher level. In 2012, she was offered a program manager role in Michigan. She and her husband, along with their then-five-year-old son, traded in their wardrobes tailored to near-perennial sunshine for heavy duty winter coats.
Eventually, the California climate was too appealing to resist. In 2016, Flavia and her family relocated to Palo Alto, and she had a chance to put her resource management expertise to work when asked to oversee the construction of the Ford Greenfield Labs campus, Ford’s Silicon Valley outpost, in the Research Park. She has since held two planning and product management roles in IT emerging technology, and most recently began working as the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) Simulation Technical Program Manager. Suffice it to say, Flavia understands Ford on the ground level and with a bird’s-eye view, a fact that allows her to do what she loves most—help her team connect dots and augment success.
As a woman who launched her engineering career in late 1990s, Flavia has been gratified to see her share of female colleagues grow steadily since. She remains determined to help more women feel at home and empowered in STEM. In 2018, Flavia launched the Palo Alto chapter of the Women at Ford. Back when she was in IT, she led the effort for Ford to become an official sponsor of Girls Who Code. Flavia managed the Girls Who Code summer immersion program for six years, and continues to lead mentorship events with the students. To these young girls, Flavia is not only an inspiring model of a woman in STEM leadership but also of the joys and dividends of lifelong learning.
We’re excited for you to get to know Flavia Rodrigues, yet another person who makes Stanford Research Park a unique and special place.
What inspired you to pursue your field of work?
I was attracted to a program manager role because it gives me an opportunity to view all activities from a higher level. At the same time, I am able to dive in and learn more about a specific topic when needed. I believe I can directly influence the outcome of a project from many angles while helping many people along the way, and I see that as a privilege.
People appreciate when you take interest in them and their native countries or languages, and I love the learning it brings me.
Flavia Rodrigues, ADAS Simulation Technical Program Manager, Ford Greenfield Labs
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I like making connections—with humans and among ideas.
Once I moved to program management, I was able to operate from the perspective of how many moving parts come together. I make a conscious effort to go to the office often to talk to people. When I understand what they’re working on, I can visualize how it will affect others, and I can think through who has information that can help them succeed.
I also enjoy the human connections. My role is very dynamic, and I’m always meeting new people. This enables me also to make new introductions for others, and I really enjoy this aspect of my work.
Lastly, I get to learn something new every day. Working with technology is a great motivation for me to keep learning.
What do you consider your hometown?
I grew up in Rio de Janeiro. My family is still there, and I love visiting whenever I can. I enjoy Carnival, going to the beach, and catching up with my friends. I’m still in contact with a few friends from my elementary school, high school, and college as well.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
Many years ago, a manager told me to over communicate, and I’ve never forgotten this great advice. She taught me to consider that people might not understand what you’re saying, or you might not be communicating with the right people. It’s very simple advice, but impactful. Every time I prepare a communication, I think through what might not be clear or understandable to everyone about what I’m communicating and then elaborate from there. I try to communicate across a few different mediums, like email, in person, or in Slack. Especially if a message is really important, I’ll repeat it. In my experience, people don’t complain if you’re communicating too much; they complain when you don’t communicate enough.
What is your personal passion or something most people don’t know about you?
My passion is linguistics. I love to study different languages. I was thinking about why I enjoy languages so much, and I think it goes back to the communication aspect and how it helps connect with people. I have found that when I learn about a person’s native language, I can understand better how they think and operate.
One of my favorite ways to learn language is through music. When I’m curious about a new language, I’ll research a number one music hit in a country that speaks that language. I’ll listen to the lyrics and try to understand them. I find you can learn a lot about a culture this way. If I meet someone new who is from a different country, I’ll ask if they have a favorite song or musician from there, and then I’ll research that musician. People appreciate when you take that kind of interest in them and their native countries or languages, and I love the learning it brings me. I have a great playlist with music from all over the world.