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Executive Profile: Melissa Ford

Melissa Ford is part of a small minority , a woman CEO in the male-dominated world of high-tech.

Her company, Vektrex Electronic Systems, provides software and systems integration to the test and measurement industry.

She took over as chief executive officer some 13 years ago after her husband, Jeff, recognized his limitations.

“He said I was better at sales and marketing, and was more a ‘people person’ and he was more the engineering person,” Ford said.

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Jeff now works as the company’s chief technology officer.

The products Vektrex makes ensure that measurements recorded on sophisticated devices are absolutely accurate. Customers using its products are defense, telecommunications, biomedical, and semiconductor industries.

Although she’s always in the minority at industry trade shows and conventions, and at her own business, Ford doesn’t feel intimidated at all.

“When I was in school there were never hardly any women in my classes, so this is nothing new,” she said.

Incorporated since 1986, Vektrex has been gathering steam lately as it sees its sales rise both on the defense side and the commercial side. Ford said she expects sales at the 10-person business to double each year in the next few years.

The company received some help in the past when it was awarded $3 million in grants from the federal Small Business Innovative Research Program and the CalTIP or Technology Innovation Program.

Ford finds her job challenging, but is never sorry she decided on high-tech as her career path.

“It requires creativity, attention to detail, and there’s a product at end of day,” she said. “It’s constantly changing, and you’re not doing the same thing every day.”


RESUM & #201;

Name: Melissa Ford.

Title: CEO, president.

Company: Vektrex Electronic Systems.

Residence: Encinitas.

Birthplace: Salem, Ill.

Age: 47.

Family: Husband, Jeff Hulett, who is also the company’s chief technology officer.

Education: University of Arizona, bachelor of science degree in management information systems.


BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY

Essential business philosophy: Never give up, and be customer focused.

Best way to keep a competitive edge: Focus, form alliances, invest in R & D; and employee training.

Guiding principles: C’NEI, Constant Never Ending Improvement.

Yardstick for success: Achieving our growth goals.

Goals yet to be achieved: Creating a legacy of excellence and innovation.


JUDGMENT CALLS

Best business decision: Learning to play golf. It’s true, a lot of business gets accomplished on the golf course.

Worst business decision: Signing a contract that didn’t require exclusivity. A former partner and our company jointly developed a product together and then he went out and started selling it, creating more competition for us.

Toughest business decision: Turning down an acquisition offer.

Biggest missed opportunity: Too many to count. I view the world through rose-colored glasses, so most everything looks like an opportunity.

Mentor: Mark Fackler, former boss at Stellcom Technologies.


TRUE CONFESSIONS

What do you like best about the defense business: They (the government) always pay its bills, and if they’re late, they pay interest.

What do you like least about the defense business: The political games.

Pet peeves: People who come to work when they’re sick and infect everyone else.

Most important lesson learned: Asking for help before I need it.

Person most interested in meeting: The dalai lama.

Most respected competitor: Agilent Technologies (based in Palo Alto). I love their corporate culture.

Greatest passion: Vektrex.

First choice for a new career: Philanthropist.


PREDILECTIONS

Currently reading: Just finished “State of Fear,” by Michael Crichton.

Favorite quote: “Small businesses are just like large businesses. Both have ups and downs. The difference is with the up and down swings. At a small business, the peaks and valleys occur within one day” , my quote.

Most influential book/statement: “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu.

Favorite status symbol: My jewelry.

Favorite movie: “Pretty Woman.”

Favorite restaurant: Vigilucci’s in Encinitas.

Favorite place for business meetings: Admiral’s Club at any airport.

Favorite vacation spot: Maui, Hawaii.

Favorite way to spend time: At the beach.

My automobile: 2000 Toyota MR2.

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