Ford Motor Co. on Thursday confirmed that its chief technology officer, Ken Washington, is departing the company for a job at technology behemoth Amazon.com Inc.
The move is just the latest in an emerging war for talent pitting the increasingly tech-savvy auto industry against the tech industry especially concentrated on the West Coast.
Last year, for example, General Motors Co. lost its chief financial officer, Dhivya Suryadevara, to San Francisco-based Stripe, a global technology company that handles online billing and payments. And in 2019, Alicia Boler Davis, then GM’s head of manufacturing, left for Amazon, where she now serves as vice president of global customer fulfillment.
Ford’s former CFO, Tim Stone, left the company soon after CEO Jim Farley took over as CEO last October. Stone had spent much of his career at Amazon prior to joining Ford, but departed the automaker for an artificial intelligence software company.
News of Washington’s exit was announced to Ford employees in a memo Monday. He’ll leave the Dearborn automaker July 16 to take on the role of vice president of software engineering for Amazon.
Longtime Ford employee Jim Buczkowski will take on interim responsibility for the company’s research and advanced engineering team until Ford finds a permanent replacement for Washington, according to the memo.
Washington has served as Ford’s chief technology officer since 2017 and as head of Ford’s global research organization since 2014. He oversees development and implementation of the company’s tech strategy, according to a company biography. He also leads Ford’s STEM and university research programs.
During his tenure at Ford, Washington has overseen the development of next-generation architectures for electric vehicles; sensing stacks, artificial intelligence algorithms, embedded software and advanced computing solutions; energy, propulsion and sustainability improvements; advanced materials and manufacturing; and controls and automated systems, according to Ford.
The company credited him and his team with developing “progressively more advanced tech stacks for fully networked vehicles,” including the latest version that was introduced in the new Mustang Mach-E and 2021 F-150.
Also under Washington, Ford established its Greenfield Labs research center in Palo Alto, Calif., and a research lab in Israel.
“An important part of Ford+ is willingness and effectiveness in partnering with others for expertise, and Ken’s been on the leading edge of that within the company,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer, said in the memo, in reference to the company’s new growth plan.
Washington, he said, has “had a tremendous influence in building out our capabilities and learning from others in ways that are making Ford a leader in connected vehicles.”
Prior to joining Ford, Washington served as vice president of the Advanced Technology Center at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. He previously was Lockheed Martin’s first chief privacy officer, and before that the vice president and chief technology officer for Lockheed Martin’s IT organization.
He worked at Sandia National Laboratories before he joined Lockheed Martin in 2007.
He has bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in nuclear engineering from Texas A&M University, serves on the board of directors for McKesson Corp., and is a fellow of the MIT Seminar XXI program on International Relations, according to his biography. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2020.
Buczkowski, a senior Henry Ford technical fellow at the Blue Oval, has been responsible for research and design of electrical and electronic systems, including in-car information and entertainment, telematics, driver information and active safety systems, according to the memo.