Boss It Like...

How To Boss It Like… Sheryl Connelly, Futurist at Ford

By Oliver Smith 22 September 2016

These leaders are changing our world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world. From Gary Turner to David Parkinson and Tracy De Groose, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning we’re talking to Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s in-house Futurist, who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

Connelly has served as Ford’s futurist for over a decade, responsible for identifying global trends and producing Ford’s annual Trend’s Report.

Read more: How Ford is embracing the modern meditation phenomenon of mindfulness

She is also a member of the Global Advisory Council on transportation for the World Economic Forum and has been named one of the Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company in 2013 and 2015.

A busy woman, with big ideas, The Memo asked Connelly how she gets it all done.

Sheryl Connelly, Ford's in-house Futurist.

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I generally wake between 6:30am and 6:45am. The first thing I do is check my email to make sure nothing requires urgent attention.

As a married mother of two, my mornings are spent focused on my daughters. Waking them, making sure they have everything they need for the day and driving them to their respective schools. One is in middle school, the other is in high school.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

My favorite app right now is Autodesk Sketchbook which I use on Apple’s iPad Pro every day to take notes and illustrate my thoughts.

I am a visual learner so I really like to doodle, particularly as I listen to others talk. Check out my TED notes at

For the five day conference, I took almost 200 pages of notes.  

What smartphone do you have?

I have two iPhones: an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 6 Plus.

My husband often complains that I have four different phone numbers and he still can’t reach me throughout the day. I am not big on apps.

On a daily basis I toggle between text, email and phone.       

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

It varies by day. Some days I might have only a few meetings and encounter no more than 10 people and other days I might attend or speak at a conference and find myself in an audience of over 1,000.

Because I can be rather chatty and innately curious, I love talking with people and learning about what makes them tick.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

Before my kids were born, I used to love trashy romance novels. But when I became a parent 15 years ago, I started reading non-fiction in my free time.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely remains one of my favorites. Dan is a behavioural researcher and someone I am honored to call a friend. His work focuses on human behaviour – why we do the things we do.

All of my work focuses on insights so I find his work to be rich resource material for me. Recently, I had the great pleasure of welcoming Dan to our annual trend conference “Further with Ford” where he keynoted a opened our program.

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

My path to becoming a futurist has been a very unlikely one. I studied finance in undergrad, have a law degree and masters in business administration.

My first assignment with Ford was answering the customer service line. Then I went onto sales, wholesaling product to Ford dealers. The opportunity to join the trends team was an unexpected one. I didn’t even know the position existed.

You definitely need not follow my path to become a futurist. In my experience, the skills that are important for success as a futurist is having a rich imagination, insatiable curiosity, and persuasive communication skills.   

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind down routine?

Every day is different.

Typically, my work day starts at 8am and goes well into the evening hours, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am sitting behind a desk that whole time.

My wind down time is with my family – I love to watch cooking shows late at night. I’m also a sucker for reality TV. It is my own form of escapism. But work is always top of mind.   Checking my email is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night.

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.