A day in the life of a Product & Delivery Director featuring Maria Whittington at Dealer Auction

We recently caught up with Maria Whittington of Dealer Auction to hear more about ‘a day in the life of’ a Product & Delivery Director.

Maria explains what her role as Product and Delivery Director consists of and details her typical working day, which includes anything from back-to-back video calls and catch-ups with her team, all the way through to dog walks and Grey’s Anatomy.

She also highlights how it felt to be recognised as an Inspiring Automotive Woman back in 2021, adding ‘I really hope that seeing my recognition leads others to know that they can make a difference and that our industry is a place where everyone can thrive.’

Read Maria’s full interview below.

What is your job role?

I am the Product and Delivery Director at Dealer Auction, so I look after the Strategy and roadmap for the development of features and capabilities on our platform. I am also responsible for ensuring that we understand what our key milestones are in terms of what we need to get live as a business and keep us on track. I do this working alongside our product lead, our delivery lead, and the wider business teams. I am also a member of the leadership team, so I get the opportunity to support our people across the business and help the growth of our culture.

What does your typical working day look like?

One of the things I love about my job is that no two days are the same. However, at around 6am the alarm will go off and I’ll reach for the phone. I like to start the day with a quick check for anything I might have missed overnight. Given we all work varying hours there’s always a chance that something came in after I finished the previous evening that needs picking up or that I need to consider before the working day really gets going.

Exercise first thing is a great boost for the day – all the endorphins definitely have a positive effect on me. So at least three times a week I try to complete a workout at home. My son really got into his fitness during the initial lockdown and has given me plenty of 30 min workouts that are perfect, they are focused with no less than 10 reps in one go so I can’t wimp out. Sadly, when things get busy these can be the first things I drop but I always start the week with the aim of completing the sessions and getting them done first thing usually means that I can’t make work the excuse not to do them.

Then it’s shower and breakfast. One of the benefits of working from home has been the ability to have a proper breakfast which means I’m far less likely to snack mid-morning. When I consistently worked from the office it would always be a case of grabbing a slice of toast on the way out of the door, in an attempt to get ahead of the traffic. So, this freedom is one that I really value now we have a more mixed approach to our working location.

Then it’s a case of opening up the laptop and letting the fun commence. I normally have a list of actions that I’ve picked up from meetings alongside a couple of key things I want to get completed. So I’ll start the day by trying to clear any emails that need attention and then it can be a quick look at the platform, a check of Automotive news updates, and also LinkedIn to see if there’s anything of interest that can help us improve the way that we operate.

One of the aspects of my role that I love is context switching so my day will then be filled with a variety of different calls often running back-to-back. So, I can start the morning with a catch up with one of the team where we discuss the current focus, be that product, technology, delivery or people development. It’s an opportunity to share any new developments, check in on work in progress, identify anything that I can help support or remove barriers on, and most importantly ensuring that whoever I am catching up with is in a good place.

Then it can be on to discussions around our strategic priorities, presenting updates to the leadership team, working through vision documents with some of our business partners. There can be the excitement of working through the implications of new opportunities, in terms of complexity and what we might need to develop on the platform to ensure that our customers all benefit from the changes that we make. Fundamentally, if we get it right in Product, changes that we make should be intuitive to use for our customers and make it easier to complete their tasks on our platform.

There will be check ins with other members of the leadership team as we look to gain clarity on some of the immediate areas of focus, that we might have. This can range from changes in operational processes that impact the way the platform works or idea creation to help support our constant desire to enable the ability to transact cars digitally as easily as possible.

If the working day happens to be a Thursday then the afternoon will see me jumping on our weekly business update call. We introduced this during lock down and it’s proved to be a great way of sharing what’s going on across the business. It has also been a great opportunity to share people updates and ensure that everyone is
aware of things that we have up and coming such as our business-wide people survey, or remind people where they can access support and help if they need it and more recently as we’ve approached the end of the year ensuring that everyone has booked much needed holidays.

I’ll look to focus on getting specific pieces of work completed as things naturally slow down towards the back end of the day. Then the normal working day, sat at the desk, will end somewhere between 6 and 7 in the evening. Occasionally there will be teams chats ongoing and there will, of course, be the need to catch up on Whatsapp and with family. I do try and fit in a call with my Mum when I can although she’s extremely active and so can often be out and about in the evening. If I’m lucky I might get the opportunity to read a bedtime story for my Grandson over a video call and then it’s dinner with my husband. I’m extremely lucky that he loves to cook and so I don’t have that chore to complete. This also ensures that I can enjoy my fix of trash tv with the soaps from the northeast and west of the country. The evening would also include “I’m a Celeb” when it is on and I do love Grey’s anatomy and MasterChef Australia (although I have to admit these get recorded and then watched when there’s time). Fridays tend to be the exception to the rule as my grandson usually arrives at the house somewhere around 5.30pm and then, Covid permitting, we head to the local pub for our dinner.

Where there’s chance or I need to gain some perspective on something I’ll look to try and walk the dog. Fresh air really helps and if there’s a problem that I can’t resolve easily then a walk can often help. We’ve recently moved, and our new location means that I have lots of open space to explore, we are also higher up and so the views can be spectacular. As a friend of mine said so long as you have the right clothing it doesn’t matter what the weather is like you can always enjoy a walk with the dog.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your current role?

It’s been a journey to my current role that’s been inspired and supported by many people. I’ve been fortunate to be managed and mentored by some amazing women and men, all of whom have helped me to continue to learn, develop my skills and recognize areas where I can continue to improve. Observing great leaders has been fundamental in my growth in confidence, particularly in the last 5 years of my career. Then of course, there have also been a handful of people whose behaviour has made me realise how I don’t want to behave as a leader. This particular role has been a great opportunity to put into practice that learning, and also to utilise some of the skills I was coached on as part of a wider leadership course within AutoTrader. Fundamentally my love of product comes from my desire to fix problems. That desire has been a constant throughout my career and has led me to the role that I am currently in. I have been lucky enough to be involved in products that have been driven by the opportunity that new technology provides. The thought of being able to support our industry in the wider move to more digital solutions is a massively exciting one. The delivery aspect of my role also enables me to ensure that we continue to move at speed and work to achieve the goals that will support the needs of our customers as they buy online.

How did you feel to be nominated by your colleagues in the Inspiring Automotive Women Awards 2021 and how did it feel to be one of our winners?

I was absolutely blown away to have been nominated and was utterly thrilled to win an award. Initially, it was with immense pride that I was able to share with my family, it felt like the hours they’d forgone with me had a tangible result, and that there was something for them that represented my passion for people and my desire to make things better was being recognised. Words can’t describe how much their delight meant to me.

Then what followed was a wave of acknowledgment from friends and colleagues, which was extremely uncomfortable. When you love what you do and feel privileged to be in the role that you have it feels odd to be recognised and humbling to hear from others the impact that you have on them. I really hope that seeing my recognition leads others to know that they can make a difference and that our industry is a place where everyone can thrive.

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