When did you start your career in the automotive industry and what are the different roles you have undertaken?
I first worked for Autocar magazine when I graduated from University. Having set my sights on becoming a political journalist I took the first job in media I was offered. And I’ve never left! In the intervening years, I’ve worked across most of Haymarket’s consumer brands. From Automotive to football, music to tech, motorsport to caravans. In 2015 I returned full time to the automotive industry as Brand Director of What Car? before being made Managing Director of the newly formed Haymarket Automotive Group in 2017. Charged with transforming our revenue portfolio and armed with the biggest investment in Haymarket’s history, it’s been the most exciting (and often terrifying) time of my career.
What obstacles have you faced throughout your journey to becoming MD of Haymarket Automotive? (and what motivated you to overcome them?)
One of the biggest challenges I have faced over the years is the way networking events are naturally inclusive of men. I’ve lost count of the number of cricket, football, rugby, racing, shooting, golf days that my male colleagues were invited to and I and my female colleagues were not. As I progressed in my career and began to juggle working life with managing children it became difficult to justify meeting up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings, especially when cramming a full-time job into fewer hours. Networking events whatever form they take aren’t just fun, they play a key role in building business relationships and ensure business and career visibility. If you’re not invited you’re not part of the conversation and I think that can really hold people back. And I love a lunch!
What do you love most about working within the automotive industry?
The automotive industry is incredibly exciting and there are so many career choices available. Right now it genuinely feels like the most exciting time of all. There’s seismic change wherever you look, be that the products, the business models, the political and economic climate, even the media landscape is changing rapidly.
What was your dream job growing up?
I really, really wanted to be daytime TV chef. I would spend hours cooking whilst pretending to be on TV, often with my younger sister having to hand over pre-weighed ingredients as my assistant. If only tiktok had been invented then!
What was the best piece of advice you received as a youngster that you implemented as an adult?
Say yes to as much as you can… you never know who you might meet, what you might learn and where it might lead.
Can you name a woman in automotive that inspires you and why?
This is so tricky, there are lots. But if I had to name one it would be Laura Schwab. She did the keynote at Autocar’s Great Women in the British Car Industry last year and she was incredible. I don’t think I have ever met anyone with so much positive energy and enthusiasm…. And she’s really funny too.
What advice would you give to women who are wanting to progress in the sector?
Find a company that is committed to your personal development and ideally offers a flexible approach to working. Juggling children and a career isn’t always easy. I have three children aged 17, 15, and 11 and when they were little it was exhausting. I was incredibly lucky that I had a supportive CEO who let me work part-time which I did until my youngest started primary school. In fact, I only returned full time when I took on the role of Managing Director. This was critical to keeping me in the business. So many of my friends struggled to keep working after their second child and I am forever grateful that I was able to continue to pursue a career. I do like to remind people though that part-time workers offer phenomenal value for money as they are usually doing full-time jobs!
What has been the key to your success?
Saying yes to opportunity, working very hard but critically, maintaining a good work/life balance. And never stopping learning.