Sarah McKinnon, Senior Manager, ConsumerOne Connection & Experience Innovation details her story of progression within Toyota GB Plc

What is your job and what does it involve?

Currently, I am the Senior Manager, ConsumerOne Connection & Experience Innovation. This role encompasses three key responsibilities. The first is ensuring that customer experience is in everything we do. Utilising customer journey mapping and analysis to understand how we engage with customers and how we can improve the experience while harnessing our customer communities to really understand what customers want from us. Next, a strong focus on delivering connected services and ensuring that TGB and our Centres can support customers while maximising the benefits they can get from this evolving technology – plus the features and benefits to be enjoyed! Finally, building upon the online retail channels we have in place to develop a comprehensive eCommerce experience for customers, covering all of the products we offer now and in future schedules.

Where did you start your career and what roles have you had leading up to your current role?

I started my career at a marketing agency for Ford of Canada and then went internally to Ford as a Launch Manager. I moved to the UK (married a Brit!) and worked at an agency as an Account Manager for BMW/MINI Centre websites. I was then asked to work at BBH as an Account Director for Audi. While doing that, I was then asked by Audi to work internally as their New Car Marketing Manager. After a year, I was promoted to Centre Marketing Manager. Following that, I went to BMW, where I was the Product Comms and Events Manager. In 2009, they re-structured and I was promoted to National Training Manager for Sales, Product and Brand. After 8 ½ years, I moved to Toyota for a similar role and in January this year, I was promoted to my current role.

Who inspired you to progress?

There have been positive influences at each company and I would say I am fairly self-motivated. However, having someone who believes in you and sees that progression potential is a great feeling. In my last role, I was really encouraged to stretch and challenge myself which allowed me to move to my current role where again I am encouraged to develop and grow.

Who supported/mentored you? 

There are a number of individuals, however, I think an important point is how different working at Toyota has been for me and my development/growth.  This is the company as well as individuals acting in that mentoring role.  I can’t stress enough how focused Toyota are on people development, working with people to actively and positively engage them and ensuring each person has the right things they need to succeed.  We are also supported by great training including MDP (Management Development Programme) which is a great development programme that really challenges our thinking, encourages our growth and provides a mentor to support throughout. I also completed the TBP (Toyota Business Principles) which provided a solid foundation of Toyota principles and helped me to understand how best to identify and solve problems. I have been fortunate to be part of the ‘Women on the Verge of Brilliance’ programme which has been brilliant in providing a support network for women in the business. My current manager (Paula Cooper, Director, ConsumerOne) is a fantastic example of an inspirational woman in our business who absolutely does just that!

As a woman, in a typically male-dominated sector, can you identify any obstacles you have come across in terms of progress? 

I think some of the obstacles are around the legacy of senior jobs becoming available generally, as well as to women. I think it is always difficult to be a trailblazer and seeing yourself in a role that has only ever been done by men. Having role models helps to inspire women into different roles and more senior positions and this takes a while to happen.

What advice would you offer to other women who are just starting their careers?

The automotive industry certainly isn’t what it was when I started and is definitely moving in the right direction.  I would say to not be afraid of the roles that historically have been more male-oriented and be open to all opportunities.  Always be yourself and have the courage of your convictions.  Build a great network around your business and speak to people often. Finally, think about where you want to go and how you think you will need to get there.

What is next for you / where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

As I just moved roles in January, the next step is a little further away as I feel there is so much to do and I am excited about the challenges and opportunities!  I absolutely see myself at Toyota and hopefully having the opportunity to move in the company in time.  My goal is to grow and develop while taking on new challenges while working at a company that allows me to do that.  Other than that, it will be planning our lake house in Ontario for retirement (which is still a long way off, so I still have some time!).

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