To continue the momentum started by our Women in Remarketing and Women in Auto Finance franchises, AuSM has launched Women in Retail, an awards program that specifically recognizes leaders on the retail side of the auto industry.
This inaugural class of honorees is spotlighted in the July 1 issue of AuSM, which includes Q&As with each recipient of the award.
Next up is Nikole L. Reed, who is senior manager of Infiniti used/CPO at Infiniti USA.
AuSM: What was your career path to the retail auto industry? Did you always see yourself in this line of work?
Nikole L. Reed: I would venture to say that most of us are doing something completely different than what we envisioned for ourselves at a young age. I wanted to be a lawyer, doctor and a backup dancer for Janet Jackson! Nevertheless, I started my automotive career as a temp employee at a large OEM while still in college. I suppose I impressed my superiors enough that I was hired as a full-time employee six months into my role and without a degree. When I finished my degree, I was approached with an opportunity to take a sales role that would include face-to-face interactions with dealers.
I was terrified at the thought, as all of my experience had been in office or HQ (headquarter) settings. However, the individual who approached me was a seasoned executive who told me that he saw great potential in me for a sales path. I trusted him and went for it. Eighteen years later, I lead a national sales team, and I couldn’t be happier. The takeaway for me was to begin interacting more with leaders and to gather mentors. These individuals have the experience to help you steer your career and often times see potential in you that you may not see in yourself.
Nikole L. Reed
AR: Who is a leader, outside of the auto industry, that you admire and why?
NLR: Serena Williams. She is a clear leader in her field, and I admire her for so many reasons. On her journey to becoming the “GOAT” of the tennis world, she faced obstacles that would have broken most people, and she did it with grace. She was treated unfairly and paid unequally because she was a woman and an African American. She was called names, suffered injuries and other health issues, but she never complained or called people out. She gracefully kept walking onto courts where she was not wanted and walking off with trophies. As a woman in any male-dominated industry, you will experience judgments, and people will question why you’re there or how you got there, but you have to brush it off, stay focused on your goals and believe in yourself. People will always talk so I choose to act with grace and let my work speak for itself. That can never be questioned.
AR: What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?
NLR: Something that I’m very proud of is the mentoring that I do both inside and outside of my company. I have quite a few mentees (too many to count) and new requests all of the time. I’ve been told that I probably have too many, but I don’t feel that way. It can sometimes only take 15-20 minutes to chat with someone and really help them. I do have some formal mentoring appointments, but most of them involve a cup of coffee, lunch or a quick phone call. I feel honored when I’m asked and feel an obligation to help the next generation and provide insight and perspective where I can. They look at me and see what they want to become, and that makes me really proud of the example I am setting and my career accomplishments. Asking someone to be your mentor takes guts, so I make time. I will always make time for someone who asks me for help.
AR: What do you enjoy most about working in the auto industry?
NLR: There are many things that I enjoy about the automotive industry, and I specifically enjoy the fact that it provides cross-functional opportunities that allow you to learn countless aspects of the business. This allows you to grow and be challenged as well as become very well-rounded from a business perspective.
Those opportunities are limitless, if that is what you want. I also enjoy the fact that it is a relationship driven industry, and the networking opportunities are endless. Working one-on-one with dealers, vendors, competitors and peers has helped me grow both professionally and personally. Successfully building relationships is a critical skill in any industry as it can aid you in moving the business forward as well as set you up for advancement in your career. You may also make some great friends along the way.
AR: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in retail automotive?
NLR: Traversing corporate America can be tricky, so the first piece of advice I would give is to seek out and develop relationships with mentors … both men and women. Having more than one mentor is crucial, because everyone has different perspectives to lend to certain situations. They have been where you are and know how to navigate your specific corporate landscape.
These individuals are also able to provide insight that can help you determine what the next move is for you or your overall career path. Be strategic with your moves, and always position yourself for growth. I would also encourage readers to find ways to set yourself apart from your peers and make yourself stand out in a positive way. Lastly, always bet on the home team, and believe in yourself and your ability. If you don’t, no one else will.