Jennifer Oribello, 37
Special finance manager, Cueter Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram
Achievement: With no automotive or finance background and just three years in her position, Oribello is consistently the top special finance performer among her peers in the six-store Champion Automotive Group
Jennifer Oribello was never a car whiz.
"When I got out of high school, I used to drag race Mustangs, but that was the extent of what I knew about cars," she said.
Now, as special finance manager for Cueter Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Ypsilanti, Mich., she is consistently tops in performance among her peers in the six-dealership Champion Automotive Group. Oribello arranges financing for Cueter's subprime customers and first-time buyers, which she says make up 35 to 40 percent of the dealership's business.
"My boss tells me he gave me the tools to do what I do, and I just kind of took it and built whatever it is I built," she said.
Oribello came to Cueter in 2013 from a bartending job. But before switching from cocktails to cars, she was a biology major in the pre-nursing program at Eastern Michigan University. In college, she realized the emotions that come with nursing would be too much for her to handle.
When Oribello's brother passed away, his nurse was overcome with sadness. Oribello expected that if she became a nurse, she would become attached to patients, just as her brother's nurse had. She didn't want her work to bring her to tears, she said. So after bartending for a while, she looked to pharmaceutical sales but failed to find a job because she lacked sales experience.
Then her job search led her to the dealership. After a six-month stint in Cueter's business development center for special finance leads, Oribello was promoted to special finance manager.
"I have so much passion for it. I absolutely love it," she said.
She dedicated four years to becoming a biology expert, but on her new career path, her passion comes from having a blank slate.
"I've never worked in this kind of industry ever, so coming in not knowing anything and seeing the way everything works -- I love it," she said. "Everything about it; there's nothing that I don't want to learn and know and understand."
For now, Oribello focuses on helping and educating her customers, many of whom have faced bankruptcy challenges. When she is able to arrange financing for them, "they're always excited. People get me crying all the time," she said. "But it's a happy cry, so I'm OK with it."