Ann Yauger, 56
Assistant Vice President of Product Management, CarMax
Location: Richmond, Va.
Education: B.A., English, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College
What drew you to the auto industry? I wasn’t necessarily drawn to the auto industry, I was drawn to CarMax, because CarMax was known for customer experience. But the more I really thought about the auto industry, the industry itself is so rich for what I love to do. It’s a huge industry. So if you can drive change in that industry and make an impact with that change, that impact can echo across a gigantic stage because everybody relates to cars, and everybody really engages in cars.
First automotive job: My first automotive job was this job. That was in 2005, and I came into CarMax as the director of carmax.com.
Big break: I feel like getting this job and working with this company was my big break. There’s been a couple of big breaking points in my career, but I came into CarMax when CarMax brought the website in-house. They had outsourced it to an agency, brought it in-house and started to build an in-house team, and I was brought in to lead that team. So I think my first big break was to be able to set up the digital team and program and our whole approach to how we were going to evolve our website from the beginning.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? As we started to come out of the recession, we were emerging as a very, very profitable company that really leaned-up our operations, and the company wanted to shift toward more innovation. But we are still a retailer having to watch our [selling, general and administrative expenses]. And so we weren’t going to be able to all of a sudden just add a bunch of innovation on top of this with more people. So with the same amount of people we had to greatly increase the amount of experimentation we’re doing, and we had to really strengthen our innovation muscle. And so that was the challenge that I had, which was shift toward innovation, shift toward really leading CarMax to be a digital, technology-first player in a digital future, but do that with the same amount of people. That really meant that we had to operate completely differently. So what I did was basically looked at the companies that were succeeding after the recession and all the digital players out of Silicon Valley, and really networked heavily within those companies and networked heavily with consultants that were advising those companies, of how in the world were these companies that were born post-2000, why were they operating and winning completely differently than all the companies that were born before that? What I realized is just from the very core values that we embrace for our culture, to the roles that we had, to the people that we needed to staff with, to the practices that we would embrace, everything needed to change.
You’ve been in the industry 15 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? This shift toward online selling and pure-play online players like Carvana and other players coming out and really proving that people will buy cars fully online. That’s been a significant future state that we all envisioned, but we were slow to get to. The industry really lagged a lot of other industries in getting to e-commerce for a lot of different reasons. The pandemic certainly did push us toward that future state really fast, but I think we were certainly all marching that way.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? I think the auto industry would benefit so much from more women in it. I think there’s a tendency to think of some male stereotypes associated with it because we’re talking about cars and machinery and the sort of stereotypical car salesman and things like that. But it’s so big, and it’s so diverse, and there’s so much opportunity in all kinds of different roles and areas. I wish women knew that the industry is a big, exciting, vibrant industry that everybody in the world cares about. And there’s a role for everybody in it.
Are you able to achieve work-life balance? At CarMax we’re really fortunate to have a flexible time-away policy. We don’t have anything like sick days or personal days or vacation days that we count. It is a kind of a “we’re all adults here” policy. And so you take the time you need when you need it, as long as you’re getting your work done. We’re very flexible.
What’s your favorite weekend activity? I love traveling — a fun day trip or a weekend trip to New York or to the beach. I love theater. I love things like that. But mostly what I do on the weekends is I hang out with my kids.
— David Muller