Claudia Marquez, 48
CEO, Hyundai Motor Mexico
Location: Mexico City
Education: B.A., business administration, Alexander Von Humboldt German School
What drew you to the auto industry? I was born in Mexico, but went to a German-language school, including for my bachelor’s degree. When I finished, I wanted to work for a German company. I thought it would make sense to use my language skills and knowledge of the culture. I started working for a German chemical company, and three years later I heard that BMW was going to start operations in Mexico. They were looking for people who were fluent in Spanish and English and German. I sent my resume, got an interview and finally got an offer.
First automotive job: I was an assistant to the area manager for marketing and sales responsible for Central America. It was October 1995.
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Big break: When I became a director for the first time. It was a great accomplishment because the company was very new in Mexico and all the [top executives] were German. So, I got to be the first non-German director in Mexico, for marketing, sales and dealer development.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? When I decided to leave BMW. I worked for the company for 17 years. It is an amazing brand and it was a great employer for me. At some point in time I had the feeling I wanted the experience of working for a volume brand rather than only for luxury. I was thinking about it, and then I got an interesting offer from Nissan — marketing director for Mexico and Latin America. But suddenly to jump to a completely unknown company, with a completely different culture, you have to start more or less from scratch. So, that was tough. It was probably the most complicated decision I have ever made.
You’ve been in the industry 25 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? Of course, the start of electrification. The other one is probably the shift from sedans to SUVs.
What work achievement are you most proud of? Being successful in the U.S. I came to the U.S. in 2015 [with Infiniti]. Although I used to visit often before that, I had never been responsible for the U.S. market, which is a very tough market. As a non-American, as a female in a very tough environment, that was challenging. And I have to say I was very pleased when I became successful.
What do you struggle with? The English language. No matter how many years you are speaking the language, it’s still tough because it’s not your native language.
Describe your leadership style. I am very straightforward. I love to work with teams. As I was moving up to higher positions and gaining confidence, I decided that when I was in a position to lead a team, I was going to treat my team the way I would like to have been treated in the past — developing people, supporting people. I’m detail oriented. I have clear objectives and do as much as I can to achieve them.
What have you learned from the COVID-19 crisis? Respect for others. How life is so vulnerable. It’s a wake-up call to reframe what’s really important in life.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career? Maybe I would have liked to do another international rotation earlier in my career. I did one in the U.K. and then it took me awhile because I was having kids.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? The OEMs need to support females a little more. It’s a very challenging industry. You can see many females starting and then quitting just because of the hours you have to put in the business.
What’s the best part of your day? I would say that it depends on the day. I am a very structured person. I start my day typically by trying to run, which clears my head. I also enjoy the idea of thinking about what I am going to cook for the day. I just started cooking five years ago. I developed this love for cooking, and it relaxes me. I try to cook something a little bit more elaborate three times a week.
Tell us about your family. I have been married to Alex for almost 26 years. We married very young, and probably for that reason we waited 10 years to have our first kids. He’s been very supportive, and he happens to be also an executive coach. So, he helps me a lot. I have my personal coach at home, which is great. And we have two beautiful girls. Cecilia is 16 and Alexa, she is 12.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year, and what did you get out of it? The biography of Michelle Obama. Just to understand a little more about her. And I learned that determination and being true to yourself are some of the best things you can have.
— Laurence Iliff