Kerri Wise, 43
Vice President, Communications, TrueCar
Location: Santa Monica, Calif.
Education: B.S., business administration-marketing, California State University, Northridge
What drew you to the auto industry? I kind of fell into the automotive industry, like a lot of women that I know that work in this field. I started at J.D. Power and Associates and I really joined the company not because of automotive, but because I was interested in the marketing research side of it.
First automotive job: I came in as a research associate in 1998 straight out of college.
Big break: I credit a lot of the success in my career to J.D. Power. I started as a researcher, eventually moved into [being] an analyst [who] was taking [those] insights and telling stories, eventually moving into sales and selling these studies to major manufacturers, and then I also led consulting. And so it’s just pretty rare that a company lets you color outside the lines and not bucket you into one thing. They let me really explore all aspects of my skill sets, from the analytical to the creative aspects, and the client-facing, as well.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? I think redefining myself was challenging at times. Most people have to kind of specialize and be one thing, and for me, I get a lot of satisfaction out of utilizing all my skill sets. That’s tough to convince people to take you seriously when you haven’t necessarily had the direct experience. Certainly, as a woman in this industry, and as a woman of color in this industry to just add to that, that can be challenging at times. It can be very lonely in terms of not necessarily feeling like the business is for you.
You’ve been in the industry 22 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? What I’ve loved to see the most is the embracing of digital and digital marketing and technology across manufacturers and dealers. Consumers have always really embraced the digital experience in their shopping experience. There’s been a lag from an auto retail standpoint, or maybe a resistance in the past, to necessarily moving towards that.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career? I wish I would have understood my power and my unique abilities earlier. I think of myself as a confident person, but I was definitely a late bloomer to that confidence. I think that I lowered the bar in many cases early on in my career, and maybe even in college, where I wasn’t trying to necessarily stand out too much from the crowd and I didn’t always push myself to my full limits.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? I recently co-founded an organization with three other women of color called Women of Color Automotive Network, and it was exactly to address what we were talking about, which is: How do we get more women — and women of color, in this case — to see the hidden opportunity of the automotive industry? There’s a huge gap in terms of representation when it comes to women of color. And so we want to showcase the automotive industry and all of the different career paths for women of color so that they’re attracted to this business. But once they’re in this business, we want to make sure they’re supported through career resources, through scholarships that enable further education, and then of course there’s the connection and networking.
Are you able to achieve work-life balance? I don’t think you can have it all. I think there are always going to be moments where you have to make some sacrifices. But hopefully, more and more companies jump in to build environments that enable a woman not to have to make as many sacrifices. When my kids were babies and very small, I just had to make a decision on the things that I wouldn’t sacrifice, whether it be a school event, that important recital, that soccer game. Now, there were plenty of things that I missed with my children, but for me, the big things I had to be there for. And I really tried to work around my schedule. Now, I’ve also been luckier than most in having companies that have been very flexible, that have let me leave at 4 because I got to go pick up the kids at day care by 5 or 5:30. And so I really realize my privilege in some ways.
If there were 25 hours in a day, how would you spend your extra hour? I would want to do nothing. I would want to sit in front of the TV and veg and not think at all, because these days, I feel like I’m in meetings, meetings, meetings. I don’t know what it is about working from home, but there is no turning off. There’s no lunch break, there’s no watercooler breaks. And so I feel like the day is just nonstop.
— Lindsay VanHulle