Laura Schwab, 47
President, Aston Martin the Americas
Location: Irvine, Calif.
Education: B.A., government and Spanish, University of Notre Dame; J.D., University of Kentucky
What drew you to the auto industry? Ultimately, a desire not to be an attorney. I don’t know if I was drawn to it as much as I fell into it. After I graduated from law school and realized I didn’t want to be an attorney, I was just desperate for employment. I picked up my bags and I moved to California. I begged for any job. The first job that I finally got, after being rejected from everything, was a little tiny startup company in San Diego that happened to sell cars online. I don’t know if I was drawn to the automotive industry as much as it kind of found me. But certainly through all of these years, I love it. But it was a move of desperation at the beginning.
First automotive job: Working at a startup company called Auto Fusion in 1999. We sold cars online. I was the 11th employee. I did everything: I helped build the website, I worked with signing dealers up. It was a reverse auction marketplace where you could actually buy cars online. We built configuration technologies, so I worked on the configurator.
Big break: When I got recruited to Land Rover originally. I was brought in on a contract basis to help build the first website and put a configurator on it. I was one of the first digital people in the automotive world, which is really crazy because I just sort of fell into it. But getting that first break at Land Rover, and Land Rover ultimately hiring me full time, ended up being really what, now that I think about it, set the whole thing in motion.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? Ultimately, it ended up being, at the beginning, my own confidence. It’s hard when there weren’t a lot of females in leadership roles to know that it was possible. I think I lacked a little bit of confidence at the beginning and I think that I was almost scared to be myself, which, obviously, has changed along the way. But I think at the beginning of my career that was probably the hardest thing. I definitely carried impostor syndrome through a huge proportion of my career.
You’ve been in the industry 21 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? The emergence of digital has been a tremendous change. But also, seeing more women in leadership roles across the industry. Even when I joined Aston Martin, our leadership team here was not comprised of any women. Now it’s 50 percent women helping lead our business here in the Americas. Obviously, digital changed the world during that time and how people research and buy cars and everything else. The big gender shift and seeing more and more women join the automotive industry and really rise to the top, I think has been a big change and certainly helped inspire me along the way to know that anything was possible in my career.
What do you struggle with? I struggle with work-life balance. I talk a lot about how important it is, but I don’t always practice it myself. For so long, legitimately I really did have impostor syndrome. I was like, “I’m just going to work harder than everyone else.” I think it’s one of those things where now I struggle to turn it off, or sometimes say no to things. COVID has obviously changed things because all of a sudden I see my family and see my daughter. That’s probably an area that I struggle the most with because I’m always working a little bit, even if I’m acting like I’m not. I’m sort of always working. I always have a phone pretty close by.
Tell us about your family. I met my husband when I lived in England — I used to run marketing for Jaguar Land Rover. I wasn’t totally sure I was gonna ever get married because I was kind of busy. After much persistence — he asked me out for, like, five months — I finally went, and we got married. When I got offered the job at Aston Martin, I knew I married the right one because he didn’t even ask me where we were going to relocate to, he was, like, “You have to do this. This is the coolest job on the planet.” I was, like, “OK, I definitely picked the right partner in life.”
Five weeks into starting my job at Aston Martin, I got pregnant, sort of surprisingly, so I now have a 4-year-old. We have a 5-year-old chocolate lab. All the rest of my family is in Louisville, Ky., my parents, my brother, my sister, their spouses, my nieces. I am really, really, really close to them. Beyond that, I’ve got eight godchildren because I’ve got this amazing network of friends and so they all feel like family as well. We’ve got our little crew here in California and then I’ve got my family in Kentucky and then my friends that have felt like family along the way.
— Jack Walsworth