Michael Cory, 45
Head of marketing and communications, Sonatus
Big break: Led sales and marketing efforts at Bang & Olufsen, his first experience in building a new brand and managing a team.
For the first eight years of his career, Michael Cory excelled in pharmaceutical sales. He cultivated new sales territories, reversed declines in market share at his company and helped launch new products. But he wasn’t passionate about the work.
“I was a Prozac peddler,” he said. “So when I decided it was time to go back to school and get my MBA, one of my priorities, in addition to migrating away from only doing sales, was that I wanted to work in an industry where I was very passionate about the product.”
As a kid, he loved Matchbox cars. As he grew older, his interest evolved to remote-controlled cars and playing Pole Position at the local arcade. So when Toyota came calling after he completed that MBA at Georgetown University, it was the perfect fit.
With Toyota, Cory rotated through stints in the company’s marketing, financial services and product-planning divisions. He spent eight years with Toyota, culminating with a dream role as a senior product planner with Lexus.
“When you really do love cars, and you really love getting into the details, and you are that guy who can tell what a car is by the headlight rim, that’s kind of where you end up,” he said. “For good or bad, I’ll never look at cars the same, because you get down to a detailed level that you otherwise would never realize went into it.”
Such institutional knowledge and experience would serve him well at Bang & Olfusen, a high-end sound and audio products manufacturer, where Cory jumped in 2014 for his first chance to manage his own team and build a brand campaign. His efforts led to new partnerships with BMW, Audi and Aston Martin.
Beyond work, he enjoys international travel, although that’s been disrupted by the pandemic. He counts a trip to Bali and the Philippines as a highlight. “It’s not just traveling,” he said. “It’s really going somewhere where you get to be in a completely new culture and immerse yourself in that.”
Along similar lines, Cory jumped into a new role at Sonatus, a software startup which raised $35 million in its Series A round this month and announced a partnership with Hyundai Motor Group. The job meant a move from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area, and a leap from an automotive culture into tech. Cory is counted on to be a bridge between the two.
“It’s an opportunity to take the more traditional aspects of where I had worked in the automotive industry and really contribute that to an organization with its roots in Silicon Valley,” he said. “That’s very much the direction of the industry overall, and we can bring them together. This is an exciting opportunity to do that.”
— Pete Bigelow