Jaguar Land Rover North America
What attracted you to the auto industry? I was inspired by my father who worked at DDB in the 1960s leading the Volkswagen account, as well as introducing Porsche and Audi to the U.S. He brought home the latest models, which was exciting. Back then, I spent all of my allowance collecting Matchbox cars.
First automotive job: My first chance was at Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1984 in Los Angeles on the Chrysler import business selling the rebadged Mitsubishi products.
Big break: My first client-side job. I had always set my sights on working on the client side. Jan Thompson gave me my first break in 1988. It was a period of tremendous growth for Mazda and launching the original Miata. I started there as a media manager, and I was with the company for six years. I had a lot of experience working events and then working advertising. It created a great foundation for the rest of my career. It was where I met my husband, Mitch, who worked in public relations.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? Here right now, because of the level of change and the complexity of the business. It is an extremely challenging environment. For JLR, we are launching all of these products: Land Rover Discovery Sport, Jaguar XF sedan, XJ sedan, the new XE sedan and the upcoming F-Pace performance crossover. As a company and as a team we have to have a focus to get all of these launches established in the market while building brand desire for both Jaguar and Land Rover.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? Two people. Jan Thompson gave me my break at Mazda when she was VP of marketing. We ended up working together at Nissan where she was again my VP of marketing later. She was the first very successful woman that I had a chance to learn from directly working at a company. I was always inspired by her attitude and the confidence that she displayed in how she approached work.
The second is Lois Miller. When I met her, she was working at Hearst. Throughout my career, she has been my adviser, confidant and sounding board. She is very entrepreneurial and started several companies. I never felt I had any limitations in my career because of knowing someone like her.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? Mentoring other women and sharing the passion that I feel and I am sure many of the other honorees feel for this business. I am sure this is what connects people.
Tell us about your family. My husband, Mitch, is an automotive journalist. We have two English Mastiffs. We have Chapman; he is 190 pounds. He is named after (Lotus founder) Colin Chapman. We have a female, Hazel, named after Colin Chapman's wife. She is a svelte 170 pounds.
We have our extended family — a chicken farm that we started on the property. We have 100 chicks of different ages, and we sell chicks and eggs. It has been two years now. It is quite relaxing to leave work and go home and collect eggs. Mitch cleans the coops.
What's your favorite weekend activity? Playing with vintage cars. This year Mitch and I ran the Mille Miglia in Italy in our 1954 Jaguar XK120.
On the other extreme is the 1956 Land Rover Series 1 because you don't want to drive much over 40 mph. We drive that on the property and into town.
What keeps you up at night? So many things. At this moment the thing keeping me up most is the Jaguar brand and all of the launches we have coming up. We need to make sure they are not only successful launches but set us up for a significant increase in volume and reinvigorate the Jaguar brand.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. Most people don't know about the chickens; that is not something that comes up every day.
By Diana T. Kurylko