WinA Member of the Month
This Month, WinA is proud to feature automotive franchising researcher and PhD candidate, Adiba Fattah.
Currently researching in Queensland, Australia, Moroccan native Adiba’s first taste of the industry came while working as a research assistant at Indiana State University. Adiba’s work was focusing on the impact of Tesla’s historic decision to sell directly to market, gaining immense insight as it was happening.
Know of someone you would like to see featured as our next Women in Automotive Member of the Month, or interested in sharing your own automotive story? Get in touch below and let us know.
Tell us a bit about your current role or involvement in the automotive industry:
Adiba: My current involvement is from a research perspective. I am currently completing my PhD in marketing. My research topic is the franchise model in the Australian automotive industry- I am specifically looking into the franchising relationship between car manufacturers (or distributors) and new car dealers.
This is a topic that I have been interested in prior to coming to Australia. The automotive industry worldwide has been witnessing some important disruptions and 4 years ago, I had a unique opportunity to work with Prof. Joyce Young at Indiana State University on research investigating the reasons behind Tesla’s effort to be legally exempt from selling via a franchised dealer network in the US market. Many people in the automotive industry know the history that made US federal laws and state legislatures strongly protect dealers in the American automotive industry. It was the automotive industry itself that made me truly passionate about marketing channels and franchising. Prof. Young saw this growing passion in me and connected me with Prof. Lorelle Frazer, the first person in Australia to have obtained a PhD in franchising, whom I am also proud to call today my research supervisor along with Dr. Wayne Graham. So far, this research journey has exceeded all of my expectations. The Australian automotive industry is constantly changing and evolving, which has been incredible to watch and navigate as a researcher, particularly during the current global pandemic.
What was your first professional experience within the automotive industry?
Adiba: I have only been involved in the automotive industry through research, so my professional experience is purely academic. The initial research involved the Tesla distribution model. The case study of this has already been published last year. I am currently halfway through my PhD. This year will be special as I am hoping to present two papers, including one from my PhD, at the International Society of Franchising Conference. There is very limited academic research on the automotive industry and the paper that I will be presenting, and hopefully publishing, is an interesting review on how different sources of power and control mechanisms have been used in the automotive industry in many countries, including Australia.
Since I have started the data collection for my research, I have felt a strong attraction to work in the industry. I would love to have some experience in a dealership, see what it is like for the dealer principal, sales staff, or the workshop and service technicians. I would also love to see what it is like for the managing team at the OEM level. I am researching these people but I have never been in their shoes. It would be fantastic to have this experience one day! For the moment, I am juggling between part-time teaching and full-time research.
Do you think you have experienced challenges within the industry that your male counterparts have not?
Adiba: In any industry, women will experience various challenges that their male counterparts will not. For me, as someone who interviews a lot of people as part of my research, it will be great to have more women participants- women who are the Dealer Principal, women who work as Managing Director at OEMS, women who are automotive franchising lawyers or consultants. It has been really hard to recruit women in the Australian automotive industry, but I continue trying.
Actually, just few weeks ago, I attended an amazing industry event, that was held online. The event itself was fantastic, but from a team of at least 50 people, the speakers who were in the front presenting were all males. I would have loved to see a representation that the company was at least trying to make a change to the male-dominated history of the industry.
What is your biggest achievement within the automotive industry, personal or professional?
Adiba: Professionally one of my greatest achievements would be seeing the first paper I contributed to being published. That is something I am particularly proud of, partially because it is a project that also involves my mentor in the U.S. Prof. Young, who I admire greatly.
Personally, the work I am doing right now brings me great pride. Every day it feels like a small achievement, collecting and analyzing data, trying to make sense of it, creating a story, putting together all the elements that go into the final thesis. It makes my brain stimulated and that makes me very happy. More often than not, people don’t get that kind of satisfaction and drive from their work, so I’m very grateful that I do.
Do you have a favourite resource as a woman working in the automotive industry? Maybe a book, event, organization, mentor, or online platform?
Adiba: Yes, there is one book, ‘My Years with General Motors’, by Alfred Sloan. It was first recommended to me by a dear friend and mentor, Dr. Peter Blanchard. He worked for many years in the Australian auto industry and now teaches at University. The book is amazing. It has great insight on the industry from before the 1960’s and it is still relevant for today’s context.
Who is your inspiration, as a woman working in automotive?
Adiba: I’d say anyone who I have been in touch with, in the automotive industry. That may sound very general, but because of my studies, most of the auto professionals I meet are people who get a sparkle in their eye when discussing the industry. They’re passionate people, and that’s very inspiring.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received or that you could give to another woman working in the automotive industry?
Adiba: That would be what my Mum taught me as a kid and still reminds me of today. When I was little, I’d often worry that I wouldn’t be very ‘good’ at many things, but my Mum would always say ‘you just have to work hard and give your best, so that when you look back, and you can see your best effort, you can’t be disappointed. You don’t need to be the best at anything in order to be successful at it. It’s the people with the strong work ethic and the drive to always improve who ultimately achieve it.