Kelly Van Blommestein
WinA Member of the Month
This month, we are featuring Kelly Van Blommestein.
Kelly is the Director and Chief Operations Officer of Werribee and Western Automotive Group - Dealer Principal of Werribee MG and Werribee Nissan. She shares with us the steps she's taken to learn the ins-and-outs of the entire business, not just from a management level.
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.
My current role is Director and Chief Operations Officer of Werribee and Western Automotive Group - Dealer Principal of Werribee MG and Werribee Nissan. I have been a director for 16 years. I'm also on the board of the Victorian Automotive Dealer Association.
What was your first professional experience within the automotive industry?
I began working in the 90s in the automotive industry at 14 years of age doing weekend reception work. I then advanced to part-time work as an Assistant Business Manager and later an Accounting Assistant while I attended university.
Do you think you have experienced challenges within the industry that your male counterparts have not?
I would like to think no, but unfortunately, I have to say yes. I believe this is due to a lack of representation of women in the industry. When I started in the industry in the 90s it was rare to have a woman as a Dealer Principal. Throughout my career path I have ensured that I’ve learnt every facet of the business to gain respect in the industry. I started out as a weekend receptionist and progressed to Assistant Business Manager, Business Manager, then the Company Accountant. I also made sure to learn parts and I acted as a Service Manager for six months in a high-volume dealership. I was the Payroll Officer, HR Manager, Group Marketing Manager and so on. I did this to ensure I knew how the entire business operated. I wanted respect from my colleagues and for them to know that I understand the business fully, not just from a management level. Even still, there are still low numbers of women in management level positions and I face some challenges now, like walking into a room that is 99 per cent men and 1 per cent women.
What is your biggest achievement within the automotive industry, personal or professional?
In 2014 I completed a Dealer in Automotive – Dealer Principal Course at Melbourne University to get recognition in the wider automotive community.
Another big achievement is that my business has expanded to 15 dealerships covering the west and employing over 300 people.
Through these businesses I also have a chance to give back to our community through sponsorships. We are part of a lot of charities that make a difference – Father Bob and the Les Twentyman foundation are the main charities we support. They assist people in need and provide as much as possible to help individuals get them back on their feet. We also support our local community and offer sponsorship to community sports clubs. During Covid, we continued supporting them. Being able to provide other families support through difficult times is very important to us.
Do you have a favourite resource as a woman working in the automotive industry? Maybe a book, event, organization, mentor, or online platform?
I don’t necessarily have a favourite resource, but I tend to ask for advice and assistance from my automotive colleagues if the need arises.
Who is your inspiration as a female in automotive?
I find Mary Barra, GM of General Motors, inspiring. She has worked in almost every area of General Motors before becoming CEO, from manufacturing to design, HR and finance. I have followed her career and aligned it with my own.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received or that you could give to another woman working in the automotive industry?
Ensure there is a work-life balance. I love to coach and give back to the local community. My husband Todd is the President of Point Cook Centrals Sporting Club and I am the netball coordinator and head coach for PCCSC. My daughter and son also play for both clubs. Today we have over 70 juniors and 81 seniors that I manage.
Family is also extremely important to me. Without the support of my family, I could not do what I do today. You must have a work-life balance to succeed.