WinA Member of the Month
This month we welcome Sarah Connell as WinA Member of the Month. Passionate about motorsport and cars from a young age, she took her interest and chased it as a career.
When Sarah's dream of becoming a race car driver seemed outside her reach, she decided to find a way to work with cars regardless and in 12 years has progressed from the call centre at BMW Australia, moving across the world for a stint at BMW in Munich, to being a sales person in dealerships, working in marketing and now to her current role as Corporate Sales Manager Southern Region for Mercedes-Benz Australia.
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.
I am currently the corporate sales manager, Southern Region for Mercedes-Benz Australia. I absolutely love what I do as I am not only in the office but also out and about seeing clients and dealerships
What was your first professional experience within the automotive industry?
I started in the automotive industry about 12 years ago in the call centre with BMW Australia. It was a part time job whilst I was studying marketing/ management at University and I saw it as a foot in the door. My dream has always been to become a racing car driver but that is a bit too expensive! So I thought ok I will try and work with cars instead. So this popped up and it was the best thing I could do as it lead me to become the coordinate for the BMW Driver Training team. While in that role an opportunity arose to go overseas to BMW Headquarters in Munich. While I was there I got to work with one of the DTM teams and the world superbikes. I was in marketing for the financial services side of the business but they were a major sponsor for both teams at the time allowing me to be invovled that way.
Do you think you have experienced challenges within the industry that your male counterparts have not?
Absolutely! Everyone always asks me how do you handle being in such a male dominated industry? I have always been a bit of a tom boy in fact I really am the son my dad never had! And so yes I have faced challenges more so when I was a sales executive as that can be a bit of a boys club but I think having a similar interest in things and showing that you have resilience definitely helps. I now have fantastic relationships within the industry, with the majority being men. I think if you just don’t focus on the male dominated side of the industry and make your mark you get respect from everyone.
What is your biggest achievement within the automotive industry, personal or professional?
I would have to say one of my biggest achievements would be having the courage to pack up my life at 22 and move across to the other side of the world on my own and live and work in Munich for such a major automotive brand.
I would also have to say that another achievement is my whole career progression in the industry. I really made the effort to work in all different areas of business from marketing, to financial services to sales and now corporate sales as it has helped me get to where I am now. All of those stepping stones and skills that I learnt along the way led to me getting tapped on the shoulder last year for a promotion. That in itself is a great feeling.
Do you have a favourite resource as a woman working in the automotive industry? Maybe a book, event, organization, mentor, or online platform?
Not necessarily, however being brought up as the son my dad never had was my biggest support. Our love for cars and for business went hand in hand and he always pushed me to be the best that I could be. If I needed to bounce any ideas off him or how to approach a situation he would always have the right advice. Unfortunately my dad is no longer with us but he taught me so much through out my career.
Who is your inspiration as a female in automotive?
Susie Wolff. She is such an inspirational woman. Married to one of the most influential figures in motorsport, Toto Wolff (head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport), but has made a name for herself in the industry and has actually been a test driver in the motorsport world.. She has also been a major contributor to "She’s Mercedes which is centered women in the car industry and car racing.
Sabine Schmidt, a well known German motor racing driver, was another influence of mine and it was so sad to hear of her passing recently. What she was able to do on a race track and the effect she had on the whole industry was amazing. I know it is quite Motorsport heavy but it’s what I love!
What is the best piece of advice that you have received or that you could give to another woman working in the automotive industry?
Be resilient, don’t hold back and have a firm handshake. Resilience is key in any job but more so in this industry where it has been so male dominated for so long. If you can show that you can stand up for what you believe in and make yourself heard you will get the respect you deserve.
Have a firm handshake is something my Dad always taught me to have. If you have a firm handshake you show you are confident and you mean business and will be taken seriously.