Every Thursday for the next few months, we will feature a new female leader from around the globe, highlighting their career achievements, biggest influences, and the advice they would give to other young women considering a career in the automotive industry.
Meet This Week’s Leader: Sarah-Jane Beal, Head of Business, Sytner Group, Mercedes-Benz Division
“Walk Before You Run.”
First Automotive Job: Product Specialist
PAG Tenure: 23 years
What attracted you to the automotive industry? From an early age, I realized that I had a passion for cars. As a teenager, I was drawn towards prestigious brands and high-performance models. It was a gift from my parents for my 18th birthday that truly inspired me to pursue my career in the industry. They arranged a driving experience in a Ferrari 512 Testarossa, and it was truly incredible. It was shortly after this experience that I secured my first role as a product specialist.
Most satisfying part of your job: One of the most satisfying parts of my role is developing the team. I am passionate about providing all colleagues with the opportunity to achieve their aspirations through a collaborative process of supporting their personal and professional growth. The breadth and depth of the role is vast and while it presents its challenges, I continue to get an enormous sense of satisfaction from exceeding targets, delivering results, and providing an outstanding customer experience every time.
Proudest professional achievement: I was recently recognized as ‘Head of Business of the Year’ in the 2-3 million categories at our 2022 Annual Management Conference. This was a remarkable achievement, and I am exceptionally proud of my team and the phenomenal results that we delivered in 2021. While still navigating through the uncertainty of the pandemic, we generated more profit than the accumulated period of 2015 to 2020 combined. Our team remained in a leading position for colleague engagement with a score of 9.0 and colleague retention remained very strong with turnover at 11%. It was an incredible year all round!
Who was the biggest influence in your career? The support that I have received from my Stepdad has been instrumental in shaping my attitude and drive to succeed. At every stage of my career, he has encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone, allowing me to push myself and make the most of every opportunity that was presented. As I have progressed into leadership roles, I have been extremely fortunate in the support that I have received from several incredible mentors within the business. Their continuous support has allowed me to flourish professionally, and they have been hugely influential on how I have progressed in my career.
Looking back on the last decade, how have you seen the automotive industry landscape change and evolve to engage more women? Attitudes and behaviors within the industry have changed significantly over the last decade and it truly feels as though we are making progress to create far more inclusive cultures and equal opportunities. As a business, we have a defined and focused strategy on driving inclusion in the workplace and this begins with education and awareness.
What hobbies do you enjoy? I enjoy swimming, walking, and socializing with friends over dinner.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? Continuing to drive the performance of the business at Mercedes-Benz of Bath with an aspiration to progress into a larger dealership within the Mercedes-Benz Division. I have so much more to contribute and I’m looking forward to continuing my growth and development as Head of Business.
What advice would you give to young women considering a career in the automotive industry? The industry presents an exceptionally exciting career opportunity for all individuals who have the passion and drive to succeed in a competitive and fast paced environment. This has historically been biased; however, we must continue to challenge the misconceptions and encourage more women to choose the automotive industry as a career of choice.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received? Although difficult to accept at the time, at an early stage in my career, I received advice from a well-respected manager who encouraged me to ‘walk before I could run’. While this is a a common saying, this still resonates with me today. It has been tremendously valuable in my career and is now prevalent in many aspects of how I operate as a senior leader in the business.