From triathletes to restaurant owners, Impel has some amazing employees in its ranks. We’re introducing you to a new employee every month as part of our Employee Spotlight Series, giving you an inside look at our charismatic culture. We have a special edition during Women’s History Month, introducing you to Kerstin Todd, who made her way into the automotive industry eleven years ago and never looked back. Through obstacles and more, Kerstin has found success and hopes to help other women find their niches, too.
Tell us about your role at Impel.
In my role as VP of Enterprise Sales, I build relationships with and match our products to large dealer groups and OEMs. My team and I partner with larger dealer groups and help drive their merchandising and ultimately their sales strategy forward. We consult with them in order to best match Impel’s products with their strategies. There is still such a huge disparity in automotive when it comes to merchandising vehicles. Impel can fill that gap and it’s our job to educate dealers on just how successful they can be when they showcase their merchandise well.
Which core value resonates the most with you?
One of the reasons I came to Impel is because of its culture and values. I would say that every single one of our core values resonates with me. If I have to pick one, though, it would be relationships. Relationships are very important to me in my business life and my personal life. I believe that the relationships that we cultivate in life define us. A great relationship is built on a foundation of trust, which is an important driver whether it be a business relationship, a friendship, or a family bond.
You’ve been in the automotive industry for more than a decade. Tell us about your journey and its obstacles.
The beginning of my journey wasn’t a typical one. I was actually in the medical industry for quite a while before I entered automotive. I had just had my son and of course when you have a six-month-old, you obviously think, “maybe I should change careers now.” I have family in automotive and it always intrigued me. At the start of my career I was in automotive advertising. I quickly found my niche there, and was able to use my knowledge and curiosity to coach and mentor others. I moved into management and then into strategy. I have had many great opportunities, including work in OEM and dealer spaces. I’ve never stopped being curious and truly enjoy feeding my appetite to learn the automotive space. The biggest obstacle I faced was not having a ton of automotive knowledge when I started my career here. I really had to be a student of the business and find every opportunity to learn.
You’re part of Impel’s internal LeanIn group. What do you hope that the groups’ contributions will do for the company as a whole?
My vision for the LeanIn group is to foster relationships and mentor other women in this space. I also look to bring awareness to some of the biases that women face in this industry. It’s different being a woman in automotive, as we’re wildly underrepresented and only account for less than 30% of the workforce. This means we have additional hurdles that we have to jump over. I’ve felt like I’ve had to prove myself and my intelligence more so than in past industries. My vision for Impel is that we are diverse and educated, and we accept and embrace everyone and their strengths.
What advice would you give to women looking to break into the automotive industry?
It’s a fulfilling and rewarding industry. The biggest piece of advice I would give is to educate yourself and be a student of the business. One of the best things I did at the start of my career was immerse myself in a dealership. I created a relationship with a GM and just asked him if I could shadow him on Saturdays. It was the best thing I could do to learn the business and satisfy my curiosity. The second piece of advice is to make time for other parts of your life. I think too often women think that this industry is overly time consuming. It is, but it’s also okay to walk away and spend time outside of business. As a single mom, it’s important that I do just this. It’s just a matter of prioritizing balance…and putting in some pretty strange hours! I promise, you can work in automotive, have a family, and also have a lot of fun!
How do you claim your space and make space for other women so that they can thrive?
I think the key to claiming your space is to be bold. Set stretch goals so that you become better, and most importantly, believe in yourself. I love empowering other women to be bold. I hope that I can set a good example for other women in this space so that they can be emboldened and really push themselves. I’ve had some great mentors in my life, including my Mom and a boss who took a big chance on me. I just hope that I can use what those two very strong women taught me over the years, and help other women thrive as well.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew earlier in your career?
Take chances! If you’re always striving to be better, you can’t go wrong. I remember taking a promotion once, and I almost didn’t apply for it because I thought I didn’t qualify or wasn’t quite good enough yet. But I applied anyway, thinking “why not?” It turns out I was good enough, in fact I won multiple awards in that role. Stretch yourself and take chances! I’ve heard that people start to be a bit more conservative as they age. That’s definitely not me. I’ve become more strategic, but I still take big chances. And I definitely love a good adventure!
Kerstin’s boundless curiosity and love for relationships has made her an incredible asset to the Impel team! She’s leading the way and making space for many women around her. Follow us on the Impel Facebook and Impel Instagram pages for updates. You won’t want to miss next month’s spotlight on Abhishek Pillai, a Software Engineer on our Web Team.