A FEARLESS DRIVE: LAURA SCHWAB, PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAS AT ASTON MARTIN
As President of the Americas at Aston Martin, Laura Schwab is responsible for all Aston Martin operations in the North and South Americas. She oversees every sector– sales, marketing, feelers, development, and more. Clearly, this role is no walk in the park. What makes Laura Schwab’s role even more impressive, however, is the fact that her eyes were never set on the automotive industry from the start.
LAURA SCHWAB’S PATH TO BECOMING A BUSINESS WOMAN
Born and raised in Kentucky, Laura Schwab attended the University of Notre Dame on a tennis scholarship. There, she served as team captain of the tennis team while pursuing dual degrees in government and Spanish. After graduating, Schwab had no idea what career she wanted to pursue. She took the LSAT and attended the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law in an attempt to establish a clear career path.
Schwab recounted how her 3 years at law school was extremely difficult. She quickly realized law was not the right path for her because everyone at law school knew they wanted to be a lawyer except for her. Despite her doubts, Schwab stuck to law school and picked up a career as a contract attorney after graduation. She described the job as being very dry, and she was highly unsatisfied at her position. The career path she had envisioned of becoming an attorney, getting married, and settling down in her hometown of Kentucky wasn’t playing out the way she had anticipated. Hearing that several of her friends had moved to Southern California, she decided to pack up her stuff and move to California for a change of scenery.
In California, she started to look for any job that would hire her. However, she kept getting rejected from every single role due to her lack of experience. Right as she was about to give up, she found an ad on Monster for a position at an internet start-up company that sold cars online. The start-up was looking for someone who was hard-working, energetic, and possessed internet qualifications. Schwab joked she had the first two qualities and decided that was enough to walk in for the job interview. Miraculously, she was offered the job.
While working at the start-up, she met a guy who helped her land a contract job at Land Rover to build their website and create a pre-order system. Once her contract was up, she stayed at Land Rover to work in data-entry. During her time at the company, she was further promoted to various lead marketing roles within Land Rover.
While climbing the ranks in the automotive business– an industry largely dominated by men– Laura constantly battled imposter syndrome. She was fearful that people were going to find her out and discover she didn’t really know what she was doing. It was a learning process to consciously come to the realization that her fears were just fears. A big milestone moment came during the business meetings she would attend at Land Rover. She realized she was learning without being aware of it because she would gradually understand the terms and language people were using during those meetings.
Schwab also worked through her imposter syndrome by learning any knowledge that did not come naturally to her. When approaching a problem, she would tell herself not to panic. Then, she would ask herself how she was going to learn to solve it. By slowly developing her knowledge, she grew the confidence to put herself out there and face rejection. In fact, she says rejection can be a catalyst for growth. When you’re rejected, Schwab advises asking “tell me why” to find out how you could have been better. By having the confidence to constantly evaluate and advance your abilities, you’ll garner a solid skill set that will eventually make it hard for others to say no.
THE COOLEST JOB IN THE WORLD
Schwab’s role at Land Rover later moved her to the UK where she served as Head of Marketing at Jaguar Land Rover. Although the transition to a different country was tricky, she finally settled into her groove and was very happy in her role. While living in the UK, a friend heard that she was in the UK, messaged her on LinkedIn, and invited her to a factory tour of Aston Martin. Schwab was absolutely floored by how Aston Martin made their cars. She was even more amazed when Andy Palmer, then CEO of Aston Martin, offered her a job on the spot as President of the Americas at Aston Martin. It was the coolest job in the world– so cool, that she and her husband didn’t even have to discuss it before deciding they were going to move back to California so Schwab could accept the position.
SOME UNEXPECTED NEWS
A few weeks into starting at Aston Martin, Schwab received the unexpected news that she was pregnant. Immediately, she thought about how the company was going to react. Schwab was worried that the company was going to be extremely disappointed that they hired a woman, and she felt a lot of anxiety about how to tell Palmer, who had offered her the position in the first place. There was definitely a lot of uncertainty and emotions surrounding the news.
When she finally told Palmer, he was incredibly supportive of her pregnancy. The company’s love and support was a huge relief, and that caring culture is something Schwab strives to continuously cultivate at Aston Martin.
COMPANY CULTURE + TEAM PLAYERS
Schwab is passionate about creating a company and team culture that sees each other as family members. She credits that compassion– caring for the person next to them as much as themselves– for building a company-wide connection that helps them all weather storms together. That energy is then brought to the field, for a company that is tied so closely together is able to translate that same connectivity to their customers. From the Aston Martin team to the dealers to the customers, Schwab is committed to building a community that lifts each member up.
In order to cultivate a strong and supportive culture at Aston Martin, Schwab looks for team players. She states that a big part of the interview process comes down to sitting with someone and talking to them. When she asks candidates to tell her their story, she’ll notice whether the person uses more “I” or “we” statements and whether or not the candidate talks about collaboration with other people. She’ll pick up on behaviors, how they speak on their experiences, how they talk about who they are, and how they’ve worked through life and their career to see if the candidate’s values align with Aston Martin’s values. Ultimately, with each candidate she interviews, Schwab looks to grow the team into a better one.
To maintain an open and approachable environment within a fast-paced business, Schwab never uses office time for emails. In fact, she’ll turn off her email notifications to not get distracted and overwhelmed by her inbox. At the office, she uses her time to collaborate with her team. Schwab has found that everyone works better when they’re all on the same track. She’s constantly holding meetings to discuss company goals and tasks before sending teams on their way. Schwab states that it’s all about time management. Time management helps keep things snappy while still carving out time for the team to stay connected to each other.
Although Schwab works hard to create a family environment at work, balancing her work life with her personal responsibilities at home is an even bigger challenge. She admits that she doesn’t feel like she balances work and home life well because she’s always jetting off to different places for her job. COVID-19 has actually helped her manage her work-life balance a lot better because she’s forced to create structure at home during the day and evening. Now, Schwab will hit pause every night to eat dinner with her family– something that use to be a luxury in her busy schedule.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Schwab emphasized how each person is their own. No one is ever one of anything, and every individual is their own person. Because of this, she strongly believes that it is important for every individual to speak up and have a voice.
Schwab also reiterated the value of working together to build each other up. That means leaving room for all women to actively participate and thrive. Even though it might not feel like it due to past cultural norms, she states that it is paramount to bring men and women together because collectively, everyone is stronger as a team.
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