Sarah Noble works within Deloitte’s Strategy & Operations Consulting practice, delivering large-scale automotive transformation programmes. She is experienced in the management of programmes across global geographies, delivering operating models best set-up and placed to handle changing market trends. She has significant experience across multiple manufacturing organisations, specifically automotive OEMs [original equipment manufacturers].
“…I’d encourage women to think strategically, actively using a career sponsor and leveraging their network. It might not always come easy but having a wider set of connections will really help you stay engaged and think innovatively…”
Working in automotive – more exciting than ever
My career to-date has been varied to say the least! I’m originally from the United States (Boston area) and started interning at the Department of Transportation during university – focusing on research around truck (sorry, lorry!) manufacturers.
Over the years (don’t ask how many) my career has spanned from automotive paint producer, into my current focus, which is delivering transformation programmes with different OEMs [original equipment manufacturers]. I love the industry because it’s so tangible and really makes an impact on people’s daily lives – and there is so much change happening in the industry right now that it’s more exciting than ever.
What I love about my job is how different each day can be. I spend most of my time out working directly with my clients, currently managing a multi-year programme across pretty-much every business function. That means on any given day I could be at a different factory or office location across the UK (or Europe).
I also lead Deloitte’s Women at the Wheel – an organisation focused on developing women who want to become the next generation of automotive industry leaders. It’s new – and came about because I work with more and more senior individuals in the industry … and just not enough of them are women. There are many reasons this matters, not least of which is that diversity in leadership is proven to drive innovation and even greater financial success.
Inaugural Women at the Wheel event in London
Women at the Wheel (“WatW”) had its inaugural event on 7th September and we were thrilled to welcome over 50 women across the industry. Individuals from across industry organisations joined Deloitte for the first event in our speaker series.
Penny Mallory, the first woman world champion rally car driver, was the keynote speaker and she was honestly amazing! She emphasised that world class thinking leads to world class behaviour, and challenged each of us to leave our comfort zones and think positively about the impact we all can make.
Greatest challenges faced by women in the automotive sector
In 2015, Deloitte did a European-wide study (coincidentally called Women at the Wheel) on the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in the automotive industry. In the study we discovered some of the key reasons women gave for avoiding or leaving the industry. They range from a belief that there’s a lack of flexible working or work / life balance to over 28% saying they didn’t see the space for advancement.
That’s why organisations such as Women at the Wheel are so important to showcase role models, provide development opportunities and even networking across the UK industry group.
Breaking down the barriers
Organisations need to work together on this issue – and change definitely takes time. I regularly hear about three things that women wished were more prevalent across the industry:
- Flexible working practices – and I mean for BOTH men and women, equality is key;
- Visibility of role models, again not just women, but men who actively engage in the discussion and promotion of equality; and
- Development programmes – from training to sponsorship and beyond, to help engage women during that crucial period about 5-10 years into their careers where suddenly they’re not getting the initial training / development but they also don’t get the opportunities of senior leaders to network and grow.
Advice for girls and women who are interested in careers in automotive
If you’re interested in automotive, then think outside the box! There are so many different roles and responsibilities, but it’s important to be open minded and jump on opportunities when they come your way. Be sure to consider the skills and lessons you’ll take from a role – it might not be what you want to do forever, but will it give you the skills you need for the future role you want?
As well, I’d encourage women to think strategically, actively using a career sponsor and leveraging their network. It might not always come easy but having a wider set of connections will really help you stay engaged and think innovatively.
Coming up next for Deloitte and Women at the Wheel
With the great success of our first event, I am so excited for what the future holds. Personally, I have a day-to-day project that’s pretty exciting and will keep me on my toes! With the wider team we have a programme of events for Women at the Wheel over the next few months that really focuses on coaching and development sessions – working to actively give attendees some concrete take-aways that they can embed into their careers.
With all of the exciting things happening across the industry I don’t see any end to opportunity to get involved!