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The road to working at Toyota North America had a lot of twists and turns for Regina Davis. A longtime fan of the cars, it wasn’t until she heard that the company was relocating to her location in North Texas that she considered working for the North American division of the Japanese car manufacturer. Her current role is Sr. Marketing Planner, Truck Team — Toyota Vehicle Marketing & Communications. Davis has been with the company for four years. She says, “It’s refreshing to be a part of a company made up of people who are genuinely willing to help you along your journey -- that has been a huge inspiration for me.”

Davis is very active in Toyota’s Business Partnering Groups — internal networks of team members who share like-minded beliefs for supporting and encouraging diversity, inclusion and community. She’s the Chair of the African American Collaborative, where she’s responsible for setting the strategic direction for the group and ensuring the overall mission and vision of the AAC is carried out. She talked to Fairygodboss recently about her career at companies whose brands she believes in, the importance of serving the community, and shares her advice for job seekers. 

Tell us about your career journey and what led you to your job at Toyota.

The road to my career today was not a straight path from A to B. After two internships in college, I decided that electrical engineering was not for me and switched my major to psychology. I became fascinated with studying how people think and feel, and at the same time, it leveraged my talent for analytical thinking. After a brief career in HR for one of the Big Four accounting firms, I was recruited for an opportunity at a market research firm.  Through my work at this firm, I became intrigued with how brands connect with customers and how they have to think critically about how to grow a brands’ presence in the market. Ultimately, a career in marketing ended up being a perfect fit as it balanced my interests and passion for people with my left-brained analytical mindset. As my career in marketing progressed, I decided to build on my expertise and pursued my Master of Business Administration degree, which has allowed me to make an even larger impact for the companies I work for.

How long have you been with your company? What about it made you first want to join Toyota?

I’ve been fortunate to work for top brands such as PepsiCo/Frito-Lay, Dr Pepper, and JCPenney –- brands that I also personally love and believe in. I’ve always been an avid Toyota fan. Toyota and Lexus have been a staple in my family for as long as I can remember. In fact, my first car was a 1996 Toyota Corolla!  

When I heard that Toyota was relocating its headquarters to North Texas, where I live, I was instantly interested in a possible opportunity to work for such a prestigious brand. As I discovered more about Toyota, I was really drawn to its culture of “Respect for People.” When I was presented with the opportunity to join the team, I didn’t think twice. It’s refreshing to be a part of a company made up of people who are genuinely willing to help you along your journey -- that has been a huge inspiration for me. Additionally, Toyota’s impact on the communities where its team members are located has been incredible to see in action as well as the spirit of service it inspires in employees. This is the driving force behind why I’ve stayed at Toyota for four years and counting.  

Tell me about your current role at Toyota. What are your responsibilities and priorities?

As a Vehicle Marketing Planner, my primary role is to serve as a subject matter expert for the Toyota Tacoma and 4Runner trucks, as well as the truck segment, and formulate the strategy, tactical plans and daily marketing operations for these vehicles. What makes my job even more exciting is leading and supporting product launches and key product milestone events for our field sales team members. I also work very closely with our various advertising agencies to oversee campaign and creative development, ensuring our strategy is successfully carried out across our broadcast, print, radio, out-of-home, digital and social media marketing channels. It’s exciting to see the real-life impact my job has, and the way my work contributes to making  Tacoma and 4Runner trucks popular vehicles in the market. 

What resources or programs has Toyota offered you that have enabled you to develop and advance your career?

That same year I joined the company, I discovered Toyota’s Business Partnering Groups — internal networks of team members who share like-minded beliefs for supporting and encouraging diversity, inclusion, and community. Through Toyota’s African American Collaborative (AAC), I began to connect with team members across the company and that’s when I decided I wanted to do more. I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in new and challenging opportunities to grow my leadership skills and build a network of people who care about my work and development. Through it all, I found that passion for bringing people together and cultivating a sense of belonging for others. 

Tell me more about your role within African American Collaborative, Toyota’s African American business resource group.

I currently serve as the Chair of African American Collaborative (AAC), which has been an incredibly important and fulfilling experience. In this role, I’m responsible for setting the strategic direction for our group and ensuring the overall mission and vision of the AAC is carried out while making a significant impact within the company. 

I was appointed Chair after leading the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Day program at Toyota headquarters. I was thrilled to be able to contribute to celebrating MLK’s legacy, while inspiring team members with his message of being an agent of change. My work caught the eye of the current AAC leadership team and executive sponsor. It was an honor to be  selected by the organization to lead AAC to the next level and continue to make an impact at Toyota. My goal is to help amplify important issues affecting African American team members to leadership, empower our team members to share their voices, help provide avenues for professional development, and to make Toyota an even better place for all people. I’m thankful to have this leadership opportunity, in addition to my daily job, where I get to expand my network of people to learn from and pour into. 

What is the mission of African American Collaborative and what are some key areas of focus for this group this year?

Our mission is to continuously recruit, develop and retain African American talent while also bridging the gap between African American communities and the corporate workplace through community outreach. In light of the recent social injustice events that have plagued us over the last several months, serving as a resource and outlet to foster conversations on social justice between our AAC membership and our executive leadership within the company was a heavy focus last year and will continue to be an important conversation.  

Another key area of focus is serving the community. We recently launched our Tutormate program, where members volunteer to tutor first grade students in reading for 30 minutes per week. It is one of the most rewarding programs we execute. Since beginning the program in 2018, we have tutored approximately 170 students, and currently average about 60 tutors each school year. It’s incredible to see the impact we have on the students’ reading levels, especially where we’ve seen students increase up to four reading levels. This not only benefits the students, but also impacts the overall success of the school. It’s amazing how much you can impact a child’s reading in only 30 minutes per week! 

Career development is also a key area of focus for our membership this year. Last year, we organized a session with our membership to discuss the importance of mentorship and sponsorship. Following that session, we partnered with some of our senior leaders in AAC to organize small group sessions for our members. During these sessions, our senior leaders coached team members on how to effectively create and utilize what we call experience maps.  An experience map is a tool that was first started by one of our Toyota Financial Services team members and is a tool that allows team members to creatively showcase who they are, not just professionally, but also personally. It’s a great way to start conversations as you begin  building relationships across the company, interview for various roles in the company, etc.  

Last month celebrated MLK Day and this month marks Black History Month – how will Toyota be recognizing and celebrating these important cultural moments?

For our 2021 MLK Day celebration, we really focused on the message of togetherness and unity.  Our theme, “Together, We Can’t Wait” emphasized how, given the recent events in our society, we can’t wait for things to change. We need to be the change and we need to do it together. We were fortunate to have Dr. Bernice King, Martin Luther King, Jr’s youngest daughter, as our keynote speaker for an inspiring, live virtual discussion attended by over 2,000 team members.

We also partnered with our other business partnering groups to emphasize how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work has led to the passing of laws that enact rights to protect all Americans. To give back to community, we  hosted a virtual giving campaign for one of our local food charities, Minnie’s Food Pantry. We are continuing to build on this momentum throughout Black History Month with additional engaging activities geared toward bringing the community together. This month, we’re highlighting for our team members important African American focused books and films,  the impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and featuring team members who are alumni, hosting a virtual Art Walk to feature African American artists in the local North Texas area, and hosting another year of our Black History Quiz Bowl for some fun competition and education. We are also continuing our giving campaign with Minnie’s Food Pantry and  added the North Texas Food Bank as a recipient as well.  

Earlier in your career, did you have a mentor? If so, what did you learn from them? If not, why do you wish you’d had one?

I’ve had mentors in my life but did not always realize they were mentors at the time. I saw them simply as people I looked up to: friends, leaders, etc. Later, it dawned on me that the relationships were actually mentor/mentee relationships.
Three of the key things I’ve learned from them are:
1.) Relationships are everything: create meaningful connections.
2.) Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.
3.) The way you handle constructive criticism or rejection from a job says more about you than you realize.

What advice would you give to female job seekers who are interested in starting a career at Toyota?

Toyota is a company with a wealth of opportunities. Navigating those opportunities can seem quite overwhelming, but there are so many wonderful team members here who will invest in you and will help you along the way. Try to seek them out as soon as you can. And, as women, we tend to be shy and not want to “cause a stir.” When it comes to your career, ask for what you want. There are many people who will value that!

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