The auto industry is predominantly male, but that didn’t stop Dyan Colvin-Hoffmann from pursuing her passion working in the field.
“I grew up in an automotive family and realized early on that I also had a passion for the automotive industry,” says Colvin-Hoffmann, who has been with Toyota for 32 years, having joined straight out of college. She serves as the general manager of In-Market Multimedia for Connected Technologies. “What I really enjoy about the industry is that it is always evolving — there’s always something new, whether we’re introducing a new vehicle, a new feature or a new service. Additionally, customers’ expectations regarding their vehicle experience is constantly evolving — and that’s what is exciting to me.”
We caught up with Colvin-Hoffmann to learn more about her tenure at Toyota, what she loves about the company and her best advice for women looking to advance their own careers. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell us a bit about your job and your career journey at Toyota.
During my tenure with Toyota, I’ve had the opportunity to experience a variety of positions and a number of different career opportunities. About half of my career has been in the field and the other half at headquarters. In the field, I worked in two of our regional offices and supported our dealers and our customers directly. At HQ, I’ve had a variety of positions, but mostly operational with a direct link back to our dealers and/or customers. This has meant that I have also been able to experience different parts of the country — eight moves in all. That’s a journey that I chose to take — because of that I’ve been able to really diversify my background and experiences, but do it all at the same company.
Tell us about your current role. What are your priorities, and what about the role excites you the most?
Connected Technologies is the team that is responsible for the in-vehicle multimedia that’s ever-expanding in our vehicle lineup today. My role is to support the key stakeholders working with our customers and dealers to provide them the best multimedia experience.
Technology is the future for mobility, more so than ever before. When I think about our projects in Connected Technologies, like providing integrated and intuitive systems in our vehicles, we are helping to drive Toyota’s transformation from an automotive company to a mobility company. It’s a great responsibility and it really fuels us to work even harder to deliver the best products to market.
Ultimately, what has led you to stay at Toyota?
Thirty-two years is a long time with one company, but the fact that I have been here this long speaks volumes. If you had told me when I joined the company that I’d still be here 32 years later, I would have said, “you’re crazy!” But I think it’s a couple of things that have made me stay:
First, it’s the people. This company has great talent and teamwork is valued. You get to experience that every day and in everything we do.
There’s also the opportunity to move to so many different areas and never have to leave the company. I’ve held positions in customer relations, vehicle sales and marketing, parts and service, vehicle distribution and supply and business management to name just a few — not to mention being a part of the Connected Technology team.
When you put all these things together — great people, teamwork and the opportunities — there is no reason for me to leave.
A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies. What has enabled you to advance your career at Toyota?
There’s never been a void — there’s always been a new opportunity, a new challenge. Now, ultimately, it was incumbent upon me to seek out those opportunities, but early on I had a wonderful mentor who always said, “Never be afraid to take on a new challenge — even when it is outside of your skill set or outside of your comfort zone.” So, some of the opportunities that became available were positions that I did not have experience or a rich background in. That did not stop me from trying. For example, I have an economics degree, but was able to successfully gain experience in sales and marketing.
One of the biggest “ah-ha” moments for me was one of my first positions that was outside of my comfort zone. In broadening my skill set to meet the challenge of the job, I had to really rely on others to help me to understand and navigate. And the “ah-ha” moment for me was realizing it’s okay to take calculated risks. I took an opportunity knowing that I’d probably have a few stumbles along the way, but that I could learn and grow from that. I also knew that I had different experiences and knowledge that I could contribute. In the end, it would be a win/win, and I continued to grow my skill set.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry often comes with a set of challenges. What are some of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
When I first joined Toyota, one of my first career opportunities included a move to our field operations team. At that time, there were very few women in the field and even fewer directly calling on dealers. I worked with managers at dealerships that had never had a female district representative. It was my personal challenge to demonstrate to them that I could do what my male counterparts could do and, in many cases, do it even better.
Today, it’s a different landscape. The industry has changed dramatically and the contribution from women has certainly made a difference at Toyota and across the industry.
It’s important to remember, there are going to be challenges no matter which company you join. If you enter with a mindset that says, “I can accomplish this,” you are going to be just fine. Don’t run away from challenges, have the courage to take them on. That’s not to say you run into things blindly — it’s important to think through a strategy and then start running, so to speak; but when you run toward a challenge, you will get a sense of empowerment and energy — reinforcing that “I can do this.”
What advice would you give to someone looking to take their career to the next level?
My advice is to not chase titles. Instead, focus on being a great leader at any level. Being a great leader means serving as a role model for others. It also means having vision and understanding the importance of strategic thinking and getting others to follow you. You should not only build on your existing skill sets but also take every opportunity to diversify your skills. When you focus on those things, people will recognize you and your abilities, and the titles will follow.
Also, don’t think you can do it all. When I was young and first joined the company, I would get a project and think to myself — I can handle this all on my own. And even though I delivered successfully on those projects, my mentor asked me if the results could have been even better, or provided an opportunity for others to learn and grow, if I had involved others. I soon recognized the importance of building teams when tackling projects. When you surround yourself with people that both complement your skill set and bring different skill sets and perspectives to the team, you organically challenge one another to think differently. This leads to new concepts, new ideas and greater innovation.
Ultimately, all that feeds into the work that you are doing and you’re going to deliver a better product. Once I started making teamwork a priority, I was able to achieve even greater things — for both the company and for myself professionally.
How has Toyota’s approach to a flexible work environment been key to keeping you at the company as you have grown both your career and your family?
I have a full-time career, and I am a full-time mom. Inherent in being a mom is the ability to multitask. I think I do it well, but it also helps to work for a company that understands the importance of work/life balance and how that creates a healthy work environment for all. There’s time I need to dedicate to my job, but there’s time I need to dedicate to my family as well. It’s great to work for a company that recognizes that and engages with team members to find opportunities to create flexible work environments.
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