My Company Encourages Career Development and ‘Getting Experience Across Disciplines’: From a Veteran

Sponsored by Toyota North America

Taylor Dee

Image courtesy of Toyota North America.

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Fairygodboss
June 21, 2024 at 2:30AM UTC

“Toyota is very encouraging of people getting experience across disciplines,” says Taylor Dee, who joined Toyota North America three-and-a-half years ago. This encouragement has helped her develop her career with the company.

At the beginning of her journey with Toyota, Dee was part of the Vehicle Marketing team, which creates Toyota’s advertising. During this time, she was considering a role in the Media team, which she says “is responsible for the strategy behind where and when Toyota advertising ‘shows up’ to consumers.” Although she was brand new to this area, due to Toyota’s encouragement, Dee was able to transfer within the Marketing department, where she is now part of the Media team. 

“I have been able to do something different, and I've been able to learn a whole new aspect of marketing that's helping me to be a more well-rounded contributor and approach projects with many points of view in consideration,” Dee notes.

To provide more details about how Toyota encourages career development in their employees and how they support veterans like herself, Dee took the time to chat with Fairygodboss. Read her interview below.

A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to develop/advance your career? 

Getting to know people all across the organization has really helped me become familiar with what other teams do and have a network of folks across disciplines that I can reach out to (and who can reach out to me). 

Toyota really encourages people to get varied experiences while here, which is a huge plus for me. If there is an area of the business that you're interested in, you can start to connect with people already there to learn more. It's not uncommon for people to move between departments and get a vast range of experiences. 

In that way, just moving between different roles at Toyota can feel like switching careers — and you never have to leave this great company!

How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day? 

I'm a visual "tasker," so I need to work from a list. I maintain a running to-do list that I try to keep prioritized by due date and importance (like if the task has high visibility or high impact it goes to the top). If an email hasn't been filed away, that's a cue to me that there's something I need to follow-up on. But even the best laid plans can fall apart when an urgent need arises, so I also try to be flexible and go with the flow. If I'm not going to be able to meet an expected deadline, I communicate the risk to those that are depending on me as soon as possible. 

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had? 

There are two things that I think are really critical to being a good boss: empathy and communication. The best bosses are able to put themselves in your shoes and really see where you're coming from, usually because they've been in the same position before and they just 'get it'. 

And good communication is key, which goes both ways; good bosses are transparent and clear and keep their employees informed about everything that's relevant to them, but they also enable dialogue and an environment where the employee is comfortable with sharing information 'up' as well.

What was your initial reaction to starting a leadership position in the military?

When it first really dawned on me that I was going to be in a leadership role in the military and in charge of a lot of sailors right from the get-go, to be honest, it was really scary. Leadership is a responsibility not to be taken lightly, and I was afraid of not knowing enough, not being ready and ultimately letting my team down. 

How did you apply the skills you developed in the military to your roles at Toyota North America?

My experience in the Navy has greatly contributed to my skill set in the civilian world. As an Officer and leader in the military, you go through formal leadership training courses throughout your career, but the richest leadership learnings are gained on the job. 

While in the Navy, I had the privilege of leading and working with such a diverse group of people; sailors with all different kinds of backgrounds and all different kinds of personalities. This diversity taught me that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all approach to leadership. Each individual is different, has a unique perspective, has unique motivators and responds differently to different directions, so you, as a leader, have to be able to uncover these nuances and modulate your approach to best fit each member of your team. 

I try to also take this approach in my civilian career. When I meet new people that I’ll be working with, whether peers or managers, I strive to understand their unique style and then adjust my approach to fit and (hopefully!) foster a strong relationship. 

Another important thing I learned in the military that I’ve carried with me is the importance of humility: recognizing what you don’t know and always working to know more. In the Navy, you aren’t expected to know everything and be an expert on day-one, but you are expected to proactively seek out the knowledge and skills to become an expert over time. I’ve carried this mindset with me into my career at Toyota. I am always asking questions, reading and seeking out people that have done the work before to understand why and how they did things. The more you know, the more you grow.

How has Toyota North America supported you as a veteran transitioning from the military to a civilian career?

Toyota is and has been extremely supportive. There are a lot of Business Partnering Groups here, which are networks of people with similar interests and backgrounds supporting one another, including a Toyota Veterans Association BPG. 

There are also events and opportunities all the time to learn about people with different backgrounds (including military backgrounds) and celebrate the diversity we all bring to the company. Even during my application process, I was put in touch with a former Army Officer working in the same department, whose mentorship and friendship has been invaluable to me and played a big part in my desire to work at this company.

Ultimately, what has led you to stay at Toyota North America? 

Toyota has impressive values of ‘Respect for People’ and ‘Continuous Improvement’ that are present and obvious in everything that we do. The company's values align with my own values, and that goes a long way in gaining and maintaining my loyalty. 

What is your favorite perk about working at Toyota North America? 

Getting to drive fun cars!

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