CAREER-VIEW MIRROR - biographies of colleagues in the automotive and mobility industries.

Side Mirror: When one door closes, push on some more.

November 07, 2022 Andy Follows Episode 89
CAREER-VIEW MIRROR - biographies of colleagues in the automotive and mobility industries.
Side Mirror: When one door closes, push on some more.
Show Notes Transcript

In this Side Mirror episode I've shared a personal story about a role I went for and didn't get and what happened next. 

It's deliberately quite detailed as I want to take you behind the scenes and share what I was thinking and what actions I was taking at that time in case it is helpful for your own decision making. 

I hope you find it useful and I look forward to hearing what resonates with you. 

This episode of CAREER-VIEW MIRROR is brought to you by Aquilae. 

Could you use some additional experienced resources who can work alongside you and your team on a flexible basis to help you achieve your priorities? 

 I started Aquilae in 2016 and since then we have worked internationally with established automotive OEMs, EV start ups, FinTechs and insurance companies to achieve their unique mobility goals. 

Aquilae team members are highly experienced senior leaders with complementary areas of expertise who have run businesses and divisions internationally in our industry. Because we have all had many years experience of operating in the industry ourselves, we don't just advise our clients on what to do. Instead, we tend to work alongside them, delivering their specific projects. We are happy to help develop strategy and we're equally happy to then get involved delivering the plan. 

Mobility businesses are all about people, processes and technology. We leverage our Aquilae Academy for people development and Aquilae Consulting for those wider business topics. 

If you're looking for some help with people or business topics and you like the idea of having some additional very experienced, resources who can work flexibly alongside you. Please get in touch with me for a conversation. You can email me directly at Andy 


For details of our forthcoming guests follow us on Instagram @careerviewmirror 



Episode recorded on 27 October 2022 

Ed Eppley:

I am sitting in lovely Siesta Key Florida.

Sherene Redelinghuys:

I'm coming from Bangkok in Thailand

Daniel von Treeck:

Prague in the Czech Republic

Osman Abdelmoneim:

Cairo in Egypt

Holger Drott:

Auckland, New Zealand,

Shannon Faulkner:

London, England.


Welcome to Career-view Mirror, the automotive podcast that goes behind the scenes with key players in the industry looking back over their careers so far, sharing insights to help you with your own journey. I'm your host Andy Follows Hello, listeners, this episode is a personal story about what turned out to be a significant few months in my own career. It's deliberately quite detailed as I want to take you behind the scenes and share what I was thinking and what actions I was taking at that time, in case it's helpful for your own decision making. In 2005, I was head of BMW corporate finance in the UK. That meant I led a sales team within Alphabet UK that sold alphabet products and services via the BMW dealer network. By this time, I'd spent six years at alphabet from being its first account manager through hiring and running the account management team to becoming national sales manager and then making an investment move into BMW corporate finance to give me a change, leverage my relationship with BMW GB and gain more exposure to working with dealers. I had a great team and they were very successful. Their efforts saw them well rewarded, and I won a sales incentive trip to the ice hotel in Jukkasjarvi inside the Arctic Circle. Nonetheless, I felt ready for a move. And towards the end of the year, an opportunity came up. BMW Financial Services had a new CEO Keith Dye who'd come over from South Africa. He was known for having developed a strong Alphera business back home. Alphera's the brand that BMW Financial Services uses to work with non BMW dealers. One of his focus areas in his new role was to develop Alphera in the UK, and he put out an internal advertisement for a general manager. I thought this would be a great way for me to broaden my experience out from Fleet Management and leasing, and into retail and wholesale financial services. It would also be an opportunity to move into a position reporting directly to the CEO. I submitted my application and started talking to colleagues on the retail side of the business to try and understand as much as possible about how it worked. Between submitting my application and the interview process starting I went off to Munich for a sales and marketing conference. There were references to Alphera during the conference, and also some talk of next steps for alphabet in Australia which caught my attention. I suspect that some of this exchange of information took place not during the conference sessions themselves but with colleagues in the bar at the end of the day. Being British, I could usually be relied on to be one of the last to leave the bar. And this has served me well in terms of learning useful information and developing friendships with colleagues. Back in the UK, I prepared a presentation and business case for Alphera and delivered it as part of the selection process. I was really looking forward to getting my teeth into something new, to understanding a new market, devising the strategy, setting up the infrastructure, putting the proposition together, leading a new team with all that entails and having a new boss. And I was aware that the role would come with a higher profile, and that increased exposure appealed to me too. After the structured interview and business case presentation, I felt I'd done quite well and perhaps done enough. But of course I had no idea how the other candidates had performed. Some time elapsed after the interviews and I was beginning to think that I had not been successful. I imagined that the first priority would have been to talk to the preferred candidate and make sure they were on board before letting down the remaining hopefuls. I wasn't wrong. I had a call from Keith's assistant Hildegard Marish, and she invited me to a meeting for feedback on the Alphera proposition. Those didn't sound like words that would lead to me being offered the role. At the meeting, I learned that my colleague Pauline Hayes had been successful. I liked Pauline and considered her to be very capable. She definitely had the right expertise to develop the Alphera brand in the UK. Keith said that now I'd shown an interest in making a move and he'd had the chance to get to know me through the interview process, he felt that he needed to find another challenge for me, and he would look out for something. I think this is a common outcome from internal job applications. It raises your profile and gives you a chance to demonstrate where you're at and share your aspirations with people who can probably help you get on. I thanked Keith very much and told him that I'd been thinking about alphabet in Australia and I'd most likely turned my attention to getting an international assignment. By way of a sidebar to the story, once I start thinking about making a move like I had done before throwing my hat in the ring for the Alphera position, I find that I have to follow through and can't really settle until I've executed on that idea and made some kind of move. I start to imagine the benefits of a new situation and I notice the negatives in my current situation, and the resolve, I need to commit to applying for a new role continues to be there, even if I don't get the job and I'm inclined to carry on looking. I don't know if that psychology works the same for everyone but it means that if a team member comes to me, and tells me they've received an alternative job offer and are planning to take it, I tend not to try and encourage them to stay in my team. I imagine the mental process they've gone through to put themselves through selection, and I suspect they won't be the same again. I was very open about my plans with my manager Richard Schooling, I remember asking if I could go to another conference in Munich because I thought it would provide a good networking opportunity and he was totally supportive and immediately arranged for me to be invited. I took it upon myself to do whatever I could to find myself a new role. The meeting when Keith Dye told me I hadn't got the Alphera job was on Friday the 17th of February 2006. That Sunday evening, the 19th I was on the phone to Australia trying to speak to the CEO of BMW Financial Services Australia, David Hannah about the potential for a job with Alphabet in Australia. David was the former commercial director of BMW Financial Services in the UK and so whilst he was a few levels senior to me he wasn't a complete stranger. The time difference made it challenging. 8am in Melbourne was 10pm in the UK. I remember phoning the switchboard and getting a recorded message because the office wasn't open yet. And the woman on the recording had an Australian accent. For some reason this added to the excitement or scariness of what I was doing. It was just all so different. What might I be getting myself into. I went on Google Maps and looked at where the offices were. The thought of Melbourne being our home for a while really appealed to me. On Monday, I tried calling David again and spoke to his assistant Maureen. She told me he was in Beijing. So I sent him an email. Just taking action helped me to feel better about having failed in my attempt to get the Alphera job. I wrote in my diary, action feels good. Just doing the next thing is so much more fulfilling than waiting. Maybe all that I'll acheive is discovering that there are no current suitable international opportunities and then I'll be able to accept a UK one knowing that I tried. Who knows. That's one of the more positive quotable diary entries from around that time. This story is getting long enough. But I want to share that there are other entries that illustrate that I was going through an unsettled time after not getting the job I'd gone for. I'd had to get my head around the idea of switching roles in order to throw myself fully into the process and when it didn't happen I didn't just automatically bounce back to how I was before. More than ever, I wanted to make a change and move on. Two weeks after being told I hadn't got the Alphera job, on Friday afternoon at a quarter to five I had a call from my friend and colleague Osman Abdelmoniem. Osman, known to many as Ozzie, was working in Munich for the Asia Pacific Regional team. I still haven't had a response to my email to David Hannah, but it turns out he'd received it and spoken to Ozzie about it. He wanted to make sure that the relevant stakeholders were aware that I was exploring a move to Alphabet, Australia. Ozzie told me that the findings of the strategy review into Alphabet Australia were due in a couple of weeks time. I was excited thinking that would lead to a potential opportunity for me to take my UK Alphabet experience and share it in Australia. There was a formal process within the BMW Group for managing international assignments. There were questionnaires on the intranet to help you establish your suitability. I remember we had a visit from a member of the International HR team, Bianca Siemens, and I was scheduled an appointment with her to discuss the possibility of an international assignment. I had already run through the questionnaires with my wife Julia, we'd decided on countries we thought we could live in and had a list of questions ready. Bianca could tell that I was serious about doing this. One of the key factors that can curtail or derail an international assignment is if the partner and family don't integrate well into the new environment. I was demonstrating from the outset that Julia and I were approaching this as a joint decision. I hadn't done that to impress Bianca, it was just the way we operate. All that had happened within the first three weeks of me finding out that I hadn't got the job. But then everything seemed to really slow down. Almost five months passed without evidence of progress. In early July, I had a call with Bianca. She was aware of what was going on and had discussed me with Karl Heinz Kral, who was the then Global Head of Alphabet. She also said that there may be other potential opportunities in Alphabet in Europe. I I thought of another role I'd heard was opening up in Belgium, I'm sorry to say that didn't have quite the same appeal as Melbourne. On the 25th of August 2006, six months after the Alphera conversation, my boss Richard Schooling asked me to pop into his office. He'd had a call from Raoul van der Meeren from the Asia Pacific Regional team, something about two jobs that he wanted to talk to me about. One was based in Munich developing balanced scorecards, and the other was based in Singapore and would involve visiting Japan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Korea, China, and soon Russia and other non EU Eastern European countries. I thought that sounded brilliant. Although it came with a caveat that I could expect to spend 50% of my time travelling on business. Richard said Raoul would contact me the following week, but he'd wanted to give me the heads up so that I had the weekend to think about it. I was home before Julia that day and went on the internet to find out where Singapore actually was. I read that the climate was like summer all year round, and one of the Singaporeans favourite pastimes was shopping. I felt this would position it well when I spoke to Julia about it. And whether it was that or the fact that she couldn't bear to live with me any longer unless I had something new to do, she was up for moving to Singapore. The next week, rather than waiting for Raoul to call, I called him to get more details. He stressed the 50% travel requirement of the role, which I thought was good of him. He sent me some presentations about strategy and the department mission and I agreed to go to Munich to meet him. The role was currently filled by a gentleman called Andy Gruber who I knew from time he'd spent in the UK. I called him to find out more about what it entailed and came away feeling even more positive about the opportunity. He said he thought that Raoul was looking for someone with a bit more experience who would be able to come into a market and tell them how it should be done. Given that this was a retail role for BMW Financial Services and not a fleet management role, a lot of it was going to be new to me and I wasn't sure that I'd be in a position to tell anyone how to do it. I later raised this with Raul and he said he was more interested in having someone with the capability to learn than necessarily having the exact expertise. That made me feel better and took me back to being excited about the prospect again. Whilst all this was going on, there was another storyline running alongside that was very important to me and my wife. Our daughter, Hannah, had turned 10 years old and would be going up to secondary school the following September. We'd spent much of this year thinking about where she might go. The school nearest to us had a poor reputation, we considered moving to a different area or sending her to a fee paying school. One other option was called Kendrick school in Reading. It had seriously impressive academic results. Pupils are almost guaranteed exceptional A level results and you didn't have to pay. You did have to pass an exam to get in though, and it was known to be very competitive. We decided to get Hannah some extra tuition to help her with her chances of passing the entrance exam. I arranged to have some time with Keith Dye to discuss the job in Singapore. As well as being our CEO he had come from the region. He was very supportive and offered me help with my contract. I also started reaching out to colleagues in the region to gather more information. I thanked David Hannah in Australia for his role in recommending me to Raoul. I contacted Clive Prevost, the CEO in South Africa. I think that must have been Keith's idea, as I didn't know him. He was coming to the UK for a BMW leadership programme, and I offered to pick him up from Keith's home in Weybridge and take him to Oxford, where the programme was being held on the Sunday so that I could talk to him on the way. Julia rang her sister's friend Karen Bridgeman, who was living in Malaysia at the time, and had valuable insights to share on living abroad and a heads up about the high cost of living in Singapore. I started looking into how much we might be able to rent out our home for whilst we were away. There's a lot to think about when you're considering an international move, even if you're doing it with the support of a multinational company. I always had huge respect for people I met on my travels who'd moved internationally without any company behind them and without necessarily having a job to go to. I wanted to share those last few details to point out some of the actions we were taking and decisions we were dealing with in the background. We were concerned not to mess up our daughter's education. Our son Tom was only six at the time, so we felt he was at a less significant stage in his academic career. Julia and I worked as a team during this process and talked openly about our thoughts and concerns. We leveraged our networks with me reaching out to anyone I thought would be able to help who I already knew within the company, and Julia contacting friends who were on similar adventures. It wasn't over the line yet, either. On the 11th of September 2006, I met with Raoul in Munich and Gesha Feldman, who was responsible for HR for the APAC financial services region. Gesha was extremely helpful and I'm still in contact with her now. I remember she asked me, How will you feel about giving up your team? The role I'd be going into was that of an individual contributor and so I'd be letting go of the responsibility of leading a team which I now consider to be hugely rewarding, and which also carries an element of status. And in some ways I was making a sideways move to take on this role. But that hadn't occurred to me. The fact that it was international made it seem a step up. Had I understood the way grading works across the group, I may have had another topic to add to the list of concerns. I'm glad I wasn't aware enough to have given that much thought. Had I fixated on how others might perceive the relative status or level of the two roles, that could have caused an additional hurdle to my decision making. My ego may have prevented me from taking what would turn out to be an incredible life changing opportunity. The same dilemma could have arisen when deciding whether to go to a small, geographically distant market like New Zealand, but that's another story. The meeting in Munich with Raoul went as well as I could have hoped. He mentioned that Alan Crookes, the head of the APAC region for BMW Financial Services, had been doing some of his own research on me, and had spoken to a former UK colleague Mike Wetherall, who was now also in the APAC region, heading up sales and marketing in South Africa. Mike had obviously said good things and Alan had told Raoul to go ahead. I mention this out of gratitude to Mike, David Hannah and others who spoke positively about me, and also to illustrate the role that our reputation has in these situations. It can be working for us behind the scenes, and potentially adding more weight than anything we might do in an interview. After a successful meeting with Raoul, I was invited to return to Munich the following week to meet Alan Crookes. I must have had the impression that things were going ahead after my meeting with Raoul as we decided to break the news to Hannah and Tom. Hannah was very excited, but Tom was quite upset. Later that day, he stuck his hand up in class though and told them that he was moving to Singapore and would have a swimming pool in our garden. His friend William seemed to get the impression that he was coming with us, at least that's what he told his mum when he got home that day. On the 19th of September 2006, I was back in Munich to meet with Alan Crookes for the first time. I had no idea at that point, what an impact he was going to have on the next eight years of my career, and ultimately, my whole career trajectory. I thought he was a pleasant chap, the meeting went well, we had some good conversation, at the end of it he was happy to proceed, although I noted that I didn't think he'd seen it as a second interview anyway. Someone had told me, maybe it was David Hannah, to be aware that when you say yes to an international move, you're effectively stepping onto a train, and that train will pull out of the station pretty quickly. The point there is that the gears of the organisation start turning. It's now out of your control and you're largely a passenger in a process designed to get you started in the new role. That's not to say you don't have plenty to do, like organise to pull up your roots at home and in our case sought out schooling for Hannah and Tom, but you have less control over the timing and any small amount of power you may have had in the run up to agreeing to go is now pretty much used up. I'm going to stop there as this episode is long enough. Specifically, I wanted to demonstrate what the repercussions were of me not getting the Alphera GM position, a role that I was really excited about and genuinely wanted to take on as the next stage in my career. I wanted to share how I responded to it, the level of ownership I chose to take in pursuing an international move, the way I leveraged my network as best I could, the moments when I got out of my comfort zone calling senior people in foreign countries to try to move things forward, even when I was quite nervous about bothering them, and then following up to chase them when I was also uncomfortable about coming across as a nuisance. And reading back through my diary to make this story as accurate as possible, I'm reminded of the people whose opinions were sought, and whose comments and views about me, contributed to me being considered and accepted for the role. I usually summarise this story in a few words. In 2006, I didn't get the job I wanted as Alphera GM, and so I focused on getting an international assignment, and I managed to get a role in Singapore. I hope that by sharing this more detailed behind the scenes account, I can help make this story more valuable to some listeners. You've been listening to Career-view Mirror with me, Andy Follows. In this side mirror episode I've shared a personal story about a role I went for and didn't get and what happened next. I hope you found some ideas to reflect on in this episode. If you'd like to work with me on a one to one basis, let's start with an informal conversation. My email is andy@aquilae.UK. Thanks for listening.

Osman Abdelmoneim:

No matter how hard you try, no matter how hard working you are, you're never going to be able to do it on your own. It's just not possible.

Ed Eppley:

You know at the end of the day, you're steering your own destiny. So if it's not happening for you, and you're seeing what you want out there, then go out there and connect.

Sherene Redelinghuys:

Don't rely on others. You you have to do it yourself. You have to take control.

Rupert Pontin:

If you've got an idea if you've got a thought about something that might be successful, if you've got a passion to do something yourself but you just haven't quite got there, do it

Tom Stepanchak:

take a risk take a chance stick your neck out what's the worst that can happen you fall down okay you pick yourself up and you try again