Maria Grazia Davino, 39
Managing director, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Switzerland
Born: Naples, Italy
Languages: Italian, English, German, French
Education: Master's degree in finance control, Profingest Business School, Bologna, Italy; bachelor's degree in philosophy and enterprise communications, University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy; seminars in methodology for research, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
What was your big break?
I created my big break when I left my comfort zone. I went from a company where everyone knew me, my career was going well, and I had close ties to my supervisors to a big company where no one knew me, I had no budget and was one of thousands of employees. While I initially felt alone and felt I had taken two to three steps backward in my career, the change ended up being beneficial because I learned so much and it gave me opportunities to advance.
Your greatest achievement?
Twice I have been in a situation where I have had to rebuild trust within the organization that I was leading. I believe in building good relationships and trust because they are crucial for a business's growth. In the end, it comes down to activating the best resource we have: people. I was able to get employees, dealers and suppliers to reconnect and believe in a joint vision where they could make things happen. This experience showed me that pragmatically planned projects help built trust and confidence and that eventually results in improved market shares and profits.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I once went with a colleague's input when it came to strategy because he was quite assertive about it. I quickly realized that I had made a big mistake following this person's implied order. Unfortunately, it took three to six months to recover from the consequences. This taught me to trust myself and follow my own path. I also learned that when making important decisions the leader is alone.
What is your current challenge at work?
Switzerland is a very complex market so I am trying to stabilize market shares and profits. Business for dealers is changing dramatically in Switzerland and the return on investment expectations are different from the other countries where I have previously worked.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
It's changing inside and outside, in all directions. This includes customers' expectations and purchasing behavior, product and technology development, cross-industry synergies, environmental and institutional barriers, innovations coming from everywhere and, for me in particular, the new retail scenarios.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
A person very close to me once said: "There are no good or bad decisions. There are decisions. You just made yours and it's already behind you. You need to face the next one, and, possibly, the consequences of the previous one."
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Be open to learning from the people who have immense experience in this industry. Be strong. Know the basics. And, be ready to contribute to the industry's continued development and innovation.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I would implement quite a few strategies at the same time. I would start by having formal and informal interviews with employees, dealers and customers from all different parts of the business. I would initiate a deep multi-dimensional reading of the P&L and the last two to three years of monthly inventory and sales as well as look at the details on the inventories. They usually tell you a lot. I would also visit all our sales partners. Not just the ones considered most important.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I need challenges, and it seems that "challenges know it." What I mean is that challenges usually find me. So far, the largest number of people I have managed is a bit more than 200. It would be interesting to me to increase this number to more than a thousand. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that responsibility and power correspond to the number of people you manage. I only mention this because I think it would be an interesting personal challenge for me.
What do you do to relax?
I love to read and I love visual arts so my favorite pastime is reading about art. To remain physically fit I do something called Gyrotonic. It is a type of gentle stretching that incorporates yoga, dance and gymnastics while using a strange machine that could have been developed by Leonardo da Vinci.
What is your pet peeve?
When I feel someone is trying to manipulate me.
What was your first car?
An Alfa 33.
Jeep Cherokee and Fiat Tipo.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would definitely be an Alfa Romeo. Either a Giulia, a Stelvio or a 4C.
February 2016-present: Managing director, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Switzerland, Zurich, Switzerland
2014-2016: Managing director, FCA Austria, Vienna, Austria
2013-2014: Dealer manager, Fiat Center Italia, Motor Village Roma, Rome, Italy
2012-2013: General manager, FCA, Mirafiori Motor Village, Turin, Italy
2011-2012: Sales planning manager, FCA, Turin
2007-2011: Sales operations, planning and distribution manager, Lamborghini, Bologna, Italy
2009-2011: Interim sales area manager Canada, Mexico and Brazil, Lamborghini, Bologna
2005-2007: Financial controller, business area sales, marketing and PR, Lamborghini, Bologna