Cristiana Alicata, 42
Sales director, Mazda Italy
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My first job was with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which was Fiat Auto at the time. I worked as customer service manager. To be honest, initially I wasn't really interested in the automotive business. When I was a student I didn't realize the industry's amazing and challenging potential.
Company: Mazda Italy
Location: Rome, Italy
Family: Partner, Claudia
Born: Rome, Italy
Languages: Italian, English
Education: Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
Your greatest achievement?
As dealer manager I reorganized Motor Village Napoli's team. It gave me a chance to connect the people's attitude with the company's needs and we achieved our goal of becoming one of the best dealerships in the FCA network in terms of customer experience. Customer satisfaction increased to about 85 percent from about 60 percent within 12 months. At the same time, we met our trading profit target.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Once during my 15 years in this business I accepted a new role without having a clear view of all the challenges that came with the job. I have learned that enthusiasm isn't enough. You really need to understand the challenge you are assigned. Above all, you need to get all the facts regarding the numbers, the deadlines and support you will receive. Accepting a big challenge sounds romantic, however, if you aren't fully aware of the targets and available tools, you take a huge personal and professional risk. This is also true for the team you manage. I learned that to handle challenges successfully you need agreement and commitment on targets and timing. A good manager is someone who knows it doesn't make sense to try to be a superhero.
What is your current challenge at work?
My current challenge is to push growth for Mazda Italy's sales team as well as the Italian Mazda network. This growth isn't just about numbers, it is also about how our business relates to the customer. Mazda is a consistent and reliable brand. This is evident in its products and in its management style. We do what we say. This mindset lets me finally feel at home.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The complexity of the business. You might think the automotive world is just about making and selling cars. However, there is an entire other world where it is all about tough competition. You have to manage the positioning of the products as well as the distribution business models in growing markets, the U.S. and Europe. The digital challenges are changing fast. You have to rethink how you do business every day.
May 2015-present: Advisory board member, Anas, Rome
2016-2017: CEO, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Netherlands,Lijnden, Netherlands
2014-2016: Dealer manager, Fiat Auto, Naples, Italy
What is the best advice you have ever received?
When everything is going well it is the right time to raise the limit.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Listen, listen, listen. This is a business in constant motion. If you listen to your partners, customers and colleagues at the same level that you listen to your boss you have a much better change of achieving success. This is also a business for people who take risks. The truth rises from the ground and not the roof. There are few exceptions to this.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
Regardless of the job, what is important to me is that I like the complexity of it. That is why the automotive world appeals to me, but I will seek to embrace the complexity of whatever job I have in the future even if that means following my childhood dream of setting up a restaurant or running a farm.
What do you do to relax?
I like to write and cook.
What is your pet peeve?
What was your first car?
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a Land Rover Defender Heritage because it is spartan, simple and has a solitary attitude.