Irina Gorbacheva, 42
Vice president of sales and marketing , Toyota Russia
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started with Toyota Russia in 2007 after having worked in finance for 10 years. I began my career as Toyota’s international reporting and GAAP manager. At the time I knew very little about the industry but was attracted to the field’s dynamic, technologically advanced products as well as the solutions it offered customers. The complexity and global scale of this business were exciting and challenging.
Languages: Russian, English, German
Education: Master’s degree in management, Pyatigorsk State University, Pyatigorsk, Russia
Your greatest achievement?
My most important career move came when I transitioned from finance to operational management in 2012. I went from a support function to real business operations. It was challenging but gave me the opportunity to study global practices in leading markets. That included the U.S., Europe, Japan and China. I learned how to influence our market and business development directly, as well as initiate and lead implementation of new breakthrough projects. My background in finance was very helpful and was key to my understanding of the automotive industry. I became a leader and after eight years I believe that my biggest achievement is my own reputation in this business. I treasure the trust and confidence I get from my colleagues, partners and stakeholders.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I never use the word failure. To me, it’s all about learning and gathering valuable experiences. There won’t be mistakes if you just do the same things over and over. However, if you keep moving forward and try to expand your horizon, it’s impossible to not to make a few mistakes. The key is how you deal with them. Be consistent, optimistic and believe in yourself and your team to achieve sustainable growth.
What is your current challenge at work?
Digitalization is arguably now the industry’s game changer. Artificial intelligence, the digital world, connected devices, new urban infrastructures and successful startups as well as enormous amounts of data have an impact on the entire industry. It affects both companies and customers. The current challenge for our company is the aspiration to be among the transformation and implementation pioneers. It isn’t just about tools and technologies. It’s also about management style and business approach. We need to significantly change our traditional way of business development, decision-making, allocation of resources, people development and target setting. To become leaders, we need to be quicker, more agile and more proactive than ever before.
2018-2019: General manager demand and supply for pan-European operations, Toyota Europe, Brussels, Belgium
2012-2018: Various director roles in sales, marketing, field operations and customer satisfaction, Toyota Russia, Moscow
2007-2011: Various accounting roles including business risk management senior manager, Toyota Russia, Moscow, Russia
2005-2007: Financial and controlling roles, Yukos, Moscow
2002-2005: Head of finance department, Dentel, Munich, Germany
1997-2002: Accounting and financial roles, Gazprom, Georgievsk, Russia
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I live by the advice I got from a monk at a Japanese temple in Kyoto. He told me that if you want your life to be well-balanced and harmonized, if you want to achieve success in all areas of your life, then stay strong and organize your life like a Japanese garden. Don’t give anything priority over the other things. Your family, work, self-development, friends and hobbies deserve equal attention and care. The monk also said I should not sacrifice the small corners of the garden in favor of a beautiful center. Give everything a chance to grow naturally. This isn’t easy and it’s taken me a long time to build and sustain this way of living. However, I keep returning to this advice and have worked it into my professional life as well.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
See any challenge in the automobile industry as a new opportunity. This business can throw lemons at you. When that happens, I try to follow the old saying and make lemonade. You should have the ability to turn these challenges into maximum value for your company and customers. Be a person with big ambitions, with a genuine desire to change things and inspire the people around you.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I dream big. I want to make a strong contribution to the industry’s transformation, which is already underway.
What do you do to relax?
I enjoy traveling, sketching, reading and walking.
What is your dream location to live?
I really like the Atlantic coast of Portugal.
What is your favorite driving song?
It’s “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
It’s still a big dream of mine to drive the Pacific Coast Highway because of its incredible natural beauty. I want to drive all the way from Los Angeles up to San Francisco at my own pace.
What was your first car?
A Toyota Avensis.
A Lexus LX 570.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a convertible. It would bring the joy of fresh air, a feeling of freedom and would remove all physical barriers between myself and the world.