Nicola Johnson, 39
Head of people development, engagement and transformation, Bentley
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My first automotive job was as a human resources coordinator for Ford Motor in Great Britain. My father was always interested in cars. I followed in his footsteps by designing my first car in school. I then began working in the automotive industry when I was an undergraduate and loved working within human resources as it presented such a wide variety of topics to work on.
Your greatest achievement?
In 2020, I led the initial planning of Bentley's COVID-19 response after we temporarily closed the factory at the start of the pandemic. We called the project Come Back Stronger. My role was instrumental in ensuring that Bentley was the first COVID-safe automotive manufacturer in the UK by reviewing and improving more than 200 business-wide processes to prevent transmission of the virus. Our program is considered best-in-class within the UK industry. My role in this rapid workplace transformation was key to ensuring business continuity and ensure we had a protected and engaged workforce. Additionally, I implemented development initiatives to support employees. That included 24/7 access to e-learning, virtual mental health training, a resilience program as well as parental workshops to help with home schooling. At the same time, I managed to home-school my 9 year old while also looking after our toddler at home. Those two little girls are my greatest personal achievement.
Born: Manchester, England
Languages: English, German
Education: Master's degree in human resource management, University of Salford, Salford, England; bachelor's degree in business management, University of Manchester, Manchester, England
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
When I was 18, I failed my driving test several times. It took me a while to master the skill of driving. However, with practice and perseverance driving has become one of my favorite hobbies. I have been fortunate enough to drive some amazing cars in incredible places over the last 20 years.
What is your current challenge at work?
I'm passionate about being a driving force for skills transformation at Bentley. That's also my goal within Volkswagen Group and the automotive industry as a whole. The education sector sets the pace of change in our industry and accelerates faster than ever before toward electrification and digitalization. My work has to ensure we attract, develop and retain the right skills and competencies for current and future business needs. As the automotive industry transforms, there is much greater emphasis on electrification, sustainability and digital products and services. For me, it's crucially important that we attract, develop and retain a diverse team to achieve the highest levels of business performance and keep finding innovative ways to do this to stay ahead of the competition.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
You can become whatever you would like to be. It's not about where you are from, it's about where you are going.
2019-present: Head of people development, engagement and transformation, Bentley, Crewe, England
2013-2019: Head of strategy, organisation and transformation/projects, Bentley, Crewe
2010-2013: Organisation development manager, Bentley, Crewe
2008-2010: HR business partner, sales and marketing international, Bentley, Crewe
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
The auto industry is a great place to develop a diverse, engaging and global career. There are endless opportunities for career growth and development across technical, digital and commercial areas. You can be recognized for your contribution, shape your own career and enjoy the level of work-life balance that is important to you. It's also really important that our industry has embraced both environmental and social sustainability -- within an auto career you can make the world a better place.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would love to be Bentley's next director of center of excellence. This role would allow me to drive high performance, engagement, learning and transformation across the entire colleague journey. It would also give me additional opportunities to work across VW Group on HR projects and programs.
What do you do to relax?
I love to spend time with my family and friends, eating delicious food and drinking great wine. During non-pandemic times I'm passionate about travelling to new places and having amazing experiences. At home, I love to read, learn languages and have a flair for interior design. I also like to keep fit. My current obsession is my Peloton bike, which allows me to travel round the world without leaving home.
What is your dream location to live?
I'm very lucky because I'm already at my dream location. Our family lives in our "forever house" in Cheshire, England. However, I would love to have a second property in Italy, which would allow me to spend weekends on my speed boat, cruising in and around Venice.
What is your favorite driving song?
I love the song, "Drive By" by Train.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
My favorite road trip took us along California's Highway 1, which offers some of the most amazing views anywhere in the world. I was fortunate to see some incredible places along the way. I visited the Laguna Seca Raceway, Pebble Beach and Lovers Point, which is where my fiancé proposed to me. Of course, I accepted.
What was your first car?
A VW Polo. To this day I am so proud to have remained a part of the VW Group.
We're lucky to have a VW California Ocean camper van for this summer. Hopefully the pandemic will allow for travel or my children won't forgive me! Recently, we also began driving a VW ID3. I'm really happy to be driving a full-electric vehicle. It makes me feel like I'm doing my small part to be good to the environment.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a Bentley Mulliner Bacalar because it is dynamic, individual and combines a digital mindset with an ethical and sustainable outlook for the future.