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2022 Honoree

Michelle Allen

Vice President DIY Sales
Valvoline

How did you begin your career in the aftermarket?

I began my career in the aftermarket immediately upon graduation, when Valvoline was on campus recruiting for Internal Audit positions. I began my career in audit and quickly transitioned into supply chain planning. I worked on my MBA in the evening for three years at the University of Kentucky and upon graduation in 2010 entered a career at Valvoline in marketing. I held various marketing positions with brand management and became the director of the team in 2015. As Director of Marketing, I travelled frequently to our customers to develop win-win solutions alongside our sales team. I rotated into a sales role in 2017 and directly supported a strategic account. In 2019 I became the senior director over our marketing, category management, and analytics teams and continued to play an active role in strategy development for our customers and consumers. In 2020 I was promoted to become our vice president of sales leading our Do-It-Yourself business channel. This has been an incredible ride within the aftermarket that allows me to work alongside the most talented people in the industry to develop programs, products and platforms that drive results.

What is the proudest accomplishment of your career, thus far?

One of my proudest accomplishments was working alongside incredibly talented individuals at Valvoline to develop our Easy Pour bottle in 2017. This was truly a labor of love across a three-year development process to find the perfect pouring bottle. We knew the process for DIYers wasn’t ideal with the current bottle and we worked across multiple teams to deliver a best-in class experience for the consumer. We iterated on multiple designs throughout the process to continue to make tweaks to achieve an anti-glug pour experience along with improving overall ergonomics of the pour. The bottle won Product of the Year in 2018 for the Automotive Category from Product of the Year USA (40,000 consumers vote). It was an incredibly challenging project but yielded so much in return when it finally hit market!

What is your best advice to other women who want to excel in the automotive aftermarket? What is one thing the industry could do better or do differently to support women in the aftermarket?

My best advice for women to excel in the automotive aftermarket is to FIND YOUR PASSION that allows you to be your authentic self. Ultimately, when you are able to do this – you are bringing your best version of yourself to work and results will follow.

Within my own career – the times that I have shined the most has been when I’ve felt comfortable enough to put my point of view on the table and not to be afraid to be bold in my thinking. When you are able to have a seat at the table and make sure your thoughts are known, your counterparts will garner a new level of respect for you when you allow your passion to shine. Oftentimes women can be their own worst enemy and think “I don’t deserve to sit at the table” or “this idea isn’t good enough.” I’ve encountered those same fears throughout my career but the more I have grown in experience and through some incredible mentors I flipped the script to “I deserve to be at the table” and “my thoughts are going to add value”. It is imperative that everyone finds a unique way to make their mark and ultimately leave their fingerprints on everything they touch.

The other piece of advice is to “get thicker skin.” I have to tell myself this every single day but the day we accept that we aren’t going to please every single person with our style, approach or thinking will be a game changing moment. In business interactions we are going to encounter situations that can be perceived as insensitive or people that have styles that can be demeaning but the more we let this roll off our back, the stronger we will be for it.

Final piece of advice is to not be afraid to take risks and continue to “play it safe.” So many times, people can get comfortable and continue down the same path they have always been on. Before they know it, 10 years goes by and they haven’t done anything to change the status quo. However, if you push yourself or your team out of the comfort zone (albeit uncomfortable) – great things will follow. Also – failure has such a negative stigma but I personally am a believer in “fail fast,” move on and learn from it and don’t let it stop you from trying something new again. As I look back on my own career journey – I’ve had moments of risk-taking as I rotated job functions. Could I do it? Each time, I surprised myself and grew so much from each experience. My favorite concept I was taught in a SOAR leadership development class was “what is the gasp factor?” The bigger the gasp factor the more it will ensure you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and ultimately growing. My favorite quote to use with teams is “If you aren’t uncomfortable, you aren’t growing.”

Are there any ways that you have personally mentored women to further their careers in the automotive aftermarket?

Mentorship has been such an integral part of my own journey that I have tried to give back in that same way. We have a formal program at Valvoline but I also mentor informally frequently. We also recently auctioned a Leadership Series at the Women in AutoCare Conference where myself and a colleague will be sharing our lessons from the book “The Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni. The book is centered around the ideal team player consisting of three key things: Hungry, Humble, and Smart. I’m extremely passionate on this topic and truly look forward to sharing the insights and my own experiences with the concept with some of the most talented women in the industry.

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