When you’re the only girl around, you have to.
Hailing from a houseful of brothers and a culture filled with dominant men, Kate Fabian learned how to speak up for herself at an early age. And she’s still speaking up. Newly arrived in the United States from Australia, Kate is the Marketing Manager charged with setting the newly formed luxury brand, Genesis, apart from the crowd.
But she’s not intimidated. In a world where men outnumber women (for now) Kate embraces her role. “It’s funny, when I’m sitting in a meeting where I’m the only female, I don’t really think about it that way. I’m just there—and my opinion is being heard. I wouldn’t work for anyone that treated me any differently.”
Clearly, Kate has plenty of opinions when it comes to marketing. With more than 18 years of experience as a high level marketing problem solver, she has been responsible for the execution of multiple brands from international sporting federations to the automotive industry.
Working her way up through the ranks at several Australian advertising agencies, Kate worked on auto accounts before she made the move over to work for the client, Hyundai, as brand communications manager in Sydney. “I’ve literally launched every Hyundai brand,” she says.
When Genesis Motors, the luxury vehicle division of the South Korean automobile manufacturer Hyundai was announced as a stand-alone brand in November 2015, a new opportunity arose for Kate and her family. But she had to speak up.
Knowing what she wanted, then asking for it: moving to the USA
Taking on a top marketing job in the US–not to mention launching a brand new brand–is a big step.
Kate met her husband in the Dominican Republic when she was working the Santa Domingo Pan American Games. He made the decision to return to Australia with her (smart man). After starting a family (the couple has a 4 year old son) in Sydney, Kate’s husband wanted to be closer to his family. She decided perhaps it was time to take on new challenges abroad, so she spoke up.
“Early last year, speaking to the CEO of my company, I asked were there any opportunities” in the US. “We started having calls with Hyundai and with Erwin (Raphael, general manager Genesis USA) and before you knew it, I was on my way.” Women who don’t speak up for what they want? “They’re crazy. You have to stand up for what you believe in,” Kate says.
Finding the Genesis of Genesis: Respect is the focus of the brand’s first ad campaign
“If you know anything about the Korean culture, a fundamental part of the culture is mutual respect. In the west you have to earn respect, but in Korea they respect people no matter what,” Kate says. This informed the customer promise, from attention to detail to service customized to the buyer’s needs, not the dealers.
Looking at this and how the idea of respect helped to shape Genesis, it became clear: “Respect is something we can own,” and it became one of the pillars of the brand’s philosophy: respect, humility and aggressiveness. “We want to establish relationships and share our brand, not just tell people about it. The experience we provide is just as important as the products.”
Launching a new brand and winning the respect of leaders and peers
Kate traveled to the company headquarters in Seoul to pitch the idea of the Respect marketing campaign. Speaking with upper management to pitch her idea could have been intimidating, but Kate found it exciting. She took it all in as a learning opportunity, and an opportunity to earn the respect of her male peers and colleagues.
And it all seems to be working. Launching Genesis in the largest luxury market in the world was a big step. In the US, Genesis is the first to branch off from Hyundai as its own brand (other than in Korea), but customers have embraced it: the G80 and G90 models are selling well, with sales just behind BMW.
She faces them every day: the demands of juggling career and family
“My mother was a stay at home mom and I thought that’s what I wanted, but I began working part-time when my son was 6 months old and then transitioned to full-time when he was 12 months old. For me, work is very much a part of my identity, it’s who I am. I think I’m a better Mom because of my work.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t have those guilty moments we know all too well.
“Moving from Sydney to the USA for my career was hard on my son. His friends in daycare were like his brothers and sisters, he misses them.”
And sometimes, Kate feels guilty about the travel that goes along with her position. “I think as women we always feel we need to compromise. It’s really ridiculous in this day and age, but we still struggle with it at times.”
Support is the key for Kate—and, really, for all of us
It helps to have a great support system—and although Kate’s family is spread out around the world, she knows she has their support. From her parents, to her three brothers to her husband, Kate’s family is proud of her success and encourages her in her quests.
“My husband is creative, he understands my career. And he’s extremely supportive. In fact, when I want to slow down and take a break, he pushes me to do more.”
And although Kate’s mother was a stay-at-home mom, she taught Kate and her siblings to be independent. “My Mom learned how to fly a plane in 8 weeks. She even learned how to break-in wild horses. She taught us to go out and do what we wanted and to never settle for second best.”
And, she taught Kate to speak up for what she wants.