Moving Ahead in Mobility, and Going You Where You Want to Go
If you sat next to Joanie Martin on an airplane or stood next to her in line at the movies, you’d never guess she’s one of the highest ranking women in automotive. Kind, unassuming and quietly confident, Joanie’s journey to to Chief Administrative officer of Michelin started with some sage advice from dad. He told her, “You might want to go to school somewhere you may want to live someday.” So after growing in up in Columbus, Ohio, Joanie attended college at Furman University in Greenville, SC where she pursued a degree in economics while playing on the college tennis team. She later found herself returning to Greenville to begin her career in public accounting after leaving for a brief time to earn an MBA from Georgia Tech.
“I chose a local CPA firm [in Greenville] and just really enjoyed the city,” Joanie says. However, it was a simple ad in the newspaper that spawned her now career at Michelin North America. When asked about how her journey with Michelin began, Joanie replies, “I literally answered an ad in the paper for an internal auditor to come and join Michelin.” Adding to that, “To be quite honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about it; just that it was a tire company and that was an interesting industry and that Michelin had a great reputation.” This reputation was recently acknowledged by Forbes, naming Michelin one of the “Best Employers for New Grads in 2019.”
Growth Came From Taking Risks in an Innovation-Centered Company
What you might not be so surprised to see is Joanie on the track in her own BMW 328i, putting it, and its Michelin tires, to the test. That’s because she’s at home in a male-dominated world, mostly because she never looked at her career path or workplace that way. She only saw the opportunity.
“Internal audit was a great place to start to see the different aspects of the organization and how it all worked,” Joanie said. From there, she continued to learn, paying attention to the industry and showing a willingness to take some risks. And after twelve years of learning about the organization from a very corporate perspective, Joanie was offered the opportunity to move with her family to France and take a position at the Michelin home office.
“I took, what at the time felt like, a big leap,” Joanie says about the move to France with her husband and two-year-old son. “Professionally, it was really a huge step—change in terms of understanding the organization and, I think, positioning me for the kind of opportunities I’d have going forward.” It turned out to be a good move.
From taking that initial risk, Joanie continued to welcome new opportunities with Michelin. Over the years, she worked her way through various roles as financial director, CFO, and now stepping in he role as Chief Administrative Officer. The title makes her the highest ranking woman at Michelin North America.
Related: The Michelin Tire Of The Future Is Here: The Uptis Is Sustainable, Puncture-proof, Airless And Will Be On Gm’s Cars Shortly
Michelin: Giving People a Better Way Forward
While some might consider the tire and auto industry to be “male-dominated,” Joanie says she never really thought about it that way. “I understood that there was so much success out there; there were great women going out and working in this male-dominated field and not even thinking twice about it,” says Joanie.
This was an inclusiveness that she says included her time at Georgia Tech. Here Joanie became involved in a STEM program (science, technology, engineering and math) that reached out to young school-aged women to show them what great careers were available in the industry. Then, as she moved into the engineering space at Michelin from a finance background, Joanie says “I just had to get out of my own way; make sure that I was educating myself a little more, paying enough attention to our industry and that I was willing to take a few risks and do some different things.” She also adds, “I’ve always felt 100% supported by Michelin and my colleagues regardless of my gender or ethnicity.”
Although, Joanie says that she also credits a lot of her success to the bosses and mentors who advocated for her, gave her opportunities and involved her in things that allowed her to take both risk and responsibility. These are successes which Joanie says translate to the consumer “in terms of providing them with services that are just as high-quality and high-performing as our products have always been.”
And with consumers in mind, Michelin has turned the focus to include teen driver safety. Recently advocating for proper education in terms of tire maintenance in drivers ed curriculum and turning education into action for young drivers through Michelin’s Beyond the Driving Test initiative.
Reflecting Back on Choices Made: Family, Career, and the Balance Between Them
As a working mother to a now thirteen-year-old son, Joanie shares that “it’s always important to insist on a work/life balance. Michelin is a great place to work as a mom; the support and flexibility that I felt, I never felt like there was any question about my career.” Joanie also accounts that having her son see what she’s doing is a driving force. “I like the idea that he sees that [my husband and I] have a happy marriage and we make it work, and yet we’re both working,” Joanie says.
As for advice for young women thinking about a career in STEM, Joanie says “embrace it. If you do something that you’re passionate about, embrace it. Go for it and don’t worry about [being a woman in the industry].” With so many great opportunities in the STEM space, Joanie shares, “We, as women, need to be willing to put ourselves out there a bit; make sure we are advocating for ourselves and not setting up our own barriers in pursuing careers. We need to take on bigger challenges.”