Because everyone should have the opportunity to drive an iconic car.
And that is the point behind the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta. Built just 5 years ago, it’s designed to capture the true Porsche ownership experience and open to all – from new Porsche owners to those who just want the fun of driving one for the day. From the thrill of learning to drive on a track to the confidence that learning from a pro driver brings, this track, learning, dining and business center at Porsche’s North American HQ is a one of a kind place.
And Michelle is charged with running it.
Born in Germany, Michelle Rainey, Manager of the Atlanta Porsche Experience Center is a first generation American. Although she’s from one of the car capitols of the world, she did not grow up a car enthusiast. In fact, Michelle’s first career aspiration was to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.
After that, she thought working as a spy for the CIA would be cool. “I always wanted to be part of something exciting.” She says she’s so happy that she landed in the automotive industry with it’s always changing, ever-evolving nature.
Graduating with a degree in business, Michelle was fearless about going after her goals. She set her sights on working with the Chicago Bulls during the famed Michael Jordan years. After being hired as an intern, she went on to work with the organization for 3 years.
Never worried about the male/female ratio in her work environments, Michelle focused on areas where she felt passionate. She felt strongly about making her mark. “No one every focused on my gender, they focused on my performance.”
Related: What Drives Keitha Blackburn, Manager, Experiential Marketing At Porsche Cars North America
Breaking into the Automotive Industry
Michelle moved into the car industry initially with another luxury brand. She spent 9 years working with both the agency and client sides of the business. She says she did “a little bit of everything,” but says she learned her most valuable information out in the field. “Seeing the relationship between the brand and the dealers and the dealers and the customers really helped me understand the automotive industry.”
Joining the Porsche Team
Michelle joined the Porsche Cars North America team in 2006 when the brand was just starting to grow beyond being the “[Porsche] 911 company.” With the introduction of the lines like the Cayenne, he brand’s first SUV, Porsche’s reach extended into new markets. Off-road enthusiasts and carpool captains began to join the customer ranks. Michelle took a lead role in helping Porsche Cars North America dealers communicate new brand messaging to potential customers. Her goal was to ensure that company communications remained consistent on both the national and local levels.
After a number of years out in the field, Michelle returned to the Atlanta headquarters to lead corporate events and experiences, one of which was the Porsche Driving School. From there the idea for the Porsche Experience Center was born and Michelle gladly took on a leadership role.
Launching the Porsche Experience Center
Michelle considers this dream project as her “breakthrough moment” in the industry. “It all started with a successful business case back in 2010. I was able to help dream up what we wanted the business to be,” she said. “I lead the world’s best team here. It’s a small team and they are all so passionate about what they do.” With 50% women, her department is an example of Porsche’s commitment to diversity in the company.
I highly recommend a visit to the Porsche Experience Center. I had the chance to drive a 911, Boxster and Cayenne and it was amazing. If you go, see if you can book one of the female instructors. These gals are often busy in their racing careers so it’s an honor if you can catch one working at the headquarters track. If you can’t, not to worry, the male instructors are outstanding.
A perfect introduction for women is the Drive and Dine experience, a 75-minute drive program led by the PEC’s female coaches followed by a prix fixe lunch at the restaurant, 356. This program is popular for corporate outings and women who want to network with other like-minded women.
Maintaining a Balanced Life and Career
Michelle is thankful that she was able to maintain a work/life balance throughout her time spent growing the Porsche Experience Center. Staying local was important to successfully achieve that balance as leader, wife, and mom. “Porsche is a leader in the industry in terms of getting women involved. As a company, Porsche has a great structure for women to be successful.”
Michelle Obama is Her Role Model
She considers Michelle Obama as her primary role model. Aside from having the same first name, they share some similarities. They both hail from Chicago and are first-generation college graduates. “Look what she’s been able to accomplish in life? She defied the odds coming from the South Side of Chicago.” Michelle thinks Mrs. Obama is a wonderful example of a woman being able to balance her personal and professional life with grace.
How Can More Women Get Into This Industry?
If you have an interest in getting into the car industry, Michelle says you can find your place. “If you have an aptitude for accounting, business or marketing and a passion for cars, there is something for you.” She continues, “Reach out and talk to people. I strive to be a resource for other young women wanting to get into the industry.” Michelle recommends reaching out whether at a dealership, LinkedIn, wherever you can find someone willing to share their experiences with you. “Put yourself within the community and talk to people.”
It Won’t All Happen At Once
The life lesson Michelle wants to impart to aspiring businesswomen is to be patient. She remembers wanting everything to happen all at once. “Build relationships, work hard, be consistent and things will come. This applies both personally and professionally.”
May 2020 marks the 5th year for the Porsche Experience Center. Over 75,000 guests visited the Atlanta location last year. The goal is for both men and women to feel connected to the brand.
“Porsche is looking at women differently. We all understand the purchasing power of women. Our communication structure has changed. We want to be an avenue where women feel comfortable interacting with the Porsche brand.” The Experience Center is striving to give women more experiences that work for them.
Raising a Future Car Lover
While Michelle may not have been a car enthusiast as a child, her 6-year-old daughter is a different story. On a recent trip to school, she asked Michelle if her Porsche Macan was fun to drive. “Yes,” mom replied. “Good, because I want a shiny red one when I can drive… and I want it to go FAST!” Perhaps Michelle will have a job for her in about 15 years.