Kathryn Jones has always had a passion for the automotive aftermarket industry and helping others succeed.
Growing up in an automotive family, Kathryn Jones felt her destiny lay in pursuing a career in the aftermarket. Since starting out, she’s held progressively senior leadership positions and has become an active member of AIA’s Young Executive Society.
Recently, she was named Young Leader of the Year by the association in recognition of her efforts in helping encourage young people to pursue careers in the aftermarket.
In an exclusive interview with Autosphere.ca, Kathryn tells us about her journey in the industry and provides some advice for others who might be considering following in her footsteps.
Why the aftermarket?
Autosphere: What made you decide to pursue a career in the Aftermarket?
Kathryn Jones: Cars and vehicles have always been a passion of mine and I grew up in an automotive family, so the industry always been around me. After high school, I took a year off to think about my plans for the future and felt automotive was my true passion and the thing that would really have me waking up every day and feel happy to go and work so I decided to get involved in the industry.
Can you tell us a little about your career progression?
KJ: After finishing my education and obtaining my bachelor’s degree in Automotive Aftermarket Management I took on a sales role and since then, I’ve had increasingly progressive sales positions within the industry.
I first started off as an account manager for Nokia lubricants, which is a distributor for mobile and had that role for three years. I later became an area sales manager at Tenneco and received an even bigger territory. I took on more responsibilities and started working with warehouses, jobbers and also Automotive Service Providers (ASPs).
I’ve since joined Dorman Products as a Key Account Manager, where I’ve taken on more of a strategic role, and I’m really quite enjoying the new challenges.
Are there any particular moments in your career that stand out so far?
KJ: If I think about some key moments, a big one of course was winning the Young Leader of the Year award was big for me and last year I was honoured with the alumni Excellence Award from the Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgian College [Barrie, Ont.].
While those two things really stand out, there are many others such as the connections, relationships and friendships I’ve been able to build over the years. Another one is seeing the work that I do with the brands that I bring to the table and the programs that I’m able to bring to my customers and seeing them grow their business and the success there.
I would say that is one thing that really stands out for me is being able to help my customers and truly connect with them. My role is to make sure my customers are increasing sales, driving growth and moving forward. When I’m able to connect with them and build those relationships, for me, it is so significant.
Role at Dorman Products
Anything else you’d like to mention about your current role at Dorman Products?
KJ: Being a member of the Canadian sales team, my main objective is to work with my customers, to make sure that they grow their business, as well as bring new products to market.
This is a very exciting time for the industry, and at Dorman, we are seeing on average, 20 new products being launched per day. Being able to help with that, with the OEM fixes and product innovation and be able to provide the information to my customers and then help them take it downstream to the ASP is exciting and it’s one thing that makes me excited to wake up every day and come to work, to talk about the new products and how we can drive business forward with our customers.
That’s, that’s one thing that I’m excited to wake up every day I’m coming to work every day to talk about our new products and move the business forward with my customers.
Involvement with AIA Canada
How did you first get involved with AIA Canada?
KJ: It goes back to my time as a college student at the Automotive Business School of Canada.
The school hosts a Student Aftermarket Day in conjunction with AIA. It’s an event where aftermarket professionals come together and talk to students about what’s going on and highlight potential career opportunities in the industry, and where students also do presentations related to the aftermarket. I remember taking notes at the event and persisting with this idea of joining AIA.
This ultimately led to me applying and becoming part of the AIA Young Executive Society (YES) committee in 2018. I always knew I wanted to be a part of it because talking to students (I’d like to call them our future leaders) about potential opportunities in this industry is another of my biggest passions. Ultimately, it all came through and I became a committee member.
Young Leader of the Year recognition
How does it feel to be recognized as Young Leader of the Year?
KJ: To be honest, I was so honoured.
I know this is an award that you have to be nominated for by an industry peer, so to be nominated for this award, alone, meant the world to me. It basically showed everything that I do, even though much of it is behind the scenes but it’s something I love to do anyway because it motivates me and it’s my passion.
Getting recognized like this also shows that people in the industry are taking notice of my passion and the work that I’m doing. I’m truly honoured that my fellow committee members and industry peers voted and nominated me for this award and I for one, would like to do this recognition justice and continue my work in helping students who are interested in a career in the automotive industry, so they can become the leaders of tomorrow.
Advice for those considering a career in the aftermarket
While we’re on that subject, what advice would you give those young people who might be considering a career in the aftermarket?
KJ: My biggest advice for anybody and I will continue to say this, is to network like crazy.
You may be shy, but I can guarantee that everybody else is shy as well so just work up that courage. Pick up the phone and talk to somebody, or when we’re allowed to get together in person again, walk up to somebody and start a conversation. Ask them for advice.
Mentorship can be wonderful, so if you find somebody you can connect with and you think can be a great mentor, ask them for coffee, I’m sure they’d be happy to spend time talking about what they do on their own career progression and provide tips on how they got to where they are today.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
KJ: I’d just like to say thank you so much to the industry and to AIA for giving me a platform to speak about something that I feel passionately about and being able to connect with our future leaders through Student Aftermarket Day through our involvement with the Automotive Business school of Canada, and the YPA (Young Professionals in the Aftermarket) YES Committee.
I’d also like to mention our initiatives in expanding that network across Canada. We want to see student aftermarket days in more colleges, and more universities. This is a very unique industry that I think is under-represented at the college and university level in Canada.
The more we do to inform students (future leaders), that there are career options here, the better that we will be in the future as an industry.