Carolyn Duchene Director Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy>

Carolyn Duchene joined Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC in 1994, and has held various positions in Marketing Communications, Internet Marketing and Training & Education and Customer Service during her tenure. In her current role, Duchene has been tasked with bringing teen driver education to life through the introduction of a completely new business – Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy. Launched in the US in 2011, Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy focuses on developing safer and more responsible drivers for life. Duchene is responsible for the direction and operation of the business and its future expansion.

HerHighway’s Editor in Chief Christina Selter experience the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy first hand with Carolyn in Southern California. Plus for a one on one interview regarding how the automotive industry has opportunities for women and why it is so important for women to seek a career in automotive. The video is coming soon, but for now enjoy some of the Q&A below.

Who have you mentored who and did someone mentor you in this industry to help you get started?
Since the start of my career, I have had several strong role models – women and men. I have not been formally mentored, but have worked for strong, visionary leaders throughout my career, with whom I have had great relationships which allowed me to learn a great deal from them. I have had several opportunities to work with young people coming in to the industry, and again although not through formal mentoring programs, have tried to pass my knowledge of leadership best practices on to them.

As a woman what features are your favorites in a car?
Keyless Go, by far! My hands are always full, and not having to dig through my purse for my key is a blessing. I’m not sure this next one has anything to do with being a woman, but my other favorite is Navigation. Even when headed home, I always like to know where I am vs. where I’m going.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for females?
I don’t believe that this is a true statement. Since the beginning of my career in the automotive industry almost 20 years ago, I feel that I have been respected and supported in all my varied endeavors, by men and women alike. I think that there are fewer women than men in the industry because of self-selection, not environmental factors. Although I ended up here by accident, I can’t help but think that my childhood preference for Matchbox cars and racetracks over baby dolls may have been a bit of a foreshadowing.

Why did you want to work in the auto industry?
Coming into the industry through Mercedes’ advertising agency made my presence here almost an accident. I first chose to join Mercedes-Benz to broaden my experience which would enable me to return to advertising with a more well-rounded background in client/agency relationship. What kept me from going back was, first and foremost, the people. Second, the realization that the automotive industry is something that anyone can relate to, since everyone has some knowledge and experience with automobiles! Third, the pride of being associated with the brand Mercedes-Benz, and being entrusted with representing it and its core values, gave me the motivation and drive to take every new opportunity as a challenge and do the best I possibly can.

First automotive job?
Account Executive at Scali, McCabe, Sloves, working on the Mercedes-Benz account.

Proudest professional achievement?
Moving from department to department and discipline to discipline within the company, and succeeding at each step. The relationships I have built over the years are the greatest assets in my toolbox.

Current challenge at work?
I’ve always said that the most important thing I can do in my job is to make other people’s jobs easier. Bringing Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy to life as a brand new business in the US, in an industry outside our core business, presents all the challenges faced by an entrepreneur starting a small business. I know that as we grow and normalize as a business, these obstacles will diminish. I look forward to being able to spend more time on continuous improvement of the business.

I intend to finish out my career with Mercedes-Benz. Having held several diverse positions over the last 20 years, I know Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy won’t be the last thing I do here. My dream job is one that gives me the opportunity to utilize the unique combination of my cumulative experiences to take on a new challenge while being a good leader to my team and bringing the Mercedes-Benz brand promise alive to our clients.

What sports or activities did you enjoy in school or/and currently?
In school I was involved in the music program, playing flute in concert and marching band since grammar school. I still enjoy this, although on a much smaller scale, and play weekly with music ministry at my church.

What you do to relax?
Living close to the beach in Southern California, the most relaxing thing for me is a long walk on Laguna Beach with my husband and my two dogs and enjoying the beautiful scenery. I also love to cook and entertain friends and family. Whenever possible, we travel to our favorite place on earth – Maui.