We sat down with Carolyn McMahon, the first female Director of Honda Australia, to celebrate International Women's Day.
What was your first job?
Delivering catalogues for a small local supermarket. I would have only been about 8 or 9, very young, but it was a different time. The more catalogues I delivered, the more pocket money I earned for lollies at the milkbar!
Did you always want to work in the automotive industry?
Actually, no. Growing up I had always wanted to be a lawyer. However, when I was 16 years old, I was lucky enough to be selected as a Rotary Exchange student, and I got to live in Japan for 12 months. I fell in love with the language and the culture and therefore wanted to do something related to Japan. I studied a Double Degree at Monash (Arts/Business) majoring in Japanese Language and Management and then spent two more years working in Japan. I then landed my first real job at Honda Motorcycles & Power Equipment as a Personal Assistant to the Japanese Managing Director, before progressing to Honda Australia.
What is your favourite thing about working for Honda Australia?
The people. It's always the people. We have so many dedicated, passionate individuals who make Honda one of the best places to work in my opinion.
What challenges did you face when you were trying to establish yourself in a male dominated industry?
Trying to work out if I should be me, or one of the boys. I settled on being me...
What opportunities have you had to influence the way business is done?
I think as a woman, both having, and demonstrating empathy, comes easier to us. I instinctively always think about the impact on people and that's why I get satisfaction through helping employees and giving them opportunities to create fulfilling career paths.
Growing up was there a female role model that you aspired to be like?
Not really, there weren't many women in senior roles when I was growing up. In saying that, I have always been surrounded by the strong women in my family. My parents divorced when I was around 15. My mum was left as a single mum with 4 kids and had to return to the workforce in order to support us. Mum proved at the time, through necessity, that you could do anything that you set your mind to. Looking back, it was through this adversity that drove me to study and work hard.
Throughout your career, have you had any mentors? How did they influence your career?
I've had 3 mentors through my career- surprisingly all men! The best advice they all gave me was to be confident in my actions and decisions, and that if I'm confident, I can do anything.
What mantra do you live by?
Don't be afraid to try everything once. Then you can never look back and think "what if?"
What advice would you give to your 16-year-old-self?
Don't be in such a hurry to grow up so quickly. Embrace your teenage years, have more fun, but maybe don't dye your hair THAT colour again!
In the spirit of International Women's Day, what is one piece of advice you can give to young women trying to find their place in the world?
You can do anything, anything at all. Try not to overanalyse things and don't take things personally. But most importantly, believe in yourself, and have fun doing it!