By Ed Pierce, Contributing Editor, Fleet Management Weekly
LeasePlan Canada‘s Central Regional Director of Sales and Client Services Jennifer Chapman has been a member of the Canadian fleet management community for over 20 years. In that time, she has earned both CAFM and ASE certifications and has demonstrated the ability to manage and collaborate with teams and implement processes that deliver the best solutions for her clients.
Here, she took the time to answer questions about her background and perspective about the fleet industry.
1. What was your very first job? My first real job outside of college was doing a maternity leave contract as “Office Manager” for a small distributor of components to make circuit boards. When the maternity leave was over, the woman I was covering for recommended me to her sister for a position at her company, and that was my entrance to fleet, at Vehicle Payment and Database Co-ordinator at Triathalon Leasing in Toronto.
2. How did you land in the fleet industry? Like most people in Fleet, I kind of fell into the industry. When I went to college, there was no “automotive fleet” class or program like there is today. But once I was in the industry, I fell in love with it. I did leave for a brief time, but quickly returned because I missed it too much. Whether in operations or front-line sales and service, no two days are ever the same. What I love best about my current position is helping my team and our customers find solutions to what is going on with their fleets.
3. What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you’ve gotten? I have a plaque in my home office with my favorite motto: ‘Do it because they said you couldn’t.’ I love to prove to people and to myself that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to; to not limit myself in what I can do, but to challenge myself to learn something new and do something different. That explains why my career has touched almost every aspect of Fleet Management.
4. What life lesson has your profession taught you? Perseverance and commitment are important traits, but the real reward is seeing the value you brought to and the difference you made in someone else’s world.
5. What are your best practices to maintain a healthy work/life balance? I feel like I am still trying to figure that out sometimes. I did decide to leave one of my positions, as there was too much travel that kept me away from home when my children were quite young. You can’t replace that time when they are young, and I didn’t want someone else to replace ‘Mom,’ which is my most important job.
6. What do people say when they ask you about your job and say, ‘Oh, you sell cars?’ NO! It is so much more than that! I usually state a company name that we serve and say, “You see their cars on the road? That’s what we do!”
7. Your recommendations for someone new or interested in this industry? This industry is so large and there are SO many opportunities in it. With automotive fleet, specifically, there are roles with fleet management companies, roles with companies that are operating vehicles for their business, dealer opportunities, telematics, safety providers, remarketing opportunities with auctions and with OEMs & their Fleet teams. If you don’t find a role that fits right away, try something else. Once you’re in Fleet, the business card may change over the years, but you never leave.
8. What professional development, course work, certifications, or webinars/seminars would you recommend to help an aspiring person in career advancement? I found a lot of value in getting my CAFS and then CAFM through NAFA. This certification is not as common in Canada as it is in the US. I also recommend volunteering with local Fleet associations to build your network and learn from others in this unique industry.
9. Have you had a positive experience as a mentor or mentee that you can share? I had a great mentor early on in my Fleet career, a woman who was a leader in the industry. She taught me not to limit myself in what I can do, and to keep trying to find better ways to do things. She called herself my ‘Sensei’ and I was her ‘Grasshopper,’ and I still have the grasshopper she gave me on my desk today as a reminder.
I have had some women in the industry refer to me as their mentor, but I never really saw myself as one. I just believe in supporting others when you can, and being there to listen and bounce ideas off of. But I guess that is what it is all about.
10. What challenges do you feel you have faced as a woman in Fleet/business and how is this challenge unique to being a woman? I still find humor when I go into a shop to get service done on a personal vehicle and the advisor tries to pull a fast one or upsell something unneeded. I love to challenge them and bring up a tread depth specification or discussion on brake pad thickness requirements. I mean, how many FEMALE ASE-Certified Service Advisors do they come across? They learn pretty fast not to try anything!
Looking outside of work…
11. What are your personal hobbies/interests? I am a diehard Toronto Blue Jays fan and love going to their games. I also spend my free time walking my 2 dogs and finding new hiking trails to explore.
12. Do you like to travel? If so, what is the most memorable place that you have ever visited? My most memorable trip was my high school senior trip to Italy. We went to Rome, Sorrento, Naples and Capri, and I fell in love with Capri. It is also where I got my first marriage proposal, but I didn’t take it too seriously. He just wanted to immigrate to Canada!
13. What do you prefer to listen to while you drive? I love to listen to stand-up comedians when I am sitting in traffic in Toronto! Laughter is the best medicine.
14. What was the first car you ever owned? Is there a story about that car? My first car was a chocolate brown 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, known to all as “Tommy the Tank”. It would easily fit me and more friends than I think I even had!
This is part of the Fleet Management Weekly series of Women in Fleet Management (WIFM) profiles. To help other WIFM members or anyone involved with fleet management learn more about professional and personal development, we look forward to sharing your story, too. Just contact Ed Pierce, FMW Contributing Editor, at (484) 957-1246.