When Claudia Márquez started working in the automotive industry, back in 1995, she thought it might just be “a circumstantial move.” Twenty-two years later, she’s still at it, now as senior director of sales operations at Infiniti USA. She landed the position in April 2015, but not before gathering several résumés’ worth of experience in a variety of key ceiling-shattering roles.
It all began when the BMW Group was looking for someone who spoke German fluently and had the appropriate business experience for the company’s office in Mexico. “German is my second language, but I was also familiar with their culture via my family life since my mother was educated in the German traditions,” Márquez says. “I had an associate’s degree in administration from Alexander von Humboldt German School, so I fulfilled all the requirements.”
She joined the company and soon after, in 1997, became its regional operations coordinator in the United Kingdom. A year after that, she was the pricing and planning specialist for Land Rover products in Mexico. “That was a turning point: it was then when I realized that I really enjoyed working in the automotive industry and that I would be there for a long time,” Márquez says. “From then on, my career started to grow exponentially.”
During the seventeen years that she worked for the BMW Group, she became the first senior manager for Land Rover products in Mexico who wasn’t a German or English national, and she was also the first Mexican woman to occupy leadership positions in the company. “My first leadership role was as the Mini brand director,” she says. “The Mini is a fantastic small car, and it was a fun experience to oversee it.”
In 2006, Márquez was appointed sales and marketing director for the BMW Group in Mexico, a position she held until 2012. Around the same time, she also became a mother, giving birth to two daughters, Cecilia in 2004 and Alexa in 2008. “I was able to have a successful career and a fulfilling family life at the same time, thanks to my husband, Alejandro, who has been my biggest supporter, coach, and best friend during our twenty-three years of marriage,” Márquez says.
It was near the end of 2011 when Nissan Motor Corporation first came knocking at her office door, asking Márquez to represent the company in Mexico, where it was and still is a strong brand. It currently leads the Mexican market with a 25 percent market share and around 400,000 unit sales, according to the Mexican Automobile Distributors Association.
“I was ready for a change, so I accepted their offer,” Márquez says. “I became their marketing director for Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean. My responsibilities included marketing, strategy, product planning, pricing, advertising, CR percentage, media, and profitability. Managing the entire region was a big challenge but a very rewarding experience as well.”
Márquez points out that though Nissan is a Japanese car manufacturer headquartered in Yokohama, it also has an “extremely global” projection, which is one of its biggest strengths. “It is so multinational that, in my five years with them, I worked with people from England, Ecuador, Argentina, Spain, Japan, Mexico, the United States, and many other countries,” she says. “It has an amazing diversity in terms of gender and nationality.”
Since moving to the United States two years ago to serve as the senior director of sales operations at Infiniti USA, Márquez has been responsible for strategy, sales, customer experience, product pricing and incentives, and after-sales. The first product she launched, which has “a special place in her heart,” was the QX50. “I came here in April, and we launched it in October,” she says. “I did all the work related to positioning the car in the industry and calculating prices, incentives, and much more. It was my baby, and I am proud to say that it has done well.”
These days, Márquez continues to make important moves for Infiniti, and as an added perk, she’s taking all the company’s models out for a spin to get to know them personally. “My favorite, because of its many innovative features and functional design, is the QX80,” she says. “It’s perfect for the family, and inside, it feels like you are in the living room at your house.”
The topic of balancing work and life is a key management issue. Female executives tend to deal with it more often than their male counterparts, but is such a balance even possible?
“A perfect balance, probably not—at least in certain periods of the year,” Claudia Márquez says. “The automotive industry is very demanding. It has high economic risks, and it changes so fast that long hours of work and a strong commitment are the norm. That being said, you choose on which activities you want to focus to achieve a balance overall. I work out, run every other day, and spend time with my family while offering the best example I can to my bosses, peers, and subordinates every single day.”