Are you looking for a new challenge and digging through the abyss of job postings and company profiles that you don’t quite understand? Why not consider looking internally within your own organization and build upon the foundation you already have? Mia Phillips shares with us her 30-year career journey from a summer job at a car wash to becoming a senior executive leader for the world’s largest automaker, Toyota. Mia is candid about her own experiences and how she learned to take risks, overcome limiting beliefs, fail fast, and keep adapting. (Listen to the podcast below.)
An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
Nikki Barua: Today, we’re speaking with Mia Phillips, who shares with us her 30-year career journey from a summer job at a car wash, to becoming a senior executive leader for the world’s largest automaker, Toyota.
Throughout her career, Mia has gained diverse experiences within Toyota, taking on exciting challenges with new responsibilities. Mia spent her early years working in field operations, collaborating with Toyota dealerships. She gained invaluable consumer insights that helped her succeed in future roles. From sales operations to marketing and advertising, Mia has helped Toyota authentically connect with its consumers, especially to its multicultural population. Her work has won numerous awards, and she’s now responsible for advertising and media strategies for Lexus. In this episode, Mia shares her perspective on how to embrace new opportunities, make big decisions with confidence, earn support and respect from others, and succeed on your own terms. Visit www.iambeyondbarriers.com where you will find shownotes and links to all the resources referenced in this episode, including the best way to get in touch with Mia.
Welcome Mia! So great to have you on the show.
Mia Phillips: Thanks for having me.
Nikki Barua: So, you have this incredible career track record and you’ve achieved a lot of amazing things. I want to just kick off with having you share your story and tell our listeners what your career journey has been like and what you’ve learned along the way.
Mia Phillips: Yeah, I’m happy too. My career journey has been quite the experience. I have been with the Toyota organization, Toyota Motors North America organization, it’ll be 30 years in September of this year, which is amazing in and of itself. I know these days no one stays with companies 30 years anymore. And it has been, for the most part, a fantastic journey. I started off probably as low as you can start off in a company. And I was working really just over the summer, I was a summer employee looking to pay for a vehicle that I purchased, ironically, while I was still in college and my job was working at the carwash of Toyota Motor Sales headquarters, and basically handing out keys to the car wash attendants, who washed executives’ vehicles, as well as the company fleet, that employees were able to use. And that’s how I started. At the end of the summer, my managers were so pleased with the work that I had done, they wanted me to stay on permanently and work for Toyota permanently. I, at that time, never envisioned myself working for Toyota or any really business, I was a biochemistry major, and looking to go into medicine. And so, it was odd that I would be given this opportunity to work for Toyota. Fortunately, I could see beyond the carwash in terms of my ability to climb and grow within the organization. And you know, a few people had talked to me about career trajectory and the possibilities. And it took me a few days to think about it because I hadn’t changed my major in order for Toyota to pay for my schooling, which is one of the things that they offered to do if I signed on at that time, I would need to change my major from biochemistry to business administration. So, after three days of crying and stressing, I decided that I was going to go for it and did and 30 years later here I am, its has been an amazing ride. I have literally traveled all over the world with this company. I’ve lived in several different places with the organization. And like I said, for the most part, have loved every minute of it. And the one key lesson, I think, that I’ve learned in this journey that has been Mia and Toyota for the last 30 years, really is being adaptable and not looking at things at face value, to try to look beyond the face value of what’s being presented, and look at possibilities, which is very difficult for me because I am very much a face value person. I’m very transparent with what I’m feeling and thinking and what I’m seeing, and I take things at face value, I don’t like to have a lot of assumptions. And so, for me to look beyond that, at possibilities is difficult. But it has been a key lesson for me, in being adaptable and not taking things at face value, but looking at the possibilities beyond those things that are being presented, that has really allowed me to continue to grow and develop and eventually lead in an organization, a very large organization, full of brilliant people.
Nikki Barua: Wow, what an incredible story, from a carwash over a summer to being a leader in the world’s leading automaker and a 30-year career there, wow. What strikes me, is how serendipity, in some ways, played a role there. And like, you recommend, you know, being adaptable and kind of seeing the opportunities and taking advantage of that as they go. Oftentimes, people tend to be a little afraid of that, kind of, you know what they consider risk. I’m going down this one path, I’m doing biochemistry, I’m applying to med school, how can I switch? How can I give up? Or what? What if I took this on and it doesn’t pan out well? What helped you switch lanes, and in these major decisions, and as well as, even in your journey at Toyota, you’ve taken on a variety of very different roles. So, what has consistently helped you be that adaptable?
Mia Phillips: I think, by nature, I am a risk taker. I say that I’m a risk taker, but I take smart risks. I take measurable risks, specific risks. Not all risks are equal. But I think having that risk taker mentality has helped me accelerate. It definitely has helped me to see beyond what I was looking to do as a young person and find a completely different career. But even within Toyota, and moving from role to role, switching those lanes has not come easily to me necessarily. But seeing the risk and the potential reward has been really helpful. And I think the other part of my personality that comes into play, as it pertains to switching lanes, is that I’m a constant learner and so my brain is automatically rebooted every time I get into a new job. And over the course of my career, in this organization, just the course of my field career, which was the early part of my career, when I was working very closely with our dealer body and their consumers on how we as an organization, can be a better organization to both our dealers and the ultimate consumer. I was changing jobs every year, every 12 months, 12 to 15 months, and I’ve had several roles within the organization over the course of 30 years because of that change, and I start to look forward to doing that next new thing, my brain gets rejuvenated every time it’s time for me to learn something new. What’s been great about the roles that I have taken on most recently is that I’m learning something new, while still at the very core of the job, having the experiences that support my success in these roles. So just enough newness to keep that brain rebooted and re-energized, but enough at the core that I am very competent in, that helps keep me successful.
Nikki Barua: That’s amazing. Tell us, speaking of which, tell us a little bit about your most recent role and what that looks like, how you create impact.
Mia Phillips: Yeah, so my current role is the Senior Manager of Lexus Advertising and Media. And it is an exciting role. It is a fantastic role. It is a large role. And it keeps me very busy. Being a senior manager in the Lexus organization, especially heading up advertising and media, is a little bit different than it was for me in the Toyota organization. In the Toyota organization, I did something similar. So again, going back to that core example of building upon jobs that I have done before, but having something a little new, I was responsible for the advertising and lifecycle management and marketing of just a group of Toyota vehicles. So, Toyota’s crossover utility vehicles, which are the fastest growing vehicles in the automotive industry and being responsible for the number one selling vehicle in the Toyota, or Lexus for that matter, lineup, Rav4. So all of the stress and the pressure that comes along with having that particular role has helped me in the role that I’m in currently, but the difference is, instead of just being responsible for a group of vehicles, albeit the largest and most, the vehicles with the most volume in the Toyota lineup, now I’m responsible for the entirety of the Lexus lineup. So, it has certainly, the background that I had in my former role at Toyota, has helped prepare me for this responsibility of really being responsible for the entirety of the Lexus lineup, as well as the media. So not only am I responsible for leading the team that comes up, that handles the production and the marketing and the advertising of each vehicle, but I also oversee the team that places those vehicles or brand campaigns, whatever messaging we’re trying to get across, in the appropriate media channel. So definitely the impact that my job has is well felt across the organization. I work closely, obviously, with the sales department and with our product planning departments to talk about what, you know, what’s next for the vehicles to really understand those vehicle life cycles, as well as working closely with three agencies who work on our behalf to come up with the creative to help develop the appropriate creative for the appropriate vehicle, and then finding the appropriate channel, media channel, and media opportunities for all of this wonderful creative that we’re building to run in. It’s been an exciting run, and it’s just, it’s very impactful to the entire organization, because our sales department and our dealers depend heavily upon us to develop creative that’s going to resonate with consumers and going to sell the vehicle and place that creative in media channels that will be seen by consumers and be able to be consumed in the way that they would like to consume it. So, getting the right product in front of the right person at the right time is super important.
Nikki Barua: So Super Bowl wasn’t a very busy time for you, right?
Mia Phillips: Superbowl is always a busy time. Actually, it’s interesting this year that I did not have an ad in the Super Bowl, but when I talk about one of my proudest career accomplishments, it is that on the Toyota side of the business, I actually was responsible for two Super Bowl spots and I was working on my third right when I got moved to my latest position. And I recently found out that my two Super Bowl spots that I did see through to the very end made USA Today’s Ad Meter’s top 100 Super Bowl ads of all time, they were number 50 and 52 I think.
Nikki Barua: That’s fantastic. Congratulations!
Mia Phillips: Thank you. I’m very excited about that.
Nikki Barua: That’s incredible. So, the scope and scale and complexity of what you’re responsible for Mia is so huge. I mean, first of all, you’re working with the world’s largest automaker, a multi, multi-billion dollar company, with a global footprint, one of the most premium luxury brands and responsible for the entire fleet. And, you know, big dollars, I’m sure with advertising and media budgets and a large complex team, both internal and external, that you have to collaborate with. Given that, unlike a lot of people, that are in the advertising and media space that have spent their entire careers in that space, that’s not necessarily your background or training. You’ve come from a lot of diverse types of experiences and now are a very successful executive in this space. Did you ever struggle with any fears or limiting beliefs at first, when you stepped into the space of media and advertising in particular?
Mia Phillips: Yes, so definitely, as you’ve said, I have ended up becoming an established and well respected, respected marketer and advertiser. But you’re right, I didn’t necessarily start off in this space and I have taken a journey that most wouldn’t, probably say, would lead me to this space. So, with that does come up, you do have some fears because some of the people who report to me have only ever worked in advertising or media. That is their full existence. They are full on subject matter experts. With my, the bulk of my career coming from our field organization, I am definitely one of the jack of all trades, Toyota journeymen, there are two different types of Toyota folks. There are the folks that have been in their job and done kind of the same thing and have been on the same trajectory in the same department for a long time. And there are people like me, who have moved around to several jobs and made a career out of learning about all areas of the organization. So, with that does come a little fear that hey, um, am I going to be able to manage these folks who, this is all they’ve ever done? And how am I going to have credibility with them, because they know that I have had several different roles. I think now that I’ve been in this space, the advertising and media space for a while, I didn’t have necessarily that fear coming to this most current job, but certainly my first job, really where I was responsible for marketing. And at that point, it was for the Toyota brand, and multicultural marketing. There was the fear that I had folks who worked for me and certainly the agencies around me, who I’m sure were questioning why I was selected for that job when my background, other than my degree, which was a business administration degree with a concentration in marketing. And in the work that I had done on my MBA, really, those are the only two things that would lead you to believe that I was able to do what I had signed on to do.
Nikki Barua: How did you overcome that?
Mia Phillips: Yeah, I think at the end of the day, when I thought about the totality of my experience, and I realized that the totality of my experience, added value that, and had, and because of that experience, I had insight into the company, not only the company, Toyota, the organization, but the consumer, because of all of those years actually working directly with consumers, which is the major difference in someone who has had any field experience in our organization and someone who has just come out of college and worked directly in advertising, is that they very rarely get a chance to speak one on one with consumers, where, you know, for 15 years, that’s all I did. That was, in and of itself, valuable. So, at the end of the day, what I did to overcome those fears were rely on the things that got me there, the people who were placing me in the position because lately in my career, I’m not interviewing for positions, I’m being placed in positions. And as I’m being placed in these positions, the people who are doing the placing are kind of looking at my breadth of experience, and they’re picking up on that. And so, it was just for me, kind of taking a look, a step back and looking at my breadth of experience in the same way someone from outside of the organization or who was looking to place me somewhere would look at it and understand the value that I was bringing to the organization.
Nikki Barua: So you were able to take inventory of everything you brought to the table and really take stock to say, here’s what I here’s all the value that I do bring to the table, and then you’re stacking it with new experiences, new learnings, that then make your inventory even bigger.
Mia Phillips: Yes.
Nikki Barua: So across all of these incredible roles and experiences, what would you describe as your unique strength or superpower?
Mia Phillips: My superpower would probably be normally I lean on transparency, because I do believe that it has helped me. But what I would say really, beyond transparency is my superpower is having conviction without judgment. that I believe is what has allowed me to excel in the organization. What has allowed me to build relationships with people inside of the organization, as well as our agency partners and other suppliers with whom we work with because at the end of the day, people can trust that I am telling them the truth. And they can trust that I’m going to make a decision based on my version of the truth. And if our versions of what needs to be done, I shouldn’t say my version of the truth of my version of what needs to really be done in order to move something forward. If our if our versions are ever not aligned, I’m not going to hold anyone in judgment for that. And I’m not going to not listen to anyone else’s point of view in order to help me make that decision, but at the end of the day, I have enough conviction to make a decision and either and and be able to deal with the repercussions of making that decision. So the repercussion is that I failed and I fail fast. And I get up and move on and it’s something that a lot of people In the organization are afraid of because you never want to fail. And, and although our organization has done a good job of telling people, hey, it’s okay to fail. As long as you fail fast you get up, you learn something from it and move on and you don’t have make the same mistake twice. I, a lot of people don’t trust that that’s true. because there aren’t a lot of examples of failures that are law mounted or touted within an organization. So I think that that does make me unique because I do have conviction, but it’s not so much that I am not approachable. And I can’t be swayed one way or the other because if you make a compelling argument, I will listen to I’m not so stuck on my own conviction that it’s the only thing that I can see again, going back to seeing beyond what’s at face value. But if you tell a compelling enough story that makes enough sense, then perhaps the decision that I will ultimately make will be different than the one that I had set out to make in the beginning. But it’s that conviction without judging others for their own convictions, or for what they’re trying to get done, I believe has been my superpower
Nikki Barua: Conviction without judgment. I love the sound of that. That requires courage, though. Right? I mean, you can’t have conviction if you’re lacking courage or confidence. And I’ve had the privilege of knowing you for many years and I’ve always been inspired by your incredible confidence and that’s very authentic and it’s stems from within. It’s not something you put On what helped you develop that? Or how would you guide someone starting out in their career of developing that ability to have conviction to be willing to fail to stand up for what you believe in?
Mia Phillips: Yeah, I think in my case, and it’s, it’s going to sound cliche, but definitely my ability to be authentic, and to feel comfortable with my authenticity, and to have conviction all came from my mother, who encouraged me to be that way at a young age. Without that, I don’t know. If I would, my sister would tell you that I probably wouldn’t even if my mother hadn’t encouraged because it’s just in my nature, to be that way. But I think you know, if I were to say where it stemmed From it would probably stemmed from having that encouragement from my mother gives me my mother in it and an early age. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t develop those skills because not everyone is going to have a mother or parent or friend who will instill those types of values in you early. And so what what has helped me is just practicing those skills, practicing, it sounds, it sounds crazy, but practicing authenticity. And when I say practicing, it’s not being someone different than who I am. But in any situation that I have to be authentic, and to put my authentic self into the world or the universe. I do that and I take note of how it’s being received. I think one of the things Things that I practice exercising, which also helps, is having as high of an EQ as I do an IQ. So, even if I am being my authentic self in the world, I’m looking at how that is being received by people. And what I always tell younger folks within the organization who, who do admire my authenticity and admire my conviction and my willingness to take risks is that you it’s important that you measure how it’s being received, and that you Tone It Up or down. You don’t you’re not changing yourself by telling yourself up or down. You’re being strategic and how and when you leverage the different sides of yourself because everywhere everyone has different sides of themselves that come out in different situations. And there may it where it may be appropriate. You know, I would say in general that if you talk to someone who knows me at work and someone who knows me outside of work, you’re going to get the same sort of story. The level of intensity of those stories may change based on the work environment. So it’s funny that I was always use to tell my mother, I want to be my true self at work and she was like, everybody doesn’t need to see your true self. You need to understand how people are reacting to you and whether or not you know all of your true selves needs to make it into the office every day. You can be true to yourself without well
Nikki Barua: Yeah, I mean, you bring up a great point because I’ve certainly encountered that many times of, you know, seeing someone whose presence or communication may not necessarily be appropriate for a certain environment. But they tend to defend it by saying, Well, I’m just being myself. I’m being my whole self. I think your advice is be yourself at all times, but calibrated based on the environment and your audience. So you demonstrate more emotional intelligence, rather than being rigid in your definition of authenticity.
Mia Phillips: Yes, yes, that’s it. That’s absolutely the case. That was well put, thank you for for reframing that. That’s exactly what I’m saying. It is important that you are yourself. But you need to understand the environment and the circumstances and timing and re and again, show up in those situations appropriately.
Nikki Barua: So moral of the story is always listened to mom.
Mia Phillips: Yes. That is my moral.
Nikki Barua: How have you, you know, what patterns have you seen in the workplace where perhaps women are not showing up with as much confidence or owning their success, or their you know, over your 30 year career and it’s such a large global organization, but as well as seeing so many vendors and partners and other agencies that you get to collaborate with, you have a unique vantage point. Also a global vantage point, there’s some patterns that particularly grab your attention where you might feel, hey, you know, this is something that’s getting in the way or you’re not owning your success here. It’s affecting your confidence.
Mia Phillips: Are you talking about in other people?
Nikki Barua: In helping other people? Yeah, yeah. Seeing women not showing up with confidence and certain patterns?
Mia Phillips: Oh, Yes, for for sure. And I’ve had, I’ve had conversations with women in both areas and with women who are showing a little too much confidence for where they are at the stage that they are in their career. And I know that sounds terrible, but there, there is definitely a line between confidence and cocky. And so we you know, I’ve had those conversations, as well as conversations with women who just aren’t showing enough confidence in who they are and what they’re capable of. And I what I typically do in the case of women who are displaying who are under displaying their current It is have conversations with them and ask them some questions that I would probably ask in an interview setting, by having them tell me what what do you think are your greatest strengths? And then what if I asked your supervisor what your greatest strengths are? What are what would he or she say those are? And that helps to get some of what they feel are their strengths, or what sometimes it’s easier. And a lot of times it’s it’s amazing that the answer differs if you say what is your supervisor think that the answer is a little bit different than what I may think or another person may think about their own strengths. And then talk to them about situations where they’re leveraging those strengths. And then talk more about well that’s the this is a start from where your confidence confidence can stand. Your confidence can stem from these things that you’re already doing that you know, are your strength either personally or you know it professionally because your supervisor said it in some form or fashion through a performance appraisal or through just checking in and connecting and having them leverage those things. In more situations. I think there was a program that we went through with the Gallup organization at Toyota long time ago called lead with your strengths. And I truly believe in that concept of leading with your strength, I don’t think that you should ignore the things that you’re not good at, which is a whole other conversation, because you need to, in some cases, you’ll need to hone those skills and become better at those skills in order to get to the places or the Get the jobs or the career trajectory that you want. But definitely leaving it, leaning into your strengths. And leveraging them as at at all times is super important, and it will help build confidence. And so those are kind of the conversations that I’ve had with women on Earth, what those strengths are either the strengths that they think that they might have, or other things that are their strengths. And then having them lean heavily into those strengths in order to build confidence.
Nikki Barua: That’s an interesting approach. It’s kind of treating it almost like an interview conversation, because in effect, you’re giving them evidence of their own success and their own strengths. So that that evidence helps them believe in it more. And then also helping them double down on their strengths so they can keep getting better what they’re already great at.
Mia Phillips: Yeah, sometimes that’s all it takes. Yeah.
Nikki Barua: Yeah, just a sounding board, right? It’s, it’s interesting how easily we forget all the things we’ve done or capable of. And sometimes all it takes is, you know, someone to remind us off it. So let’s talk about failure you mentioned you have, you know, you’re not afraid to take risks, you fail fast and learn from it. What are, you know, as you go through this, when you step into a new situation, it’s something you’re unfamiliar with. So this potential risk and potentially, you know, a 50% chance of failure. Give us some specific things you mentally go through to say here, the first three things I need to figure out or here’s how I’m going to approach the situation.
Mia Phillips: Typically, if I’m going into a situation with that i that is unfamiliar, and they’re going to be risks associated with that unfamiliarity. The first thing that I do is have a plan. And I develop that, I guess, step one in that plan is talking to the people who are already there. And so the one of the first the very first things that I tried to do when I’m stepping into a new role is having one on one conversations with everyone, as or as many people in the in the department who will work for me. Tell have those one on one conversations with them to learn about what They do, how the department is viewed how they viewed the department in their eyes. What connections department has to other departments? And what is working well, what’s not working so well. Those just asking those few questions in the quick 30 minute conversation really can help you, you’ll get one themes will emerge. And two, you’ll have a quick understanding of where the work that needs to be done, the work that you can do how, how I coming into this role can now add value to this role, just by having those conversations with the folks that are already in the department. And then having more informal conversations. I also do Informal lunches and coffees with maybe folks who are not in the department, but who interface with the department on a frequent basis and have their own ideas and feelings about how that department is currently operating, and what kinds of thing what kinds of themes emerge from those conversations as well. But for me, that the whole managing by walking around idea is super important to make sure that you’re having the conversations with the folks that are actually doing the work. And I do that, probably even before I talked to the person, if that person happens to still be around that had the job before I did, because it helps me understand the landscape quickly, and that’s the important thing is to quickly understand that landscape. And understand how you can be a value to those folks, to the folks that are ultimately going to be working for you. I do that even before I asked the question of the person that for whom I’m going to work, because I know that ultimately I’m going to need the people working for me in order to get the job done, that my supervisor or my boss is going to need me to do. So.
Nikki Barua: A listening and learning tour?
Mia Phillips: Yes, it is a listening and learning tour.
Nikki Barua: And so from that, do have a specific approach with which you assess the path you’re going to take because you’ve listened to a lot of people you’ve learned a lot of great information about what’s working, what’s not the things that need to be done, but ultimately, you have to make the decision and oftentimes people tend to you struggle with making decisions because there’s uncertainty and there’s maybe the fear that what if I make the wrong decision? How do you go about it? Do you have a certain framework or a certain thought process and decision making?
Mia Phillips: Yeah, so that that’s, that’s great. Nikki, one of the things that I forgot to talk about is, and I try to do it, it’s very difficult to do I find that it’s more difficult to the higher up I go in my career, because there is an expectation. You know, especially if I’m going the role that I’ve been going into a will a few of the roles that I’ve had, I won’t say that all of them, but I have been a fixer expected to fix certain things. And so what I like to do is to take 90 days before again, that whole conviction with Judgment. Let me see something, anything, whether it’s me sitting in meetings, if it’s talking to someone, to the people on the team, if its behavior, let me observe it for 90 days without calling attention to it unless it’s just something that is a porridge and I have to immediately you know, stamp it out or put it, put it into it. But I like to take 90 days before I do anything, and that’s part of my process is 90 days and 90 days, themes are going to emerge. thing, things that are going right or wrong are going to recur over that 90 days. And it helps me not immediately jump to judgment on something that someone or or Yes, someone has done. And it’s happened one time and may not have been happened again. It just happened to be, you know, a series of unfortunate events. And I jumped immediately in on that one thing and lose credibility. So, the process is usually 90 days. But I’ve noticed lately that I’ve had to cut that down to 60 days because there are just some things that people are expecting that I’m going to act on quickly. So, taking the time to document I think, in addition to observing these things, documenting these things, and then prioritizing the things that need to need some attention right away and need a decision to be made right away. And at the end of the day, making the decision based in all facts, based in the facts of observations based on the facts of Africa, direct questions based on facts of testing out my thought process with peers and sometimes with supervisors, and then just making the decision. But I think in a nutshell, that’s how I go about it’s very much observation based. It’s fact based from asking questions, doing the appropriate research, if that’s what’s required as well. And then getting a feel for how the decision is going to impact those that will be impacted by the decision.
Nikki Barua: That is a fantastic recommendation and thank you for sharing such a detailed process of how you go about it because that sounds so much like an intro Innovation method, you know, so much of innovation processes, sort of the 60-90 day sprints and kind of, you know, building hypotheses, observing it without judgment or emotion. Just letting the facts and the evidence stack up and then reaching a natural conclusion that allows you to be far more decisive and, and then make the right call with certainty and confidence. That’s, that’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. And what is a success habit that you personally have lived by for most of your life? You know, is there something like the journaling habit or something that you do daily? That is your sort of, I can’t live without the success habit thing?
Mia Phillips: Yeah, my success habit, I think that has helped me with my career has been really that daily planning by setting aside time, early in the day to actually plan my day so plan, make sure that I am writing down and writing down as easy as for me, although sometimes I type on my computer as well, the things that I absolutely need to prioritize and get done that day because the day can quickly with all of the back to back meetings Get away from me. So, to make sure that I am executing on the things that are absolutely most important, each day, spending that half hour in the morning. If it requires me to wake up super early, then that’s what I have to do. But spending that time dedicating a certain amount of time at least 15 minutes a day, preferably a half an hour to just think about all the things that need to get done. For that day. That has been what has driven my success. I think for the last 30 years, because as crazy as the days get, and as many things that are thrown at me, during that day, I still know the things that I have to absolutely get done and nothing. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything that happens that I can’t handle, even if it’s not on that list. Trying to end it now is impacting the list because the list has to change a little bit. Being able to make those changes and understand what the priorities are for that day is always helpful. When I get more thrown at me, it’s always helpful to have an idea of what is already on my plate so that I can prioritize and have the appropriate discussion. If at the end of the day, it’s just not going to be possible to get something done that is being asked of me. So, and we had been a success at it.
Nikki Barua: And with that, as you figuring out You know, your priority for the day? How do you manage between personal and professional demands? Because any, you know, for most women that have risen up highly in their careers, a lot of it also compounds with the personal responsibilities as well. How have you navigated through that?
Mia Phillips: Yeah, it, Nikki that is so tough. And I’m having lots of conversations with women around the organization. Now about the work life balance. For me, I it has, my journey is going to be different than women who don’t have children, or women who have children because I don’t have children. So there are things that I do to balance work and life, that women with children Probably cannot do you know but and I say that to say that like on one of the days during the weekend, either a Saturday or a Sunday it’s typically Saturday that I can get away with it is dedicating time to myself whatever that time is if if, if on that particular day Yoga is feeling like what I need yoga and massage and a nice lunch and hanging out. Watching a movie is what I need in order to get my mind and body back in balance. That’s what I do. If it is more laying in the bed and watching Netflix that’s what I do. But focusing on myself and having that time is super, super important. And that’s how I balance it. I don’t it might not get balanced during the week, there may be days like today that I get into the office at 6:30am. And I don’t leave until 8pm. But I think that, you know, what I what I tried to do is make sure that there are days that I am getting home from work and when I get home from work on those days that I’m shutting down for at least a few hours, and giving my husband some time my dog sometimes I don’t have a traditional family but I do have people in my life that that that I am responsible for and who are responsible for me and making sure that we’re happy. So, I say however, however, as a woman, you can take that time for yourself. I have a great example of someone who worked with Who did have children and she was one of the hardest working people I know. I mean, just it seemed like always working but we laughed because I would come into the office. I don’t have kids, so I didn’t have anybody to get ready for school in the morning. I would be in the office at 6:30 in the morning. And you know, and at night at nine o’clock at night, my computer was usually shut off I was in the bed so that I could be in that office at 6:30 in the morning. So, we would laugh and say I had the early shift. She had the late shift. She had children she had to drop them off at school. She didn’t usually get in the office until 9:30-10 o’clock, but or 10 o’clock in the morning, but it worked because she would leave and get her kids and get them all settled and then she’s on her computer working starting at like 11 and would take things all the way through till like three in the morning. She wasn’t a big sleeper, she had to, she didn’t have to be up until nine to take the kids to school. So, it worked. And I think just having those conversations with your supervisors with your co-workers that help you have that balance is important too. Because she and I, we figured it out quickly, we didn’t really have to have a huge conversation about it. I would get up in the morning and see emails from Sandy at 2am. And like what in the world is happening? But those are emails that I never would have caught, you know, anything that came in after nine o’clock I just wasn’t going to catch because I was asleep and she was up and doing it. So, I think making sure that there are folks that you can talk to that can help you balance that is important as well. But ultimately having those conversations and making sure that you make the time for yourself, whatever that time might be because it’s different for everybody. What’s Going to help them keep their lives in balance. For me, it’s usually taking one day on the weekend, and maybe twice a week, just shutting down at eight o’clock. And saying, okay, for these, yeah, for these two days at eight o’clock, I’m not going to do anything.
Nikki Barua: So, there’s no one size fits all. It’s each person really trying to figure out what’s right for you but being transparent about it and collaborating with people around you so you can make it work for your life.
Mia Phillips: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Because everyone’s lives are so different. So different, but by my hats off to the women that do have children and they’re able to come in and do the jobs that they do every day and put in the work every day because it is difficult. It’s difficult without them. I can’t imagine how the women and I say it all the time like my head. Talk to them. But yes, find those ways to make that work life balance work for you.
Nikki Barua: Yeah. Now, you are someone who’s an inspiring role model to, you know, lots of women in the workplace, not just within your company but outside. And especially a you know, two women of color you have accomplished so much and done so many different things. Who do you look up to? Is there a, you know, a powerful, influential person that you admire? That let’s say you’d love to have dinner with and learn from?
Mia Phillips: Yeah, it sounds so typical, but it really is. It’s former President Obama, um, I just the way that he handled really everything From, you know the seriousness of the office tragedy, he just expertly I think handled every situation that came his way. And even if he if he was ever caught off guard by anything was happening you would never know it and I would love to actually learn from him how he managed to have the not only that he can because he seemed to exert a lot of patience. And he definitely knew the right thing to say at the right time. And just to learn to spend the day and learning how she thought through the different situation. that were happening to him. I think he definitely is on my dream mentor list. If I can be half as cool and smooth with everything thrown at me as President Obama was very his time. I’ll be all the better for it.
Nikki Barua: You know, he’s on my dream dinner list to that calm composed and very eloquent. You know, personality is just something we can all learn from. Speaking of learning, you know, you’ve learned a lot from colleagues and mentors and sponsors. What’s a specific tip or recommendation you would give to people that are wanting to grow their network so build their community or gain access to influence show leaders but perhaps They’re just not confident, you know, they don’t know how to approach these people or ask for help or mentorship and all that. How would you what what tips would you give to someone who’s in that position?
Mia Phillips: Yeah, my, my first tip would be just do it and be better be better than me in that area. I am horrible at reaching out to mentors and sponsors. I think I’ve become better over time in terms of making those connections and networking, but I would, I would never say I’d be lying if I were to say that that was my personal strength and probably is my personal kryptonite is that I don’t do enough networking. I meet a lot of people and have a lot in common I feel with a lot of people and keep those connections. And, and talk to people and stay in touch with folks. But don’t necessarily leverage them for the things that I probably should leverage for, you know, in terms of mentorship and advice and things of that nature.
Nikki Barua: Actually, I want to dig into that just a little bit because, you know, having known you and having worked with you, one of the things that I can certainly say from direct personal experience, as well as your authenticity, and your talent and your determination, and just your natural style attracts people to want to help you. So, what you said about You’re horrible at networking, actually, most people don’t like networking because it’s sort of a dirty word. It’s like using somebody free for your own gain. Whereas the way you’ve gone about It is you’re just yourself committed to a mission and you bring other people along that want to partner and collaborate with you and help your cause. That’s what’s far more powerful, and far more lasting and more valuable ultimately. So how do you do that?
Mia Phillips: Yeah. Now that’s very interesting, because I never looked at it that way. You’re in. You’re absolutely right. I was going to say that. I haven’t necessarily reached out to folks to be a mentor or to be a sponsor, although I didn’t have a sponsorship conversation once and talk about that at some time. But But I do have I do have a natural connection to people I’m naturally like, like being around people. And if I’m working with someone that I’m going to give my all and folks that who are buying this same token giving their all to a project or to an organization I tend to be attracted to, in that way of developing a friendship or some sort of collegiate relationship with. So yes, I think that there is something to being authentic and those people do end up mentoring and mentoring me and wanting to help me You’re absolutely right. And that was going to be one of my things that I was going to say is that I feel like I’ve lucked into some of those situations that people who actually look out for me as a result of just getting to know me on some of these work projects, so I guess certainly, if you’re not doing some of the more active because I I do consider that more passive networking minute is active because I’m not actively trying to network. I’m just being who I am and working hard on projects and meeting folks and staying connected with those folks, because I actually happen to like the folks has helped me in terms of them in terms in turn mentoring me in some in at some point in my career. But I have never been an active networker to attend networking events. And that is where I would say, if I had to give advice to someone and I do give advice to people, I give advice to be more active about that. And finding those mentors and finding the sponsors and if you are shy about that, especially finding mentors and sponsors in your organization, who may all who are likely already leaders of the organization is To start by finding and developing relationships with people maybe around them or in their circle, who you do feel more comfortable having those conversations with and they can maybe then give you the advice on how to solicit the leader as being your mentor or your sponsor, or at least getting you a foot in the door to be able to talk to the person to understand if he if there if you have anything in common that would have them want to be a sponsor or a mentor and I have taken the opportunity of leaders within our organization who I know pretty well who are looking for someone to mentor but sometimes they’re just as, as shy as the people who are looking for mentors. I don’t want to be out there, you know pounding the pavement saying, look, I want to mentor someone. So, I am actually connected leaders in our organization pretty high up in the organization with folks that I personally know could benefit from their mentorship and who they would have an immediate connection with. And so, it’s important when you find people who are maybe in the circles of those influential leaders, who are not always going to always be at that same level of that leader. A lot of influential leaders, you’ll see if you pay attention to who they’re with in the dining center, or who they’re walking the halls with, or stopping to talk to in the halls. It’s not always their peers. There are people in the organization with whom they’ve developed a relationship and it’s important, again, using that EQ to pay attention to that. When you’re walking by a leader that you may have thought in your mind, I would love to have you here. She, as a mentor, because I admire the way that they’ve done this or that pay attention to whom they’re having a conversation with. Because if you may know someone, if you don’t know that person, you may know someone else who’s close to that person, and can develop those relationships that understand, hey, how can I get closer to Bob or jack or bill or whoever the or whoever the person might be? I would say leveraging that EQ to, to find someone else in the circle if you’re afraid to approach that person and it may not be appropriate to approach that person without having a reason. So that’s the other thing, have a reason for the approach. If there is something that you admire about that, that person, then be authentic about what you admire about it, whether or not that’s in your arsenal or that that particular skill set is in your arsenal. or not, but don’t just admire the job that they that they breached. Because I think then it becomes a little inauthentic and that, you know, I want to eventually do what you do, but I don’t know anything about how you first got there. Yeah.
Nikki Barua: So bottom line, you know, find out exactly what you’re looking to learn, you know, find the right leaders. And if you can get to them directly, find the people who could potentially introduce you or hope you get them as mentors and always, always, always be authentic. Yeah. Great. Well, you have shared a lot of very specific and actionable insights. I think it’s going to be so valuable to our listeners to learn from you in as a final thought, what is what would your biggest advice be to women professionals, as we Look into a very fast paced, technology driven environment of the future where there’s tons of change, very rapid change. What do you think would be really key for women professionals to keep in mind in terms of their career success?
Mia Phillips: I think at the end of the day, embrace, embrace the change. Don’t that that is really the key in this age of fast moving, fast paced environment and changes is embracing that and not running from it. And learning as much as you can curating information about what’s happening, not only in your field, but other adjacent field and or what’s happening in some of the other Fortune 500 companies are, you know, for us, it’s looking at other world class marketers who may or may not be automotive marketers, and what are they doing to be successful. So, always having that learner mindset, and never being afraid to embrace the change, which is inevitably going to come in this digital age.
Nikki Barua: That’s sage advice and coming from the person who is the incredible change agent who’s constantly adapted to change throughout our career, and then a lifelong learner. So, thank you so much for sharing all of your insights. What is the best way for our listeners to connect with you?
Mia Phillips: That is a great question. So, we had this conversation offline, but I’ll just out myself online. Well, I have yet to develop my LinkedIn profile. I started on it. And of course, again going back to that work life balance, work and life and both gotten in the way of it. So, I will certainly be updating and then getting together a LinkedIn profile. But in the meantime, if anyone wants to reach out and have any conversations with me, the easiest way to do that is probably via email at Mia.Philips@Lexus.com and I’m happy to answer and be in touch.
Nikki Barua: Thank you for being so generous with your time and your advice. And we will have to work on that LinkedIn profile together.
Mia Phillips: Will do yeah.
Nikki Barua: So you’re gonna have fans that will want to connect with you, and we want to, but you also great evidence of saying that you’re not defined by social media and that really comes down to who are what’s right for you? So, thank you again for being authentic as always, and it’s been an absolute pleasure having this conversation with you. Thanks, Mia.
Mia Phillips: Thank you.