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Published March 10, 2023

Women's History Month: Q&A with EchoPark leaders

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Five portrait images of a female leaders at EchoPark Automotive

Female leaders at EchoPark had inspiring things to say while reflecting on the meaning of International Women’s Day and what it’s like working in a typically male-dominated field like automotive.

International Women’s Day is celebrated March 8, and this year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity. It’s a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day coincides with Women’s History Month, which highlights women's contributions to history, culture and society. The theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” EchoPark women sharing their own stories in the automotive industry are: Tracy Watkins, Stephani Bryant, Mary Cole and Colleen Reed.

Watkins started out in the RV business and is now a reconditioning coach. Bryant entered the automotive field at 17 as a receptionist for her hometown Ford dealership and now, at age 30, she’s regional controller for EchoPark.

Cole is an EchoPark rising star as one EchoPark’s dealership general managers for the company, having gotten her start in automotive washing cars at her father’s small dealership at age 16. Reed caught the automotive bug later in life after working in small business operations, and gets to work with her passion – people – as EchoPark’s regional human resources manager. “These very talented women are on the forefront of changing the automotive industry by creating an inclusive guest and teammate experience that is reflective of the culture and values of our great company,” said Angela Broadway, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) for Sonic Automotive and EchoPark Automotive. “Their contributions are exemplary and we are appreciative of their leadership as we continue to move the company forward.”

One portrait images of a female leader at EchoPark Automotive
Mary Cole, EchoPark General Manager
What aspects of working at EchoPark empower you as a woman in the space?

Tracy Watkins: EchoPark is a family, my team is a close-knit group that works like a finely oiled machine. I feel at home here. I feel like that most see me as a successful leader not as a woman, which I like. I lead my team from the front, and they know I will do whatever is needed in any circumstance.

Stephanie Bryant: Respect and allowing someone to voice their opinions is huge for me. My first leadership meeting here with EchoPark I remember reciting the ground rules with skepticism. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the interactions between departments inside and outside of meetings and how the leaders in each department really aligned themselves with those ground rules. Having an environment where you feel respected, and you are encouraged to get everything on the table has been very empowering for me as a leader.

Mary Cole: I feel empowered as a woman at EchoPark for many reasons. But the first is seeing so many women in leadership roles. From HR, to accounting, and Christie my friend and fellow female general manager. Our controller in NY, Nicole is also a female, and a strong one at that. We stick together. We empower each other. We know that we all fought to make a space for ourselves in a “man’s world,” and never took no for an answer. I look at the men and women I’m surrounded by and see that I have so much to learn from them all. However, the women, we just come from a different place, and we feel that connection that we are fighters.

Colleen Reed: The EchoPark leadership, I feel empowers me. We have phenomenal female leaders like Angela Broadway, our Chief Human Resources Officer, driving diversity initiatives, and we also have phenomenal male leaders that care and listen like our director Donnie Parris and Jeff Matthews our Divisional VP. Nothing is more empowering than being heard.

What have other women in the industry taught you along the way?

TW: Not to be afraid. To be strong and to be resilient. Never stop reaching for the stars and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

SB: Balance and grace. I started a family and welcomed two beautiful daughters into the world while working in the industry. Working alongside the different women in the industry has taught me that I can be a mother that is driven and have career aspirations without feeling guilty. It’s all about finding the right balance in those two worlds. For grace, I have always been very critical of myself and my work product. I am very appreciative of the women I have had the pleasure to work alongside that have taught me to have grace with myself and growing pains we will have along the way.

MC: Other women have taught me the power of connection. It can be easier to connect with people simply because you are a woman. It maybe helps them open to you quicker, show more vulnerability, ask for help sooner. I am not naive to that fact that it helps in my role and my connection with my team members.

CR: They’ve taught me to be humble, to find my voice, to know that what I bring to the table is valuable, to have a learner’s mindset, and that how I choose to show up every day even in adversity is important.

Two portrait images of female leaders at EchoPark Automotive
(left) Angela Broadway, Chief Human Resources Officer (right) Stephanie Bryant, Regional Controller
What’s the greatest reward of working in automotive as a woman?

TW: That I can encourage other women and help nurture their careers.

SB: I have been given so many opportunities to grow and advance my career at an exponential rate in the automotive industry. I love how fast paced our industry is and the opportunities I have been given to share that knowledge with those around me along the way.

MC: It’s being a “woman GM,” and showing anyone and everyone around me that whatever you want, if you work hard enough and fight the good fight, you will win.

CR: The greatest reward is knowing that the work I get to do matters.

Two portrait images of female leaders at EchoPark Automotive
(left) Colleen Reed, Regional Human Resources Manager (right) Tracy Watkins, Reconditioning Coach
Now for a little fun. What was your first car? Share a memory about it.

TW: Carolina Blue Volkswagen Rabbit. It was a fun car and me and my girlfriends made many trips to the beach in it!

SB: Oh man... I was 16 when I paid $3,500 cash for my first car. It was a 1998 rear-wheel drive candy red Lexus SC300. I lived off gravel roads in the country and I will never forget how much fun I had pulling my e-brake and drifting around all the turns and bends on the gravel roads on my commute to and from my home.

MC: 98 Ford Escort Wagon! Orange/red color. I called her Eugene. My favorite memory of her was all the tickets she got me out of. Looking back, I just think I was a saleswoman at 16 smiling my way out of speeding tickets.

CR:Oh gracious, it was a 1984 Ford LTD, cream colored on the outside with the ugliest chocolate brown interior. It was a hand me down that both my older brother and sister had driven. I once ran it out of engine oil, but luckily it ran out of gas at the same time before the engine was blown. Who knew you needed to check those things!?

Our female leaders are empowered to make sure every EchoPark guest is a happy customer. (Just check out our reviews for proof). That could mean nurturing a culture that supports all teammates or making sure each car is in tip-top shape before it leaves an EchoPark store, ensuring lots of happy experiences down the road.

Making guests feel at home is another way of ensuring a happy experience, simply by smiling and asking them about their day and making them a cup of coffee. “Treat guests like they are old friends,” Cole said. “It’ll never bring you or them anything but joy.” visit us for a test drive today – we know it’ll be love at first drive.

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