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Dealership HR Manager on Entering a Career in Auto Retail



Automotive career origin stories often take the shape of two common trajectories. There is the car-lover from birth, someone who has always known the industry and been passionate about selling or working with vehicles. The second is someone who started a job at a local dealership because of its stability, pay, benefits, or work-life balance. While their initial attraction to the job may have had nothing to do with cars or trucks, we hear time and time again how people have accidentally stumbled upon a career they love this way.

Tristan Topps describes these paths as “pulling in” and “backing in.” She did the latter. Topps got her start in automotive in the internet sales department of a local dealership, working in operations. She was going through a career transition and looking for a change when the opportunity arose. “I thought I would stay in the business a year or two, and here we are more than a decade later.”

Like many, the initial appeal of the job had little to do with the vehicles she would be helping sell. She was excited by the challenge of a different and unfamiliar industry.

Now the human resources manager at Penske Auto Group in Scottsdale, Ariz., Topps sees the many different roads people take to get their start in automotive retail. She is particularly energized by the opportunities available to women.

“We see women taking on positions not just in sales, not just in the internet department, but positions as technicians now,” said Topps. “We have women who are service advisors. We have women in management. And then there’s also all the people who work behind the scenes to make this industry move forward. We have our accounting representatives, we have those who work in titles and billing, our comptrollers. There are all these different avenues for women to come into this industry and really find a home and be successful.”

Topps is confident and excited in the evolution of the industry and the role women have in it.

“We are going to be at the forefront,” she said. “And as the industry changes and evolves, women are going to continue to make their places known within this industry. It's exciting, and I look forward to seeing what the future has, not only for the automotive industry but for all the women that work within it.”

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, this article is part of a series celebrating the women working in the auto retail industry.

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