Diana Kennedy, general manager of Volvo Cars Marin, knows exactly where she got her drive to succeed.
“My mom is a typical Asian, traditional woman,” Kennedy said in this NADA video. “I would say that’s definitely where I got my strength and resilience and my determination from, was from my mother.”
Sponsored by a sister who was already in the United States, Kennedy’s mother came over from Vietnam to pursue her own dreams, opening a restaurant in Hawaii before moving to San Jose in 2001. “I was working at my mother’s business since I was nine years old,” Kennedy said. “And so, I felt a huge pressure to continue those responsibilities and take over my mother’s business and I didn’t really like that future.”
While Kennedy didn’t want to go into the restaurant business, she did want to find her own rewarding career path. “I saw how hard my mom worked [in the restaurant] and while it was very rewarding, I also thought I could do more,” she added.
Determined to forge her own way, Kennedy ran away from home at 18 years old. “There was not a sit-down with my mother to really explain to her that this wasn’t the path I wanted,” Kennedy said. The decision caused a rift, with the two not talking for a year.
Bolstered by her determination and resilience, Kennedy quickly found a job at a Honda dealership. “I decided that I was going to drive up the auto row in San Jose and my goal was I was just going to pull into a dealership and ask for a job,” she explained. “I didn’t know if they had any openings, but I was determined to find a job that day. I didn’t want to go home unless I had a job.”
That first sales job put her on the path to eventually become a general manager at Volvo Cars Marin, part of the Price Simms Group. Between those roles, she worked in internet sales, finance, sales manager, direct sales director and general sales manager.
Despite the stress it caused on her relationship with her mother, the two eventually reconciled, and Kennedy said striking out on her own “was the best decision I ever made in my life, not knowing it at the time.”
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To celebrate, NADA is sharing the stories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans in the auto industry. Read the previous post in this series here and here.
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