Women at the Wheel: Melissa Mak
Working with Vancouver-based auto group offers interesting challenges every day
By Russell Purcell (Driving.Ca)
Originally published: August 28, 2015
VANCOUVER — It’s rare to meet someone who appears to really love his or her job.
Melissa Mak is that exception.
The Hong Kong-born woman freely admits she made the right career choice when she stepped into the hectic world of marketing.
Mak grew up in Vancouver after her family immigrated to Canada when she was a precocious six-year-old.
The single professional now makes her home in New Westminster, and works as the assistant marketing manager for the OpenRoad Auto Group. This is a big job, as the thriving company now operates 15 dealerships in the Lower Mainland with plans on the horizon to open several more.
“Interestingly, I had no marketing experience on my resumé prior to taking on this job,” said the UBC graduate. “I studied psychology at university, which I guess in a roundabout way has some correlation with marketing, as I need to understand consumer behaviour.”
After completing her studies, Mak worked at a private consulting firm where she helped people immigrate to Canada.
While she found helping these individuals establish new lives in her adopted homeland fulfilling, she came to the realization that she needed a new challenge and more variety to hold her attention.
“I saw an opportunity at OpenRoad come available in an administrative capacity at the company’s head office,” she said.
“I had heard good things about the company and decided to pursue it.”
She secured the position, which initially saw her splitting her time between two departments — human resources and marketing.
“It was a real challenge when I first started, as I had to be really organized to get everything done,” she said.
“I would spend part of my day writing scripts for radio spots or helping to plan events as part of the marketing team, and then later would be involved with recruitment activities for human resources or taking on various administrative tasks.”
Performing this dual role at head office allowed her to gain valuable experience and a wealth of knowledge about OpenRoad and how it operated as a company. It also revealed that she had a real passion for marketing, so her career path became more solidified.
Today, the 32-year-old is an integral member of the innovative company’s marketing team.
“I like being a part of the OpenRoad Group due to the fact that I’m being exposed to so many different brands, and as a result I have to adapt my work to cater to such a varied clientele,” Mak said.
“It makes every day unique and keeps things exciting enough that coming to work is never a chore.”
She said there’s an established set of marketing guidelines she has to follow for each of the brands, and while it might appear the company puts more effort into its luxury brands, “this is largely due to the fact this type of vehicle is very popular in our region.”
These premium brands also tend to have larger marketing budgets, so there’s more her department can do with a brand such as Lexus versus what they can do with say, Scion, despite the fact they’re both basically Toyota products.
“The current trend in marketing a luxury product is geared toward organizing events that allow the individual brands to establish a unique identity in an effort to help differentiate themselves from their competitors,” she said. “On the other hand, the more mainstream brands spend their budgets on more traditional and low-key marketing activities.”
Mak enjoys working on both types of projects but admits those events geared toward the luxury products account for much of her time, as there’s much more planning involved.
“What’s important for the organization, and also a personal goal of mine, is to focus on the overall customer experience,” she said. “We want to provide added value to our customers. I want their experience at OpenRoad to be memorable enough that they’ll stay with our company.”
She said the luxury brand events have many components, such as catering or entertainment, and often require specific protocols to be established in advance, such as how guests are to be greeted upon arrival.
The demographics are different for a company like Scion versus Lexus, she said, so an event plan for Scion may include elements like a food truck where customers can enjoy a quick snack while checking out the new model. But for a Lexus event “we strive to get bums into seats,” so these tend to be organized driving events where the customers can experience how the car performs.
“Today I may be working on something for our BMW store, but tomorrow I may be planning an element of an event for the Audi dealership.
“It’s always different and there is hardly any down time, but that’s what I like most about this job.”