There’s more to motor careers: Head of Communications

More to marketing

An automotive career doesn’t have to follow a specific trajectory, but grasping opportunities is incredibly important. It’s helped Hemal Mistry achieve his goals at Scania, one of the biggest names in the commercial vehicle world.

Why did you want to work in automotive?

For me, the automotive industry has always been in my blood as I have relatives who’ve worked across the industry, including at JLR and Peugeot. My strongest influence came from my mother, who worked for TRW and most recently Rothmans and British American Tobacco – so the automotive industry and motorsport heavily influenced my childhood.  

Growing up I was obsessed by cars. Posters and pictures of European exotica covered my bedroom walls, and it was from this obsession that I knew I had to pursue a career in the automotive industry.  

My initial ambition was to work as an engineer for one of the big German OEMs in Germany. While that dream never materialised, I soon realised there are other ways to get involved in the industry.

Once you'd made the choice, how did you make it happen?

Persistence and perseverance. Having pursued a career into journalism, it became clear to stand out from the crowd, you needed to grab the opportunities that come your way.

Any chance to learn on-the-job skills I snared, whether it was as a volunteer or as a hobby. That was the game-changer for me. Being directly involved in the interviewing, writing, editing of content in a fast-paced arena of competitive sport shaped the communications person I am today.  

What was your career journey to Scania?

My career started out as a content writer for Defaqto, an independent financial research company. There I was able to dabble with the automotive industry through their financial products.

But it was 2012 where my career trajectory changed. Being a Flash Quotes Reporter for the Olympic News Service during London 2012 opened doors that would be otherwise locked.  

Via that volunteering opportunity, I joined Haymarket Media Group in June 2013, to become reporter for both Car and Accessory Trader Magazine and the SMMT’s Transport News Brief. It was the moment I dreamed about. My foot was finally on the automotive industry’s ladder.

In 2015, I got to live my petrolhead fantasy by working for Autocar and What Car? magazines. It really shaped me as a writer and a storyteller and exposed me to the true automotive industry.  

Then came the chance to jump headfirst into the sector and get under its skin. I went on to be a cross-channel writer for Jaguar Land Rover. A superb experience to work across a pair of much-loved British brands with so much heritage. While in the diverse melting pot of working for an OEM at a global scale, it opens your eyes to how the business works and the challenges it faces trying to be successful.  

After four years working for JLR, I took the plunge to the heavy duty vehicle sector. A new one for me. But the opportunity to bring a premium brand like Scania to the forefront of people’s minds was too good an opportunity to turn down. Now I’m Head of Communications for Scania UK, looking after its PR, Public Affairs and Internal Communications.

What's the standout moment in your career so far?

My proudest moments have been around using my skillset to help engineering. Either to help them communicate more effectively or to advise on language used on customer facing devices in a vehicle.  

I was fortunate enough to work with JLR’s Human Machine Interface team based out in Portland, USA. These projects included digitalising driver handbooks, reviewing language used on different screens around the vehicle, to creating and developing the utterances JLR use for their Amazon Alexa integration.  

Being involved goes to show that a vehicle is a combination of minds from different disciplines working together to make the blueprint or design a reality.

What would you say to someone considering automotive as a career choice?

If you aren’t an engineer or a designer by trade, that doesn’t mean you can’t play a vital role in an automotive industry. Ultimately, they are businesses like any other sector and need certain skills in place to make it functional. And if you have a passion for the industry, my advice is be persistent, and take every opportunity you can to get closer to your goal.    

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