Meet Yvonne Palmer, Operations Director, Nexus Vehicle Rental

Yvonne Palmer

Yvonne Palmer is the Operations Director at Nexus Vehicle Rental.

We talk to Yvonne about her career journey, the challenges she has faced and shares her thoughts on being a woman in the automotive industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your current role

I grew up in Birkenshaw in Bradford from the age of nine, having spent much of my younger childhood moving from country to country as we were a military family. From a young age, I have always been very independent and determined, which led me to leave home at 16 years old. In my early career I spent time as a merchandiser before moving into an accounts assistant role, from there I progressed through finance and account management roles before deciding to make the move into procurement.

Since joining Nexus nine years ago, I have progressively been exposed to various aspects of the business, though I’m currently Operations Director, responsible for the Operations & Supply Chain functions. As part of my role at Nexus, I am responsible for the daily operational performance of the company as well as the operational and supply chain strategy. I also oversee various supply chain projects, driver services, implementations, inbound call and allocation teams and customer services.

Nexus is the UK’s leading tech driven business mobility provider, with an unrivalled supply chain of 550,000 vehicles across 2,000 locations. Our bespoke fleet management technology platform, IRIS, enables our business customers to have the greatest visibility of the market and is a ‘one stop shop’ for flexible rental. In order to ensure we can deliver the best customer service, we’re constantly looking for opportunities to grow and diversify our offering to provide suitable transport solutions for national and international businesses with workforces across the country.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

It wasn’t until I started working at Nexus and getting involved with operations that I really felt like I had found my place. Before this, I had always been looking for a role that would challenge me. When I noticed that Nexus was looking for someone to start up a supply chain function, it was immediately something I was interested in. Procurement and supply chain issues have always fascinated me, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Besides, being a tech-enabled business, Nexus is an attractive company to work for. It’s always been at the forefront of innovation, transforming business mobility like Uber transformed taxi services, and I saw a great career opportunity there for me to help develop our service offering and ensure we could grow our presence in the market.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way, and how did you overcome these?

Challenges always cross your path, but they’re just problems that need a solution. When I started in my current position, the challenge was to grow and stabilise the Nexus supplier network. Although several people were looking after the network, there was no formal structure in place so my first task was to refocus operational teams. I did this with a focused recruitment strategy to expand our team, building strong relationships with suppliers, maintaining customer service levels and driving process improvement across the business.

Overall, the automotive industry has been slower to take women on board as operational leaders, so outside of Nexus I initially had a fair amount of resistance and skepticism to deal with as a I progressed through my career. Nexus is very progressive and I have always felt supported in my role, however in the wider industry I have felt that as a female, I had to grow a thick skin very fast and quickly learnt to take any negativity on the chin and show any cynics what I could do.

Level Up Summit 2022

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Quite a few come to mind but taking on and successfully leading the Operation and Supply Chain division is probably my biggest achievement. When I took over the Operations function, it forced me out of my comfort zone, and I had to go through a huge learning curve to understand the ‘why’ behind everything.

Once I did, it became easier to see where the focus needed to be and seeing all the ideas come to fruition – and watching the benefits they bring – has been highly rewarding.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in achieving success? 

I’ll have to mention four! A willingness to learn, a strong sense of determination, challenging the status quo and above all, having a great team.

What top tips would you give to an individual trying to excel in their career in technology?

Don’t lose your creativity and vision; always make time to think outside the box, pursue your interests, work hard, and believe in yourself.

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech? If so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There will always be some companies not as progressive as Nexus. So, move along until you find the right company that allows your skills to shine. I’m fortunate that I never experienced any real barriers within Nexus as a result of being a woman, except for having to prove myself in a male-dominated environment that is the automotive industry. I think the industry needs to work far harder to find ways to lure more young women into technology. The automotive industry might not be many people’s career dream, but it has a lot to offer with a wide variety of options.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

I think that companies must recognise that women’s career paths vary and therefore they may have specific requirements. For example, a woman returning to work after having children may lack confidence or need a flexible working arrangement. A business that can support the individual needs of all its staff will find they get the best out of everyone and are attractive to potential candidates. I think companies need to focus more on offering apprenticeships, internships and also promoting the variety of available tech roles.

There is currently only 21 percent of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Although change is happening for women across many industries, I would like to see it move faster. If I had a magic wand, I would use it to open the minds of all the people who still create blockers for women that limit what they think they can achieve.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Anything they can get their hands on. I wouldn’t limit resources to one particular area since needs change as your career progresses.  Whatever you need at a given time, go out and find the resource.