Hyundai, family, key supports for auto executive to earn MBA

Kristina Covello-Garcia is proof of how to manage school, career and family life.

The National Manager Marketing Communications for Hyundai Canada returned to school in January 2021 to do her Masters of Business Administration, more than 15 years since she graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Commerce. The MBA took a year and three quarters to complete, which started out remotely because of COVID, and required travelling to various parts of the world as part of the curriculum.

“I was very young at the time (after graduating from university) and you really don’t know how you are going to apply it,” said Covello-Garcia. “To be able to go back years later with experience and understand how it all works was something that was always on my to-do list.”

She said Hyundai Canada President Don Romano, who has been a major proponent for women being given opportunities to become executives, encouraged her to go back to school. She said Romano knew she was “very motivated and ambitious” to grow within the organization and thanked him for the “nudge” that prompted one of the most impactful experiences in her life.

“Hopefully he also saw something in me that made him think I might have the potential to be a great future leader,” said Covello-Garcia.

The daughter of a mechanic who worked at Chrysler, she paid for her schooling as an assembler with Ford Motor Company for two years and as a temporary part-time worker. She worked her way up in the automotive industry over a period of 20 years.

She said the support from Hyundai’s leadership team to go back to school was important, along with receiving a promotion in the process.

“It was a total vote of confidence from my leadership team,” she said. “I don’t have a marketing background per se, but it really gives me that last piece of foundation—that well roundedness—to have all of the experience in the industry.”

The global travelling part of the course began in 2022 and included stops ranging from five to 10 days in Lisbon, Tel Aviv, Miami, London, Frankfurt and Chicago. She graduated in October with a dual degree from Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Management) and Schulich School of Business (York University).

“I’m very fortunate to have a very good support system,” she said. “My husband was home helping with our two children, but with his work I also had my parents, who are retired, helping. They are snowbirds and spend half the year in Jamaica, but knew I had this goal and stayed back during the winter months.”

Following graduation she had to focus on some major marketing initiatives in which Hyundai was involved, including a multi-year partnership with the National Hockey League, and preparing for the Canadian International AutoShow for the first time in three years.

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