When it comes to big vehicles, Alex Martin-Banzer knows her stuff. As a commercial vehicles marketing strategist at Daimler Trucks North America in Portland, Oregon, she is in constant contact with customers and equipment suppliers in order to make Freightliner and Western Star trucks even better. In her interview, the strategist told us what she finds so fascinating about commercial vehicles, why she committed to getting a truck driver’s license, and how she ended up at Daimler Truck after getting her degree.
Ms. Alex Martin-Banzer, what makes the perfect truck?
Please call me Alex (laughs). A truck must be safe, reliable, and as fuel-efficient as possible. These are the essentials. But at Daimler Trucks North America we have other, more stringent requirements. Drivers spend a lot of time with and in the trucks. For most, the truck is not just transportation for their equipment – it is their partner in getting the job done. That's why it is important to us that our Freightliner and Western Star vehicles are designed with the driver and their daily job responsibilities at the forefront of our minds. Our job doesn’t stop at just building the truck; we also need to ensure that special equipment for our vehicles can be easily integrated. Therefore, we work closely with the companies that deliver the special equipment such as concrete mixers, snowplows and cranes.
How exactly do you work with the special equipment suppliers?
We have a close network of technical specialists and managers at the companies, with whom we maintain regular contacts. I act as a go-between for the special equipment suppliers and our development department. My co-workers come to me with specific questions, such as how to simplify the installation of truck equipment. I then conduct research within our teams on how to tackle the problem. Frequently, we also visit our customers to see how our trucks are used. The feedback flows directly into the ongoing development of our vehicles. And twice a year, we hold our Technical Equipment Manufacturer or TEM Council.
What exactly is the TEM Council about?
It's a two-day workshop, at which the technical specialists from our network discuss new technologies with our development experts, and work together to develop solutions. The particularly exciting thing about it is that the participants come from a wide range of units and companies – from equipment suppliers for agriculture or street cleaning, to specialists in trucks for the construction industry. These different experiences and perspectives give us a good impression of our customers' needs in the US market.
In order to keep improving the trucks?
Exactly. One example is our Vocational Truck Western Star 49X , which we unveiled this year. Based on the feedback we received from our network, one thing we did was to design the driver's cabin to make it less cluttered, to create more space for the electronics to control the equipment, and to make it more comfortable for the driver. That was only possible because we listened closely to what matters to drivers when they are on the job.
"What matters" is a good phrase. What characterizes Daimler Truck as an employer for you?
Daimler Truck is simply a very cool group to work at, especially in the US. Everyone knows Mercedes, and I am always proud to be able to tell people which company I work for. What I find special is how much trust I am given – by my line manager as well as by the development team. I have complete freedom in my work. Daimler Truck also offers a number of benefits, of course, especially with regard to work-life balance.
So how did you end up at Daimler Truck?
I have been crazy about cars from an early age and have always wanted to work for Daimler Truck. After completing my college degree, I started an internship in the IT department of Daimler Trucks North America in Portland, and then secured a full time position in the Engineering department as a support specialist, where I worked for three years. I have been in Strategic Marketing for three years now. My original career plan was actually to transfer to the Cars division at Mercedes-Benz at some point. But now I find commercial vehicles so fascinating that I can't imagine a better place to work.
What do you like so much about trucks?
Our vehicles simply have their own charm. I just find it very cool when I see the trucks out and about, on their way to the construction site or heavy-laden on the highway. They do their job, help, and are productive – and I make my own contribution through the work that I do. Last year I also got my truck driver's license.
You wanted to have a go at driving the cool trucks yourself?
Yes, of course (laughs). For me, it was important to experience for myself what matters when you are driving a truck. It also helps me when I talk to our customers and our network of experts. And when we are traveling to events with our vehicles, I like to take the wheel myself. One of my goals is to spend a week working as a truck driver in order to gain an even better impression of what our customers experience.
Apart from driving trucks, what do you particularly enjoy about your job?
In my job, I deal with a really wide range of people – from our customers or the experts of the TEM Council to my co-workers here at the company. It makes my work incredibly interesting. Our local team is also great. We always support each other, for example, when we have to give a presentation at our TEM Council, or moderate a discussion. Everyone gets involved.
What plans do you still have at Daimler Truck?
With my work, I want to understand our customers' wishes in even more depth so that our trucks become even better. People are often surprised when I tell them that I work in commercial vehicles. That's why I want to encourage more women to do what I have done. All I can say is that I love my job.
One last personal question: Who among the people you know is deserving of a Nobel Prize?
My mother, definitely. She grew up in a time when society was changing a lot – especially with regard to equality between men and women. She doesn't feel the need to fit into any mold and defends her points of view. She was a trailblazer in politics and was the State representative for Oregon. I am very proud of her accomplishments!
Personal details: Alex Martin-Banzer (29) Alex Martin-Banzer has been a cars fan since she was young. So it was no surprise that she started her career in the automotive sector after completing her degree in Business Administration with a focus on Entrepreneurship as well as a minor in Journalism at Oregon State University. She also spent a year in Grenoble, France where she obtained a diploma in International Management. When Alex Martin-Banzer is not finding out how to tailor Freightliner and Western Star trucks even better to customers' needs, she enjoys spending time with friends or helping her partner get their newly purchased house into shape. She is also an avid traveler and visited the Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart during a backpacking trip through Germany.