A Dynamic Operator, Tia Battle is making an impact at Hyundai Motors of America.


The Hyundai Progress Project Press Conference on Jan. 26, 2024, in Ypsilanti, MA. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

I recently had a chance to spend some time with the Hyundai Motors of America Team in Michigan. Their corporate social responsibility team was honoring three black businesses with three grants of $15,000 each. These businesses are exceptional and have owners who have created enterprises that have become a staple in their communities. The initiative is called the Progress Project, and it is in its third year supporting Black businesses in Michigan.  Brandon Ramirez and the Corporate Social Responsibility Team have been supporting phenomenal causes and individuals and it truly was a pleasure to be involved in this effort. The businesses are

great and per Hyundai here are some more details along with pictures of the business owners.

  1. 3N1 Fitness Revolution (Ann Arbor, Mich.): A multidimensional gym of holistic well-being where members can get physically, nutritionally, and mindfully fit. The gym used the donation for a refreshing facelift with a new sign and updated fitness equipment, ensuring the space remains at the forefront of community health.
The Hyundai Progress Project Press Conference on Jan. 26, 2024, in Ypsilanti, MA. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)
  • A-Square Fight Club (Ann Arbor, Mich.): An affordable boxing gym that focuses on the art, conditioning, and science behind training. With the donation, the gym made repairs to the ring, refurbished some structural pieces of the gym, and purchased new heavy bags.
The Hyundai Progress Project Press Conference on Jan. 26, 2024, in Ypsilanti, MA. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)
  • Issa’s Pizza (Ypsilanti, Mich.): A cherished establishment catering uniquely to Michigan’s diverse community. The restaurant used the donation to purchase a rapid cook oven, amplifying their capability to serve more pizzas and extend its community outreach to nearby schools. 
The Hyundai Progress Project Press Conference on Jan. 26, 2024, in Ypsilanti, MA. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

After the presentation, I had an opportunity to speak with a senior executive at Hyundai Motors of America, Tia Battle. Tia Battle is the General Manager for Hyundai in the Central Region, and she is responsible for 13% of the sales of the company from her network of dealers. She is a fascinating Black Woman who has had a storied career in the automotive industry that has been transformative and impactful. Tia is truly a superhero and her work resonated with me. I made a point to capture some of her time she was generous to share. Below is the transcript of our interview which was far-reaching and gave a lot of insights into the tremendous growth Hyundai Motors of America has been enjoying. There is also a link to a YouTube video you can watch

Damola Idowu: So, can you introduce yourself, who you are, and what is your role with Hyundai?

Tia M. Battle: So, I am Tia Battle, and I am the Director and General Manager for Hyundai in the Central Region.

So, our Central Regional Office is based out of Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, and we cover approximately 132 dealers in seven states in the Midwest. So, I have about 55 people who work for me, district managers on the sales and service side. I have field service engineers as well who are on my team. I’ve got marketing, I’ve got distribution and car flow.

I know I’m probably forgetting somebody, but there’s a whole crew of us that helps Jose Munoz’s job just a little bit easier. There are seven regions across the United States.

Damola Idowu: So how did you get to such a great position? And you move a lot of metal because, yes.

Tia M. Battle: We are on our way to 1.2 million cars. So last year…

Damola Idowu: In your region?

Tia M. Battle: Not just in our region. Well, in our region, we sell approximately about 96,000 vehicles but the company as a whole, our goal is to sell 1.2 million cars by 2025.

Damola Idowu: In the U.S.?

Tia M. Battle: In the United States. And the Central Region represents 13% of that.

Damola Idowu: Wow!

Tia M. Battle: Yes, we do.

Damola Idowu: So, what was your journey to get there then?

Tia M. Battle: So, I know I don’t look it, my age, but I’ve been in the automotive industry for over 20 years. I am originally here from suburban Detroit and like I said, I went to Michigan State—go green!

Damola Idowu: Go green!

Tia M. Battle: And I started my career with another manufacturer that might be located in downtown Detroit. But I started there and I worked my way through. I can say I’ve had a lot of different mentors, I like to jokingly say.

So, Randy Parker, when I worked for this other manufacturer, he worked for it. And I worked for Randy Parker for about four days in California before I found my way here to Hyundai, so we had to bring over everyone else. But I started my career as a district manager in California. So I covered from Rancho Cucamonga out to Palm Springs. That was my district.

And then as I worked, I went to go get my MBA and I just started working my way into senior management. And I’ve actually had this role with Hyundai for two years. So, I received this promotion two years ago and I got a call from our CEO, Randy Parker. Randy Parker actually is our first African-American CEO. And he called me and told me that I got this job two years ago, and it has been amazing ever since. Running the Central Region and getting us on our way to that 1.2 million vehicles has been a thrill. For us to contribute almost 100,000 cars on that, it’s just—it’s amazing to see.

Damola Idowu: Going on that story, too, because this is not my father’s Hyundai Excel in 1987.

Tia M. Battle: The ones we did donuts in the parking lot?

Damola Idowu: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it’s not the same Hyundai Excel, but I’ve also had a chance to go global and see and you’re the third largest global manufacturer. And the vehicles, you’re leading in electrification. You’re even so successful that you’re dropping the price…

Tia M. Battle: Yes, we are.

Damola Idowu: …For 2024. Kind of talk about that and the efficiency you guys are getting and that other people aren’t.

Tia M. Battle: So I wish, I think it would probably be easier for me to tell you what awards we haven’t won, that is the shorter.

Damola Idowu: I know, that’s right.

Tia M. Battle: When you said electric EVs, yes. Ioniq Series, World Car of the Year, International Car of the Year. You name it, we win all those awards.

Actually, I need you to come to my office in Oakbrook because I have life-size posters of our awards.

Damola Idowu: I definitely want to come out there. So that’s the date. We’ve locked that in.

Tia M. Battle: Have to. And yes, electrification. And what we mentioned earlier today, our plant in Savannah, Georgia, it’s going to be our EV battery plant. And we are just going off to the races.

We have the Ioniq 5, which is our CUV. We’ve got the Ioniq 6, which is our Sedan. And then later on this year in Q4, we are going to have the Ioniq 7. And that will be our seven-passenger all-electric SUV.

I’m excited for that one. I think I’m going to have to fight everyone on my team to get that as my company car. We’ll see if being director lets me get it first.

Damola Idowu: And I know, right? See, you already should have a little privilege.

Tia M. Battle: I am. But it’s like all the awards we have, I mean, even right now, if you knew, I was like actually have in my office right now, a 24 model year Santa Fe.

The new Santa Fe just came out as well. They started production on that earlier this month and it has been rolling off of the assembly line in Montgomery, Alabama. So that vehicle is coming. The price, we love to say, like you said, it is not the Excel we had in the past. We are winning awards. We also love initial quality.

We pretty much take the crown with Hyundai and Genesis in quality awards as well. You know that your car is safe. You’ve got our 10-100 powertrain warranty on that vehicle as well and you get an offer at an amazing price. We have so much technology.

Jose’ Munoz President and Global Chief Operating Officer, Hyundai Motor Company | President and CEO, Hyundai and Genesis Motor North America

I was in a meeting last night with Jose Munoz and Randy Parker, and we were talking about our Elantra. And he was…

Damola Idowu: And it looks nice. And I saw the new Sonata too.

Tia M. Battle: New Sonata. And a base model, Sonata and Elantra, there is more equipment and technology in that car where you would go to any other manufacturer, and you have to go three or four trims higher to get what we give in a base model.

Why? Because we know that is what the customer…We talk about it, and we talk about, you know, what is your journey? What is your journey with Hyundai? And your journey with Hyundai—is giving you the most for a reasonable price so that you feel like you’ve got the best thing ever, which you do. I mean, that’s the way we’re doing it.

I mean, I have a whole family in that car. I’m from Michigan, and I’m like, “Okay,” it’s like, “family, it’s time to support; get in that Hyundai.” And I’m like, “Genesis as well.” I used to work for Genesis as well in California, and you can’t go wrong. If you want to get Hyundai, if you want to go luxury and get Genesis, you really, truly can’t go wrong with that. You can’t.

Damola Idowu: Well, what I’ll say, too, is that what I want to ask about is what is interesting to me is your former employer, and we’re not going to talk about them.

Tia M. Battle: He’s just downtown Detroit.

Damola Idowu: Just downtown Detroit, but Hyundai has been able to come into America. And I was looking at the Excel in 87 as a touch point because that’s, you know, I used to remember my dad squeezing his four kids in the back. We all squeezed like this.

Tia M. Battle: “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me.”

Damola Idowu: Don’t touch me, right? “What are you doing? You all be quiet back there.” To 2007, when you start bringing in the new Sonata, you know what I mean?

Tia M. Battle: Because now they got Car of the Year.

Damola Idowu: Car of the Year. Then now to now, when you bring in the Ioniq 5, and that won awards. And then, now, you’re doing rear-wheel drive on electrification. Then you brought a rear wheel luxury and then some of our companies that were native to Michigan, felt like they couldn’t sell luxury in America.

But then Hyundai was able to be successful coming so far back in my lifetime. When I was a little young, then I went to study mechanical engineering and economics. How did you guys…? What do you think gave Hyundai an edge over even the domestics? Because you guys also have a strong footprint in America.

You have plants in Alabama. Here we are in a technical center in central Michigan. What was it that you felt, having worked on that side and worked here, that was the delineator to give you guys that edge up to make that market for you?

Tia M. Battle: Education. Really, truly, when we look at our design team, we basically told them, do what you want. We have mechanical engineers, electrical engineers where our design center in California, we just said, “You know what, build us what you want to see.”

And these engineers have come from all across the world, different companies, where other companies may have told them, “No, no, no, that’s just too outside the box, too outside the box.” That’s not how Chairman Chun runs. He goes, “I want outside the box.” And that’s exactly how you ended up with where we are today.

We will have a car where we’re like, what? A full-size electrified SUV. Who would have thought about that? Luxury with Genesis as well. I worked for Genesis in California, that’s actually how I left the Midwest the first time.

Damola Idowu: I love the story of Genesis, too.

Tia M. Battle: Oh, it’s amazing. I was there at the launch. And it really, truly, was our chairman.

Damola Idowu: I was there in Torrance, California, when you guys had it, when you had the guy from the Eagles, Hotel California. There was another person though, he’s now at Waymo.

Tia M. Battle: Yes. I was there at that time as well.

Damola Idowu: Wow! So I hung out with you then.

Tia M. Battle: You did. You did in our building in Fountain Valley. And that’s the thing, we always want innovators and think outside the box. That is exactly how we are.

Damola Idowu: What struck me was you were benchmarking with the BMW 745 and I got on the track in performance. And I’m like, the audacity.

Tia M. Battle: The best part is you were on the track, they had us in there, too. So what they did is they took our whole team and they had the competition sitting there. And they said, “Okay, we have that BMW sitting there. We have that Mercedes sitting there.” And then they put a Genesis right next to it. And they said, “Okay, we want you to go ahead and walk around on all the competition and then get in our car.”

And the interesting thing is like a Mercedes S-Class, we have the top-of-the-line S-Class, $100,000. And then you get into a G90. And it was a base model G90 and it had more in it than a $100,000 S-Class.

Damola Idowu: Wow.

Tia M. Battle: That is what we wanted to do. It is a beautiful, beautiful set of vehicles and it was just because our team said, “Hey, we want to know, how is this going to be your journey? If you’re a consumer, what do you want? And we can do it. We can make it. It’s affordable. And, yes, we make money, too, at the same time.”

Damola Idowu: I know you guys do it.

Tia M. Battle: We do not have to have a crazy price. Nothing like that. And then our dealers… And that’s another thing is our dealer network, they had to also be behind it. Like, here in Michigan, if you get a chance, you go down the Fox down the street. The Fox Auto Group is not just in Michigan, they’re also in Illinois. They’re in the Midwest building some beautiful facilities.

Damola Idowu: They’re in the Maryland, D.C area, too.

Tia M. Battle: They are.

Damola Idowu: Yeah, that’s how I know about them.

Tia M. Battle: You see all these new Hyundai facilities were built. Now, I know we love our acronyms, we call them GDSI facilities, but you don’t need to know that. You see, we call it 2.0. Because you’re going to go see the bronze, then you’re going to get to see the Lafontaine Group is going to build our first Genesis standalone facility here in Michigan.

Damola Idowu: I’m looking forward to that.

Tia M. Battle: They just finished their construction on their Dearborn facility, I got to see that. And I can tell you, Ryan LaFontaine and his father, they were like, “What do you need?” They’re like, “Whatever, there’s no amount of money.” I mean, they just say that because you know how people feel—but they were thinking it. But they are behind us.

Our dealer network believes in the brand as well. They looked at it, and they took it and they ran with it. So, you’re seeing all these beautiful facilities. In the Midwest alone, Hyundai, you see the 2.0. So LaFontaine Group is done. Fox is done. These guys are all building facilities all around town.

You’re also going to see, if you’re in Lansing, you’re going to see Williams as well. Grand Rapids, they’re about to break ground as well, too. So, all of these facilities, our dealers believe in us, they’re building our customers beautiful places to go and relax. If you get a chance, I’m going to have to take you. The largest…

Damola Idowu: We’re going to have to set a date for me to come back.

Tia M. Battle: If you come to the Chicago Auto Show, I need to take you around because I’ve got to take you to the largest Hyundai facility in the country. It’s located in Joliet, Illinois. Over 62,000 square feet. Pictures do not do it justice. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Damola Idowu: No, I want to really be able to come back and see that store, especially in the Midwest because I did a piece called, that was all like the heritage of Detroit and Michigan to mobility in America, to commerce in America because the whole…

Tia M. Battle: It sounds like my pieces in grad school.

Damola Idowu: Oh yes. Michigan and Commerce, when they were saying let Detroit go bankrupt, but I’m like, “This is the commerce engine.” Dwight D. Eisenhower and Interstate Highway wouldn’t have even been possible without what was going on in Detroit and Michigan.

Tia M. Battle: We need to do a drive around. As I mentioned, the LaFontaine, the Fox Group, these dealers believe in us, and they are supporting us and they are building in our communities. I grew up in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, and seeing LaFontaine for when, as you said, that whole Excel time back in the day, that was our throwaway car.

I remember going down the street and you went to that whole pack of dealerships in Dearborn, Michigan, and you saw that. And then you look at what they built for us today. Why? Because they believe in Hyundai.

Damola Idowu: No, I’m going to be able to come back and do that story because for me, I also went to Korea, to Goyang, and looking at the materials. Because you have like the rocks and then how you refine the materials.

Tia M. Battle: Yes.

Damola Idowu: Then you have the car design. Then you have the safety.

Tia M. Battle: I need to take you to a Genesis store.

Damola Idowu: Yes.

Tia M. Battle: I can’t wait for Lafontaine to finish. But if you come to visit me in Chicago, the Loquercio Group in Elgin, Illinois, you can see they have our standalone in Chicago. So, our first standalone Genesis and the brand-new Hyundai facility, they are side by side, right next to each other. We can go back and forth between the two. But we have that garden that you saw.

Damola Idowu: Yes.

Tia M. Battle: We have that in our Genesis facility.

Damola Idowu: Oh!

Tia M. Battle: It’s inside. Okay, I’m going to tease you with where it is. When you go to the restroom, that’s where you’ll see it. You walk into the restroom and you see the zen garden before you go into the restroom.

Damola Idowu: That is awesome. And when you even talk about that, too, like in the Genesis, you have the orb, you have the lighting, and the ambiance that’s built into the experience.

Tia M. Battle: Awesome. Yes, I’m going to take you to visit our stores. And then LaFontaine, because they just had to finish their Hyundai stores first, and then now they’re breaking ground on their Genesis location. They’re going to have our first Genesis standalone facility here in Michigan. So, it’s just…

We couldn’t do this without a combination of our executive team, our leaders, our regional team here, and our dealers believing in us. We have been working very, very hard on our dealer network.

Right now, a Hyundai or Genesis franchise is the most wanted franchise that you can get right now. Everybody wants it. And why? Because of the things you mentioned before: Our product, our people, the vision of our executives, that’s why everyone wants to work with Hyundai.

Damola Idowu: So, let’s talk about future work, right? Because that’s very important here. What do you see, and you’re building new platforms, building new technology…? You talk about construction. So, there’s work where you can work with the dealers. There’s electrification, there’s going to be new techs needed. We’re here at a technical center, so you need new…

You said you all have mechanical engineers and you’re going to need electrical and computer engineers for the systems, the telematics. Talk about expansion and the future of work and what that vision is like for Hyundai.

Tia M. Battle: So, for Hyundai, we have what we call Employee Resource Groups. Our employee resource groups, I actually used to be the president of the Women at Hyundai Employee Resource Group. Then we have the African American one, Hyundai Soul. We have Asian. Brandon was the president of Amigos Unidos for our Hispanic brothers and sisters.

And a part of that in growing the people and how we’re recruiting is actually going through our Employee Resource Groups. They’re coming to us. We’re the best folks because we’ve been able to grow and experience the same thing. So, our employee resource groups, we’ve been going out. We’ve been going to colleges, and HBCUs, like I’m in Hyundai Soul as well.

Damola Idowu: We would love to bring the Bisons and… I’m a Bison. We would love to bring Howard. How can we collaborate with Hyundai and Howard?

Tia M. Battle: That is exactly what we’re doing. Hyundai Soul, we have been working. So, when I mentioned those seven regions that we have, one of our regions is based out of Atlanta. So, with that, we’ve started the recruitment, and that’s exactly why HBCUs….

Damola Idowu: But I was just on the call with my Bisons, and they were like, “You’re talking to Hyundai. Tell them that we need to talk about DC.”

Tia M. Battle: I am going to put you in contact with Monique Jackson. She is the new chair of the Hyundai Soul Employee Resource Group. And then, we also have a young leaders group.

So, young leaders, we put them together and have mentorship programs with them. So, me being an executive, I’ve also done talks on like what’s your personal brand? What are you doing? And…

Damola Idowu: With young students?

Tia M. Battle: With young students. We do that.

Damola Idowu: How would you like to do that, like in a virtual environment, a 3D game?

Tia M. Battle: Oh, I do that all the time.

Damola Idowu: Yes

Tia M. Battle: All the time. And then, it’s the same thing at our corporate headquarters in California. We had Bring Your Child to Work Day. And what we did is we went to local schools and we brought them in and we showed them everything in automotive. Everyone thinks automotive is just engineers, and it’s not.

Damola Idowu: No.

Tia M. Battle: We’ve got sales, we’ve got marketing, we’ve got human resources, we’ve got advertising, we have all these different things. So, we brought all these students in and we were like, “The world is your oyster, what do you want to do?”

We took them all around that building and had everyone talk to them. Virtually, I also did a group where it was an HBCU that was based out of Florida, and they had a chance to go one-on-one and talk with me.

Damola Idowu: Bethune or FAMU.

Tia M. Battle: Yes. There were actually a bunch. They all added me on LinkedIn. It was great. But they had a chance to interact with us. And then, if you’ve got Michelle Jensen, the gentleman she works with, Iran he did the same thing. He goes, “Do you want to be in PR? Cool. Let me talk to you about PR.” For me, I’m in sales and marketing. What do we want to do? Business. That’s what I do as well.

So, we’ve been doing that recruitment because I can’t retire until I break a new generation up. And it’s always one of my mentors sent to me, “As I climb and make my way up, I can’t forget when I climb that ladder. I’ve got to reach down and pull more people up.” And that’s what I want to do all the time.

And that is why, yes, we are encouraged at Hyundai, the mentorship. Jose Munoz, I remember, and I tell this story because he’ll remind me of it, is when I was in California and I was the chair of Women at Hyundai, at the time, he had us in this Women in the Leadership program. And we did not have a single female executive in the C-suite.

So, they were telling us, “Hey, we’re here for women in leadership,” but there wasn’t a single woman there. So, then we had a town hall with Jose, and he was like, “We need more diversity in this company.” He’d only been our CEO for maybe six months and he was like, “We need more diversity. I know that all of you are qualified, you have the fire, we’re going to do this.”

And I was sitting across the table from him, and I can’t pose my facial expressions. I may have rolled my eyes at him. I was like, “Hmm, right, I’ve heard that before.” And he reminded me. And he reminds me every chance he gets, he set out and he did it. That is one thing about Jose.

Damola Idowu: And now you even have a black CEO.

Randy Parker
Chief Executive Officer, Hyundai Motor America

Tia M. Battle: We do. He told us, and I was like, “Yeah, you know, we hear that.” And he did. He put his money where his mouth was and he was like, “I knew we had people to do this because the way that we’re a successful company is also in our diversity. If we didn’t have our diversity, we wouldn’t be able to build great products like we do. They want our feedback on what we can do.” And when Jose, he actually got an award from Automotive News last year.

Damola Idowu: And I remember that Andre Hudson, too, that was in your design.

Tia M. Battle: Yeah.He got an award for being the champion and being the most diverse COO. Because Jose, he spearheaded that between Randy Parker, Angela Zepeda, Ola B.C. Boyle, who’s head of our planning. She’s the lady who was behind all of our products. Randy Ramirez. All of us.

Jose was like, “We need this diversity, and this enriches our company.” And when I told him, I was like, “You know what, I love when I tell people prove me wrong.” And he did. And he did it quickly. He went out there and he was like, “It wasn’t hard to find the best of the best.” He goes, “I just had to convince you to come and work with me.” And I’m like, “And that’s him. That is exactly what he believes in.” And that’s what makes us a really great company as well, too.

Damola Idowu: So, you talked about being able to talk to young kids, being in virtual platforms. You guys actually, disclaimer, we actually are a recipient of one of the grants from Brandon in the CSR. We actually build a 3D video game for future work. Multi-generational black engineers.

I got to Syracuse at 15, double majoring in mechanical engineering and economics. My son got to Carnegie Mellon at 15, studying electrical and computer engineering. And in our game, you actually simulate the automotive industry.

So you could go through automotive pathways because I was making his computer. But what we’re looking at is, so what kind of initiatives? What kind of visions? Because I’ve seen the N Line. I’ve seen how you bring an N Line and even an N Line for the Ioniq 5, which is awesome looking. You’re doing that. I’m seeing how you brought the…

Tia M. Battle: We got the Kona N Line. We got the Tucson N Line. It’s like, what do you want? Because that’s a part of ours, too. And we have the Brian Curtis Motorsports team, too. They help us and they collaborate with us a lot as well. So, we’ve got so much future stuff happening with that. It’s amazing.

Damola Idowu: So we’re looking like, what are the best pathways? For a parent who wants to get their child to be with them successfully working for Hyundai, what would be the best pathway you suggest?

Because we are looking at a vision of a community of over a million people making six figures, especially African Americans. And we look at the automotive industry as a great opportunity for them to be able to do it. You are a living example. Hyundai has a lot of living examples.

Tia M. Battle: Exactly.

Damola Idowu: So, what advice would you give to parents that has a 10-year-old, and how do they get them to be where you are?

Tia M. Battle: It’s just like what you’re doing now. Events like this where you get a chance to meet executives like myself, also, too, the auto shops. We’re all at the auto shops doing the same exact thing. So, we’re recruiting. I am running out of business cards where I’m like, “Here, here, here.” Because we’re also recruiting and Hyundai wants to foster that as well. So, we have that.

LinkedIn—I remember, so my godson, he’s in Illinois now, but he’s originally from Michigan. And I remember when he was 12 years old, he sent me a LinkedIn request and I was like, “You don’t have any jobs, what are you talking about?” We had already fostered that through Jack and Jill.

And my best friend, she had had him do that. And then, likewise, my nephew, I did the same thing. So, it’s so many different avenues. I always tell everyone, network, network, network. And we have so many community ways to do it with Jack and Jill, with our fraternities and sororities as well. Because guess what I did? Like I said, our employee resource groups, that’s exactly why we wanted to start recruiting.

We were like, we get that R-H-R brothers and sisters are really busy. Really, really busy. But the best most people are us. The very employees we are. We’re all sitting around, so that’s why we went out, we started doing it.

I have right now three different mentees. Where one, she just met me in a volunteer event with National Black MBA. She sent me a message on LinkedIn and said, “I am doing a mentorship request.” She spoke to my heart because she basically did not give me a chance to say no. She was kind of like, “Congratulations to you, you are my mentor.” And I was like, “Okay.”

Because I did something to someone else not too long ago. And how did I learn that? My mother joined groups like Jack and Jill, things like that, to teach a child how to network.

I tell people, all the time we do national meetings, my team will never see me. I’m like, “Why aren’t you talking to the other regions? We have six more regions besides us. Go meet more people.”

So, I would say as a parent, go to these different groups and associations. If you’re in a fraternity or sorority, network with them. Me, I’m a member of the National Black MBA. You don’t have to have an MBA to be in National Black MBA. They have events where they’re kind of like, are you interested in getting an MBA? Is this a future career for you? Let’s do a vision.

There’s a vision board planning with my Chicago chapter in a week, and I’m actually going to take my mentee, who does not have a graduate degree yet, but

I’m kind of like, “Is this something you’re interested in?” I’m bringing her with me because my mentee, I’m in business, she’s in tech. I was like, “And you want me to be mentee?” She goes, “I need to know how to network and meet people.” So, I’m taking her to different events, and that’s going to give her an opportunity to meet people.

So, parents, get out there. We have so many opportunities out there for everyone. Join these groups. You will find people like myself. And when we say our door is open, contact us, we mean it. Because we really truly—just like my mentor said, as I climb the ladder, I’m always going to reach back and pull people up there with me. It’s just the way we have to do it. It makes us a richer society. It really truly does. So, you do it. Heck, that’s the reason I got to school on a full scholarship. I did it academically. That was my mom doing research and networking with all the parents.

Damola Idowu: That’s what I did for my son.

Tia M. Battle:  I was a total nerd, and she was like, “Michigan, Michigan State. They both gave you full rides, which you want?” And I’m like, “Well, two hours versus 20 minutes. I’m going to go over there.” I was like, “I’ll see you later.”

And I’m like, she did it through networking. She literally was like, you sent your child to school, what did you do? She had me taking SAT prep when I was in seventh grade. I didn’t know half that test, but she did it to prepare me so by the time it really counted, I was like, this is going to be fine.

And my mom just started networking. Networking with other parents. Going to events that she would find people and say, you know what, my child is interested in doing what you want to do. And then she encouraged me to do the same. And so, I say do that. Go to all the events. You’re an engineer. You got NSBE. You have, I think it’s Detroit NSBE.

There’s Detroit Young Leaders. There’s a bunch of different groups that you can go out there and they have all these social events, you can meet everybody. “Hey, I have my child, could you come talk to them? Come talk to their school?” I do it all the time.

Damola Idowu: So, when we’re trying to build, and what you guys have been able to support us with, and we’re hoping for more support is, build that in a gamified environment so that now people could do that online. A safe online…

Tia M. Battle: Like a metaverse?

Damola Idowu: Yes, afrofuturistic metaverse.

Tia M. Battle: Well, it’s a lot easier too, because then you can have people from California.

Damola Idowu: That’s what we’re doing. So, that’s why I’m talking with Brad and I’m talking with you about, because what I didn’t know was the extent that you had the infrastructure to support it.

We’ve actually built that at Carnegie Mellon with the Heinz School of Public Policy where you have heroes, superheroes, and sidekicks so that the kids, like what you’re talking about, are sidekicks. You are a superhero that’s already there and then you have to help people go on their journey and your career is your journey.

Tia M. Battle: You have people here who can help arrange it, with Michelle Tinson. The reason I was talking to those students in Florida was because NPR reached out to me and I’m like, “I’ll make time.”  That is what I live for. You’ll rarely find someone who will tell you no. Rarely.

Damola Idowu: No, that’s what we’re looking for.

Tia M. Battle: I love seeing their little faces.

Damola Idowu: Yes, and it’s so awesome and my life, for me personally, has been enriched. I was working with some kids at two schools this week.

Last week I was in a low-income neighborhood in Pittsburgh, working with the University of Pittsburgh and seeing the hope. So I saw a young girl write, I want to be a nurse, and I’m like, why? Because she was like, I want to save lives. And it just warmed me what they want to do.

Tia M. Battle: Now see, my nephew, he’s a nurse here in Michigan. And that’s the thing. Our executives do it all the time. So I remember I have…

Damola Idowu: And I know you guys sponsor a lot of health initiatives, too.

Tia M. Battle: Really do. And I even tell people now, I’m like, “My health care is good. It pays for my acupuncture, my therapist.”

Damola Idowu: Yes. We have to have our therapist. Yes. For our folks, we need that.

Tia M. Battle: I could get upset with Jose, but I can’t tell Jose that. I’ve got to go talk to my therapist.

Damola Idowu: You’ve got to talk to your therapist.

Tia M. Battle: Let me talk it out. Let me talk it out. Like, okay, I guess he was right. I ain’t going to tell him that though.  And that’s the thing. It’s all these individuals who will talk to everyone and seeing these kids and meeting everyone and just being able to communicate, even during COVID.

Damola Idowu: Yes.

Tia M. Battle: Our executives…So when I was Women in Hyundai’s chair, I would do interviews with various executives. We would ask the same questions: How’d you get where you want to get? How’d you get where you want to be? What’s your personal brand? How’d you build on it?

So we had Claudia Marquez. We had Ola B.C. Boyle. We had all these people and they do it all the time. Brandon Ramirez was doing that with the Amigos Unidos Young Leaders.

We have had Frankie Perez, one of our executives, do an interview. Randy Parker did an interview with everyone and he did it virtually so all the employees, we can ask him questions: How’d you get from TCU basketball with those short shorts, make your way up to Seattle. We can all do it.

And then we can do it virtually. And it encourages people. And I mean, that’s the thing. It’s like, you can do this because that gives everybody hope and they can really, truly do whatever they put their mind to, they really can.

Damola Idowu: So, in conclusion, how can a person start on their Hyundai journey?

Tia M. Battle: The way I would say to start on your Hyundai journey is number one, you’ve got to love cars. You’ve got to love them. And yes, while I’m standing in front of a sign that says Hyundai, I say cars. Not just to love Hyundai, you’ve got to love cars.

Then the next thing you have to do is you have to love the Hyundai culture, the collaboration, the leadership. You’ve got to want to be a part of that team because the way we do things, our collaboration is huge if you are going to be in a silo and by yourself, you will not work with us.

So you have to be willing to do network with us. Love cars, want to be a part of that culture, and then also, don’t take no for an answer. Go where we are. Walk into a dealership and just introduce yourself. How do you contribute down there? Ask questions. You are here at Hatchie. Come make an appointment. John Robb is, he may have had to go back to work, but John Robb, he’s like, “Come on in. Have a good time.” Me, I took my team down to the Montgomery plant because they had never seen cars…

Damola Idowu: And I want to be able to go down to the Montgomery plant and see a factory.

Tia M. Battle: They have personal tours. My team was like, “Oh my gosh, what’s going on?” When we came out, they had lined up all little Santa Fe so we could see them crawl through and everything.

So go where we are, don’t be afraid to ask questions. And when you are on, that’s how you start your Hyundai journey. Because then people are going to get to know who you are. They’re going to get to know who you are and they’re going to go, “You know what, Tia? I saw her. She was at Hatchie.” And now I have this opportunity.

Right now, I just opened up a position where I’m looking for—It’s kind of like how we would have an intern, but I need a sales associate. I am purposely out there looking for that recent college grad where I’m like, okay, I want you to come in. I want you to be our analyst, start.

When you’re our analyst, that’s when we’re going to be training you to go out into the field. So we’re posting all these jobs online right now. We’re hiring, but please tell a friend. I mean, seriously. I am looking for a sales associate. I’m looking for two district sales managers. I am looking for…I just filled my market rep development role.

But we are all hiring across the country when other companies are laying people off, that’s not us at Hyundai because we’re growing. So wherever you want to be, we have a job opening. And that leads me to my final thing on your Hyundai journey is you’ve got to leave home.

I went from a girl here in Michigan. My first job at the other company down the street, they put me in New York City. I went from a dorm room to New York City. Then they moved me to California. Then another company found me, and moved me be back here in the Midwest to Chicago. Then I went back out to California again. I’ve moved around to get to where I wanted to be.

So I always tell people, sometimes you’re going to have to take a role that might be lateral just so you gain that knowledge from it, and then I can keep you going in the next phase.

So, love cars, be a part of our culture, understand what our culture is, and be ready to collaborate with us. You’ve got to be willing to kind of network. Go out there where everything is so you can learn everything you need to learn about Hyundai. Go into dealerships, go into our facilities, and then just be normal. And that’s all you’ve got to do.

Damola Idowu: Thank you so very much

Video of the Tia Battle Interview.