My Enterprise Rent-A-Car career: from trainee to vice president

Bridget Long has tips for graduates who want a management career, and she knows what she's taking about. She started at Enterprise as a trainee manager and is now a vice president.
Honestly, I think working in different cultures is one of the reasons I’ve reached my current position in just 15 years.

Before I joined Enterprise, I have to admit that I didn’t really have a significant interest in cars. I chose a bachelors degree in American studies as I wanted a wideranging education that touched on every discipline of the arts and humanities. I also did part-time work at an investment banking crisis management firm throughout my degree. I’d intended to do a postgraduate law degree and a masters in social work but thought I would first do something I had always wanted to do, so I spent a year volunteering in a Belizean high school. After this I realised that I wasn’t quite ready for the commitment and cost of a postgraduate course and it was then that I first came across Enterprise Rent-A-Cars’ management training programme.

Driving progress

Almost everybody at Enterprise starts as a graduate management trainee and learns the day-to-day running of the customerfacing side of the organisation before having the opportunity to specialise in something else, such as human resources or finance. Even the CEO, Pamela Nicholson, started out as a management trainee. I joined the organisation partly because these opportunities for progression were available. In some ways the management training programme was similar to my degree. It provided me with exposure into a broader range of business areas than a business degree could have, as I was involved in customer service, logistics, sales and marketing, and business management. As I was still working out what I wanted to do, this diversity of experience and the opportunity to almost run my own business with someone else’s money attracted me.

Joining the organisation as a management trainee was not too difficult a transition for me, and I believe the experience would be broadly similar for trainees in the UK today. I had been working in part-time jobs since I was 15 years old and was confident in my work ethic and soft skills such as multitasking and communication – skills and qualities that I might not necessarily have developed just through university. My time in an investment banking crisis management firm provided me with some exposure to business and reaffirmed to me that I could adapt my knowledge to a different environment.

Cultural adaptation

My career has taken me to Chicago, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco and now to London. I joke that I am trying to live in all the world’s best cities, and Londoners often tell me that I can stop now. Every location has brought with it new challenges and the opportunity to see people’s new and different perspectives. Each role that I’ve had has been pivotal in my development.

Enterprise acquired Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental in 2007. In 2009 I was responsible for integrating Alamo’s location at Miami International Airport into Enterprise. This was a significant learning experience for me. Up until this point I had taken for granted how distinct different companies’ cultures could be and I wasn’t expecting to not have all the answers straight away. It was quite humbling. I had to take a step back and think about how I was representing myself and what was important to the team. I then had to use this to see how I could build trust with this new team. I still keep in touch with many of the people I met in Miami. Each new experience like this has given me another tool for my toolbox. For example, since moving to London I’ve learned new ways to adapt my communication and negotiation style slightly to suit a different culture. Honestly, I think this exposure to different cultures is one of the reasons I’ve progressed relatively quickly and have reached my current position in just 15 years.

People power

Throughout my career there has always been a huge focus on mentoring, both formally and informally. As the company hires graduates regularly and because almost everyone has started out in the same position, there is always somebody willing to help you. Personally and professionally, my own mentors have encouraged me, helped me learn from my failures and have been a support network. I feel that, because I received this help from people when I was starting out, I have a responsibility to help out new employees however I can. I may not have gone into social work as I had initially planned, but I am still helping people in my own way.

Developing destinations

Now as general manager I oversee all operations in the south-east England/London area. This includes making sure that around 900 employees are motivated and are on the same page, assisting with new vehicle acquisitions, overseeing a real estate portfolio and thinking about how we can grow the business. My desire to gain exposure to a wide range of business areas has certainly paid off, and I’m still learning new things.

Advice for graduates

I’d advise graduates thinking about management to be enthusiastic, zealous for knowledge, and open to listening and learning from the people they work with. I am very grateful that Enterprise gave me the opportunity to be all of these things. When I first started I wasn’t certain what I wanted to be but by having an open mind and learning from my mistakes I have grown to become someone I didn’t know I wanted to be.

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