On the Rise: Melissa Fairman
Senior manager human resources | Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels | Age: 35
What was your first job in the industry?
I’ve worked in human resources for over 10 years in a variety of industries from banking to manufacturing and distribution. My role at Mickey Thompson is the first position I’ve had in the tire industry. I believe that my diverse background has been critical to helping me develop strong people strategies at Mickey Thompson.
What attracted you to the industry?
The performance aftermarket is not your typical business environment. It is informal, fun, and filled with passionate, adrenaline-fueled enthusiasts. Mickey Thompson has a long legacy of innovation in the performance aftermarket, and every day I work with people who are passionate about what they do and bring that passion to work. I believe that highlighting the exciting aspects of the aftermarket industry helps the entire industry attract new people to what is a great field.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
The first is being the primary HR person for an entire subsidiary. People look to me for quick answers that go far beyond the standard HR questions. Sometimes I have the answer, and other times, I must work closely with my peers to develop a solution that is fair for both the company and our people. It is truly a balancing act between the needs of the business and employees. The other challenge is continuing education. In the HR space, I must know my own discipline, but my role also requires that I understand the business in total or at least know enough to ask more questions.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
The biggest influence on my career was an HR director who taught me how to think both strategically and tactically. She taught me that it is not enough to have great ideas. Everyone has them. You must also be comfortable diving into the everyday — rolling up your sleeves and helping your teammates. She was respectful of all people at all levels and from all backgrounds, and that skill helped her successfully implement initiatives across the organization.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
Developing and implementing a strategic plan that outlines how the HR team can enhance and support the employee experience at Mickey Thompson. Although we are in the beginning phases of implementation, the development of this strategy was a months-long process that involved meeting with employees at all levels and being told I was completely off-base, a lot! Kidding aside, the people at Mickey Thompson helped me to understand our long history and how the HR team can support the organization as we position ourselves for more success and growth.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Twenty years is a long time. The optimist in me hopes that I will be getting ready for retirement!
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
Attracting young people to work in the performance aftermarket. We are a niche industry filled with performance enthusiasts but we still need accountants, HR people, and other typical employees. We must build a value proposition for employees who may not necessarily share the performance-enthusiast passion for racing.
How do you encourage others to enter the industry?
Performance aftermarket is fun! This industry is full of people who love what they do and care deeply about their jobs.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
I love going to the Cleveland Art Museum in the winter and the Botanical Gardens in the summer. It’s a great way to get out of the house, explore the city, and meet new people.
What keeps you up at night?
Nothing. I tend to fall asleep easily knowing that staying awake and stressing out won’t help me solve anything the next day.
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I’m a lifelong musician. I started violin at the age of 8 and have played off and on ever since then. It’s my way of escaping the world.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Anything on HGTV. I am completely addicted. There is nothing better than a Fixer Upper marathon with Chip and Joanna Gaines!
What’s your favorite food?
A steak grilled to perfection at medium-rare.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Abraham Lincoln. I recently finished the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin and I would love to sit down and talk with Lincoln about his leadership style throughout the Civil War. He was a very humble leader who took an unconventional approach to leading in very tumultuous times.
If we took your cell phone away and said it would cost you $1,000 to get it back, how long would you survive until you paid the ransom?
I’d like to say it would take a day or even a week but I’m too honest, I would pay the ransom in an hour. Two tops.