On the Rise: Nicole Swallow

Oct. 31, 2023

Nicole Swallow

Raw material inventory manager | Sumitomo Rubber USA LLC | Buffalo, N.Y. | Age: 37

What was your first job in the industry?

When it comes to the automotive industry, my first job was in high school helping out at a vinyl graphics shop making decals for race cars. My first job in the tire industry was working full time at Pep Boys as a sales associate while also attending college full time.

What attracted you to the industry?

I grew up in a home without any cars — my Mom and stepdad chose not to drive. But, my Dad was a car and motorcycle mechanic and enthusiast. So, while I would say I was originally drawn to what I didn’t have, it also gave me something to connect with my dad.

While those are the things that attracted me to the industry, I think my path getting me there is also significant. I originally chose to major in cosmetology. While taking a tour of the technical school, they gave us a tour of all the trades they offered and I quickly realized that I enjoyed getting my hair done and not actually doing hair, and I was immediately drawn to the automotive technology program and luckily was able to drop cosmetology and joined the automotive program and focused on collision repair.

Then I went on to work at Pep Boys while studying political science and public administration. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I was a legislative aide for the New York State Assembly for a few years. As a political appointee, my job was on the line every two years. When the Assemblyman I worked for decided to run for a different office, we knew he would win but did not know if he would have any appointed positions to fill. Jack Macey at West Herr Automotive Group knew my background and interest in the automotive industry and offered me a purchasing position as a parts specialist in the accessories division, which I accepted. Six years later, one of our technicians Larry Farinelli left to build tires at Sumitomo and saw a posting for an associate buyer position and encouraged me to apply.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

The challenges within the supply chain of raw materials were significantly impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The disruption caused by lockdowns, travel restrictions and workforce shortages created unprecedented hurdles, requiring us to quickly adapt our sourcing strategies and logistics to ensure a consistent flow of raw materials.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

I have been fortunate to have several influences throughout my career.

The guidance of Adam Gorczyca, general manager of purchasing at Sumitomo Rubber USA, has consistently emphasized the power of methodical problem-solving, leading me to approach challenges with clarity and confidence.

The mentorship of Hiroki Horimoto, manager of Americas purchasing at Sumitomo Rubber North America Inc. has been invaluable for demonstrating the importance of well-structured processes and critical thinking.

I cherish the bond I shared in my 20s with my former coworker, Bob Grunthaner, who retired from West Herr Automotive Group. Our teamwork was not only professionally rewarding but he also served as a “work” father figure, guiding and supporting me in both my career and life journey.

What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?

My proudest accomplishment in the industry so far is professional growth. I joined Sumitomo as an associate buyer, and then moved up to buyer, then senior buyer and now raw materials inventory manager.

Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your workday?

In my current role, I analyze age, stock level and planned usage of raw material inventory. My day involves a mix of brainstorming, problem-solving and ensuring our inventory can support the production plan while also working closely with various departments to support development projects.

What's been the biggest surprise of your current job?

How important each step is in orchestrating the final product. Each one of us plays an important part in delivering a quality product.

Tell us about your family.

My little family consists of my fiancée Garrett and our dog Capo.

If you could wake up tomorrow with one new skill, what would you choose?

Being an absolute Microsoft Excel wizard would be pretty amazing.

In a single word, how would your friends describe you?


If you could switch jobs for a day, what job/who would you choose to swap with, and why?

I would love to swap with an event planner. I think that the skills I have in my current career would be transferable and that I would find joy in cultivating experiences from start to finish for the client.

What's the biggest issue facing the tire industry?

The biggest issue facing the industry today is being prepared and navigating the increasing speed of the ever-changing landscape.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Mayor of the City of Buffalo.

What goal did you set for yourself this year? Are you on track to reach it?

My goal this year was to obtain this position, which I have done. Now the second part of the goal is to become even more familiar with the responsibilities that come along with this role and continuously improve upon them.

What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?

If I knew what I would be doing 20 years from now, I would be putting a ceiling on my growth. I hope whatever I am doing I continue to push myself to provide the best results that are to be expected.