Female Leadership: Julia Larsen-Disney
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Name: Julia Larsen-Disney
Title: Leadership Acquisition and Advisory, China, Mobility at Mercuri Urval

How long have you been in that role?

During the past 10 years I have been involved within the mobility sector within APAC in several roles. I joined my current organisation, Mercuri Urval,  a year ago and am now leading the China team with a strong focus on automotive, moving into e-mobility and autonomous driving.      

What made you choose the mobility world for your career?

It was never a conscious career choice. During my 14 years in the APAC region, each position I held led me closer to the automotive industry (it must be my German roots). This has helped me develop sector expertise and a regional network, leading to further specialisation.

What do you love most about your job?

Advising mobility companies when it comes to selecting and developing the right leader is a huge challenge and responsibility, considering the pace of technological advancement and competitive pressures within. From a leadership advisory perspective, diversity and inclusion topics are more than ever relevant within the mobility industry. Being part of sector groups, industry associations, keeping up to date with innovation and trends, globally, is crucial for valid advice. I love the dynamism and energy within automotive, melting tradition with innovation, having developed a passion for the mobility industry more than for any other sector. ‘Mobility’ connects many other industries through energy transition, connectivity on the move and consumer behaviour/lifestyle changes; people and culture are subsequently evolving, which is an exciting part of my job.

Who is your inspiration when it comes to Female Empowerment? Is there any particular female leader you would like to mention?

Amelia Earhart comes to my mind as someone who embodies female empowerment within mobility. Not just for overcoming fear, taking risks and living passion, but also as an illustration for how to position yourself notably, differentiating, even pioneering.

Do you have specific recommendations for a female leader moving to China?

China offers unique opportunities for exciting career development; however, the learning curve is quite steep in this fast-paced business environment. Connections are key and a strong support network is very helpful, for both business and leisure. China’s major cities host many associations and networking groups, some of them especially targeting women in business.

Within our company we have been creating opportunities for female leaders to meet as part of a global ‘female leader’ project for a client within the automotive industry. As part of this initiative, I connect female colleagues, clients and talents from Asia, Europe and the Americas to discuss global business and interesting opportunities.

Are there any specific tips you’d like to give to other women in mobility?

Coming back to Amelia Earhart, her pioneering spirit brought her the visibility that she wouldn’t have obtained by simply following others or playing catch-up. I see many women here in Asia stepping out of the crowd and setting new standards within their fields of new mobility, finding their own area to excel, so therefore the message is simple, be prepared to stand out and lead.

Where do you currently live?

I have lived in many countries and cities but for the last 8 years have called Shanghai, East China, home.

Which car do you drive (if any)?

I mostly use DiDi (Uber) and other Chinese car hire apps as a mobile transportation platform (the choice of cars is wide). Over the years I have owned many different cars but do not drive in China.

Longest drive with an EV?

Most trips in Shanghai are in EV (or hybrid), with half of the world’s EV cars having been sold in China last year. So, to answer the question probably 2-3 hours within China.

Top location on your bucket-list?

I have always enjoyed Southeast Asia travels and have many locations in that region on the list to visit or revisit, one of the countries where I’ve never been is Cambodia. Siem Reap looks fascinating.

Driver or Co-Pilot?

Co-Pilot or passenger in Asia, driver as soon as I get to Europe. I love the freedom of driving in my home country.

Bike or E-Bike?

I love the flexibility of bike apps in the city, and e-bikes and e-scooters are great for longer journeys.

Who would you like to have as your next passenger for a long-distance trip in an EV?

It’s a bit like asking who I would have for dinner, but perhaps cruising with Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Mildred Dresselhaus would make for an interesting conversation during the trip discussing the past, present and future of EV.

Formula 1 or Formula E?

Formula E, it’s the future.

Amsterdam-based Mariska Matadin heads an impressive line up of female leaders from Shanghai to Munich and from Paris to the US in our MOTION Magazine Edition Two. The team at MOTION Magazine talked to these amazing women and was impressed by their willingness to open up about what motivates them personally. If the global transformation in mobility, logistics and energy has any chance of success, then change will be down to decisions made, leadership defined and power executed -  by women.

Read more about the other participating female leaders and Mariska’s introduction here.