A Conversation with Porsche's Jennifer Nicole Malacarne
We sit down with the manager of the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles.
The Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles recently celebrated its third anniversary, and we were invited to the party. While there, we met with the Center's leading lady and manager, Jennifer Nicole Malacarne, to discuss her journey from cross-country road rallies to running one of the coolest places in Southern California.
Automobile: So, you started with a Honda Prelude. How did driving that car as a teenager lead to you becoming a Porsche aficionado?
Jennifer Nicole Malacarne: I bought my Honda Prelude before I even had a driver license, at the age of 15. In my neighborhood, I was the only girl with a sports car among all these guys that were driving around in lowered or lifted trucks. The guys had their driver's licenses for a couple of years and more driving experience. As a female, when you grow up surrounded by guys, you have to beat them at everything. Otherwise, they assume that you're not the real deal.
With a sports car, which had more horsepower, I became the expert and quickly discovered that guys in souped-up trucks couldn't beat a Honda Prelude. Soon after, I joined a car club, attended car shows, and learned more about cars.
Being one of the few females in the car community opened more doors for me and I accepted every opportunity that came my way. I sort of fell into Porsche and 20 years later, I landed my dream job at the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles. This is not just a job; it is my life and a lifestyle that I find myself fully immersed in.
When did you join the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles team?
Before it was ever announced that a Porsche Experience Center was going to open in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to meet a few people from Porsche at automotive events. I felt that Porsche would be a good brand to work for and started to ask if there was anything I could do at the company. We had these conversations for about two years and finally, in 2014, I was at a race in Montreal and I got a call from Porsche—they were hiring. They brought me on as the events and sales marketing manager, and in 2016 I got the nod to manage the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles.
Why did you pursue Porsche and not another car brand?
Prior to making the move to Porsche, I had been working at an agency for top automotive aftermarket brands including Recaro, Brembo, and Pirelli. At that time, I was trying to figure out where I wanted to take my career next. Knowing I had already worked for the best in aftermarket, I set my sights on joining an OEM brand and considered moving outside of California. When I zeroed in on a brand that I would want to be associated with, or maybe the car my future husband would drive, I arrived at Porsche.
Porsche is classy, innovative, and built on integrity. It is a brand with a strong heritage and traditional values. To that end, Porsche is a brand that says something about who I am as a person.
At one point, your career was heading toward fashion design. Do you find that a correlation between fashion and cars?
When I was growing up, my core interests were sports, music, cars, and fashion. I thought if I could become a fashion designer it would afford me all the beautiful cars in the world, including a Porsche 918 Spyder. I was consumed by fashion, but then all these cool opportunities such as cross-country road rallies and creative marketing for automotive brands came knocking on the door.
My career took a detour from fashion to cars, and I found a brand that is a blend of both. Like fashion, Porsche is a lifestyle and I'm not disappointed that my career went down this road. Automotive had always been my calling and in many regards, I'm doing a little bit of everything I thought I would do, only the focus is on cars. I still don't have a 918 Spyder parked in my garage, but that being said, a career in automotive has afforded me other sports cars that have put big smiles on my face.
Of the eight cross-country rallies you've done, which one was the most challenging?
All of them were challenging, however, one year I drove alone—that experience really tested my skills as a driver. The cross-country rallies I ran involved a group of 100 to 150 people, including friends, CEOs of companies, and celebrities, who were driving up to 3,500 miles in six days. Usually during these rallies, you had one or more co-pilots to rotate into the driver seat. In 2007, I drove without a co-pilot from Montreal to Key West and by the time I made it to Florida, I was beyond exhausted.
I ended up winning the driver of the year award and that was such a huge deal for me because of who I was competing against. The trophy sits at my home office and every time I see it, I'm reminded of that young girl who finished on her own.
How involved were you in the ideation and opening of the Porsche Experience Center in L.A.?
I had the privilege of seeing PEC L.A. built from start to finish on a piece of land that was previously a golf course. Everything from the art on the walls to the naming conventions of the conference rooms were a part of a presentation that I worked on with a small team of people. We worked on the branding together, and our goal was to design a place that felt like you were walking into your living room. We didn't want PEC L.A. to look like a dealership. To be able to use my design abilities to create the Speedster Café, Restaurant 917, and curate the cars featured in the gallery was not only cool, but a dream come true.
Ultimately, we wanted to make PEC L.A. feel like a second home for Porsche enthusiasts, because if California were its own country, it would be the fifth-largest market for Porsche worldwide.
What's the one accomplishment you're most proud of during your time at PEC L.A.?
When I returned to L.A. from Atlanta to open the Center, myself and the operations manager were tasked with hiring 100 people in three months. Trying to find the right talent who could be great ambassadors of the brand was not easy by any means. We built a team that exudes a passion for Porsche and anyone who walks through our doors will see that our employees are a direct reflection of the brand. It is an accomplishment I am very proud of.
Some might not expect to see a woman managing PEC L.A. How important is it that a woman is excelling in this role?
There are a lot of people who come in and probably don't expect to see a vibrant, young, and smiling woman. With the exception of one location, Porsche Experience Centers worldwide are managed by women. When you look at what we do at PEC, we are an events company that involves both driving and dining. I think it is beneficial to have women in leading roles, as women are great at multitasking and more nurturing.
There is a recurring car meet at PEC L.A. called "Morning Shift." How did it start and what's it all about?
Morning Shift is a monthly car meet that we host at PEC L.A. one Saturday a month for the Porsche community. It is like a cars and coffee, only on a larger scale and with a rotating theme. Rather than opening our gates at 6:00 a.m. like most car shows, we open at 8:00 a.m. because not everyone likes to wake up early on Saturdays.
Is PEC L.A. a "members-only" club?
Absolutely not. You don't have to own a Porsche and you don't have to buy one just because you came here. The car community in general is welcome at PEC L.A. Everyone is invited to have a cup of coffee or tea at Morning Shift and we highly recommend that they check out the cars in our gallery. We truly care about all of our first-time visitors and customers, whether they drive a Porsche or not.
We heard you have a 1963 Porsche 356 parked in your garage and that Rod Emory was involved.
In 2008, I had a photo of me taken inside a Speedster and we staged it to make it look like I was driving. I sent the photo to my mom and told her this was my dream car and that one day, I would be driving one for real. Fast forward to 2014, I got hired by Porsche and four years later, I had the money to buy my dream car.
My good friend Rod Emory knew I was looking for a 356 and he found one in Santa Cruz that was sitting on 14-year-old tires. After Rennsport Reunion VI, we flatbedded the car to Rod's garage for restoration, and both of our dads got involved, which was really special. And because I work for Porsche, I told Rod that I didn't want my 356 to be modified like John Oates's Emory Outlaw, I wanted a super classy look for my 356. Interestingly, the original seatbelts that were in John Oates's 356 are actually in my car.
When you're not making things happen at PEC L.A. or taking your 356 for a cruise, what other hobbies are you devoted to?
Last year, I got into self-defense and I've been training in Krav Maga. I take night classes and try to go at least twice if not three times a week. I earned my yellow belt a few months ago and am working toward my black belt. Self-defense is empowering and a good tool for women to have in their back pocket. I probably look a bit unassuming, so it's definitely good for me.
Before we wrap it up, tell us what you think is the coolest thing about the Porsche community.
If you go to a Porsche gathering, an owner of a million-dollar 918 Spyder will park next to a 914 project car that someone bought at a salvage yard and there's no difference in the people. They come together for a common purpose, and Porsche has a such a great way of telling that story. Rennsport Reunion at Laguna Seca Raceway, which drew a crowd of more than 81,000 in 2018, is the perfect example.
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