During her sophomore year studying chemical engineering and chemistry at Virginia Tech, Allison Athey took on an internship with Volvo Powertrain in Hagerstown, Md. When she saw Volvo building the Class 8 truck engines, she was hooked.
“I thought it was the coolest thing,” Athey said. “I called them the ‘big engines,’ and I just had to work there.”
Athey was offered an internship with Volvo in 2008 and worked there until she graduated college. When she went out to look for a full-time job, she knew Volvo was where she wanted to be.
Athey, who also earned a master’s degree in business administration from Hood College, landed her first official job at Volvo as a powertrain engineer. For roughly five years while Athey worked on getting her master’s in business at night, she ran Volvo’s chemistry lab, where engineers test various ways to break powertrain components. When she finished her master’s program, she began looking for new opportunities within Volvo.
Volvo Trucks’ marketing department had an opening, and even though Athey didn’t know much about marketing, she went for it. She got the job, became the product marketing manager in 2015 for transmissions, and relocated to North Carolina.
After transmissions, Athey did a short stint in Sweden for six months in 2018 at Volvo Trucks International to continue to expand her knowledge of the organization. When she returned home from Europe, she became the product marketing manager for Volvo’s VNL long-haul truck, which is the most popular model Volvo sells.
Athey is also a member of the Women In Trucking Association, and as an allied member of the American Trucking Associations, Volvo sponsors the America’s Road Team.
Athey has officially worked at Volvo for the last 10 years—12 years total counting her internship at Volvo Powertrain. She also has her Class A commercial driver’s license, which she said has made a huge difference in her current role.
“I joke and say I drove more miles in a truck last year than in a car,” she quipped. “I do it to understand what the trucks do and what the drivers are experiencing. I can’t emphasize it enough for someone in a position like me. To really understand something hands on makes all the difference in the world.”
Over the course of her career, one of the most notable challenges Athey had to overcome was making the move to marketing from engineering.
“If you look at what an engineer typically is and the work they are doing, it’s more closed off,” she said. “I think I talk too much to be an engineer to begin with. I think marketing suits my personality a little better.”
“It was a big change of mindset,” Athey added. “I went from just looking at the powertrains to looking at the truck holistically and getting a bigger view of what our customers are doing. That was a massive change for me, but a really good one, because I love it.”
During that transitional phase, Athey relied on her network and learning all she could from Volvo’s marketing team. It also took a lot of long hours, many weekends, and learning day-in and day-out what was needed to get the job done.
Athey explained that some of her most notable highlights at Volvo include launching the new VNL and VNR models back in 2017. She added that is she proud of the various features that she helped launch and bring to market.
“The coolest one for me was back in 2017, when I was the transmission manager at the time. We brought in the all-new I-Shift transmission to market. It shifted so much more smoothly than ever before,” Athey added.
Then, in 2019, Volvo launched its next-generation Active Driver Assist. Athey was also involved in bringing that project, which improved the company’s forward-collision mitigation technology, to market.
“Anytime one of those features is on a truck, that to me, is the coolest thing,” she explained. “I can look at it and say, ‘Wow, I was personally involved in this, and that is always a good feeling—not only for me, but knowing that our customers are getting a better product and the product that they need.”