Kathryn Marinello, B.S.’78

Driven to Succeed

By Jim Sciancalepore, M.A.’93
Kathryn Marinello
Kathryn Marinello loves cars.

“They’re incredibly personal,” she explained. “That’s what makes them cool.”

In fact, Marinello’s first big purchase was a Volkswagen Bug that cost her $500, which she had earned by working hourly jobs as a teenager. She still remembers the car with great affection. “I had that car a long time,” she said with a laugh.

Marinello later drove that same VW Bug to UAlbany, where she formed the foundation for a highly successful career in banking, business services, vehicle leasing and technology – a foundation that would one day place her in the driver’s seat at The Hertz Corporation, one of the largest vehicle-rental companies in the world.

Marinello was appointed president and chief executive officer of the global rental giant in January 2017. No. 296 on the Fortune 500 list, Hertz has approximately 9,700 locations worldwide staffed by over 40,000 employees – and a fleet of more than 600,000 vehicles.

She is in rare company: Marinello is one of only 32 women currently at the helm of a Fortune 500 company. Though this number is at a historic high, Marinello acknowledged the slow pace of change relative to leadership opportunities for women.

Marinello and her team at Hertz

Marinello is encouraged by the quality of female leadership that she sees at other major companies, and she is proud to be one of the women to take on such a role. “We can make a difference and inspire other women,” she said.

The CEO opportunity initially came to Marinello through Carl Icahn, the prominent Wall Street investor and Hertz’s leading shareholder. Icahn thought that Marinello’s leadership experience at companies such as General Electric, Ares Management LLC and Ceridian Corporation, and as a board member at General Motors – coupled with her background in analytics, consumer marketing and fleet logistics – would make her a strong candidate to lead a 21st-century vehicle-rental company. As a lifelong fan of cars, Marinello leapt at the chance to lead what she considers “a phenomenal brand – one of the best-known companies in the world.”

The nearly 100-year-old Hertz brand is facing some challenges these days. The vehicle-rental industry as a whole is grappling with changing economics, as rising fleet costs are making profitability more difficult to achieve for rental companies. At the same time, the emerging rideshare industry, including services such as Uber and Lyft, is giving consumers new alternatives to renting a car.

Marinello understands that a customer-first, mobility-first strategic focus is key to overcoming challenges and driving preference in the rental car industry – and, under her leadership, Hertz is already taking steps to achieve these goals. The company is upgrading its entire fleet of vehicles by make, model and trim package, while transforming its IT infrastructure. Marinello is also overseeing an effort to enhance the Hertz brand strategy, while strengthening the profiles for sister brands Dollar and Thrifty.

Finally, the company is improving the customer experience through service initiatives like the rollout of Hertz Ultimate Choice, a policy change that enables customers to choose their own cars at pickup (versus generically selecting a car class such as “full size”). “It’s a win-win,” explained Marinello. “Our customers are happier, and it’s easier and more efficient for our employees.”


Marinello is passionate about building and sustaining a strong employee-retention and satisfaction program – such as offering stronger career paths and modernizing facilities and work environments. “If you have happy employees, they’re going to do their jobs better and provide a better customer experience,” she explained.

Marinello enjoys meeting and speaking with employees at Hertz’s different locations. “Our people work incredibly hard,” she noted. “I value everyone equally – from the people who wash and detail cars to our vice presidents – because they all play an important role.”

The former UAlbany psychology major is keenly aware of people’s perceptions and motivations, and she credits her alma mater with fostering these skills. Though she also has an M.B.A. from Hofstra University, Marinello noted, “I use my UAlbany psychology degree every day!”

When asked to make her own Hertz Ultimate Choice (as in, “What car would you drive if you could drive any car?”), the auto aficionado and mother of three did not hesitate to give an answer.

“It would be a Chevy Stingray,” said Marinello, referring to the iconic Corvette model – which she currently owns. “I’m a Chevy girl and proud of it!”