As vice president of operations for Flexe Inc., Megan Evert’s job is to understand space and logistics.
The Seattle company connects warehouse operators with businesses in need of storage. Evert’s job is to manage and advance “continual improvement” of Flexe’s operations, according to Flexe’s website. Dubbed in some media reports as the “AirBnB of warehousing,” Flexe oversees a network of more than 1,000 warehouses that are connected through an online platform that allows the logistics company to offer on-demand warehousing services to customers, making it possible for them to dynamically manage their supply chains and warehousing-capacity needs.
Prior to joining Flexe, Evert was in charge of operations for Chef’n, a Seattle housewares company, where she was responsible for purchasing and managing all inventory needs. Evert, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Business, also worked previously as a business analyst for retail giant Target. As part of the latest Daring Woman interview, Evert shares some insights about her career successes and challenges, her mentors and views on leadership.
Tell us about the high point of your career. What do you love about your work? Describe your proudest moment.
High point of my career: I’m currently in a high point of my career. As VP of operations at Flexe, I get to help individuals advance their careers and achieve their personal goals. There is such a feeling of satisfaction when you see someone develop new skills, put their strengths into action and then succeed as part of a team in working together. I believe that if we can continue to work in tandem, toward a common goal, this high point will continue for a long time.
What I love most about my work: I'm a problem-solver. I love puzzles, and logistics is one giant puzzle. At Flexe, I love working with a range of successful companies — from high-growth startups to Fortune 1000 brands. Getting physical goods to the right place at the right time is a universal challenge for companies of all sizes, and I love helping our customers tackle that.
Proudest moment: I have a track record of creating alignment between sales and operations at every organization [where] I’ve worked. I’m most proud of that. I have a reputation as someone who believes in empowering and aligning the strengths of these teams. I see too many organizations lose momentum and energy because of a lack of trust and appreciation of how important cross-functional alignment is. I believe every employee should feel like they are an extension of the sales team, and I encourage my team to find ways to use process and discipline to unlock revenue and growth, not block it.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in your industry? How have you addressed them?
Logistics, like many industries, is male-dominated. I feel supported on the leadership team at Flexe, but more often than not, I am the only woman in the room in critical meetings with clients and providers and am consistently underestimated. Even though I have more than 15 years of experience in retail and logistics, I was recently asked at an on-site meeting if I’d ever even been in a warehouse. I think he even called me “ma’am.” Polite, but I'm certain this same question would not have been asked to a male VP of operations.
It can be frustrating, but the only antidote to these assumptions is having solutions and results that speak for themselves. I cannot control what others think about me, so I focus on staying one step ahead, being prepared and making sure my teams’ performance exceeds expectations.
Tell us about a person who has inspired or mentored you. What key lesson did you learn from them?
My dad has always been a source of inspiration to me. I inherited my passion and work ethic from him. He consistently showed me that if you really love what you are doing, it doesn’t feel like work. He also taught me the value of good, old-fashioned hard work and effort. You may not have the same strengths or advantages that others have, but if you work hard enough, anything is possible.
I am also a life-long, die-hard Oprah-follower. I joke that I feel like she is a close personal friend of mine. I got the chance to go to her "Live Your Best Life" tour a few years ago, and I was on a high for at least a year.
What advice would you give to a woman getting started in her career?
I have two big pieces of advice for women. The first is not to be so hard on yourself. Women are always their own worst critics. We need to learn compassion for ourselves; our self-perceptions aren’t always correct. Carrying excess guilt or judgment is unproductive to achieving your goals.
The second is that if your goal is to have a career, family and children, that’s great and you should. But, the sooner you realize that not everything is going to be perfect, and that that’s perfectly fine, the better. My career is demanding, and I have two kids and a partner at home. When I first came back from maternity leave, it was a really challenging time. I felt like I was failing as both a mother and a professional. It was then that I quickly realized I needed to be more realistic about what I could control and not expect everything to be balanced all of time.
Even today, there are times when I feel like I’m truly excelling at work, but my contributions at home are falling short, and vice versa. I took my own first piece of advice about not being so hard on myself and have created ways in which I can set better expectations for myself, both at home and in the office.
What can women do to improve gender equity in the workplace? What can men do?
As women, we need to be more supportive of each other. All too often in tech, the culture can be competitive, but we’re all working toward a common goal and should have each other’s backs. I go out of my way to meet with women across Flexe, get to know them, and let them know I’m here for them as a resource.
Gender inequality is still treated as a taboo topic. As a company, everyone must acknowledge that it is something we have to openly address. Making sure women are given the same opportunities as men is important. Every person deserves the chance and the choice to opt in and out of new opportunities. I’ve seen companies incorrectly assume that women wouldn’t be a good fit for certain responsibilities, but that isn’t the company’s call; that decision should be up to each individual, of any gender, to decide. Unfortunately, it’s just a more common assumption made about women.
Tell us about a favorite book/show/podcast and why/how it inspires you.
I'm a fanatic reader and podcast junkie. At any time, I am probably trying to read multiple books and binge listening to a new podcast. My current favorites are “How I Built This,” “How to Start a Start Up,” and “Masters of Scale.” I'm constantly jotting down notes from these and trying to incorporate them into my work as I can. I recently read “Principles,” by Ray Dalio, and loved everything about it.
Where do you find support and inspiration? How important is networking and how do you expand your contacts?
Books, both fiction and nonfiction, always inspire me. I use [the website] Goodreads to keep track of all the books I've read, and want to read, and jot down notes of what new habits I can incorporate into my routine.
Networking isn’t my biggest strength, but I’ve built a strong female community at Flexe, and I try to say “yes” to new experiences. For example, I’ve been sitting on more logistics panels and representing Flexe at more conferences. It’s important to me to be a female VP and out in the world representing my company, connecting with coworkers and industry professionals alike.
What are the most important characteristics of a good leader? What leadership traits are overrated?
Lead by example. Model the behavior and actions that you want your team to take. Your role as a leader is to empower your team and remove their blockers. In order to efficiently do that, you need to know what their challenges really are, instead of assuming you know. Most importantly, follow through on what you say. Be direct and don't make promises you can’t keep.
I think being a smooth talker is overrated for leaders. Too often, the words sound good, but there’s little substance. Telling people what they want to hear without taking action or making progress is a fatal flaw in a leader.
What would you do differently in your career if you had a do-over.
I wish I would’ve learned earlier that discovering what you don’t want to do is just as important as figuring out what you love. Early in my career, I was way too consumed with the worry that I wasn't doing what I wanted to do when I “grew up."
Now, I’m glad I know what I don’t like to do. It’s helped me home in on what I do appreciate and lean on others to do help in areas I don’t excel. Treat your career as a journey and accept that there is as much value in the things that don’t turn out as [there is in] the things that do.
What would be the title of your autobiography?
“The Power of Appreciation.” “I appreciate you” is a phrase I adopted during a very difficult time in my career. Morale was low, tensions were high, and every day felt like a struggle. I made a point of letting everyone around me know how much I appreciated them and the work they were doing.
I still use this phrase because it’s too easy to take people for granted. We’re all humans and we deserve to know that our work is valued. Appreciation is also incredibly important for remaining positive and action-oriented. It’s the cornerstone of getting shit done. Throughout my career, no matter the task, I roll up my sleeves and jump in the trenches with my team to show them I value their work and I’m here to help them do the work.
We’d love to hear from more women across all industries who are challenging the status quo. Does it sound like you? If it does, click here and fill out our questionnaire. Feel inspired? Join us for our second Daring Women event on May 21, 2019.
Daring Women Q&A responses have been edited and condensed.