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Erin Van Zeeland – a ‘catalyst for growth at Schneider’

The general manager of Schneider Logistics was named to Women to Watch in Transportation list

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June 1, 2023

GREEN BAY – Erin Van Zeeland – chief commercial operator (CCO), group senior vice president and general manager of Schneider Logistics, the fastest-growing segment of Schneider National – is among the more than 80 women in the transportation and logistics industries named as Women to Watch in Transportation.

The recognition, the sixth annual of its kind by the Women In Trucking (WIT) Association, chose the women for their significant career accomplishments in companies involved in transportation, from motor carriers, equipment manufacturers, private fleets and truck dealers to logistics, professional services and technology innovators. 

Schneider National President and CEO Mark Rourke said Van Zeeland’s vision and leadership have been “a catalyst for growth at Schneider.”

“Her ability to take on challenging multi-year programs focused on business transformation and change management is inspiring to not only those at Schneider but for the entire industry,” he said in a statement. 

He said he could not think of anyone more deserving of the WIT recognition than Van Zeeland.

WIT has a number of programs recognizing women in transportation, including the Top Driver of the Year, Distinguished Woman in Logistics, Top Women-Owned Businesses and even a Girl Scout patch program to encourage girls to become interested in trucking. 
Women welcome here
Van Zeeland said her traditionally male-dominated industry can be a good place for women.

“I believe women are well-suited to transportation,” she said. “It’s heavy tech, it’s heavy change, it requires a lot of collaboration and getting to a solution that is a win-win between us and our driver or us and our customer.”

Those skill sets of being tech savvy, playing well with the team and being able to manage many things at the same time, all the while maintaining a good relationship with the customer, Van Zeeland said can go a long way in many industries, and it’s especially true in trucking.

“Really being able to know the customer well enough so we can meet and exceed their needs in the services we bring,” she said. “It’s just well-suited to typically more of a woman’s skill set.”  
Hand-picked for the job
Van Zeeland – who began her career at Schneider in 1993 as a service team leader – marks 30 years with Schneider this year, having been recruited from Penn State University, where she double majored in operations management and labor industrial relations.

Growing up in Reading, Pennsylvania, she had always assumed she would work for one of the state’s most iconic companies – The Hershey Company, which was just an hour away.

But Schneider plucked her fresh from college, and she set out on her new career journey two days after graduation. 

// Van Zeeland

At that time, Van Zeeland said Schneider had many women leaders, though mostly in frontline and customer service roles. 

“It was really as the roles started to progress – directors, vice presidents, those types of things – we had fewer women 20 years ago that were in those roles than certainly we have today,” she said. “We have lots of VPs and directors and senior-level leaders who are women, and that has changed quite a bit over the years.”

Today, 40% of leadership positions at Schneider are held by women.

That, Van Zeeland said, is due to Schneider’s continued development of leaders, specifically its women leaders, and its commitment to helping them see how they could have a successful career and “be the mom back at home managing the family and all the other pieces she wanted in order to be fulfilled in life.” 

“That is a big deal to us, and we put a lot of focus on making sure we hire, develop, coach and mentor so women can be great, successful candidates as we have roles across the organization and we have them prepared to lead,” she said.

Van Zeeland said she has served on Schneider’s women’s network – an organization focused on attracting, developing and retaining the best talent and ensuring that no barriers stand in the way of women achieving success at the company – since its inception 16 years ago. 
Loved it from the start
Van Zeeland said her first role with Schneider was one leading 40 drivers based in the Northeast.

It’s a position she said she would have been completely happy keeping forever. 

Van Zeeland said it required her to get out in the field with drivers to experience the job from their vantage point.

In those days, she said, there weren’t many women drivers, and most of them teamed with their husbands.

Today, Van Zeeland said women drivers are more common – 12% of the total, up from 10% last year.

“We’re proud of that, and we want to see that continue to grow as well,” she said.

Van Zeeland said her first role with Schneider gave her an understanding of what the drivers face, which gave her insight into how Schneider could help them, and others, succeed. 

One of the keys to helping people be their best, she said, lies in knowing that everybody is motivated by something. 

“We would talk about what’s important to them, what are their goals, where they thrive, where they have concerns, what are their shortcomings,” she said. 

Then, Van Zeeland said, you determine what their personal goals are – whether it’s buying a house, getting married or retiring by a certain age.

“We would be clear on what the goal is…,” she said. “How do we help build the milestones and breadcrumbs and opportunities that help them with what they need to have in place for that goal to come to fruition?”

Part of that, Van Zeeland said, is understanding skills, talents, capabilities, dreams, hopes and fears.

“So we can help (cultivate) that person and coach, mentor and develop them into achieving their best self,” she said.
Guidance from above
Despite three decades of moving up the ladder at Schneider and serving in a variety of roles, Van Zeeland said she never actually applied for any of them, including the initial one that got her foot in the door. 

Rather, Schneider chose her. 

“There was always a leader who saw I could do something different or broader and asked me to come alongside,” she said.
Van Zeeland said those who were her leaders as she rose in the ranks always made an effort to spend individual time with her and her colleagues.

“They saw something in me and my counterparts I didn’t necessarily see, and they helped me discover it and get stronger and more comfortable and more opportunities so I could step more into those larger leadership (roles),” she said. 

Had they not helped her grow and develop, Van Zeeland said she knows she would still be in Pennsylvania, “loving life” and managing 40 drivers.

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