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Women In The Spotlights

NextGen program holds panel discussion on women in trucking.

Posted April 9, 2020

By Nick Fortuna

This article was originally featured in the September/October 2019 Caltrux Magazine.

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AS ITS NAME IMPLIES, the purpose of CTA’s NextGen program is to prepare the next generation of leaders in California’s trucking industry, and Rachel Crusenberry is one group member who has taken that mission to heart.

Crusenberry, a dispatcher at Acampo-based JSG Trucking Co., is part of the NextGen Taskforce, a group of about a dozen members formed last year to help develop the program. She recently came up with the idea of having a panel discussion with accomplished women in the state’s trucking industry and worked with Heather Oneto, CTA’s membership and communications manager and the association’s point person for NextGen, to bring it to fruition.

The result was an informative event for about 25 attendees on June 19 hosted by JSG Trucking, the company run by Crusenberry’s father, CTA President Joseph M. Giammona. Four women trucking executives participated in the 90-minute panel discussion moderated by Crusenberry, who asked them prepared questions before opening up the event to questions from attendees.

Interest in the event was strong, as registration filled up several weeks before the deadline. Derek Crusenberry, Rachel’s husband, who works in operations at JSG Trucking and is a NextGen Taskforce member, made the event available to members who couldn’t attend through Facebook Live on JSG Trucking’s Facebook page.

“The trucking industry traditionally has been dominated by men, and all of my mentors have been men,” Rachel Crusenberry said. “But there are so many women leaders in the industry, and I recently noticed that I’ve been working with more and more women, be it drivers, mechanics, managers or CEOs. I wanted a mentor who was a woman and understood the challenge of balancing work life and family life, and I figured there were other people seeking the same thing, and that’s how I came up with the idea for the event.

“Some of the attendees said the four panelists were very inspirational, and I definitely agreed with that. Knowing that it was possible to be a successful businesswoman and be successful with your family life was nice to hear.”

Feedback was so positive that the association is hoping to hold a similar event in Southern California later this year.

“The attendees got a lot out of it and enjoyed it because it was something we’d never done before,” Oneto added. “I think it was great that we were able to connect our members together and provide a forum where they could get their questions answered and learn from each other.”

The event started with a networking opportunity for attendees, who talked over coffee and pastries before the panel discussion. The panel of CTA members consisted of some of the leading women executives in the state’s trucking industry:

  • Lynnette Brown, immediate past president of CTA and chief financial officer of Pomona-based KKW Trucking Inc., a regional dry-van truckload carrier
  • Karen Vellutini, executive vice president for West Sacramento-based Devine Intermodal, an intermodal company providing trucking and warehousing/3PL services, and chairwoman of Women in Logistics, a nonprofit providing resources, education and networking opportunities for men and women in the logistics industry
  • Devon Ades, fuel licensing and permitting manager for Apex Logistics, a global supply-chain solutions provider with locations in California and Nevada, and vice chair of the CTA Highway Policy Committee
  • Theresa Payne, national account sales manager for Hyundai Translead in San Diego, a CTA board member and a member of the foundation board for Women in Trucking

The panelists were asked questions aimed at providing insights and advice for the young professional women hoping to follow in their footsteps. The questions included:

  • How did you work your way up to your current position, and what were the biggest challenges you faced as women in the industry?
  • As a manager, what are the most difficult challenges you face, especially in terms of employee performance problems and conflicts between employees? What strategies have helped you deal with those challenges?
  • How do you balance your career and personal life?
  • What do you know now in your career that you wish you could tell your younger self?
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The panelists answer questions during NextGen’s “Women in Trucking” event.

“I thought it was a great event,” Vellutini said. “I was on the panel, and the audience was very engaged and interested, and that’s probably the thing that stuck out to me the most. It was interesting to hear about the experiences of the other panelists – some things different, some things the same – and how they handled different situations, so it was very interesting and educational.

“There are more and more women in the industry, and having events geared toward women is a good idea, especially for NextGen because there are a lot of women in the NextGen group.”

Judy Romero, a sales rep with Devine Intermodal and a NextGen member, said attending was worthwhile.

“My primary interest for attending was to learn about the obstacles the speakers encountered throughout their careers and how they overcame those obstacles to become so successful and admired,” she said. “The discussion was very eye-opening for me. Each of the panelists provided clear objectives and proven strategies to achieve success. I would undoubtedly attend again and would recommend this type of panel to all of my peers. Learning of each woman’s experiences, struggles and triumphs empowered me to seize every career opportunity within the industry and in life.”

Lauren E. Calnero, assistant general counsel for Matheson Trucking Inc., said she attended because she is new to working exclusively in the trucking industry, having spent years in private practice.

“I have really enjoyed working in a corporate counsel position and have learned a great deal about the industry by attending events put on by the California Trucking Association,” she said. “The Women in Trucking event was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other women in management and executive roles in the industry and gain insight into their experiences.”

Shelby Lowe, a customer service rep for Devine Intermodal, said she also found the panel discussion informative, especially when panelists talked about how they deal with subordinates. She said the event has made her interested in becoming a NextGen member.

“Their general consensus was to focus on keeping job expectations very clear and to ensure that everyone is being held to the same standard, no matter their gender or personality, but that being clear and firm doesn’t mean you need to be detached or unkind either,” she said.

“This panel helped me realize that the women who started in this industry decades ago have really helped pave the way for my generation of women to feel welcomed and valued. The women on the panel exemplify that not only can women be a part of this industry, they can lead it, and lead it well. I would certainly welcome the opportunity to attend another event like this one. It’s great to see women support and set each other up for success.”

For more information on the program, visit the NextGen Program page.