One can take a reductionist view of career success as a series of lucky breaks or the result of relentless hard work. Kristen Forecki is convinced that it’s a combination of both.
“You can put yourself in a position to be really lucky,” said Forecki, vice president of supply for Convoy, a Seattle-based company that has built a digital platform to make the U.S. trucking industry more efficient.
Forecki laid an academic foundation to position herself to seize good opportunities, earning a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She built a robust network of personal, professional and academic connections. And she has allowed her personal interests and passion to help guide her career path.
Forecki moved to Seattle with her husband a decade ago. She was working as a senior product manager at Amazon when a business school friend tipped her off to a startup called Rover. It was around the same time that her own beloved dog had caught kennel cough while being boarded with other pups during a vacation. She saw the potential in a business that matched individual pet-sitters and dog-walkers with pet owners. The company had fewer than 20 employees when she joined as director of operations in January 2013.
In 2015, a friend of her husband’s told her about Convoy. She met the team, led by CEO Dan Lewis, and Convoy’s investors. She was energized by the group and its mission.
“The promise of the company was we could make life better for everybody,” Forecki said. For the truckers, it meant more time at home with families while maximizing their incomes and cutting environment-damaging pollution. “It was a super compelling proposition for me.”
She joined as employee No. 11. The business has since grown to 1,000 workers and in November was valued at $2.7 billion.
The employees that Forecki leads include Convoy’s quality and compliance team, which selects trucking carriers for its marketplace and manages their performance; the brokerage team, which partners with the tech team to match trucks to jobs; and the supply programs teams, which is focused on strategic initiatives and working with new partners. In her role, she works with finance, PR, legal, marketing and human resources departments, as well as overall company culture and strategy.
To help support female colleagues, Forecki is the founding executive of Women@Convoy Employee Resource Group, one of many organizations within the company to boost underrepresented workers.
Forecki’s has developed multiple strategies for success:
- Cultivate a group of mentors and connect over quick questions (forget the idea of lengthy regular lunches), while viewing the relationship as a two-way street where you might share job candidate suggestions and interesting news stories with a mentor.
- A leadership lesson that she gained at Rover and applied at Convoy was building teams quickly around specific goals you want to achieve, not the task you want them to do.
- Bring your authentic self to your role, even if you look or identify differently or have a different background than others in the room. Imitating others will never lead to your best performance.
As a younger woman in leadership in a male-dominated field, Forecki admits the last tip in particular can be challenging to follow. It’s not easy to standout as different from colleagues.
“It will be scary,” she said. “Be scared and do it anyway. You’ll ultimately have greater success and be happier and more proud of yourself.”
We caught up with Forecki for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: Seattle
Computer types: MacBook Pro
Mobile devices: iPhone 11 Pro
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools:
- Slack. Chatting is so much better than email for discussing a topic or getting a quick answer.
- Google Suite for everything else. (How did we ever work before Google Docs? Creating dozens of versions of a doc seems like madness now.)
- Pinterest for personal use. It’s surprisingly good at introducing users to new information if you start pinning research/educational/history themed topics. It’s also a great alternative to social media and online shopping, both of which I’m fairly strict about limiting. Plus it gives me a digital outlet for my type-A desire to categorize and organize.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? Once we started working from home with COVID, I turned our guest bedroom into my office. I joke it has become my “room of requirement” (a reference to the magical room in Harry Potter), because it’s also my “home gym” with my yoga mat on the floor and an under-desk elliptical for quick workouts.
The room looks out over our garden, which is my favorite place in the world. It’s never lost on me how lucky I am to have that in the city.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Schedule it. I can’t stress enough the importance of scheduling. If it’s not on my calendar, it’s not real. My work time, my social time, my errands — everything goes on my calendar so that I force myself to make time for the most important things each week. I color code my calendar so that I can see at a glance how I’m allocating my time to various categories.
My amazing executive assistant, Tara, also schedules blocks on my calendar to make sure I have time to eat, check email and finish important work. I find that if I don’t use this system, it’s easy for top priorities to get crowded out by urgent items, and I end up working more hours but accomplishing less. Rigorous scheduling forces me to prioritize and allocate my time accordingly.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work?
- I prefer Instagram for keeping in touch with friends, although I limit my time and sometimes delete the app for a while to prevent it from becoming a regular time suck.
- I use LinkedIn to stay on top of relevant events and to meet new people; there are so many incredible people to learn from.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? 74. I read and categorize all of my email, but I take it in dedicated batches throughout the day rather than watch my inbox all day long. And I never check email before work in the morning. Email is a low-energy activity, and I save it for low-energy times of day.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 35 work meetings, a virtual piano lesson, and a virtual happy hour.
How do you run meetings? The most important thing to get right is for everyone to know why we’re having the meeting. As soon as we accomplish the objective of the meeting (e.g., a decision, an update, a review), the meeting is over. This sounds simple, but I remain surprised that some people don’t do it. Being clear about this saves a tremendous amount of time.
Everyday work uniform? High-waisted jeans, Blondo waterproof ankle boots (perfect for Seattle!), a black or white sleeveless shell, and a blazer or long cardigan. I’m a devotee of the capsule-wardrobe concept (owning fewer, timeless, interchangeable items), so I really do wear a version of this almost every day. Now that we’re working from home, I’ve replaced the jeans with yoga pants and left the blazers in the closet.
How do you make time for family? My husband and I both have demanding jobs, so we’ve built regular family time into our weekly routines. (As I say above, schedule it!) Friday nights are date nights, and Saturday nights are movie nights. If football is on, we never miss a Packers game (we’re both from Wisconsin). We also carpool to and from work, which gives us time to check in each day.
Of course we find time to hang out spontaneously as well, but knowing that we have a plan for dedicated time together gives us something fun to anticipate, and it takes the pressure off the rest of the week.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug?
- Reading outside, reading in the bath, reading in front of the fire. I am constantly building new reading spaces into our house. Reading recharges me, and some books are like medicine. If work is stressful, I’ll reread “Sourdough” or “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” on a loop.
- I also subscribe to the Japanese concept of “forest bathing” — essentially, surrounding yourself with trees, nature and all things green. I love to garden or take a walk in nature while listening to a good podcast.
- And I can’t overstate the importance of social connection as a stress reducer. Happiness research shows that social connection is the number one predictor of overall life satisfaction and the biggest inoculator against stress. When work and life are crazy, I make it a point to reach out to my friends and family, rather than fall into the trap of thinking that I’m too busy to get together. (Read “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor for more on this topic.) My husband is a wonderful connection, I have brunch with a friend most weekends (pre-COVID, of course), and I spend hours each week on the phone with my sisters and parents.
What are you listening to? Podcasts, especially 99% Invisible, Radiolab, Planet Money, and Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Music: Amazon Prime has a “Matchbox 20” station right now that is playing all the ’90s alternative music. It’s giving me some serious nostalgia of summers past. Sia’s “1,000 Forms of Fear” and Taylor Swift’s “Lover” are both great summer albums as well.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? The New York Times for daily news. The Atlantic for thoughtful, long-form pieces. WaitButWhy for blog posts on unique topics. And GeekWire for startup news.
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? I love my Kindle, because it means that I can have all my books with me all the time. I’m always reading at least one fiction book and usually have a business book going on the side. Top of my Kindle library right now:
- “Code Name Helene” by Ariel Lawhon is the best fiction I’ve read this summer. Bonus: It’s based on the real Nancy Wake, an incredibly inspiring woman.
- “Unleashed” is a new business book by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss. Frances was a professor of mine at business school, and her definition of leadership — “Make others better as a result of your presence, and make it last into your absence” — remains one of my highest goals as a leader.
- And I recently reread “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo, which I highly recommend.
Night owl or early riser? Night owl, although I had to figure out how to live as a morning person when I started at Convoy, because freight starts moving early. Now I’m somewhere in between, but I still indulge my night-owl tendencies.
Where do you get your best ideas? By exposing myself to a lot of new things, with podcasts and fiction books and interesting news articles. Then I give my brain a break and let it make connections and put the pieces together. As Don Draper of “Mad Men” says, “Just think about it. Deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will jump up in your face.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? Like so many people right now, I’m in awe of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is somehow managing to stay cool and speak candidly in the face of ridiculous opposition and insane stakes — literally millions of lives on the line. No matter what, he seems to keep working toward the best outcomes with integrity and conviction.