At Mastery Logistics, Supporting All Voices Powers Digital Innovation in an Analog Industry

Transportation logistics is complex, involving many moving parts and people. To modernize the process necessitates a collaborative workforce with a unified vision of cutting-edge success.

Written by Anderson Chen
Published on Dec. 12, 2022
At Mastery Logistics, Supporting All Voices Powers Digital Innovation in an Analog Industry
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For Cafria Hart, solution owner at Mastery Logistics, her love of engineering started at a young age. One could even say it was destined so — her parents met in engineering school. Though her mother went on to open her own hair salon, the family’s engineering roots never receded: Hart always had a predisposition toward problem-solving, going as far as thinking through the salon’s hair washing schedule to the dryer placement.

Unsurprisingly, this translated to a degree at Georgia Tech in industrial engineering. She eventually settled on the field of logistics, where she remained from her first job in aviation to freight shipping today.

“I like to say that I moved people, packages, prayers and everything in between,” she laughed. 

Talented as she was, the journey was never as simple as it seemed on paper. In an industry where it’s easy to be overlooked, what she often found were obstacles instead of answers.

After 17 years in the field, it was Mastery Logistics, a Chicago-based transportation management software company, that reignited her love of the field. “They had me at hello,” she said. “It always bothered me knowing how much technology was out there but a lot of the transportation industry is still an analog, manual process.” 

Hart was astonished when, within her first few weeks at the company, CEO Jeff Silver met with her to discuss her expertise and engage in ideation. The memorable interaction showed her that this was a distinctly different workplace, one with an intentionality towards having employees contribute directly to innovation that she was not used to from her past jobs. 

 

Mastering the Supply Chain

Hailing itself as the world’s most lovable transportation management system, Mastery Logistics’ MasterMind cloud-based platform streamlines the complex process of logistics through an all-in-one software solution. For a largely analog industry, it grants supply chain organizations more control. “The tools minimize the time transportation mangers, operators and salespeople have to put into managing these complex systems,” Hart said.  

 

As a fellow member of an engineering family, Principal Software Engineer Jen Bayer resonates with the openness and transparency she sees at Mastery. 

“I feel heard,” she said. “Leadership actually listens to what we’re saying and adapts to it. They encourage you to step up. You want the chance, you got it.” In her first week on the job, Bayer hopped on a Zoom call with Silver and CPO Marianne Silver, alongside people from different departments. They guided her through a company-wide overview of operations, something she didn’t expect from her position. “It doesn’t matter what you do at this company, you can question things.”   

In addition to being solution-oriented, transparency involves being open to criticism. It informs a sense of ownership, where each person represents a sum of all their parts. VP of Sales Danielle Prigge has seen nearly everything in the logistics industry after 10 years, but she can still remember the impact Mastery’s inclusive nature had on her. 

“On my first day, we were meeting with a big fleet in Pennsylvania,” she said. “So I got on a call with a couple of executives. At the end of it, one of the executives from the other organization stopped me and asked for my opinion on my area of expertise.” For Prigge’s first exchange at the company to be with someone outside of it reaffirmed her belief in Mastery’s ability to break through the silos of the transportation industry, one ripe for collaboration. 

“There are organizations where you put your head down and do the job, while people above you make the decisions and roll them down to you,” she remarked. “From my very first conversation here, that has not been the experience.”

Aside from a top-down approach to collaboration, Mastery also fosters an environment where barrier-free interactions occur between colleagues, regardless of background or geographic location. Part of that endeavor to set an example for freeform ideation is to make cooperation viable even in a distributed workforce. “We grew from 40 people in late 2019 to 550 today,” Prigge said. “People definitely go into the office, but it’s not every single day; it’s more dependent on your mood and what might be going on there.” 

For all three women, employees are part of the solution at Mastery. No matter the role or person, everyone is brought in with an underlying assumption that they will add to the innovative value of the company. An inclusive culture, with all of its tangible benefits, is etched into everything from onboarding and collaboration, to leadership vision and benefits. 

Built In sat down with Hart, Bayer and Prigge to see how they’ve taken on that visionary mission statement with pride and aplomb. 

 

Connected Camaraderie

The company’s emphasis on spotlighting all voices new and veteran, as well as offering a space for in-person meetups, goes a long way to preventing members from slipping through the remote cracks. During the interview, Prigge expressed excitement about meeting Cafria for the first time. But it wasn’t their first interaction: Prigge had asked Cafria to be in a meeting just her second week at Mastery. “That was my favorite!” Hart exclaimed. “I loved the onboarding process. I was a kid on Christmas my first day.”

 

three employees collaborating, each in their own desk
Mastery Logistics

 

What are some unique aspects of the workplace that best highlight the company’s culture of collaboration and inclusion?

Bayer: We have rapidly increased our clients using the platform and the services and features available. Last month, we called out the need to pause and focus on some house maintenance on our accounting service. The response I received was, “You got it,” and the level of support was great. All feature work was paused and we used the time to improve performance, efficiency, stability, and reduce tech debt. It was great for the devs and team, and we were able to proactively fixed issues before they became a problem in production. Now we are ready to hit the ground running on the next project. This is one example of how leadership actually listens and collaborates at all levels.

Hart: When I joined, onboarding was seamless. I was already welcomed — they’re putting an announcement out not just about who you are in your title, but about what you love to do as a hobby, things that you’re super passionate about, and your past experiences. They know where you could possibly start contributing right away. Within my first two to three weeks with Mastery, I was able to contribute right away, as opposed to sitting around wondering what to do next while I go through documentation.

 

The Small World of Mastery Logistics

Back when Mastery Logistics was only 100 people strong, Bayer spoke to a coworker about his son’s classmate sporting Mastery gear. “There weren’t a lot of people that would have had our gear at the time,” she said. Turns out, the classmate in question was Bayer’s son. This ended up becoming a recurring theme throughout the company, where team members found connections out in the world through Mastery swag in the wild, from Six Flags to Yellowstone to a Nebraska Huskers game in Ireland. As the company shrinks the world through transportation logistics, so too does the growing staff become ever more connected.

 

an employee at the whiteboard collaborating with two other employees at a table
Mastery Logistics

 

Mastery Logistics prides itself on a culture built on innovation by all its employees. How does the company foster an environment where everyone is involved with decision-making processes and  whose input is considered?

Hart: When they announced our board of directors, they were all these powerful women. The intentionality and making sure that women are represented — that really meant a lot to me. This company is different, the culture around value appreciation and recognition are amazing. We have something called Mastery Monday that happens every week and it’s like a huge company town hall. Everybody comes — you got your senior leadership there, you’ve got every single department there, whether you’re customer-facing, whether you’re on the engineering side with the development or the implementation. We talk about the most important things the company is doing, we talk about difficult decisions, we talk about everything, and it’s all right there in front. There’s transparency no matter what your position is. Our senior leadership is also open to questions.

We recognize people that are doing great things and help each other out. I never experienced that before at the different companies I’d worked for. It let me know that the culture was different and that I was working for a place that was very intentional about making everyone, especially women, feel welcome.

It let me know that the culture was different, that I was working for a place that was very intentional about making everyone, especially women, feel welcome.”

 

Bayer: From the technology perspective, innovation follows the same way. We have user group meetings and set schedules where we’ll talk through thoughts or new technologies we want to use, and they’re open to everyone. We have quite a few different ones that you can participate in, but they’re open invite, discussion forums. There are general ideas about where we want to put in some time and research, but anyone can add items to the agenda and give their opinions and ideas. You get both visibility on where we are going and also an opportunity to bring up other ideas or concerns.

Prigge: The sense of “walk the walk” is instilled from the top down, from our leadership all the way down to the individual contributors who are out there, whether it’s implementations, project management, product management or engineering. Nobody’s going to sit there and say you can’t or shouldn’t do that, or I don’t want your input, because everyone knows that we need to be collaborative in order to achieve our company mission. I’ve definitely worked for organizations where the leadership tends to sit in the ivory tower and comes to employees when they really need something. 

 

 

three employees in the office looking over a laptop
Mastery Logistics

 

How does the company place people first in a dynamic workplace? 

Hart: There’s a cost associated with making things better. But our clients and our team are willing to take that risk because we value people — it’s not just about that bottom line, it’s about making things easier for our team, for our drivers and for our people. I actually joined Mastery still in the height of the pandemic, and the kind of flexibility that was offered to me as a person and being able to work remotely. I also have two daughters on the autism spectrum, and even though we’re in a very fast-paced world, I was still encouraged to take time off. Everybody in the transportation industry is a glutton for punishment. But here, people are taking a second look and caring about the mental health of their employees, the dock workers, the drivers and just everyone that’s a part of the team. 

 

Mastering Remote Work

For Mastery Logistics employees, the office is wherever they work best. Bayer took that policy to heart when she spent the entire month of June in Hawaii. Not only was it allowed, her boss actively encouraged it. “We were a hybrid company before the pandemic, but it has never been a requirement. You can go in and socialize if you want. It generates a great work-life balance and allows flexibility for employees.”

 

Prigge: Our success has been in our ability to trust one another based on the trust that is passed from our customers to us. The global supply chain has gotten a lot of time in the limelight over the last several years, and if people actually knew the number of manual processes or inefficiencies that we’re trying to improve, they’d be astonished to know what it actually takes to move commodities across the world, let alone across North America. 

So with that challenge comes great responsibility. We have to trust each other that not only what we’re doing is in the best interests of our organization, but that there will be mistakes that are made, and we’re going to work together to provide the best solution for our customers to execute their business. Every day when you get hit with a challenge, you wake up the next morning to go and tackle the next one — just like our customers do.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Mastery Logistics.

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