Last August, Transfix, a New York-based logistics technology services provider that streamlines shipment data to better help shippers make informed decisions to optimize time and revenues named Lily Shen as its president. Prior to being named president, Shen served as Chief Operating Officer for two years, at Transfix. In her new role, Shen oversees various departments for the company, including corporate development, product, engineering, finance, legal, and human resources. Shen’s background is comprised of nearly 20 years in different leadership positions for Silicon Valley-based companies, including eBay, IDEO, and Wealthfront before joining Transfix in early 2018.
Logistics Management Group News Editor Jeff Berman recently conducted an interview with Shen to learn about various industry trends and topics. A transcript of the conversation is below.
Logistics Management (LM): Given your extensive background in the technology sector, what, in your opinion, are the biggest changes between that sector and the transportation and logistics sectors? Were there any types of things that were unexpected?
Lily Shen: There are surprisingly more similarities than differences between the two sectors. But as with any industry, there are intricacies and complexities that come with each. For example, the lack of structured data and visibility in the transportation industry is striking. Additionally, the absence of streamlined end-to-end systems continues to leave users facing day-to-day and longer-term challenges. But this is exactly how technology can play a significant role in moving the entire industry forward. Providing a great user experience – while harnessing the power of data and technology is crucial, and allows me to tap into my previous experience building global platforms across operations, commerce, communications and payments. Designing an experience with the core user in mind requires the right blend of industry experience and technology, a combination that Transfix was built upon. When you combine the size of this sector, the logistical complexities facing it and the fact that it serves such a critical business function, you have a tremendous opportunity to drive meaningful change.
LM: What is your take on the rapid pace, or speed, in which digital freight players like Transfix and others have seen in recent years?
Shen: It speaks to the opportunity, and I believe it’s just beginning. Technology, machine learning, data science and new user-centered approaches will unlock value for this industry in better and bigger ways. That’s why Transfix is part of the next wave of advancement, because we have a different approach. We can innovate faster through technology and also help optimize the entire supply chain through data. Today, for example, we match shippers and carriers at scale and provide instantaneous pricing which is far more efficient than the pen and paper or spreadsheet model of the past. Technology is also changing the game in terms of visibility, because we can track shipments in real-time and provide a deeper level of data insights across the supply chain.
I believe we are all finally starting to see much more impactful changes that empower shippers and carriers with real solutions. But, there’s still a huge opportunity and I’m excited to both help drive and push others to accelerate innovation across the ecosystem.
LM: What are the most important things you are closely paying attention to in the transportation and logistics sector?
Shen: I’m relentlessly focused on being a go-to partner for our all our customers, providing flexible capacity and reducing volatility as we head into 2020. Reliable and flexible capacity achieves two strategic goals. It provides our shippers with exactly what they need to advance their business objectives, and it rewards our highest quality carriers with the on-going business they deserve. Our data science team provides insight into the market and helps position us in such a way that we can reliably deliver the capacity and flexibility that differentiates us within this sector. The foundational work that the data team is doing behind the scenes is augmented by our design team, which works tirelessly to create a tremendous user experience for our shippers, carriers and drivers. And by doing this, we’ve created an ecosystem in which carriers and shippers can win.
LM: With your appointment as Transfix President serving as a recent example, how do you view the evolving role of women in leadership roles in transportation and logistics?
Shen: I think it’s indicative of an industry that is attempting to reinvent itself in a vital way. Diversity is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ it’s a must-have. Companies who have embraced employees with diverse experiences and opinions have a significant leg up on the competition. But the industry, as a whole, still has a long way to go. Today, women in C-level positions in the industry account for less than 15 percent. Over the last three years, the growth of women in leadership positions has not moved meaningfully. We need to continue highlighting leadership opportunities for women and elevating the voices of women in leadership positions in the space. The increasing importance of supply chain as a strategic pillar has raised the stakes. Infusing the industry with diverse and talented leadership is more important than ever.
LM: What are the biggest challenges your customers are telling you they are up against, or dealing with? What is Transfix doing to help customers meet their goals and objectives?
Shen: Shippers want a partner that they can simultaneously rely upon and innovate with on an on-going basis. The strategic elements of their business require partners who understand both the technology and the operational challenges involved in their day-to-day. Once you’ve identified those pain points and solved for them, you can deliver a high-quality product with consistency. Predictability is invaluable in this industry – and we achieve that by delivering guaranteed capacity at fair rates every day, no matter the external climate. And we do this by working hard to attract and retain the best carriers on our platform.
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