Riya Marwah decided long ago that a “safe” career was, for her, going to be too limiting. Today Vice President of Engineering at XPO Logistics, a leader in transportation and supply chain solutions, Marwah feels more at home as part of her industry’s fastest-growing company.
“The logistics space has entered into a period of technological transformation and XPO is leading the way,” she told Fairygodboss recently. “This mission — to disrupt the status quo — is very exciting.”
Success for Marwah is all about impact, and she’s developed her career accordingly. That’s why she made the move to return to school a few years ago and pursue her MBA, all while working full-time and being mom to a 2 and 7 year old. Having the support of her family helped her get through “two years of sacrifice,” and now that she’s at XPO, she’s loving being part of a leadership team that feels just as “supportive, inclusive and aware.” It’s a level of support that she pays back as a recognized champion for female tech talent.
Marwah shared with us how she looks at taking risks and encourages other women to do the same, as well as her No. 1 most important career decision. (Hint: Sheryl Sandberg has the same answer!)
How long have you been with XPO Logistics? What about it made you first want to join? Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at your company, as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?
Four months! The logistics space has entered into a period of technological transformation and XPO is leading the way. We’re harnessing technology to modernize an industry full of complexity and legacy systems. In this role, I’m inventing technology to make logistics more efficient and more profitable. I get to handle huge amounts of data and leverage artificial intelligence to create new business models and improve the customer experience.
Tell me a little about your experience being a woman in a male-dominated field. What obstacles have you faced or had to overcome?
Sometimes, women are excluded from professional bonding experiences, like sporting events. As a result, women can inadvertently be overlooked for advancement. Fortunately, my leadership team is supportive, inclusive and aware.
How have you used your role to help encourage other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work?
I’m an active leader in promoting technology-as-a-career initiatives across the community. Leading by example and serving as a champion for female technology talent gives me a chance to be the role model that I wish I had in my early career. This is a way to give back to the women who have helped me in the past. I’m helping pave the way for future female leaders. I usually use my commute time to connect with mentees and colleagues who need an unbiased soundboard, guidance and support.
What is the career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
A few years ago I realized that my future opportunities rest on the potential for leading the business, not just leading people. I went back to school for a Masters in Business Administration. At the time, my daughter was 2 and my son was 7, and I had a demanding job. It was two years of sacrifice, two years of 25-hour-long days and two years of being a student along with being a mother, wife and an employee. I’m thankful for the tremendous learning during this time and the support of a proud family.
Who has been the most influential person in your career and why?
My husband is a constant source of strength and guidance. He’s a pivotal anchor in my life. I agree with Sheryl Sandberg that “the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.” I’m grateful to him for not just supporting my dreams, but pushing me to dream bigger.
What is your favorite perk about working at XPO?
The people. I get to work with the best in the business. My team is energetic, fast-paced and goal oriented.
What advice do you have for other women who are pursuing careers in historically male-dominated industries or roles?
We only have a limited number of years to make a big impact. It’s a brief window. Use it wisely. It’s too limiting to play it safe. Take risks. Be bold. Be resilient.
How has XPO supported and/or empowered you to succeed in your current role?
Empowerment is about accountability and trust. It’s about a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility for leading a well-defined, impactful charter and the ability to pave your own path to success. XPO has given me access to information, resources and the partnership of remarkable leadership and peers to set me up for success.
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