Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

This Product Owner Worked Her Way Up From a Temp Role—Here’s How

Alexis Ware, a product owner at Echo Global Logistics.
Alexis Ware, a product owner at Echo Global Logistics.
| Courtesy of Alexis Ware

When Alexis Ware felt stuck in a dead-end job, she decided to temp for a while as a way to explore different opportunities and industries. That’s what led her to Echo Global Logistics, a Fortune 1000 company in transportation and logistics.

“When interviewing for the company, the potential for growth appealed to me,” she says.

And Echo Global Logistics has delivered on helping Ware develop and build a successful career. Since she first joined as a temporary employee in 2014, she has moved up the ladder; the company even created several roles just for her. Most recently, Ware pivoted from operations to work as a product owner on the business application team.

Here, Ware talks about her career trajectory at Echo Global Logistics, the different support systems she has found while at the company, and her advice to those thinking about a career change.

After you initially joined the company as an account executive (AE), what inspired you to pivot into a product role at Echo Global Logistics?

When I became a senior implementation AE in 2017, I started working with various types of technology. Although I wanted to continue growing as an AE, I was interested in learning more about analytics, reporting, and technology, which didn’t align to the traditional next steps for that role. The managed transportation team created a new role for me as a quality assurance (QA) manager, which allowed me to work on company-wide and other tech projects.

After a couple years, I had gotten more experience with Echo’s technologies and had a strong desire to work in that area of the business. Around that time, the business application team was looking for a product owner. Even without the technical qualifications, I am able to understand and interact with the business and bring my non-tech experience to technology projects and initiatives for the end-users. This work inspires me, and I feel more aligned to what I’ve been wanting to do.

What has been the biggest challenge when making these career transitions within the company, and what has helped you succeed?

The hard part was that all of the roles I grew into were brand-new ones, so I couldn’t shadow someone else or adapt to a set of responsibilities that already existed.

Having a regular support system of women has helped me succeed. I interact with them daily, and we discuss everything from the industry to diversity, equity, and inclusion to microaggressions. This support system includes managers who’ve advised me and advocated for me. One of them helped me get my first promotion at Echo; another helped push me to take my first management role.

During my managerial career, other women I respect have kept their doors open for chats related to being a woman or a person of color in leadership. When I transitioned to our technology department, I also consulted several women on those teams and they helped me prepare for my interviews. Because of these women, I now take an active role in helping others in their transitions and promotions.

What are you responsible for in your current role? What is your favorite part about it?

I am responsible for our ServiceNow application. I manage the development team and work on larger request fulfillment projects as well as department- and company-wide strategic plans. One of my favorite parts is the feeling of starting something new. There are so many possibilities when I’m starting a project and begin scaling down, thinking about use cases, and getting buy-in from others. The other part I love about my job is when I tell everyone a high-impact project is done—that’s my happy moment.

Tell us about your involvement in the company’s M.E.R.G.E. business resource group (BRG). What is its mission?

M.E.R.G.E., which stands for multi-ethnic resource group for everyone, is one of the company’s newer BRGs. It was created in 2022 to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to the forefront of Echo’s business decisions. I am one of the group’s founding members and this year am one of the communications co-chairs focusing on internal initiatives. Internally, we want to attract, retain, and promote talent from all backgrounds, perspectives, and abilities so there is equal representation across all departments within the organization. Our mission is to foster an environment of cultural growth by creating awareness through advocacy, collaboration, education, and community outreach for all Echo employees, partners, and the communities in which we serve. Lastly, we want to promote and support an anti-racist culture, and externally cultivate partnerships with companies that share the same values.

One of the things I appreciate most about M.E.R.G.E. is how passionate members are about helping others grow through awareness and education. Last year we created a cookbook with recipes that employees had shared during cultural observances throughout the year. We also asked people to include stories about the recipe, which made it that much more impactful to learn about cultures. This year, we’ve added a social chair so we can bring some fun into our BRG activities while still focusing on awareness.

We also understand you’re a member of the Military BRG. What kinds of programs does it offer and how does it help employees?

I joined Echo’s Military BRG because my dad was in the United States Marine Corps and it’s one of the ways we bond. The group does different types of initiatives—like a push-up challenge to bring attention to suicide awareness and mental health issues in the military, or writing letters to the deployed troops or veterans for Veterans Day—but one of our main pillars is recruitment.

We participate in a lot of recruiting initiatives to bring reservists or veterans to work at Echo because we want our company to be a place where they would feel comfortable. When we hire veterans, we give them military swag and introduce them to other vets in the company to help them build a network. We also buy them lunch on certain days as a way to thank them for their service.

What steps did you take that helped you pursue your career changes within Echo Global Logistics?

First, I talked to my support system and my manager about my performance and professional goals.

Next, I invested time learning skills that could be beneficial to my future. For example, when I had an interest in learning additional technologies and analytics, I signed up to take a SQL course that our strategic analytics department offers annually, and I was able to incorporate what I learned into my role as an implementation AE and QA manager. I’ve also taken online courses on sites like Udemy to build my skills.

What is the best career advice you have to offer?

Advocate for yourself. Practice your 30-second elevator pitch just in case an opportunity ever arises. Don’t be afraid to say, “I did this, and this is how it turned out or can be improved, and this is what I learned.” The purpose is that you have self-awareness and understand your own self-worth. This is something I continue to improve on.

Who are your role models and what lessons have they taught you?

One of my biggest role models is Maya Angelou. When I was deciding whether or not to leave my job at an accounting company to join Echo, I read something of hers that can be applied in other situations: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” I apply it not only in personal situations, but also when I meet leaders or managers for different projects. I always remember the importance of every interaction and how I want to come across.

Another role model of mine is Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Throughout my whole life, I’ve said I’m a feminist, which wasn’t always perceived positively by others both professionally and personally. As Chimamanda and her books became more popular, I felt empowered to believe that fundamentally, even with others’ ignorance, I can be who I am.

My last role model is Ibram X. Kendi, an author and anti-racism activist, who I learned about while doing DEI work at Echo It is through him that I learned about anti-racism.