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Women in Fleet: Shannon Graunke

women in fleet Posted by Shannon Graunke, Regional Sales Manager on November 2, 2017
Shannon Graunke, Regional Sales Manager
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I am a second-generation fleet management professional. My parents met while both working at Gelco before GE bought it. In fact, my dad is still in the business! I wanted to share some of my experience with the new generation of fleet professionals breaking into the industry. I hope to inspire some other young women in traditionally male-dominated fields to keep at it. 

Business in my blood

I actually started university with a scholarship as an engineering major, but for my elective courses during my freshman year, I took a few business classes and I really enjoyed it. It was more interactive and social than my engineering courses. I also had added exposure to the business world with my internship at a third-party logistics company that I kept all throughout my college days. I’m an extrovert, so majoring in business felt right to me. I made the decision to give up my Women in Engineering scholarship in order to switch to business. 

Following in my parents’ footsteps

Shortly after graduating, I started working for a large fleet management organization in inside sales, where they had specific programs and career tracks geared towards women. At the start, a lot of people had the impression that I was still an intern because I was so young compared to everyone else on the team! I was the only woman in sales when I was first hired, too. If at any time I felt underestimated, it only motivated me to work even harder. When Element bought GE, I moved into a more strategic account role and learned about high-touch service. It was a great experience, but I was drawn to Union Leasing because of its small, boutique-type feel and approach. I knew there was a fantastic opportunity here for me to grow. 

Overcoming struggles and misperceptions

Representation and mentorship are so important for women in fleet. Networking events and groups, where you can meet others who are more experienced or in your same shoes and listen to their stories, can help you learn other people’s lessons and feel encouraged. There is a lot out there for women in fleet in terms of resources and mentors – there are struggles, yes, but there are benefits as well. Coming to Union Leasing, Rhonda Zielinski was a big selling point for me. She is a built-in mentor for me here – someone for me to look up to and go to for advice. 

A piece of advice

Don’t be too hard on yourself – that’s what I’ve learned. This business can’t be taught overnight. It’s something that you build up over time because there is a long sales cycle. You just have to be confident that you know what you’re talking about. I try to just be myself – I listen and help, and I never try to push for things my clients don’t need. I want to be their trusted partner.

For the most part, I feel like an equal when I’m in meetings or part of a team where I’m the youngest or the only woman. Yes, I notice if I’m the youngest or the only woman – I don’t need to be reminded of it. I’ve been called “kid” or “chick,” but it makes me work harder to prove my worth.

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