Blog This Viva EA at Shipwell became the CMOs unofficial Chief of Staff

This Viva EA at Shipwell became the CMOs unofficial Chief of Staff

Jul 5, 2023

5 min read

From executive assistant to chief of staff

Karen Sage, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Shipwell, a Transportation Management System platform with over 140 employees, wanted better focus and organization, so she decided to partner with Viva to onboard an executive assistant (EA).

To Karen’s surprise, her EA, Maria, ended up operating more like a Chief of Staff and took on a Program Manager role on the Marketing team.

In this article, we’ll share how we helped Karen unlock greater productivity.

Table of contents

  • What does Shipwell do?
  • What were the CMO’s challenges?
  • Our solution
  • The impact of a CMO’s EA
  • Going beyond the job description

What does Shipwell do?

Shipwell is a leading Transportation Management System (TMS) software company that offers a cloud-based platform for managing and optimizing shipping and logistics operations. With offices in Austin, Texas, and a workforce of over 140 employees, Shipwell has established a strong presence in the industry by delivering innovative shipping and logistics solutions.

Regarding funding, Shipwell has successfully attracted investments from various notable venture capital firms. In their latest funding round, announced in October 2019, Shipwell raised $35 million in a Series B financing. The funding was led by Georgian Partners, with participation from Fifth Wall, First Round Capital, Base 10, Village Global, and Box Group. This Series B round enabled Shipwell to further develop their technology, expand their team, and strengthen their position as a leading player in the logistics and supply chain industry.

What were the CMO’s challenges?

Karen Sage, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Shipwell since 2022, leads a team of 12 marketing professionals and has 6 direct reports. With nearly 30 years of experience in the marketing field, Karen brings remarkable expertise and outstanding leadership skills to her role. Prior to joining Shipwell, she held notable positions, including Vice President of Product Marketing and advisory board member for reputable US companies.

During our meeting with Karen, she shared the challenges and opportunities that accompany her role and discussed the primary pain points she encounters. Some of these challenges are linked to her tendency to frequently say yes, resulting in a packed schedule of consecutive meetings throughout the day. This was taking a toll on her productivity and organization.

Additionally, Karen maintains open communication with her team, which means she receives messages through various channels, including email, Slack, texts, and shared documents. Managing this influx of communication can be challenging.

When she initially assumed her current position, she engaged an external consultant but quickly found the consultant’s lack of knowledge and understanding of business and marketing functions limited her ability to make an impact beyond a very tactical level.

She required someone who could grasp the marketing context, provide visibility, and facilitate smoother communication. Initially considering hiring a chief of staff, Karen’s perspective changed after meeting our Viva executive assistant and collaborating with her for a few weeks. She soon realized she had found the ideal person she had been looking for.

Our solution

In response to Karen’s need for dedicated support, we recognized two crucial aspects that would make a real impact:

From our pool of EAs we selected Maria, who possesses a strong background in marketing, design and financial background. We knew her unique skills would allow her to understand and align with Shipwell’s marketing objectives effectively.

The second parameter we wanted the EA to meet was prior industry background and that’s when we knew we had made the right decision. The EA we chose for Karen had previous experience in the shipping industry, having worked at FedEx, and that gave her valuable industry-specific knowledge that would help her navigate the intricacies of Shipwell’s operations with exceptional proficiency.

The support our EAs receive from the Viva Customer Success team

When we onboard a new customer, our approach goes beyond finding the best executive assistant for their needs. We assemble an entire team to assist our EAs in delivering the highest possible impact. The Customer Success (CS) team collaborates with the EAs throughout the process, providing crucial support in key moments, including:

  • Onboarding: ensuring a smooth onboarding process.
  • Coaching & oversight: supporting complex tasks and investing in ongoing upskilling.
  • Feedback & advisory: gathering input, defining and tracking goals, and providing suggestions for additional delegation areas.

In María’s case, the CS team provided coaching, equipped her with tools for upskilling, and offered specialized courses tailored to her needs, such as marketing certifications. This collaborative approach enables the EA to continuously develop her skills and knowledge, ensuring she remains well-equipped to tackle the challenges and demands of her position.

The unexpected impact a CMO received from her EA

María’s support extends beyond administrative and operational tasks, resulting in a significant impact on her executive’s workload and productivity. By assuming ownership of various responsibilities, she has effectively given Karen back valuable hours. This has freed Karen’s schedule to engage in focused, strategic work, leading to increased productivity and the ability to make impactful decisions.

Event planning

María has successfully planned various events, including trade shows, Customer Advisory Board (CAB) meetings, and team gatherings. Notably, the trade show marked Shipwell’s first appearance at a large event post-pandemic. María took complete ownership and handled intricate details, enabling Karen and her team to build meaningful relationships with attendees. As a result, the execution was seamless, leading to 56 qualified leads for the revenue team.

Public relations

As a key point of contact, María plays a vital role in managing press releases and maintaining a relationship with BusinessWire. She collaborates closely with her executive to ensure timely submission of press releases and effective communication with the press. This rapport with the media generates significant exposure for both Karen and Shipwell as a whole.

Merchandising logistics

María assumes complete ownership of the end-to-end process of merchandising production. Whenever marketing-related events or special occasions arise, merchandising requirements follow. For example, during the last edition of the Elevate | Körber Supply Chain Conference, Karen decided to give away plushies of Shipwell’s mascot, Swifty.

María managed the entire process with the provider, freeing Karen from dealing with the intricacies of production. This saved her valuable time and reduced decision fatigue.

Marketing repository

María has created and maintains a well-organized database serving as a centralized and easily accessible resource for marketing materials, documents, and collateral. Recently, a new Product Marketing Director joined Shipwell, and thanks to the repository, they immediately gained visibility into all projects previously overseen by the former director.

By ensuring the repository is regularly updated and organized, the staff always possesses the latest versions of materials, leading to significant time-savings across the entire team.

Managing the workload of 12 team members

This aspect of María’s work has arguably had the most significant impact and has propelled her from being an executive assistant to an unofficial chief of staff. She created a comprehensive task board that revolutionized project management within the marketing team, leading to remarkable results. The dashboard efficiently tracks all ongoing projects, allowing her to follow up not only with Karen’s direct reports but also with all 12 team members.

Through her proactive approach, María encourages accountability and ensures that every team member understands their responsibilities. This has fostered organization and enabled the team to meet deadlines effectively. Additionally, the dashboard serves as a guide for Karen, highlighting when and where she needs to provide support to the team so she can focus her strong leadership skills on what matters most.

Furthermore, the system alerts María to any items that are behind schedule, enabling her to address them promptly and keep the team on track. This comprehensive approach has undeniably propelled progress, driving the team forward, and providing Karen with the visibility she needs to excel as a leader.


María’s exceptional performance and expanded responsibilities have resulted in significant growth in her role within the organization. Her initiatives and achievements serve as evidence of the integral role she plays in supporting Karen Sage and driving the success of Shipwell’s marketing initiatives.

An EA going beyond her job description

María represents one of many examples of how Viva executive assistants have the potential to exceed their traditional responsibilities of calendar management and travel arrangements. Their value extends beyond administrative tasks, and their growth is directly linked to the level of involvement and support they receive from their executives.

When executives recognize the capabilities of their EAs and entrust them with meaningful tasks (like Karen does with María), the potential for success and productivity increases significantly. The return on investment provided by executive assistants makes it easier to justify their hiring.

Given the malleable nature of the executive assistant role, these professionals can specialize in different areas, leveraging their skills and expertise to bring added value to the organization.

“I have been thrilled with Viva. I do not know what I would do without my Viva EA Maria. She reduced my administrative burden and organized my team’s operations all within a few weeks. As I engage her on more things, I only see upside”. Karen Sage, CMO at Shipwell

If you require skilled support, we encourage you to explore options beyond the conventional ones such as hiring in-house. If you’re seeking ways to boost your productivity, we may be able to assist you. Schedule a time to chat with us and find out how the executive assistants at Viva can increase your impact.

About Shipwell

Their platform provides end-to-end visibility, automation, and collaboration tools to enhance efficiency in the supply chain. Shipwell’s services encompass freight management, carrier sourcing, real-time tracking, and analytics, empowering businesses to gain control and make data-driven decisions.

They have a six-step process:

  1. Initiate a shipment by importing a sample sales order to your transportation management system (TMS).
  2. Utilize the system to create a shipment and provide additional information (location, type, and points of contact for both the origin and destination).
  3. Send the shipment information to carriers to obtain quotes/bids from them.
  4. Carriers will be notified and respond with an estimated rate to transport the shipment.
  5. Select a carrier, schedule a pickup, and generate the Bill of Lading (BOL).
  6. Monitor the status of your shipment by checking your Shipwell Shipment Record which includes shipment references, carrier information, shipment data, distance, and more.

Shipwell’s impressive trajectory has not gone unnoticed by the media. In 2020, Forbes included Shipwell in its exclusive list of the “next billion-dollar startups” which features the top 25 US companies most likely to achieve a billion-dollar valuation.

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