Employees at DAT Freight & Analytics are known for getting into passionate debates.
Not about sports or politics, but about the ways in which they’re innovatively addressing customers’ evolving needs and challenges. Chief of Analytics Ken Adamo said this stems from one of the company’s core values, “Deliver Customer Value.”
“This value permeates our team culture and is a major reason why I believe we’re a market leader across our entire product suite,” he said.
For Adamo, culture isn’t just about happy hours and team-building activities — it’s also the driving force behind innovation, inspiring team members to be agile, curious and, of course, customer-centric.
Adamo believes many professionals are burned out from “the grind” and wish to work in an environment that offers opportunities for long-term development and support. That’s why he strives to cultivate a team culture that fosters healthy work-life balance and growth.
Creating an empowering team culture is important for leaders at DAT, considering challenges may arise at any moment. Senior Director of Product Sarita Benjamin has seen this firsthand, as she has guided her team’s efforts to build a robust, secure platform.
By encouraging her team to embrace various practices, such as alignment with strategic goals and continuous improvement, Benjamin seeks to cultivate an environment that allows team members to push the envelope.
“You will be challenged and held to high standards, which will enable you to grow and thrive,” she said.
In order to create the kind of culture that drives influence and opportunity, leaders at DAT are very intentional about the individuals they hire. Senior Director of Engineering Shelley Bower believes it’s critical for her team members to have both an innovative mindset and a passion for supporting their peers.
Given the evolutionary nature of the logistics landscape, it’s essential for members of Bower’s team to take the lead and propose effective solutions.
“Be willing to propose your ideas and solutions on how you would do it, and then own those ideas and be the change leader for them,” she said.
For Adamo, Benjamin and Bower, building empowering team cultures involves a combination of strategic rituals and practices and an inspiring leadership philosophy. Read on to learn more about the culture on each of their teams.
ABOUT DAT FREIGHT & ANALYTICS
DAT is a next-generation SaaS technology company that has been innovating transportation supply chain logistics for 45 years. The company's suite of software solutions help millions of customers every day find relevant data and accurate insights so they can make smarter business decisions and run their companies more profitably. DAT operates a North American marketplace of 400 million freight posts (as of 2022) and a database of $150 billion of annual global shipment market transaction data.
Members of Benjamin’s team don’t avoid failure.
Rather, the leader ensures her team members embrace — and celebrate — their failures. “Moving fast and failing fast” is a phrase you’ll often hear passed around on Benjamin’s team, fostered by a focus on experimentation and risk taking.
“On my team, you’re always learning every day, every minute,” she said.
Not only do team members have the chance to grow through their work, but they also get to develop new skills through mentorship, training and other opportunities. Benjamin added that core practices such as team outings and regular meetings also enable employees to evolve.
In her mind, there are many ways to cultivate a healthy team culture, from promoting a focus on continuous learning to driving cross-functional collaboration. But she believes the most important lesson team members can learn is to embody ownership at all times.
“The importance of accountability ensures that everyone is putting their best foot forward and isn’t being told what to do and when,” Benjamin said. “This enables everyone to focus on achieving key results.”
BENJAMIN’S TIPS FOR BUILDING CULTURE
- Foster an environment where open and honest communication is encouraged.
- Encourage experimentation, risk taking and continuous learning.
- Ensure that team members understand the company’s mission, values and how their work contributes to broader goals.
- Utilize the latest tools and platforms that facilitate collaboration, project management and communication.
- Arrange regular team-building activities, informal gatherings and opportunities for social interaction.
- Stay adaptable to industry trends and technological changes, and be ready to pivot when necessary.
When the tech teams at DAT realized the growing threat of fraud, everyone knew what to do.
“The teams jumped right in and deployed creative solutions that have already started making large improvements in our customer experience,” Adamo said.
This demonstration of determination and teamwork is something that Adamo strives to pursue on his own team. That’s why his team engages in a rotating set of meetings — including ad-hoc skip-level meetings with senior managers, which ensures that leaders are plugged into any issues. Adamo added that his team also takes part in quarterly “big room planning” sessions, during which they come together with other departments to strategize upcoming work.
According to Adamo, feedback plays a large role in the culture of his team and across the entire company. In addition to using Gallup surveys to gauge employees’ experiences, team members take part in recurring one-on-one meetings and weekly written check-ins, during which they can discuss any challenges.
While meetings and surveys are important for ensuring team members feel heard and seen, it’s equally essential to add joy into the workday. Adamo believes work should be both fun and beneficial, which is why he strives to make this a reality on his team and urges other leaders to do the same.
“It’s on us as leaders to build these cultures, foster development and engagement and, above all else, put our employees in the best position to achieve their personal and professional goals,” he said.
“It’s on us as leaders to build these cultures, foster development and engagement and, above all else, put our employees in the best position to achieve their personal and professional goals.”
Shelley Bower once believed that technology was an emerging element at many organizations.
Now, she sees things differently. “Technology has become the forefront of business,” she said.
This idea defines the work Bower’s team accomplishes at DAT. Recently, her team members have been busy modernizing the company’s tech stack.
“Our team took a really challenging problem our industry is facing and quickly came up with new technology and new concepts to tackle the issue for our customers,” Bower said.
For Bower, team members don’t simply have the chance to develop stronger tech skills through the work they do. She believes that her team’s culture hinges on the ability to make an impact and contribute to the company’s mission — and given DAT’s ongoing growth, this influence has never been stronger.
“The work we’re doing has a real impact on our customers and the supply chain industry,” Bower said. “It’s an incredible place to work and be a part of that change.”