Chief Operating Officer
Express Jet Airlines, Inc.
In a rapidly changing environment, Alex Marren learned it is better to be an “enterprise athlete” than a narrow functional expert. She advises that a broad range of experience increases your value to your organization and opens countless doors.
Earlier in her career at United Airlines, a manager asked “How about working the ramp?”, suggesting it was a strategic move if she ever wanted to be an Airport General Manager. Managing the movement of ground equipment and baggage delivery was definitely outside her comfort zone and is a move she never would have considered from her role in Customer Service. She decided it was time to put herself out there and take a bit of risk. She became Ramp Manager and described the experience as “O’Hare University.” She learned how the entire operation came together, the challenges faced by the ramp employees and how important these “below the wing” activities are to the customer. Pushing outside her comfort zone and persevering until she achieved success built her confidence and gave her courage to take on a variety of field and HQ roles as she continued to expand her knowledge base. Soon she was tapped to go to Greece as the first female Country Manager. Alex admits that she experiences some trepidation when trying new roles, but her love of learning, facing challenges and meeting new people quickly take over.
All her years of experience throughout the airline ultimately prepared her for the seminal role as head of Network Operations, overseeing United’s “nerve center” and managing day to day operations in operations control, flight dispatch, fuel efficiency, operations analysis, security and emergency response. As SVP of Network Operations and United Express, Alex was responsible for an annual operating budget of over $6 billion.
Women told us in our research that a good lateral move can move you forward faster than many traditional promotions. Time and again we heard how building a breadth of experience pays off down the road. Take a step back and look at your portfolio of skills to determine where you can fill holes. Then summon the courage to move out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges to broaden your perspective. It may be a new job or it may be simply taking on a new responsibility or volunteering for a project. It will pave the way for future opportunities you can’t even imagine today.
9/24/14 Update: Alex’s broad experience is continuing to open doors for her. Express Jet Airlines, Inc., a subsidiary of Sky West, Inc., just announced they hired Alex Marren as Chief Operating Officer effective 10/1/14, citing her experience in “nearly every aspect of aviation.” As Chief Operating Officer, Alex will oversee ExpressJet's operations and activities, including Flight Operations, InFlight operations, Maintenance and partner relationships, and will manage more than 9,000 employees and a fleet of 388 aircraft. Good luck Alex!