The Women in Fleet profile series introduces fleet managers to some of the most influential women in fleet. Every month, we get to know another positive force in the fleet industry.
This month, we spoke with Karyna Zarate, CAFM, fleet manager for Jacobs, a civil engineering company based in Dallas, Texas.
Getting into Fleet
Zarate’s career in fleet began in 1999 when she joined Wheels Inc. as a license and title clerk as they were revamping their registration management program in Puerto Rico. Being bilingual in Spanish, she was able to apply her skills to support this revamp, and later also worked with clients in the U.S. and abroad. She left the FMC as a senior account executive in 2015 to explore new opportunities in the industry.
“Wheels provided a great fleet foundation and I held several positions while I worked there, but after 16 years at one company, I knew I needed to expand my horizons,” she said.
Following Wheels, she joined AmeriFleet (now Acertus) as client relationship manager, where she worked in the transportation, logistics, and supply chain management side of fleet operations. She later joined Vanner as its national fleet sales manager, where she learned about power conversion and transformation for commercial fleet vehicles.
Following this she entered her current position with Jacobs as its fleet manager where she was tasked with creating and implementing a strategic plan for the North American fleet.
“Since then, our operations have expanded internationally and so with that my role has also expanded into developing a strategy for our global fleet,” she said. Jacobs has a fleet of 2,000 vehicles.
Learning and Sharing in Fleet
Zarate said despite the highs and lows she has experienced while working in fleet, she has always wanted to stay close to the industry.
“I learned that our industry has some of the smartest, most talented group of people advancing us to the next level, but besides that, it is an industry full of people that care about one another,” Zarate said. “I have learned so much over the years from the amazing people and companies I’ve interacted with in the industry. My first client in fact, while he is retired now, still mentors and motivates me. His experience and knowledge are invaluable.”
Zarate believes that fleet is unique to other industries because of this, in that the personal and professional benefits gained by being in the industry can be applicable to more than just the fleet industry itself.
“Knowledge sharing is key. Additionally, for me, being flexible and adaptable has led to many successes and failures. That said, I tend to view failures as a success; as the saying goes, ‘never let a good crisis go to waste,’” she added. On that, she also noted challenges through 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
“It was a tough year! We changed up processes internally and externally with our fleet partners – some changes were successfully implemented and some failed terribly, but in those failures, there was always something to garner, like the power of resiliency, which we can draw on when facing any challenge in life,” she said.
When assessing Jacobs’ future in the fleet industry, she said that she expects a lot of transformation to occur over the years.
“As our fleet continues to evolve and expand globally, as we continue to advocate for sustainability, diversity, and inclusion, I have to continue evolving as well,” she said.
When reflecting on how the industry itself has evolved, she appreciated how more women have joined the fleet workforce and have helped the industry evolve along with them.
“To look forward sometimes means to look back as well, so that we can appreciate how far we’ve come – looking back when I started in fleet 20 years ago, there were not many women in fleet at all, there’s been a big shift since then,” she said. “It’s refreshing to see how women have transformed the fleet industry and will continue to do so. We have demonstrated a passion for driving the fleet industry forward and I believe we will continue to change the fleet world for the better.”