Seattle’s Heather Snavely is the CEO and president of AAA Washington. She is the first female CEO in the clubs’ history and has expanded its leadership team, which is mostly female. Learn about Heather Snavely…
What is your hometown? Minneapolis, Minn.
What was your first job? Technically, my first job was mowing neighbors’ lawns with my 80-year-old grandpa. Nothing says “summer” like freshly cut grass. My first tax-paying job was working drive-thru at McDonald’s. I felt like Janet Jackson with the microphone headset! It was the year they launched the biscuit breakfast sandwich and, every once and a while, I still fancy a Sausage Biscuit with Cheese and a schmear of strawberry jam.
What are your favorite ways to spend your free time in WA? I love going to live music. We have so many great venues of all sizes and types. (I used to live for Memorial Day and Sasquatch Music Festival (RIP) at the Gorge Amphitheatre.) I’m also a big fan of urban hiking. We live in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. During the pandemic, our family started taking epic walks — 8-plus miles — around the city to explore other neighborhoods like Queen Anne, Capital Hill and Madison Park. You learn a lot about a city by exploring on foot.
What is your biggest accomplishment and why? I mean, it should probably be that I’m the first woman CEO of AAA Washington, right? But, honestly, it’s my family. I’m not entirely sure how, but my husband (Chuck) and I managed to raise two complex and amazing people (Emma, 22, and Lucas, 19) who are funny, compassionate, kind and still love spending time with us. There is no one I love traveling, laughing, playing board games, enjoying great food or watching movies with more.
What is the biggest obstacle you overcame? When I was at Brooks Running, my position, along with several other senior leaders, was eliminated. It was the first time I’d ever been “let go” and was a giant blow to my ego — but possibly the best thing that ever happened to me in my career. Because of that experience, I came to my next role as VP Marketing at PCC Community Markets a more humble and compassionate leader with a very astute awareness of what type of business culture I would thrive in. I’m confident I would not have been as successful at PCC without that perceived “failure” at Brooks, nor would I be in my current role without the opportunities I was given at PCC.
Who is someone who inspires you and why? My dad because he’s curious, fearless and a continual learner. He spent most of his career in management information systems (MIS) at Target Stores’ HQ working on projects like the very first gift registry and inventory systems. Since retiring 15 years ago, he’s reinvented himself again and again as a stockbroker, firefighter, beekeeper and hobby farmer. He never stands still and inspires me daily.
What is advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do? Like fingerprints, no one career path is the same, but I would say: Follow what you love. Work with people you enjoy. Be curious. Take risks. Say yes. Find at least one person who will always be candid and honest with you about your career. Be self-reflective. Gravitate to people who see your potential and will challenge you to do better. Laugh. Hire people smarter than you. Take time to recharge. Learn from those who went before. Trust your team. Make it easy to do the right thing. Never take any of it for granted.
What is your favorite quote? I have two. The first is from Amy Poehler and is solid career advice: “Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. Here’s the thing. Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car. Your career will blow you off if you call it too much. . . If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else.” The second is from Hamilton. I have it on a Post-It on my work monitor because it reminds me that leadership is a privilege that takes dedication and continual work: “Winning was easier, young man, governing is harder.”
What is something someone would be surprised to learn about you? I’m in IMDb for Kinect Adventures, a game developed for Kinect for Xbox 360. I was part of the launch team when I worked at Microsoft.
What makes someone fabulous? Curiosity, clear sense of self and a positive outlook on life.