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Small-town Alaskan celebrates 18 years at Totem Ocean

Lisa Peterman credits her rise to a “culture of collaboration”

By Hilary Reeves

Lisa Peterman began her career at Totem Ocean on a whim.

“My friend told me this great company was hiring down at the Port of Anchorage, and that I should apply,” she recalled.

Eighteen years later, Peterman is Totem Ocean’s Director of Customer Service.

“I’ve truly enjoyed the opportunity to learn everything I could about this business,” she said.

Peterman grew up in rural Alaska. Her parents worked for Usibelli Coal Mine, located near Denali National Park. Though she grew up without electricity or running water, she said her childhood was idyllic.

“Due to our lifestyle, every day was an adventure,” she said. “Unlike most kids of my generation, we didn’t have television, so we read tons of books and listened to a lot of music. My sister and I rode motorcycles, snow machines, and target-practiced,” she said.

Peterman eventually made her way to Anchorage. Soon after she applied at Totem Ocean, she landed a job as a “casual,” or part-time employee. She was quickly brought on full-time, serving as a General Staff Assistant. The opportunity led to an accumulation of knowledge on all the positions that make up the Anchorage operation, from terminal dispatch to accounting.

Lisa Peterman smiles in Saltchuk's headquartersLisa Peterman At-A-Glance

Start Date: July 1997

First Totem Ocean Job: General Staff Assistant

Current Role: Director of Customer Service

What it Means to be a Toter: Collaboration, Reliability, Versatility

When Totem Ocean President John Parrott asked Peterman to move into a management role, she was ready. Peterman was the first woman to join the company’s operations management team in Anchorage. She continued move through the company, as a customer service manager and then as an administrative manager responsible for Customer Service, Finance, Claims, Payroll, and Union Liaison. Peterman worked under George Lowery, who retired from Totem Ocean in May.

“He taught me never to turn down an opportunity and to never assume anything,” she said.

In 2006, Peterman returned to school to pursue her bachelor’s degree with the support of Totem Ocean. She worked and studied full-time, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science and Organizational Management from Alaska Pacific University.

“Totem Ocean made that (achievement) possible for me, and, as a result, I was the first member of my family to get a bachelor’s degree,” she said.

In 2013, Parrott asked Lisa to move to Washington State and become a member of the leadership team at the company’s headquarters, where she is now responsible for Cargo Management, Customer Service, and Shipment Services. Her work also includes process improvement and analysis of what is needed to improve the customer experience.

“I am excited to be a part of our company’s future and continue providing excellent service to our customers,” she said.

When asked to describe what Totem Ocean represents, she highlighted the culture of collaboration that is prevalent in all departments, the “can do” attitude of the employees, the sense of family we are fortunate to enjoy, and the desire everyone has to service our customers at the highest level.

“We have amazing partners that guarantee we can deliver the goods and services Alaska needs and depends on,” she concluded. “But it’s not just our vendor partners – it’s our customers. We work with so many great people who have been with us long-term. They collaborate with us to deliver goods in the harshest of weather. It truly is a team effort, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”