The Women In Trucking Association last year honored Ramona Hood, vice president, FedEx Supply Chain, with its Influential Woman in Trucking award. In this interview with HDT Editor in Chief Deborah Lockridge, Hood emphasizes the importance of recruiting and mentoring a diverse talent pool in the industry. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
HDT: Let’s start out at the beginning. How did you get into trucking?
Hood: It was a career path that was somewhat unintended. I had recently graduated from high school and was in my first year of college and started working as a receptionist for Roberts Express [a pioneering expedited freight company later purchased by FedEx.] From that opportunity, I quickly realized that it was a fascinating industry and organization and a company [where I] had great opportunity to really grow and learn a lot more. So here 25 years later here I am, still with the organization.
HDT: What were you studying at the time?
Hood: My initial area of study was accounting. However, I change that, like many students do, and my undergrad and executive MBA are in business. I was a single mom at the time as well, so I was working full-time as well as going to school during that time frame.
Hood: I did not do my executive MBA immediately after college. That was part of my learning plan as I continued to progress.
HDT: Late last year, you became Vice President at FedEx Supply Chain. For those who may be more familiar with FedEx as the company that delivers overnight packages, can you give a quick overview of FedEx Supply Chain in your own words?
Hood: We were formerly Genco. In the industry, we are known as a third party logistics provider, and we support the challenges that customers have in their supply chains. We have a host of solutions, from distribution to e-commerce fulfillment, logistics, and obviously transportation.
HDT: You mention e-commerce fulfillment; that’s a pretty big deal these days.
Hood: We’re pretty excited about a recent launch called FedEx Fulfillment. it really gives customers the opportunity to focus on their business … and as an organization, we prove them with the support they need from the point of transportation and fulfillment.
HDT: And what’s your job there all about?
Hood: I have responsibility for the transportation management group. Our group is made up of three different lines of business to support our customer base. Managed transportation, where we’re providing customers with the opportunity to outsource their responsibility with transportation. We handle that, including the technology to support it as well as the staff and competencies to get things done. We also have a line of business freight solutions as a full-service provider of transportation for customers, and that can be done at a transactional level or oversight of the customer’s transportation needs. Our third item or line of business is our engineering and consulting team, where they support customers in evaluating their mode optimization and network and providing them with solutions that would be more economical for them.
I provide the shaping of our strategy and our revenue plans around all three of those lines of business, and we have a great leadership that supports the vision and execution of that plan over a three-year period.
HDT: What are some of the goals you’re working toward this first year in this position?
Hood: One of the things I think is pretty exciting right now is we are working on integrating some of our workforce with our business, FedEx supply chain, specifically to the transportation team, and a couple other FedEx operating companies. We know the combined expertise will better position us in the marketplace. Myself and a large team are working on those efforts right now. We will be looking to find more synergies within our organization and supporting collaboration across the FedEx enterprise.
Again it all aligns with the three lines of business I shared with you earlier.
HDT: What are some of the things you’ve accomplished so far?
Hood: The position itself is still new, and I like to consider myself fairly new, about four or five months. One of the things I felt I've accomplished and enjoyed is being part of another FedEx organization — previously we were Genco, we were rebranded in January — and I think my FedEx experience brings value as we go through the rebranding and other efforts and move into our new fiscal year in a couple of months.
HDT: In a profile in Cleveland Business last year, Kevin McClellan, managing director for Custom Critical, said one of the reasons you’re successful is you “have a high bar — she has high expectations for herself and everyone around her and that’s very clear.” Would you say that characterizes you well?
Hood: I think it does. Specifically, I’m very purposeful and intentional with my career and setting expectations for myself of the things I’d like to get accomplished and the activities I need to do in order to do it. I am clear with those expectations as I set those out, and I do the same things with my interactions with other teammates. I do have a high bar. I believe in holding myself accountable and looking at others and hold those accountable as well.
HDT: That same article started with the sentence, “Apparently, one way to bust through the so-called glass ceiling is to use a really big truck — or a fleet of them.” What are your thoughts on being not only a successful woman, but an African-American woman, in a career where women and minorities are, well, in the minority?
Hood: For me, being a minority woman, and also the mother of two daughters, the idea of valuing diversity really hits home for me. I believe the industry has to be intentional with how we recruit and retain a diverse workforce that is talented. I feel fortunate to work for FedEx over the last 28 years because it’s an organization that is often recognized for their commitment to diversity and inclusion.
HDT: A big part of the Women in Trucking award is to recognize those who mentor and serve as a role model to other women in this business. I understand you recently talked about this topic at an internal corporate women’s forum. What was your message?
Hood: The story I shared was really my own journey and had four elements. One was having visibility in the workplace. To be competitive and able to deliver results requires a level of visibility in your organization. The second point I spoke to is having a ‘board of directors,’ at least that’s what I call it, and this is really surrounding yourself with mentors, coaches, and sponsors, and understanding the difference between the three and leveraging all three for your career. The third piece is understanding you own your own learning and to actively manage your learning plan in order to achieve your goals, and realizing that typically what gets you to one opportunity may not take you to the next. And then the last piece I spoke to, and I think this is very important for women, is to realize that with that fulfillment in your career it will mean less if you don’t have priorities outside of your career plan. I intentionally don’t use the term work-life balance, but I believe it’s important to set those priorities [for your] live beyond your career. By having those priorities, you can manage your time more effectively.
HDT: Tell us a bit more about that personal board of directors concept and the different types of people you should have on it.
Hood: On a coach level, this is really someone I will look to help develop a very specific skill or competency or to make an area even stronger for me. So it’s very intentional, very focused on a skill or competency. Mentors are typically individuals who have had a career progression who can understand and relate to my goals and the objectives I’m trying to achieve and are able to give me advice throughout that journey as well. And then the last piece is sponsors, a mentor who is in a position of authority who understands what your goals and interests are and can speak on your behalf.
HDT: What are your eventual goals in this position and career?
Hood: One of my guiding principles is to always be in a role making a bigger contribution than day-to-day efforts, where I am shaping the future and being able to lead that level of DNA and legacy after I leave that part of the organization or that responsibility. As I continue with my transition into this role and beyond, I’ll continue to follow those guiding principles as I look to make an impact, not only in our organization, but in the industry.
HDT: Looking ahead, what challenges do you see the industry facing?
Hood. The industry is seeing a rapid pace of change. There is the pace of change tied to technology that we see. Then there is the change we see within the talent that we need — the potential talent shortage. And it starts at the driver level, really up to the leadership level. It’s not an industry where individuals are going to school and saying they want to be part of it. We need to make sure it’s attractive to that next generation and understand from a diversity standpoint the interests that they will want and move them along in their career as well.
HDT: What else would you like to share with our readers?
Hood: I would like to comment on the fact that I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to be recognized for the 2016 Influential Woman in Trucking award. The work I do is not for the recognition. However, this is a platform that allows us to talk a little more about what’s going on in the industry. I think Women in Trucking creates a great platform for discussions as they recognize the accomplishments of women in the organization. I’m also very honored to represent FedEx … and being part of company so committed to diversity and inclusion.
HDT: I understand part of the awards ceremony included a panel discussion among the finalists. Can you tell us a little about that?
Hood: I think one of the common items we heard from all of the finalists was that not only were we all contributors to our work but we all contributed to the community, and I think that’s important — we all gave back in some manner, fashion or form. We all had different stories, but there were similarities to those stories — from the impact that someone has had on us in our career by being a mentor or coach or even a family member that has provided support and reassurance as we work on our careers. We all mentioned mentoring in some form or fashion and mentioned the support we all had for diversity in our industry.