Speaking out and stepping up helped take Ramona Hood from the reception desk to the office of vice president of operations, planning and strategy at FedEx Custom Critical.
Hood joined Roberts Express 28 years ago as a receptionist and later spent about seven years working in the safety and compliance department.
“It was in that area that I really started to get purposeful with my career,” she said at the Women In Trucking Accelerate! Conference & Expo last week in Dallas. “There were really three things that I focused on that I felt helped me in my career. One of those things was being comfortable with sharing with others what my goals and aspirations were. Another was really building a board of directors. That consisted of people in the organization as well as outside of the organization who played a host of roles for me — as a coach, a mentor and sponsors as well.
“The third thing in my career journey was being comfortable with the uncomfortable — moving out of a very comfortable position to stretch myself to learn something new,” she said.
Hood began her career journey as a teen mom.
“I was 19 when I had my daughter. My ex-husband and I married after we had her. I did my undergrad after my first daughter. Then we had our second daughter. And then I got a divorce. That’s when I got my master’s,” she said.
Hood said she shares details of her personal life “because your story is never just about work. Your story is about your whole self and how you bring those things together. I don’t use a word like ‘balance’ because I’m not sure you can balance, but you can put priority into the things that are important to you and establish boundaries.”
Early in her career, Hood found a mentor in the safety and compliance department. That woman asked Hood about her goals. It was something Hood hadn’t thought about before.
“That mentor then provided me with guidance and support to start my career in leadership,” she said.
Hood moved to operations and “took on a host of different opportunities, moved through the organization pretty fast. I let it be known from the time I was a supervisor what my goals were from a leadership level. That allowed me to move into leadership positions where people could see my work and evaluate if I was ready for the next move.”
Hood has not had to move from Cleveland, where she joined Roberts Express and remained after FedEx (NYSE FDX) acquired the company in 1998.
She said she opened herself to learn from coaches, mentors and sponsors. She said a coach can help you enhance something you’re doing really well. A mentor has been on a similar journey and can relate to what you’re going through.
“But I will tell you a sponsor is the most important role you can have. Statistically they say women don’t have sponsors in the same volume as men do. A sponsor is someone who is in a position of authority and power. They’re in the rooms you’re not in and they’re making those decisions on who’s going to do that special project or who we’re going to move over to a different area. And so it becomes critical in your career that you have someone who’s willing to co-sign for you in those types of situations,” Hood said.
She confided later her coach and sponsor was Virginia Addicott, now president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical.
“As I continued to move up in the operational area as a senior manager, I then had an opportunity to move to sales. That opportunity came because of a promotion I didn’t get,” Hood said. “I didn’t have the desire to be in sales long term, but I definitely wanted to gain that experience.”
She added, “For me, it was important to not stay comfortable with my skill set, with my capabilities, but always ask myself how can I continue to learn and how can I do something differently.”
Today, as vice president of operations, planning and strategy for FedEx Custom Critical, Hood oversees nearly 600 employees in four operations divisions, along with strategy, pricing, science and data analytics.
“For me, it was being intentional with what I wanted to do. It was really focusing on having people who were on my board of directors to support my growth and my development and then, secondly, ensuring that I was comfortable saying out loud what I really wanted to do and what my goals were. Throughout the last 28 years I’ve had an opportunity of doing that,” Hood said.
She also has had plenty of opportunity to serve as a role model for her daughters.
“Not only am I a woman, I’m an African-American woman and I’m raising two African-American girls. For me, it’s important for them to see what the possibilities are and that the pathway to get there isn’t always the straight line, sometimes there are some detours to it.”