The year was 1991. Ramona Hood was a 19-year-old single mom.
She needed a job. She found one, working as a receptionist, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at a trucking company called Roberts Express.
“I wasn’t thinking this was going to be my career," Hood explained recently. “I wanted a job that had a stable shift that would allow me to do (college) courses as appropriate.”
Guess what? She made it a career.
She worked, took the courses, moved ahead.
In January, Hood, now 47, was named CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, which is the FedEx subsidiary that acquired Roberts Express in 1998.
Her promotion makes Hood the first African-American woman to be the CEO of a FedEx subsidiary. (There are 45 subsidiaries.)
It’s great that we’ve reached that milestone at FedEx.
But I'd like to point out something else that Hood brought up recently: the fact that her biggest professional challenges weren’t simply raising a family by herself, or earning degrees at night.
Instead, it was also finding mentors and role models.
As she rose through the ranks, she said at an event this week, she would look around, and realize that nobody else who looked like her was on the executive team.
“I started to have issues with being the only African American,” she said. “I got the whole ‘head trash:’ ‘Am I worthy? Did I deserve the seat I’m seating in?’
Hood credited the CEO she replaced, Virginia Addicott, with being a mentor who helped her overcome it.
As a result, Hood said she's tried to make it a priority to serve as a mentor to younger employees, too.
A FedEx supervisor named Kelli Thomas talked about sending an email to Hood asking for guidance and mentorship seven years ago.
“And I got the email back saying, ‘Absolutely.’” Thomas said. “One of the big things she has done is to get me out of my comfort zone and to be open to taking risks. She’s encouraged me to have a strategic plan (for my career) and to be agile.”
I interviewed a business school professor about mentorship and role models once, and he offered advice that stuck with me for people trying to figure out how to map their careers.
The first bit was to go on LinkedIn, find people who have the job you want, and then reverse engineer their resume—basically try to get on the same ladder.
The other piece of advice, of course, was to be assertive and seek out mentors directly.
The end of this week kind of snuck up on me, and I didn’t do a comment thread. So maybe this is an opportunity, if you’re interested.
Do you owe part of your success to a mentor?
Have you become a mentor to people coming up behind you? How important do you think mentorship really is?
Let us know in the comments.
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