Paving the way for women in transportation: interview with Brie Carere
FedEx's Brie Carere is using her passion for global logistics to inspire other women to pursue careers in the fast-changing, technology-driven, opportunity-filled industry.
It's no easy task working your way to the top of one of the world's largest transportation and logistics companies, but Brie Carere has done it. Along the way, Carere, who is the executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx Corp., has channeled her passion for the industry into a passion for creating leadership and mentorship opportunities for other women—and spreading the word about where a career in transportation and logistics can take you.
Carere joined FedEx in 2001 as a marketing specialist and has since held a variety of marketing, customer experience, and strategy posts across the company's U.S. and Canadian operations. She founded a Women in Leadership community at FedEx during her time in Canada and is now a leader in the company's U.S. Women in Leadership network, which supports and encourages women at all levels of the organization. She emphasizes the diverse career opportunities available in logistics, pointing to the growing role technology is playing in the industry and the resulting need for talented scientists, engineers, and digital marketers, to name a few.
Carere's logistics career has taken her around the world, and technology has played a key role in it as well. Those forces came together earlier this year, landing her on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" to introduce FedEx's SameDay Bot, a driverless delivery vehicle that can travel along sidewalks to deliver packages to the consumer's front door. FedEx will be testing the bot in select markets this summer; the firm's hometown of Memphis is one of them.
Carere recently spoke to DC Velocity Senior Editor Victoria Kickham, sharing her insights on the importance of attracting more women to careers in logistics.
Q: Why should women be interested in the logistics field? What does it have to offer?
A: Global transportation and logistics is a $550 billion market—and our industry is growing and changing at an exhilarating pace. As our industry expands, so do the number of opportunities for women to have a dynamic and rewarding career. And I'm not just talking about the hugely important role our female pilots and drivers play; this industry calls for data scientists, engineers, digital marketers, training specialists, and more—meaning there's room for just about every interest and skill set.
Despite this reality, we still have a significant opportunity to sell our industry to women. Here's what I'm talking about: A few years ago, during my time at FedEx Canada, we commissioned a study that asked roughly 1,000 Canadian women about a career in management in a transportation company. We learned that only 11 percent would consider a leadership position in the industry—and over half of the group stated outright that transportation was not for them and they would never think of it as a viable career option. We asked what their impressions of the transportation industry were, and 59 percent said they didn't know much about it. Looking at my own incredible experience at FedEx, those statistics really blew my mind!
In order to effect change, we have to share our experiences with those who could benefit from our insights. We must passionately convey the opportunities that careers in our industry provide. For me, the ability to help connect the world in ways that enable a brighter future is truly gratifying, as is the ability to interact with so many different teams—and even other businesses—all across the world.
Q: What is FedEx doing differently from other companies to promote women executives?
A: At FedEx, we are passionate about mentoring women at every stage of their careers. We have an active Women in Leadership community, and I'm delighted to be involved. As part of that, senior officers, myself included, often facilitate candid discussions where we can share our own experiences—and mistakes!—with the goal of helping other women further their careers. I've had so many tremendous female role models during my 17 years at the company, and I'm glad to be able to share my insights.
Externally, FedEx actively supports organizations like the International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA) and Women in Aviation International (WAI), both [of which] highlight the role of women in the traditionally male-dominated fields of logistics and aviation. In fact, we are very proud that our own Bobbi Wells, vice president of safety and airworthiness at FedEx Express, is the current IAWA president-elect.
Q: Looking beyond the C-suite, what can companies do to attract more women to the industry in general?
A: To attract more women to the logistics industry, it's important that we continue to build awareness of the types of careers that are available and let women know that we value their interests and talents. Many of our FedEx women visit high schools and colleges, speak to women's organizations, and share their insights during summits regarding careers in logistics and transportation. We also have tuition programs designed to encourage female students to pursue careers in aviation, and, as I mentioned, we are strong supporters of [IAWA] and [WAI].
As a company that delivers more than 15 million packages daily to customers in more than 220 countries and territories, we know that talent is our most valuable resource and [that] great ideas come from diverse team members throughout our organization.
Q: Technology continues to change the logistics landscape. How does this affect the industry's ability to attract talent?
A: We are always working toward new solutions to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers, and all of that relies heavily on technology. We are on the cutting edge of all of the latest technologies—including AI, IoT, robotics, and blockchain—which makes FedEx an exciting place for technologists to work. Additionally, we have been consistently ranked as one of the best places to work in IT, which helps to attract and retain some of the best technology talent in the industry and beyond.
Q: Speaking of technology, your Feb. 27 appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" helped shine a light on how robotics, in particular, is changing the delivery process. Could you describe the SameDay Bot you unveiled on the show and the role you expect robotics to play in delivery over the next few years?
A: That was such a fun experience! FedEx is constantly innovating to meet the changing needs of our customers and increasing demands of e-commerce—and what a great way to showcase that innovation.
Local fulfillment is a growing market. There's already a massive opportunity there, and it's only going to accelerate. The SameDay Bot will help address many of the challenges associated with this increase in last-mile delivery. We believe that the majority of FedEx same-day point-to-point deliveries will be made using the FedEx SameDay Bot—that's what it's designed for, and it's the most efficient way to do it. Logistics through autonomous devices can reduce the number of vehicles on the road and ease traffic congestion. Instead of using a full-sized vehicle, the smaller FedEx bot can be used to deliver small payloads such as pizzas and other on-demand merchandise—this is good for the environment and for our company.
In terms of timing, we will begin testing later this summer and move as quickly as is reasonable to broader testing and commercial launch while continuing to meet safety, customer, and regulatory needs ... We see the use of robotics and automation as an opportunity to improve the productivity of our team members and experts within our system, to make their jobs more comfortable and efficient, and above all, to increase safety.
Q: Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in logistics?
A: Please don't let preconceptions stand between you and a tremendous career! I'm so glad I didn't. My career in global logistics has landed me in amazing places that I never would have predicted, including Thailand, India, Belgium, Germany, China—and just [recently], on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"!
About the Author
Victoria Kickham started her career as a newspaper reporter in the Boston area before moving into B2B journalism. She has covered manufacturing, distribution and supply chain issues for a variety of publications in the industrial and electronics sectors, and now writes about everything from forklift batteries to omnichannel business trends for DC Velocity.
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