As Head of Regional Operations for TNT UK, Caroline Rose was too busy with the challenges of her day job to stop and reflect on the impact she was having on the business and her teams. But a phone call from a boss changed all that and led her to be named 2016 Woman of the Year at the FTA everywoman in Transport & Logistics Awards. Modesty, she tells us over six months on, is something women in particular need to let go of.
You were nominated for an everywoman Award by your boss, Operations Director, Simon Harper. How did that feel?
Well, it was strange because it was actually my second nomination – an HR Director put me forward for an everywoman Award back in 2013, but I wasn’t shortlisted. So, when my boss called and said he wanted to nominate me, my initial reaction was that it was a lovely thought, but should I enter again. Luckily, he convinced me there was enough material for a fresh submission, so I decided to just go for it.
Is it typical of you to doubt or not recognise your own achievements?
I work in a fast-paced business, where the focus is always on planning for tomorrow. I, like a lot of women, can be naturally modest and humble, which unfortunately means that opportunities like this Awards programme easily pass by. In that sense, winning has been a real learning experience – it’s taught me the importance of never taking for granted the impact my success has on the business and my colleagues. I feel a responsibility now to encourage others to recognise and celebrate their achievements. If that’s something you struggle with, it can be a really useful exercise to do that with someone else – my bosses didn’t strong arm me into putting myself out there, but by shining a light on my journey, it made me stop and reflect and then I realised I had a strong submission to share with the everywoman judges.
What are your standout memories of the experience, from judging day to the Awards ceremony?
It was lovely to see how genuinely pleased people were for me and the other lady within TNT who was nominated. Each of the everywoman events I attended along the way was so positive, warm and friendly; the everywoman team immediately put you at ease. Mingling with the other finalists was a brilliant experience too. I got to meet a shortlisted lady who worked at the organisation that had just bought TNT, so we were able to have a really interesting chat. And it was wonderful to discover the other women and the journeys they’d been on in their own sectors of the T&L industry. All round, just a fantastic experience.
How were you feeling at the drumroll moment?
I was nominated in the Team Leader of the Year category, which was announced quite early in the ceremony. I hadn’t expected to win because there was such a broad spectrum of talent and I genuinely wasn’t disappointed when my name wasn’t called; I just remember feeling hugely proud to have been part of it all. Even though I knew there was a Woman of the Year Award, it simply didn’t occur to me that I would be a contender. So, when it got to that part o f the ceremony and they started describing the winner, I turned to my neighbour and said, “That sounds a bit like me!” When my name was called there was a whole wave of emotion: shock, euphoria, excitement and pride; then the panic as I realised I’d be standing on the stage in a few moments time and I had no idea what I was going to say! There’s a lesson there for future nominees – this is your chance to shine so be prepared, whether you think you’ll win or not!
What’s happened since winning your Award?
There was quite a lot of press interest, which put me on quite a platform internally. I’ve been able to do some mentoring across the business, and attend talent workshops to share my story. Perhaps the biggest change though relates to my own mindset. I’m not someone who likes attention or fuss, so when the congratulations messages poured in from literally hundreds of people, my instinct was to brush over it. I came to realise this simply undermined my achievement. Now, whenever the Award comes up - which it does frequently – I make a conscious effort to engage in conversation. I’m mindful that by sharing the experience, I might inspire someone else to have a go.
What do you think made you stand out to our judges?
I think it’s all about driving change. I get frustrated when things aren’t working right or the customer isn’t getting the best experience, so I’m driven to solve problems. Though I’m a naturally modest person, I’m not afraid to challenge the establishment. For example, I broke the traditional mould by recruiting an external candidate for one of our most difficult locations.
As a change maker, you must encounter resistance. How do you deal with that?
Firstly, it’s about being very clear what you want. When I was encountering resistance around a particular recruitment decision, I spoke to my manager and pointed out that there was no point paying me to do the job, if I was going to be blocked from making a difference. Secondly, it’s about choosing your battles wisely. In my early career, I’d get very frustrated if I wasn’t able to make change happen, and that had a de-motivating effect on me. With experience, I’ve had to accept that an idea might be good, it just might not be the right time or place to tackle it. That’s where resilience, tenacity and perseverance come into play. Keep all those ideas on the backburner, because when circumstances or attitudes change, it could be time to have another go.
What have been the biggest changes you’ve witnessed in the Transport & Logistics sector?
Customer expectation is now the highest I’ve ever known it to be, particularly where IT advancements are concerned. When our competitors bring out new tech solutions, it feeds that appetite even more, so that’s a real challenge for everyone in the industry. Then there are the challenges around carbon emissions, which are increasingly becoming an issue for all cities, not just London. There’s also more diversity now, and all the benefits that brings: I’ve seen the richness of ideas that comes from bringing in people from different backgrounds, as well as people with experience in other industries. Lacking T&L experience is certainly no barrier to joining this industry. But to make that happen we need to market ourselves better. When I’m explaining my role or organisation to someone for the first time, I’m sometimes guilty of falling back on that stereotype of trucks and warehouses. There are so many roles and functions – creative, marketing, finance, IT and many more. So no more orange truck talk from me!
Discover more about the FTA everywoman in Transport & Logistics Awards, including how to nominate yourself or a colleague for the 2017 programme.