Ramona Hood has been at the same company (FedEx) for nearly thirty years. She started as a receptionist…and now she’s a CEO. Ramona joined us this week to tell us how she stayed determined - and why creating her own personal “board of directors” (think: a network of mentors, coaches, and sponsors) helped her get to the top job.
On Stepping Into New Roles
Danielle: As part of your journey, you [said] when you were going through your resume, that you worked in a lot of different departments. And you raised your hand to do a lot of different jobs within the organization. How did you convince people to take a chance on you, or to give you an opportunity in a role that wasn't necessarily something you had done before?
Ramona: It was really part of me being very intentional to my career plan. And so I really set out to diversify my experience and look for those opportunities. And I like to talk about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable because I think it could have been easy for me to move into the operations area, get into a leadership role, and never leave the operational area.
But I felt it was important to be comfortable with the uncomfortable of learning something new, taking some risk as well as have some failure, to be able to grow. And so that really allowed me to think about areas of the organization that I would benefit by being in, as well as that organization gaining something from my past experience, as well. And so with that, it allowed me to really talk to different leaders about the experiences that I wanted, and to have people advocate for it as well.
Ramona: I think when it comes to mentorship, it's always important to have a level of chemistry with the mentee and mentor. And I think that's a two-way relationship…. I have been bold in the way that I've gotten mentors. I have picked up the phone and cold called someone because of their experience and just asked to have coffee and talk to them.
…. When it comes to sponsorship, that's an area where it's beyond a commitment of time. You are in a situation, when you start to advocate for someone, [where] you're cosigning for it. It's like me cosigning for my daughter to get a car. They need to have some of the capability of paying back in that space as well. And so when it comes to a sponsor, I've never asked an individual to be a sponsor. But what I have done is had dialogue about, "What does that look like when you're in a meeting and Ramona's name comes up? How do you share the relationship that we have and the capabilities I have?" Because I want to make sure that anyone that's in a role above me really has a good sense of not only what my skills and experience are, but also what my interest is, and to be comfortable to share that in a room that I'm not in.
Danielle: How did the conversations that were being had across the country this summer after George Floyd's murder, the protests that we were seeing, and the conversation around social justice, how did that play out in your organization? What types of things were you seeing come up and discussed?
Ramona: I will say, Danielle, that that probably was the most challenging experience I've had this far as a leader, more so than COVID.... What that experience really brought to me was the ability to be authentic as a leader and to really show up with my emotions and my feelings on a very difficult topic. It's a difficult one to talk about. It's a difficult one to share. And so I felt that if I could not lead that way, then I wasn't effective as a leader. And so it really allowed me to lead in a way of transparency and authenticity as we moved forward.
Skimm'd by Alex Carr and Peter Bonaventure.
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