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When Virginia Addicott became president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical 12 years ago, not only was she the female head of a trucking company, she was also one of the few women at the table at Akron, Ohio-area civic leader meetings.
She became chairman of the Greater Akron Chamber board in 2010.
It was a very important time, said Bill Considine, now Akron Children’s Hospital CEO emeritus, who was chairman of a group of Akron-area CEOs called Akron Tomorrow, which included Addicott.
“She’s not afraid to ask the tough questions. She’s not afraid to even push people out of their comfort zones. We need people like that,” said Considine.
“She’s admired and a trusted leader here in this community, which has put her on a lot of people’s speed dial,” said Considine.
And after 33 years with the trucking company, and nearly 20 years as either vice president of operations or CEO running the majority of the business at the Green, Ohio, headquarters of the global company, Addicott is retiring.
She has led almost 600 employees in Green, another 250 in other parts of the country and a fleet of 2,000 independent contractors.
Richard W. Smith, FedEx Express’ regional president of the U.S. and executive vice president of Global Support, said Addicott had “many accomplishments over her stellar career. FedEx is a better company today because of her leadership and passion. The team and I wish her the best in her well-deserved retirement.”
Addicott said she did not decide on her retirement from FedEx, which is effective Dec. 31, quickly.
“I really sat back for a year or a year and a half, really considering what do I want to do with the rest of my life,” Addicott said recently while sitting in the conference room adjoining her nearly empty office.
“I just turned 56 and I do look and think, ‘Gosh, I’ve got more life ahead of me.’ I’ve done 33 years at FedEx, I think it’s OK to say, ‘What’s next?’ and to move forward,” she said, adding that many of her mentors and friends helped guide her decision.
Addicott has spent “a tremendous amount of time” on an airplane going around the world, including traveling to Asia two or three times this year alone, as well as Europe.
“I’m really ready to stay at home and enjoy the beautiful home I live in, to enjoy my family and to do some traveling — believe it or not — for my own pleasure,” she said of her college-age daughter and adult son.
“People say, ‘You’ve seen the world’ and I have, and have had great experiences. ... But I’ve seen lots of airports, hotels and business offices. I think it’s time while I’m healthy and while I can do it, to do some traveling for myself and also to reinvent my career.”
As Addicott reflected on her career and influence in the community, she’s pleased she is no longer one of the only women leaders in the Akron-area leadership landscape.
“My thing has always been ‘How do we get more diversity at the table?’ Certainly women, as I’m a big advocate, but also to get minorities at the table. You see a lack of having African-American men.
“I’m really liking what I see. We’re moving the needle. It maybe is not fast enough, but the needle has definitely moved,” she said.
Addicott never felt like she was the woman in the room.
“I feel like I’m the professional in this room. I have just as much right to be here and to have a voice at the table,” she said.
“I spoke up and because of that, I was included.
“But I will say that I believe that I come, as any woman does, with a different vantage point, and it’s really wonderful to bring that vantage point to the table. That’s the power of diversity.”
From Paper to AI
A lot also has changed in the more than three decades since Addicott started her entry-level job at the former Roberts Express in 1986 as a part-time customer service representative.
The operations were run via paper and pencil.
They would track delivery shipments and input them into a computer.
In our Season 6, Episode 3 of RoadSigns, we ask: How Can More Diverse Leadership Spark Better Ideas in Transportation? Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
Truck drivers were required to call in four times a day to let the company know where they were on the route or get their next assignment, so they’d wait at a truck stop pay phone.
But in order to make sure no one else would get a call on the pay phone, the truckers would hang an “Out of Order” sign on it, Addicott said.
Now, the drivers of FedEx Custom Critical have cellphones, the trucks have satellite tracking devices that know their exact locations and can monitor temperatures in the truck for the often fragile shipments, and artificial intelligence is being used with data.
The company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of FedEx, is in charge of moving often sensitive shipments around the world.
It has shipped supplies to areas devastated by hurricanes and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including medical equipment, machine parts for cranes and bulldozers going through the rubble, and booties to put on dogs running across the rubble, Addicott said.
They’ve also moved “fun” things, like a polar bear from New York to a St. Louis zoo, the most intact Tyrannosaurus rex from the Museum of the Rockies to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and King Tut’s artifacts.
“No day is exactly the same as before, and it’s simply amazing the things we put on the trucks and what we move around the globe,” she said.
FedEx Corp. ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.
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