Anna Kozlowska, winner of the 2014 FTA everywoman in Transport & Logistics Rising Star Award, reveals why she believes that logistics can be a great career for women.
Logistics: a male dominated, old-fashioned industry based around pain-in-the-backside, slowing-us-down-on-the-way-to-work, dirty trucks. That’s probably the idea of the logistics and parcel delivery industry held by most people in the UK. In terms of a career, many women would think ‘absolute nightmare’. But not me.
To me the logistics and transport industry is exciting, challenging, rewarding and, yes fun! If you look closely enough, you even get to see a glamorous side to it all with state-of-art vehicles, mind-blowing technology and fantastic people who really do make the world turn.
It’s all too easy to stereotype not just people but an entire industry. However the truth is, if you are prepared to work hard and are determined to succeed, you can do anything you want in life; and a career in logistics can be especially rewarding.
Even though as a little girl with pink bows in my platted hair I never dreamt of spending half of my life in warehouses and hubs, I’ve never looked back since I arrived into this industry in 2008, taking a job in the Membership Services department of The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (CILT). All I knew of this industry was what I learnt in my previous recruitment job, placing fork lift drivers and pickers into warehouses.
CILT opened a whole new world to me and being in touch with people and companies in this mysterious field was rather exciting. I love learning new things and, since I didn’t know much about it, very quickly I’ve decided I wanted to know everything.
Luckily someone noticed my enthusiasm, and developed me all the way up: Steve Agg, CEO at CILT was the first ever boss who really knew how to get the best out of me. He kept challenging me with new projects, and I kept delivering: hence three promotions in two years. Steve always said he believed I had the ability to meet new challenges. He saw I thrived on them, he knew that challenge was my alarm clock every morning. I learned a lot at CILT.
Then I got an opportunity to do it all for a logistics giant, Geodis (and its subsidiary Fortec Distribution Network), as UK Marketing Manager. Once again surrounded by a team of Directors who believed in me.
Now, running my own marketing agency for logistics businesses, I get to do it all, not just for one or two companies but for many more, including DB Schenker Logistics UK, Abbey Logistics, Gwynedd Shipping, M&H Logistics and more. Imagine the feeling of driving on a motorway and passing one of the trucks that carries your design; or planning a campaign which delivers £250k to the bottom line within its first month, or launching a project with a customer who wins a prestigious award for it… The best feeling in the whole wide world!
It’s true that the majority of my customers are still male but all of them are very supportive and completely appreciate a woman’s point of view in their boardroom. Men and women work differently, manage people in different ways and look at things from a completely different perspective: but that is exactly that why we need more females in this industry.
There’s a massive gender imbalance in the logistics industry and you’d be forgiven for questioning why a woman would want to work in such a male-dominated industry? I always remember what superwoman Karren Brady was told just before taking over West Ham football club: ‘You’ve got to be twice as good as the men to be even thought half as good.’ A line that just sets me straight into ‘I’ll show you how it’s done’ mode. It’s similar in logistics and parcel shipping, and that’s why organisations like Everywoman and Women in Logistics really matter. I always thought of them as just groups of feminists (I really did!) until the first time I attended the very glamorous FTA everywoman in Transport & Logistics Awards at The Savoy in 2013.
Hearing the stories of each of the winners made me feel extremely proud for women who were just strangers to me. I literally had goose bumps and clapped my hands off every time somebody got on and off the stage. I’ve always been very determined but experiencing this motivated me even more.
Surprise, surprise, 12 months on I was one of them. Nominated in secret by some of my largest customers, I actually won. I remember it like it was yesterday… getting on that stage, seeing the room filled with industry giants. Deep inside I was hoping that, just like me in the audience one year earlier, there would be other women who felt the same pride in womens’ achievements that I had done.
This industry has a lot of very inspirational women in it. Like Hilary Devey, Nikki King and, my personal favourite, Beverley Bell. Beverley has recently been elected President of CILT, well-deserved as she is strong, inspirational, passionate about the industry and very funny. At her inaugural lunch in May, Beverley talked about how this industry is really not just men in trucks. With social media changing our world, there’s a greater need now for more marketing and IT staff – the management of logistics is equally important to the operational side. This industry needs to do more to attract not only more females but also young talent in general! The likes of everywoman and Think Logistics do a great job of that already, and we should do as much as we can to support them.
I’m on a continuous mission to change people’s perception of what is still seen as an old-fashioned, out-dated industry and make more people realise it’s an exciting career and that every single one of us relies on its effective operation every day of our everyday lives.