Ramona Hood’s Historic Rise from Receptionist to CEO
By Emiene Wright
Ramona Hood was a college student and young mother when she started at FedEx Custom Critical in 1991 as an administrative assistant. Three decades later, she’s president and chief executive officer, the first African-American woman to hold this leadership role at the shipping giant. A native of Akron, Ohio, Hood earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Walsh University and an
Executive MBA from Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management. She’s worked in several departments at FedEx including operations, safety, sourcing, and sales and marketing. In 2010 and 2016, Hood received the FedEx Five Star award, the highest recognition employees can receive at the company. Today as president and CEO, Hood oversees a team of more than 150 people who manage and coordinate shipments of raw materials and finished goods primarily for manufacturing clients and their customers across North America. Over the course of her stellar rise through the ranks, Hood worked hard, delivered excellence, and built collaborative relationships that prepared her for every level. She shared with The Crisis some of her trusted strategies for success, which she relies on even in the midst of unprecedented times.
Who was a pivotal role model for you growing up?
My mother, from the standpoint of being a single mom and having such a strong work ethic, and at times working multiple jobs to provide for me. Taking that strong work ethic and continuing to learn and work hard was something that I brought into the workforce.
You’ve steadily progressed through the ranks at FedEx Custom Critical and FedEx Supply Chain. What advice would you give those climbing the corporate ladder?
The key professional traits that helped me are having a strategic mindset, the ability to build collaborative working relationships, the execution of critical strategic initiatives and having a keen understanding of the business, thanks to my wide range of experience within the company.
How have mentors influenced your career?
At FedEx Custom Critical, both Virginia Addicott and Kevin McClellen really tapped into what my potential was and allowed me to put thought and consideration into what my career aspirations were without limits, and they always provided support in those areas. (Virginia Addicott is the former president and CEO of FedEx Customer Critical.)
Another is Ward Strang from FedEx Ground. Ward was a great advocate for me and made ways to get me visibility outside of my own organization. It helped me grow and really navigate through the FedEx enterprise better. Mike Ducker [another FedEx executive] was also pivotal in my decision to consider moving outside of FedEx Custom Critical and joining the FedEx Supply Chain organization.
You stepped into your role of CEO a year ago, Jan. 1, 2020. Less than two months later, the world was immersed in a pandemic and increasingly reliant on companies such as FedEx to deliver vital goods and supplies. How did you adapt your plans?
I didn’t anticipate incorporating COVID-19 plans into my first 90 days as CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, but I’m thankful for our team members who have risen to the challenge to keep us operating and serving our customers.
Keeping true to the culture of FedEx, our team members stepped up to make things happen for each other and for our customers. We also reviewed our business continuity plan and methodically approached aspects like social distancing, mapping out our strategy to specifically utilize the incoming information from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and other leading health experts to make informed decisions on safety and operations. The situation certainly altered my plans, but I think that comes with leading a dynamic company.
As the first African-American woman to be a FedEx CEO, what kind of impact did the achievement have on you? What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?
Leading a company was definitely one of the career milestones I hoped to achieve. It has been exciting, especially once I realized the magnitude of the role itself. Not only [for my goal] of supporting the business objectives, but being the first and setting an example.
Also, as an African-American woman raising two African-American women, it is very inspirational for my daughters. One day, my oldest daughter asked me if I was breaking the ceiling. Having that surreal moment with her made me proud of my journey and proud to be part of an organization that values diverse thought.