The $1.1 billion air hub sprawls across the equivalent of more than 80 football fields, holds 17,000 conveyors that can handle 304,000 packages an hour, houses computers that process nearly 1 million transactions a minute, and serves as a linchpin for a $33 billion business that has become the world's largest package-delivery company.
At its operational heart is one woman: Jovita Carranza.
As vice president of UPS Air Operations in Louisville, Kentucky, Ms. Carranza is responsible for the day-to-day management of the 4-million-square-foot, state-of-the-art international package-processing facility known as UPS Worldport that is the centerpiece of UPS' global distribution network.
Far from her start with the company as a part-time, night-shift hub clerk in Los Angeles in 1976, Ms. Carranza – who was named to her current position a year ago this month and is the company's highest-ranking Hispanic female executive – now oversees more than half of UPS' 25,000 employees in Louisville and every aspect of the hub operation from technology, engineering and brokerage to ground support, human resources and security.
Ms. Carranza's corporate achievements, determination, drive, innovation and leadership in business have earned her selection as the 2nd annual recipient of Hispanic Business Magazine's Woman of the Year Award from among this year's roster of Top 25 Elite Women, reflecting the nation's most influential and accomplished Hispanic women in the business and entrepreneurial arenas.
More apt to focus on the accomplishments of her team at UPS than on her own achievements, Ms. Carranza, who grew up in Chicago's inner city in a first-generation Mexican-American family that did not speak English, credits her parents with inspiring her commitment and determination to overcome any obstacle and take every opportunity that came her way. "They weren't perfect, but they strived to improve every day," she says. "My father was not a corporate employee, but the level of responsibility that he did have he took very seriously."
And opportunities for responsibility quickly began to come Ms. Carranza's way after she joined UPS. While she initially viewed it as a job to help make ends meet as a single mother attending college, within four months she had been named to a supervisory position for the company's Metro Los Angeles hub operations and human resources.
"The one error that people make early on in their careers is that they're very selective about opportunities so they avoid some, prefer others," she says. "I always accepted all opportunities that presented themselves because from each one you can learn something, and they serve as a platform for future endeavors."
More opportunities, along with the company's team-driven and diverse corporate culture, convinced her to stay. UPS, which has more than 370,000 employees, champions teamwork, diversity and promoting from within. The company says minorities make up more than 33 percent of its 330,000 U.S. employees and hold more than 27 percent of the company's 50,000 U.S. executive positions.
As Ms. Carranza's career progressed, her responsibilities continued to broaden. By 1985, Ms. Carranza was the workforce planning manager in Metro LA. By 1987, she was district human resources manager based in Central Texas. By 1990 she had accepted a move to district human resources manager in Illinois. She received her first operations assignment, as division manager for hub, package and feeder operations, in Illinois in 1991. Two years later, she said yes to becoming district operations manager in Miami. In 1996, she accepted the same role in Wisconsin.
By 1999, Ms. Carranza's progressive successes led UPS to promote her to manager of the Americas Region, established in 1989 and now serving more than 50 countries and territories in the region. There, Ms. Carranza was responsible for UPS operations in Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Virgin Islands.
"If I had been selective initially, I would not have experienced such a plethora of new relationships, new business models, new worksites, different dynamics," she says.
By 2000, she accepted the role as region manager, International Operations, Miami, becoming the first female international region president in the company's history and the highest-ranking Hispanic female in the company. There, Ms. Carranza quickly moved to expand UPS in Latin America, looking for local partners everywhere from Brazil and Argentina to the Dominican Republic. She was responsible for overseeing all UPS operations in the Americas region, one of the fastest-growing regions for the company, which had acquired Challenge Air Cargo's assets and routes to become the largest express and air cargo company in Latin America.
Upon his retirement, outgoing region head Robert Elizondo praised Ms. Carranza's strong leadership. "Her knowledge of the transportation industry, commitment to consensus-building and dedication to the company will ensure UPS continues to thrive in the region," he said at the time.
Ms. Carranza's career has generally paralleled the growth of UPS over the past quarter century. From 1975 to 1980, UPS expanded into new territories, becoming the first package-delivery company to serve every address in the 48 contiguous United States. With airline deregulation in the 1980s, UPS began its own airline to ensure delivery reliability. At the same time, the company expanded internationally, linking the U.S. and six European nations in 1985 and establishing a presence in a growing number of countries and territories in the Americas, Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific Rim.
By 1993, when Ms. Carranza was in Miami, UPS was delivering 11.5 million packages and documents a day for more than one million regular customers. With such volume, UPS had to develop new technology to maintain efficiency, customer service and price competitiveness. By 2000, UPS Worldport, the largest capital project in UPS history, was completed after three years of construction, automating express-package sorting with advanced customized technology that streamlines efficiencies. Production capacity is up – with potential to expand to meet future growth – and operating costs are down.
It is the daily operation of this technological behemoth that Ms. Carranza – who found time during her career progression to complete a Master's of Business Administration for Executives degree program at the University of Miami – now presides over.
Since her company is a 24/7 operation, Ms. Carranza is virtually always on call. She starts her day at home at 5 a.m., listening to voicemail messages and reports about overnight operations, and is in the office by 7:30 a.m. Her time is tightly packed with meetings, one-on-one interactions, business-plan reviews, cost reviews, and fielding myriad issues, though throughout her career she has found a way to be involved in community service organizations from National Council of La Raza and the Library Foundation Board in Louisville to Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement.
She says plans are for the hub to gradually expand, but her key immediate goals are identifying new efficiencies, cost-containment, fully-maximizing automation and continuously boosting the abilities of her team; "It's an obligation - we have to develop the people," she says.
It has been important, she says, to surround herself with capable, skilled employees who are loyal to the company and committed to results; her direct-reporting team of eight can call at any time of the day or night or weekends. "I can rely on my staff to stay on top of what they have responsibility for. … and it's that trust factor that keeps you driven," she says. "You can call on anyone at any time and it would be rare for them to say they can't make it right now."
Ms. Carranza, who says she has "total reliance on the coordination of her team for execution," also still visits worksites, interacting with front-line workers who she says she remains sensitive to because she remembers well her own days loading packages. "One of my MOs is to sit back and listen and observe," she says. "You learn more by not speaking. Intelligent people learn from their own experiences; with wisdom, you learn from other people's mistakes. I'm very methodical about that."
And she says her background plays a role in the importance she places on employees and the success she has achieved. "The fact that as a woman you have multiple diversities, personal and professional, I believe it prepares you to deal with the workforce environment in what it offers in diversity," she says. "I am very adaptable, patient, observant, flexible. I tend to be a listener … I value the input of the staff and the front-line employees."
After nearly three decades at the company, it is this teamwork, interaction and staff-development that Ms. Carranza says may be one of the achievements of which she is proudest. "Being instrumental in the development of the next leaders in the organization," she says. "Because that takes focus, determination and sincerity to perpetuate the UPS culture and enhance it through people."
Now, looking back to 28 years ago when she was loading packages at the UPS hub in Los Angeles, Ms. Carranza says she never envisioned how her willingness to accept opportunity and refuse to bend to obstacles would eventually lead her to her current position. But her philosophy illuminates the drive that has motivated her.
"Playing a small role doesn't benefit or serve anyone," she says. "Not yourself, your employer, your family, your peers, your constituents. … Striving for an always higher level is better for the world."
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