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Women in Trucking – Accelerate! Conference & Expo Recap

Women in Trucking

Women from all facets of the transportation and logistics industry gathered together for the Accelerate! Conference & Expo hosted by Women in Trucking. Held November 6th to 8th in Kansas City, Missouri, this year’s conference focused on how gender diversity can have a positive impact on a woman’s career and her company’s success.

The event, which also celebrated Women in Trucking’s 10th anniversary, drew more than 500 attendees from across the country. This made it the largest group ever for the organization.

“What a wonderful opportunity to gather with likeminded peers to discuss critical transportation issues and trends,” says Milestone Trailer Leasing Division Sales Executive Karen Novak, who attended the conference with Sarah Johnson, Executive Vice President of Highway Operations. “We were grateful to attend and represent the Milestone team.”

Accelerate! Conference & Expo

The three-day conference featured 30+ educational sessions. Topics ranged from speed mentoring and improving early stage driver turnover to creating happiness in the workplace and defining successful leadership. Attendees also had an opportunity to choose from four educational tracks: Leadership, Human Resources, Operations and Sales & Marketing.

The opening keynote address was given by author, screenwriter and attorney Valerie Alexander. Her presentation, “How Women Can Succeed in Trucking (Despite Having Female Brains),” examined a woman’s experience in the industry. It also provided practical tips on how to compete on a playing field designed by men.

Presentations

“Valerie is a dynamic speaker who dove into the basic reasons why women are great multitaskers, organizers and how we can take on multiple challenges,” says Novak. “Her presentation centered around ways women hold themselves back in the workplace and how to overcome that thought process.”

Novak herself participated as a sales coach/mentor and discussed her sales history followed by an informative Q&A. Topics discussed in her presentation included how to position yourself to grow with your company, recognizing when options for growth may not come in your current employment, and “must do’s” to promote yourself for higher opportunities (ex: dress, speak and behave professionally; know your topic better than anyone else in the room; take on projects that you can positively affect).

Conference Sessions

Some of the conference’s 30+ sessions offered included:

  • Steps Women Take to Become Successful Business Leaders
  • Best Practices in Female Driver Recruiting
  • Succeeding in a Male Dominated Industry
  • A Truck Tour (four different tractors were available to tour with a manufacturing rep available to discuss new innovations)
  • Elevating Your Game Through Personal Transformation
  • Tips to Eating Healthy on the Road

Several daily opportunities to network were available, including visiting vendor booths. Some vendors represented were:

In addition to the sessions, there were multiple speakers, networking lunches and evening receptions. The conference closed with drawings for vendor-provided prizes, the Woman of the Year Award (presented to Daphne Jefferson, Deputy Administrator, US Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) and a final presentation by Valerie Alexander.

Mission of Women in Trucking

Founded in 2007 to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, Women in Trucking is a non-profit organization that works to educate and raise awareness for women’s issues. This includes promoting career opportunities, improving working conditions for women, increasing the number of women drivers, as well as serving as a resource about women working in the transportation and logistics industry.

“In just a few short years, Women in Trucking has made significant strides for women nationwide,” says Sarah Johnson. “It’s great to see the organization grow and continue to support women’s endeavors in this exciting industry.”

Photo courtesy of Women in Trucking

 

 

 

Milestone Trailer Leasing Sarah Johnson

Women in Trucking – In Her Own Words

 

Meet Sarah Johnson 

The Beginning

While I was in college, I started working part-time for my dad’s trailer rental and leasing company, Personal Attention Leasing (PAL) which was based in St. Louis, Missouri. At the time, he had a rental fleet of 200 trailers. The summer I started, he added his second location in Kansas City, Kansas.

I always thought it was a temporary position, as I had different plans for my career path. I moved away to Chicago and Los Angeles while got my degree at but eventually settled back to the St. Louis area to help again with the business. We often joke that once you’re in transportation, you never get out!

Over the course of 10 years, Personal Attention Leasing grew through acquisitions of assets and companies to a fleet of 15,000 trailers and 12 locations. I held several roles in the company during those years. From inspecting equipment, processing invoices, human resource function, to helping with IT. Whatever it was, I would jump in and figure out how to make it happen, always putting the needs of the customer first. The growth of the company and my various roles gave me tremendous exposure to all aspects of the business, which I couldn’t have learned in any classroom.

Considering the fact that I worked for my father, I put pressure on myself to prove to my co-workers that I earned my position and that nothing was “given” to me. I often think back to how much I liked to play kickball at recess in the first grade. However, the boys would move in, thinking I couldn’t kick it very far. Then I would kick it over their heads. I simply wanted to get out on the kickball field and play (or win) the same game, the same way as my classmates. No special treatment.

Transitioning from Personal Attention Leasing to Milestone

In 2016 Personal Attention Leasing was rebranded to the parent company’s name of Milestone. The purpose was to represent all product lines to the market including intermodal equipment, containers, chassis and highway trailers. Today Milestone Equipment Holdings features 80,000 assets in total. As Executive Vice President of Branch Operations, I oversee our national network of 27 locations in the Trailer Leasing division. Our highway office is also our St. Louis branch, so it keeps me in touch with the equipment, driver interactions and the core of our businesses.

With our growth trajectory, I have been fortunate enough to see the transportation industry in all types of businesses and applications. I enjoy learning the inner working of the retailers, manufacturers, distributors and trucking companies. I’m equally passionate about helping these industries to creatively solve problems.

My Perspective

I enjoy working with the employees in the field, making them successful and remaining diligent to serving our customer base.

Being a woman in trucking reminds me of being on that kickball field. I don’t want special treatment. Not in my favor or against me. I am knowledgeable about this business, I know equipment, I have ideas, I like building business partnerships, and I enjoy making a profit. I want to use the skills I have developed to compete in the game.

My goal is that someday, perhaps with my help, I will have more women on my “team” in the board room to help “kick the ball over their heads.”

 

Accelerate! Conference & Expo

From Monday, November 6th to Wednesday, November 8th, I will be joining transportation, logistics, and supply chain peers at the Accelerate! Conference & Expo, hosted by Women In Trucking. If you will be attending and would like to meet, please complete the form below.

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Women in Trucking

The Women In Trucking Association is a non-profit organization with the mission to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the industry. For nearly a decade, we’ve been focused on this clear mission. It’s supported by a passionate leadership team, highly engaged members, and committed sponsors and partners. We continue to build a strong community among our members (primarily business professionals and professional drivers) who believe in and support our mission.