Tandy Bailey drove a United Parcel Service truck around the Phoenix area for a month after she joined the package delivery business in 1992 -- and she still draws on the experience daily in her job as engineering manager for UPS' Laurel Mountain District based in New Stanton.
While finishing a degree in industrial engineering at Arizona State University, Ms. Bailey, now 41, worked at UPS in part-time clerical positions. She accepted a full-time job when she graduated but like other young engineering and business recruits, she didn't immediately get a desk and an office.
"They know if you're going to progress up the career ladder, it's all about optimizing what the drivers do. So you go out and go through the motions and it lets you understand the methods, what motivates them and how they think," she said.
Her time spent on the delivery route "helps me to this day," said Ms. Bailey, who supervises 62 employees and makes decisions that impact 1,200 drivers in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. "When I make a decision about strategy, it's on an individual driver level."
Ms. Bailey is among the female executives, managers and business owners scheduled to share their career experiences Friday at the fourth annual Think Big Forum at Chatham University.
Hosted by Chatham's Center for Women's Entrepreneurship, the event includes three panel discussions, networking, breakfast and lunch.
Though Chatham's entrepreneurship center organized the event, it's not targeted exclusively to female business owners or women who may be contemplating whether to launch a company. Ms. Bailey and some others scheduled to speak can better be described as "intrapreneurs" rather than entrepreneurs because they work for large, established organizations.
Intrapreneurs, said Rebecca Harris, director of the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship at Chatham, "are critical employees within existing corporate structures. They are risk takers and are willing to take responsibility and ownership."
Other intrapreneurs who will appear on a panel with Ms. Bailey are Diane Holder, executive vice president, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; Stephanie Novosel, chief operating officer, PNC Corporate & Institutional Banking; and Mary Winston, senior vice president and chief financial officer, Giant Eagle.
At UPS, Ms. Bailey said she learned early on that management fosters a "culture and climate of ownership."
"From the time I started, UPS had that ingrained in me. It's really kind of a different perspective on your job. It's not just a functional box," she said.
Besides driving one of the ubiquitous brown trucks, Ms. Bailey managed a center for 100 drivers -- a job that required her to oversee non-engineering business including wages, benefits and expenses and to keep track of how many packages were picked up and delivered.
"I had in-house resources from finance and accounting departments and human resources people to manage the people relations, but I had to initiate it all.
You don't get that when you make a career out of engineering and research."
Her management experiences "went well with my personality … and brought home the ownership attitude" of UPS, Ms. Bailey said.
UPS handled nearly 4 billion packages last year and generated annual revenues of $51.5 billion.
In 2003, the company transferred Ms. Bailey to Des Moines, Iowa, to become a district industrial engineering manager.
After two years, she moved to a lateral position managing packaging operations.
"It was similar to running the delivery center in Phoenix but it was a whole division so more ownership, more authority."
Next came the job in New Stanton where her district includes the Pittsburgh UPS center on the North Side.
Of 46 district engineering managers in UPS' United States operations, three are women, including Ms. Bailey.
Because of the lack of women in top positions throughout the engineering industry, "I was accustomed" to being one of the few females in UPS management, she said.
Gender has not been a disadvantage to her career but it's meant building relationships in a different fashion than some of the male managers who are older and rely on traditional means of networking such as meeting for drinks after work.
"I'm now a mother of two children ages 6 and 9. So that's the last thing I want to do."
The lunch session at Think Big Forum is sold out but registration is still available for breakfast and morning sessions including the panel with Ms. Bailey. Go to www.chatham.edu/ccwe.
Joyce Gannon can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1580.