UPS Delivers a Female Perspective at London 2012

Cindy Miller, UPS’ managing director for the U.K., Ireland and Nordics, is gearing up for a busy summer. As the official logistics and express delivery supporter for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, UPS is tasked with a heavy load. While the athletes will be making waves and earning medals on the field and in the pool, Miller and UPS will be working to ensure that the behind-the-scenes activity runs smoothly — most importantly, that all the sporting equipment arrives at the right place at the right time.

Diversity Executive had the chance to chat with Miller about the upcoming Olympics in London and more.

What professional experience could have prepared you to coordinate logistics for the Olympics?

I assumed my current position as head of UPS’ business operations in the U.K., Ireland and the Nordic countries in October of 2010, and by that point UPS already had been selected as the official logistics and express delivery supporter for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

I can’t say there was anything specific in my career that ultimately led me here, but I am both excited and humbled to have been given this responsibility. All the eyes of the world will be on London this summer, and UPS is playing a critical role in ensuring the games are an incredible success.

What are the biggest responsibilities of your role? What were your initial perceptions of your role and how have they changed?

My primary responsibilities related to the games are to lead the team of UPS logistics experts we’ve assembled to manage the herculean task of delivering the games — which will include handling more than 30 million items, including 1 million pieces of sporting equipment.

We’re also engaged in other complex tasks such as supply chain planning, customs brokerage and inventory and warehouse management. To put it into perspective, imagine turning the Olympic venues upside down. Everything that falls out — except the people — will have been handled by UPS.

Initially, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect because there isn’t a template for this kind of thing. There also isn’t any room for error, so the stakes are very high. That could be potentially overwhelming, but I feel fortunate to work at a company that places a high value on teamwork, and I’m confident our Olympics performance will be worthy of a gold medal.

Both sports and logistics and shipping are largely male-dominated industries. How have these experiences shared your ideas on diversity and inclusion?

I think over the years there has been an evolution in the sports world as well as the logistics industry and today — there are women who have risen to prominence in both. I am a competitive person by nature, and I think that has helped in my career at UPS, but I may not have gotten as far if there weren’t people at the top who were willing to create an environment that gives opportunities to all people, regardless of their gender, race or any other factor.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so very proud to be associated with UPS. Even though we’re in an industry traditionally dominated by males, there isn’t any doubt as to the value we place on diversity.

What are some of the greatest challenges you have encountered in your role with the Olympics? Biggest lessons learned?

I think one of the first lessons I had to learn was to be patient with myself and to keep in mind, as the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It would have been easy to be intimidated by the sheer scale and scope of what we’ve been tasked to do, but I just took a deep breath and remembered something UPS’ founder said a long time ago: “Service is the sum of many things done well.”

The same is true of any task, including delivering the Olympics. So every day, since we first announced our sponsorship in September 2009, we’ve been developing and honing our plans to ensure we help make the London 2012 Games the most successful in history.

How do you gauge the success of your role in the Olympic Games?

At UPS, we try to maintain an attitude of being constructively dissatisfied with ourselves because we never want to stop improving, regardless of any previous success we may have achieved. Along that vein, whenever I complete any major project or task, I always ask myself some questions with the goal of continuous improvement: Did we deliver on our commitment to our customers? What could I have done differently that could have improved the outcome? Did I create an environment in which my team felt empowered to do their best? I’m confident UPS will perform flawlessly for the London 2012 Games just as we did for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 — but we will never rest on our laurels.

Mohini Kundu is a former editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.