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Kendra Phillips: Working her way to the top

Ryder Systems group director of Southeast operations is the highest-level female at Ryder in operations.

Kendra Phillips will tell you that her career path and background aren’t as interesting as Anna Rosas’, but that didn’t keep her from climbing the ladder to become one of the highest-ranking women at Ryder System Inc.

Phillips manages a multimillion-dollar P&L and a team of more than 700 employees. In her first year in this role, she was the top operational performer within the division.

Phillips started her career by studying chemical engineering in college. From there, she went on to work for Deloitte Consulting. During her time there, her work focused on manufacturing and the supply chain.

“That was really what introduced me to the field,” Phillips said. “I was there for four years. In that time, I became fascinated with supply chain, logistics, and operations because it’s not the primary focus for most companies. Most companies are focused on their product and their marketing. The last thing they tend to think about is the distribution of their product and how it is getting from Point A to Point B. And it’s essential, especially today with e-commerce.”

After Deloitte, Phillips earned her MBA and a master’s in engineering management at Northwestern. Then, like Rosas, Ryder reached out to her.

Kendra Phillips, Ryder Systems group director of Southeast operations.

 

“It was a great fit,” she noted. “I started with Ryder in their strategy department to work on supply chain operations. It was a perfect combination of putting together my skills from an MBA with my interest in logistics and supply chain and really being able to hone that.”

At Ryder, Phillips worked her way through the organization in a lot of different fields and areas. Last June, she moved into operations. Currently, for the company’s dedicated division, Phillips runs all the operations in the southeast and all Ryder’s oil and gas operations across the U.S. She is the highest-level female at Ryder in operations. 

When it comes to staying motivated every day, Phillips said it’s two-fold: Ryder itself and the industry.

“To be honest, I feel extremely fortunate; I’ve been given so much opportunity here,” she explained. “I started out as a manager, worked my way up to group director, and held an extreme variety of roles—and that’s not typical, per se. I’ve really been given the opportunity to grow, learn, and test new skills. I’ve been put in situations where I’ve been uncomfortable, and I am learning all the time.”

Ryder also promoted Phillips while she was on maternity leave—a move that spoke volumes to her.

“I don’t think most companies would do that,” she pointed out. “I think that’s really a company saying, ‘We believe in you; we’re willing to take a chance on you.’ That says a ton.”

Phillips also mentioned she is extremely passionate about women and promoting women in leadership. She feels there is no reason that women shouldn’t be involved in transportation.

“There is nothing about this industry that should deter women. What is amazing about it is when you’re different, when you stand out, and you perform well, everyone notices,” she said. “Being a female and continuing to move up the ladder at Ryder, everyone knows my name, everyone knows who I am, and it’s because it’s me and a ton of men. It’s because I’m different. So, when you get that opportunity, instead of looking at it as a negative, turn it to a positive. The challenge, I think, for women is to not lose confidence in yourself and your right to be there,” Phillips concluded.

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