To cope with keener competition, delivery operators must deliver more than just parcels.
FedEx's name resonates from the largest corporations down to individual domestic households thanks to its prompt deliveries from one side of the world to the other. "On the outside, FedEx is a transportation company but on the inside it is a technology company," says Linda Brigance, chief information officer, Asia Pacific of FedEx Express.
After graduating with a degree in computer science in her home State of Tennessee in the US, Ms Brigance started her career in the IT departments of Blue Cross and Blue Shield before joining the FedEx family. Starting out as a programmer, she has progressed over the years to her current important position.
She credits her career success to FedEx's philosophy of nurturing and taking care of its people. "Initially I didn't think I would have gone this far but I was encouraged by the management team," says Ms Brigance. FedEx's "People-Service-Profit" philosophy has made an impact on Ms Brigance and so she responded to this excellent company culture.
As a senior member of the Asia Pacific management team, Ms Brigance is responsible for all aspects of IT that support the company's customers and business in Asia Pacific. She works on prioritising projects and oversees the information security across business groups, which is an important aspect of FedEx's operational style.
To better serve the technology needs of the company and its clients, she is constantly trying out new technologies and IT-related devices.
When the alarm clock goes off every morning her first priority is to check all the emails via her hand-held device, productively using this time before she gets to work. She must attend and contribute to daily meetings where new projects are discussed and it is decided whether more staff should be allocated to certain projects or the work outsourced.
The smile on Ms Brigance's face, and her vibrant energy, are proof of her passion for her job. Concerning the foreseeable future, she anticipates further growth for FedEx and believes this will bring her further responsibilities in her current position. "I look at what opportunities might arise, and how and where I will fit in to do the best job I can," she says.
Tips for success
Ms Brigance believes two factors are crucial for success in FedEx's business: "Newcomers must possess technical skills and business knowledge, and have the right attitude," she says. "Good communication skills are a must in the IT field because the individual must be able to smoothly communicate something very technical in layman terms to non-technical clients or staff."
FedEx provides a good entry point for people looking to break into the field. Based on individuals' skills, staff are rotated around different departments to help them better identify and further their career aspirations, regardless of their academic qualifications. However, the company is selective among IT applicants, looking to recruit only the cream of the crop.
In particular, as Ms Brigance points out, the IT profession in Hong Kong's logistics industry, especially at FedEx, offers many career opportunities for university graduates. "FedEx provides very promising career paths for IT talents both in the logistics and transportation departments irrespective or whether they advance into management," she notes. Competitive salary packages including financial support for further education are part of the most attractive incentives to the right people.
Besides the job rotation opportunities, FedEx employees can opt for exchange programmes and work in other countries, broadening their exposure and understanding of the business.
"It's great to work for a company that understands the need for technology, she enthuses. Another plus at FedEx is the healthy company culture whereby people can have a passionate discussion and then come to a consensus. "People don't always agree but we can express our passions and not take it personally," she adds.
Ms Brigance emphasises that IT management and operations play a critical role in Hong Kong's logistics industry since having the right strategy and using the right IT allow the logistics operations and the supply chain to run smoothly. She notes that one of the major challenges facing the industry is security. "Irrespective of the location, security keeps IT specialists on their toes," she says. Another challenge is recruiting and retaining the best people.
Meanwhile, she believes it is difficult to predict future trends for IT operations in Hong Kong's logistics industry because the technology is evolving at an immense speed, but points out FedEx closely monitors all developments to ensure that customers are given the best IT solutions and aspiring employees the best careers.