Kevin Warren, one the most influential senior leaders in Corporate America, has joined UPS as their new Chief Marketing Officer and reports directly to UPS Chairman and CEO, David Abney. He has also joined the Management Committee—the most senior leadership group in the company.
UPS is currently America’s largest package delivery company, and a leading global provider of specialized transportation logistics services, and he is responsible for U.S. Marketing, International Marketing, Digital Infrastructure Analytics, Revenue Management, Business Planning & Forecasting, Customer Loyalty Management, Segment Marketing, as well as Customer Communications and Public Relations.
When Warren’s appointment to the role was made public, Abney made it clear that appointing Kevin Warren to this important role was both strategic and imperative.
“With unprecedented demand from consumer and business customers, it’s critical for UPS to have a savvy leader driving innovative new marketing programs that support one of world’s most trusted and respected brands,” said Abney. “Kevin brings a wealth of experience to UPS with a strong global growth focus across multiple disciplines. He will guide critically important marketing initiatives as we continue UPS’s transformation.”
A native of Washington, D.C., Warren received his Bachelor of Science in finance from Georgetown University and is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School, having completed the Advanced Management Program.
Prior to joining UPS, Warren enjoyed a long, prosperous career with Xerox holding roles on increasing responsibility throughout his tenure there. PIVOT sat down to talk to Warren about his career and the advice he would give those who are looking to effectively manage theirs.
Give our readers a little background on your career, how you approach developmental opportunities, and what led you to UPS.
I was in my senior year at Georgetown when I started with Xerox as an intern. I was 20 years old then and I was there for 34 years. Although I didn’t plan on staying there that long, I chose to stay because the culture aligned with my values. I also established some great, lifelong relationships during my time there.
As it relates to development, I’m always thinking about what I can do to continue to challenge myself, what can I do to continue to grow, and seize opportunities.
One of my last roles with Xerox was AVP, Chief Commercial Officer, right there next to the CEO. I continued to do different things in order to get some different experiences and gain new competencies. I had to challenge myself and I remained open to opportunities to pivot.
If you’re close minded, you could miss an opportunity. That openness is something that you have to look at. It is really easy to be intimidated by the risk factors of doing something that’s unknown or going someplace that’s unknown. Focusing on the possibility of growth opportunities are way more important than being intimidated by fear of the unknown.
When this opportunity at UPS presented itself, initially, the default was to stay where I was, then I started thinking about it, I thought to myself, “this is a company that is in an industry that is extremely dynamic and vibrant and it’s growing!” The industry I left was in secular decline as people are printing less – but people are shipping more! As you consider moves in your career, you must think about them strategically and from all vantage points.
UPS is a rock-solid company. The cultural values align with my mine to a great extent. Diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords here, it is something that our CEO (insert the name) talks about all the time and we talk about it in management committee meetings as well. I want to be a part of that conversation for UPS. I felt that I could bring some value here and it makes me proud to know that I am only the second management committee hire from outside the company in 10 years.
Those were the things that have brought me to UPS and I just couldn’t be happier to be here.
For many corporate professionals, reaching the C-Suite is their goal. Tell our readers how you effectively navigated your career to become Chief Marketing Officer at UPS.
First, you must have a road map, a plan and an understanding of where your industry is going, where your company (or the company you want to be a part of) is going. Secondly, you must understand which skills and competencies are required to be a C- level executive. After, that, you must do an inventory of which ones you have right now and then solve for the gaps.
That might mean going outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself outside the comfort zone, whether that’s going to work in a different function or moving to a different geography, so you have a global view. Those sort of things are really important. That’s where you have to balance any risk aversion. When you seek the C-Suite, you must be fearless.
Unfortunately, these things are not intuitive. I was fortunate enough to have some help along the way. When I started with Xerox, as I mentioned as an intern, my mom was a schoolteacher and my dad worked for the local DC government, so these weren’t business people.
My older sister was a librarian and she brought me a book written by Mark McCormack called “What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School” and it described the nuances of navigating and managing your career that wouldn’t be taught necessarily in an accounting class or even a marketing class. It might be things shared on a golf course or in a country club. I didn’t operate in any of those places. I got a head start and then it was something I was able to refine along my journey.
I see it is a triangle of things you must solve for; one component is results. You must deliver amazing results. When I say amazing I mean top of the line results in whatever you’re doing, and you also must do it consistently. That’s minimum qualifier, if you don’t have that you’re not going to get to the C Suite. However, just having that doesn’t get you there either. That would be the top of the triangle if you will, results.
The second part would be skills and competencies. You should look at yourself as a company that is doing research and development and making sure that the 2017 version of yourself is stronger than the 2016 version.
You should always be adding to your game and your skillset. When you do this, not only are you delivering results, you are also learning, so now you have got two-thirds of the triangle.
The third component is a behavioral piece and I have seen this derail some executives because many are hard chargers who lack this skill set.
Corporations are social institutions. How do you build coalitions? How do you generate followership? How do you take bad news? Do you give credit, or do you take credit? What sort of peer relations do you have? How do you handle conflict?
Your executive presence and your gravitas, your professionalism, how you carry yourself, where you sit in the room are things from a behavioral standpoint. If you don’t quite have this behavioral piece down, you won’t make it. You could have the other two parts of the triangle and end up being derailed. If you score three for three on the triangle, that’s when you have that opportunity to ascend and ultimately get to the C Suite.
What about those people that are in the middle? They’re not quite there, they don’t know enough internally to get a professional development coach to push them over the edge. What happens to the people in the in between?
First of all, they have to be aware that that is part of the game. That’s number one. Then they have to assess honestly where they are relative to that particular skill level.
This is where this whole notion of managing your own career comes to play. Like Jay-Z’s famous line says, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!” You have look at is as though you are the CEO of your own company – your career. I am the CEO of Kevin Warren, Incorporated and I’m managing that.
A large part of how you manage that is having a really good Board of Directors that you can trust to give you counsel. You have to trust them to not only give it to you straight, but also give it to you in a way that is going to be in your best interest.
I give that feedback because often times there’s not enough recognition of issues in this third area. People can be so focused on just trying to hit the numbers that they don’t realize they’re running over people.
They are so competitive while trying to be the best that they’re creating enemies not realizing that they might end up working with or for that person one day.
I’m a big fan of lateral movement and I have benefited from that; however, it should be done strategically. If you do a bunch of laterals, you can wind up aging out of what it is you really want to do.
As I reflect on my career, some of the most rewarding assignments were roles that weren’t vertical. You must really look at yourself and the portfolio of skills and competencies that you have and decide whether that lateral move charts well in your career trajectory. You should also look at which skills and competencies make you more competitive for roles on increasing responsibility. Think about how you can differentiate yourself from everyone else vying for those elusive senior-level roles.
I’ve done that a few times and it propelled me to move faster down the road. If this is done strategically, it can be an accelerator. The inherent risk in taking laterals is being there too long. That’s where the derailment can happen. You can get comfortable.
I’ll give you an example. I grew up on the sales side where I would get bigger assignments before moving on to the next level of specialist and then manager.
There was a manager position open, but I decided to go out to our training center, which paid less money than what I was making, and it was a lateral.
At that point, the industry was going from analog copiers to digital copiers. I didn’t know digital, so I went out to teach the digital, which meant I had to know it backwards and forwards. That was a very different environment from sales which had the “kill what you eat pace” associated with it. The training environment was much calmer and more reserved. I got advice saying, “Kevin, don’t stay too long.” I did that less than two years and then came back as a manager.
There were others who became quite comfortable out there because it was less stressful than sales. The next thing you know, 5, 7, then 10 years had passed, and they were still there, and they did not pick up the digital piece.
It is no longer good enough just to be in a job – mastering that job is important. I think of where I am right now at UPS, there’s an exchange in which the company is investing in me as I’m learning the business. Then over a certain period of time the exchange will be more even as far as what they’re investing and what I’m giving.
Then there’ll be a point where maybe I’m giving more than what the company is giving, and then when you get to that point, that’s where the evaluation process should take place.
If you’re moving before you get that equal exchange, that’s more of a high-risk maneuver. It would be akin to taking Spanish for a year and a half and only getting to Spanish II then you take Russian and then French but you’re not fluent in any of them!
Is there an obligation for companies to make career development opportunities available for their employees or should employees be resourceful enough to develop their own career?
I have to have an R&D budget for myself and look at myself almost as a free agent that brings value to the company that the company then rewards based on the value that I bring.
That also means you could take advantage of the training resources and tools a company offers. A lot of people don’t fully take advantage of them. It’s not just an obligation that we have to drive on development, we have a competitive advantage if we do it.
With the rate and pace of change right now, we’re looking at an investment in ourselves similar to investing in going to school, investing in a wardrobe, any sort of investment. It will be a great return on that.
I have found that all people want is the upside of the cool jobs but a lot of times they don’t want to sign up for the work, the hours, the stress, the trade- offs – there is this thing called trade- offs that come with these C-Suite jobs!
Talk about why, at this juncture, UPS is your Employer of Choice.
I already talked about the industry. The cultural fit was really important for me and important for UPS.
Up to this point, I have spent my entire adult life at one company. When you go to work for a company it’s a relationship you end up having with that company, so you think about things you would consider in entering a relationship with somebody.
Those sort of things need to be top of mind. Is there alignment on values? How am I going to fit into their culture? How is that culture going to affect me? It was important for me to meet the other management committee members and the CEO. As they were doing their assessment, I was doing mine. I just saw that as a real good fit.
When I laid it all out, I saw UPS as a company that’s been around 110 years, it operates in a growing market, and the company is growing itself.
This marketing function that I’m leading was an area that they saw that they needed to invest in and take it to the next level, so I saw that as a challenge as well. UPS is in a dynamic, thriving, beautiful city. When you lay out all the check marks there it was pretty clear to me that this was a fantastic opportunity. Wish me luck!
No luck needed or necessary. You’ve got this!