Ellen Voie: A Staunch Leader with Magnificent Attributes

Ellen Voie
Ellen Voie

A great leader has a vision. These personalities know how to motivate and inspire others, building, nurturing, and coaching their team. Leadership means different people to different people, but there are several traits that define the characteristics of the greatest leaders.

Effective leaders think analytically about their businesses and those they oversee. They invest the time and effort to clearly understand any outstanding weaknesses, threats, strengths, and opportunities.

This helps them identify how they can support the team and help them overcome problems. Great leaders know when to pivot, constantly evaluating their own input to see how it aligns with organizational policy and objectives. These attributes shed the spotlight on the Founder of Women In Trucking, Ellen Voie.

The Women In Trucking Association’s mission is to encourage women’s employment in the industry, address obstacles that might keep women from entering trucking and celebrate our members’ success.

In an interview with CIOLook, Ellen shares valuable facts highlighting her professional tenure and journey so far in the dynamic business arena.

Below are the excerpts from the interview:

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at your company. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

One of my first jobs after high school was working for a steel fabricating plant in the drafting department. I was offered a transfer to shipping along with the offer to earn my d Traffic and Transportation Management diploma.

I was the assistant and then Traffic Manager at a very young age. I had to prove that I was capable and knowledgeable both as a female in a male-dominated area and as a very young person.

After I started my family, I used my training to become a consultant to trucking companies in central Wisconsin for the next eighteen years.  During that time, I completed my Master’s Degree in Communication at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point. I went on to become the executive director of a trucking-related non-profit association. In 2006 I was, a large midwestern carrier hired me ager of Recruiting and Retention Programs.

I was tasked with better understanding how to attract and retain non-traditional groups, which included women. I realized that the trucking industry wasn’t doing such a great job in encouraging women to become professional drivers. I belonged to a women’s aviation organization, so I used their group as a model to create the Women In Trucking Association in 2007.

Tell us about your company and its mission and vision; how does your company thrive towards enabling advancements in the ever-evolving modern industry?

That mission hasn’t changed, and we have become the resource for the industry in creating a more gender-diverse supply chain. Some of our initiatives include research and creating White papers to provide data and facts to our members.

We also created programs to encourage young girls to become more aware of jobs in trucking through a truck driver doll and a Girl Scout patch program. Recently, we launched our driver ambassador program trailer, which is taken to schools, trade shows, and company events. It has a hands-on learning environment with videos, quizzes and a simulator.

We have both US and Canadian Image Teams who provide ride-along for regulators, legislators and the media as well as give media interviews and product reviews. Our recognition programs include a driver of the year, an influential woman in trucking, a distinguished woman in logistics among others.

Enlighten us on how you have been impacting the industry through your expertise in the market.

The Women In Trucking Association has been a change agent in the trucking industry by creating a movement that encourages and supports women in all areas, from the cab of a truck to the C-suite. We have educated the industry to consider ways women create a more profitable but also a more engaging environment. We are the top resource in providing facts and data to support hiring and retaining more women.

Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.

Since we are a remove workforce, we rely on technology to unite us as one team. We all work from our home offices (twelve associates in nine states) but are motivated by our mission. Also, we are a result-oriented work environment, which means we don’t count hours or days; we value output.

We don’t have sick days, vacations, or standard work hours, as we are all self-motivated and work until we’ve completed our tasks. We encourage each person to work around family obligations.

Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you advancing towards technological innovations to make your solutions resourceful?

When the pandemic hit, we had to pivot to a virtual conference instead of being in-person. We had to rely on technology to deliver the content our members expected.

We have also used technology to create a brand for the association through our publications, e-newsletter and social media content. We push out a lot of information to our members as well as to anyone connected through these venues.

What, according to you, could be the next significant change in your sector? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?

We often go through an exercise to better understand how the industry will change in the next few years. One of the most imminent changes will be the increased competition for autonomous (self-driving) trucks and how that will affect the driver’s role.

Although these companies continue to test their trucks on the highway, there is still a need to have an operator in the truck’s cab in the event of inclement weather, construction zones, and animals trying to cross a busy road.

The idea of seeing driverless trucks in the near future is still limited to areas where the lanes are clear of unexpected hazards. While these technology companies keep testing these vehicles, they are adding more and more technology that removes driver error and creates a safer environment.

From radar to lidar, anti-collision and anti-rollover equipment and more products that increase safety are both encouraging and welcome. We applaud these efforts and look forward to seeing more trucking fleets adopting the technology.

Part of our mission at the Women In Trucking Association is to address obstacles, and safety is an area of concern for our female drivers. From personal safety to the safety of the equipment, the technology being added to the autonomous trucks is a positive change for a safer career.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for your company?

As the founder of the organization, I recognized the need to create a succession plan which is being implemented. In January of this year, we hired a new executive who will become the President and CEO upon my retirement later this year.

My future goals are to ensure my replacement has the tools, the information and the support of our members to succeed. I’ve grown the association from an idea to a group of over 8,000 individuals and corporations in ten countries who support our mission.

Fifteen percent of our members are men! Once I retire, I plan to spend more time with my grandchildren and flying my Cessna Skyhawk.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the dynamic industry?

My advice to anyone interested in joining the trucking industry is to look into all the career options and do your homework about the skills and education needed, and then to ask a lot of questions.

Try to shadow someone doing the job you’re interested in before you apply at a company. There are so many options to work in transportation careers, from driver to technician, to safety professional, dispatcher or CEO.