Q: How did you get started in your career?
JV: I always loved math and logic. I loved problem solving. My sister was doing an internship at IBM, and she would talk about what she was doing and the problems she was solving by coding. It appealed to my love of math and logic, and it sounded like something new I’d like to try.
I ended up at the University of Miami in a Business IT degree program, which was perfect. It helped me understand how companies work and the business side, but also how to use technology to solve those problems. That blend of business and technology has kept me challenged and loving what I do 35 years later. While businesses change, while technology has changed, it’s all really about the same thing - it’s about problem solving and applying technology to it.
Q: What has your career experience been?
JV: I worked for Anderson Consulting (Accenture) for 10 years, so I got to see a lot of different industries and companies and how to use technology to solve business problems. I started as a developer, then moved up as an analyst and finally as a manager. I worked in all kinds of industries, mostly consumer or industrial products; I worked at Pepsi, Pratt and Whitney, and a bunch of other companies. I really loved consulting. It gave me a good view of how different companies work and experience doing large technology projects.
I left consulting because of the lifestyle. Being on the road and traveling after being married for 10 years is not a lot of fun. Then I started working at Auto Nation. It was a startup company back then. Working at Auto Nation was a chance to take my skills and build an IT team and put in new systems, almost from the ground up. I was there for 12 years, and for eight of those, I ran the IT department as the CIO.
After that, I moved to North Carolina for Lowe’s, doing the same thing on a bigger scale, for a bigger company. That got me into senior leadership in IT and learning how to build teams and apply technology.
Q: What are some lessons you’ve learned as a woman in management? What advice do you have for younger women?
JV: When I started out, I was more than likely the only woman or one of the only women in the room, so I almost ended up coming one of the guys. What I love about where we are today is there’s a lot of diversity, a lot of diversity of thought as well, which is equally as important.
I find it really exciting to see so many women in leadership. I’ve got two daughters, so I think about them going into their careers, and they don’t have the same mental blocks, the same challenges that I had back then. And the diversity that we’ve got in the workforce is completely different than it was 35 years ago. There are still roadblocks and there are absolutely still issues, but it’s great to see so much more advancement and so many more females coming in and taking leadership roles.
[My advice for any] woman who wants to go into management is don’t doubt yourself. Set your goals and move forward and learn from any setbacks you have. Women tend to limit themselves to what they know they can do versus taking some chances, so I would tell them to take some chances and learn from it.
Q: How did you hear about Old Dominion?
JV: I had a recruiter reach out to me. OD was a great fit culturally, and that was probably my biggest reason for coming here. And I could draw on my experience from other companies I’d worked at.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
JV: Getting to solve problems all day for a great company. I enjoy understanding how what we do makes our customers successful as well as our employees. Moving critical infrastructure and supplies around, especially post-COVID, is a cool thing to be in.
Q: What do customers need to know about IT? How does it impact them?
JV: In this industry there are still a lot of manual steps and processes. Documents like Bills of Lading aren’t digitized and there’s not as much automation as you see other industries. I think that’s a big opportunity.
Our goal within IT and with OD is to make it simple for our customers and let them engage with us in whatever manner they want to engage with us, whether they go to the website to put in a pickup request or to get a status, take our APIs and integrate those directly into their own systems (so they don’t have to go to our website), engage with our call center or a salesperson in a way that is productive and helps them do business more easily, or use the analytics that we’ve got to be able to manage their pricing.
It needs to be easy, it needs to be on the customer’s own terms of how they want to engage with us, and they need to have the ability to track anything that they’ve got in OD’s hands.
We’re working on a lot of those digital tools now. Our new website allows customers to place orders and get statuses. Our EDI platform allows them to pass transactions to us electronically, and our APIs allow them to customize how they want to integrate with us from their own systems to make it simpler.
We are doing internal things to make customer engagement better too. We’re working with Salesforce to make sure our sales team can correspond with our customers, handle transactions for them, and understand those customers. A new project we’ve got coming on is customer service training with Salesforce. That is going to help us quickly engage with our customers and have their information all in one place. Understanding who our customers are and how they behave helps us create better systems and better connectivity for them.
Some of the work that we’re doing is going to really improve our reporting and analytics, so we understand what’s happened and why, but also help drive us to be more predictive, to understand where demand is going, where we need to put service centers, and how to structure our pricing to better serve our customers and meet their needs.
Q: How will the new website help our customers?
JV: The new website is much more intuitive and engaging. There are some new features and capabilities, new ways to communicate with our customers, and the look and feel is much more modern. The technology is more secure, with added encryption and better password security. The key is to ensure security for our customers’ transactions and any of their financial data that we have.
Q: How will our EDI / API investment help our customers?
JV: We are improving the customer portal where customers go to learn about our APIs and start that process. We are looking at investing in some additional resources to support onboarding for new customers who want to use APIs but don’t know how or have issues with it. We want to make it easy.
On the EDI side, we are ensuring our systems are quick and reliable so customers don’t have to worry about their freight being delayed or have any issues.
Q: What is your vision for OD Technology in the next year? The next 5 years?
JV: Old Dominion from an operational standpoint is phenomenal. Our on-time percentages are incredible. My vision is pretty simple: I want our technology to be as best in class as our operations are. And if we can raise the bar on how we can deliver technology to our employees and to our customers, we will continue to create more white space between ourselves and our competition.
What that means for this year is getting a strong foundation in place that we can build on, so when we have a project or a need, we can hit the ground running and have all the things in place to execute quickly and keep projects on time and in full, just like we do with our deliveries.
And in the next five years, my vision is really pushing the envelope in innovation, with new technology, analytics, and automation.