Getting To Know a COO: How One Woman Built a People-First Career in the Logistics Industry

Sponsored by BNSF Logistics

Photo Courtesy of BNSF Logistics.

Photo Courtesy of BNSF Logistics.

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April 13, 2024 at 12:26AM UTC

Over the course of her career, Nancee Ronning has worked across industries and across functions. She’s been the President of a company and has held two different C-Suite positions. 

From her point of view, logistics is the dynamic industry everyone should be excited to join. As current Chief Operating Officer of BNSF Logistics (BNSFL), she believes the logistics services provider based in Dallas, Texas, is the best place to do so. 

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With an emphasis on training programs, fostering Women in Leadership and what Ronning calls “high candor” that starts from the leadership team, BNSFL is “a people-first company” that Ronning is proud to have a part in leading.

Recently, we spoke to Ronning about how she does just that. She gave us important insights into the career path that led her to BNSF Logistics and how she manages her time, her daily goals and spending time with her team. She also shared how she abides by her commitment to helping women up the ladder and what she looks for in job candidates. 

How long have you been in your current role and what were you doing previously? 

I joined BNSF Logistics a little over 2 years ago. I moved from Chief Commercial Officer to Chief Operating Officer in July 2020. 

I started my career at GE. There, I had different roles every 18 months or so and worked to “fill my basket with as many different learning opportunities as possible. Business is like an ever changing puzzle and I wanted to have an understanding of the entire puzzle.” After GE, I joined Merrill Corporation and C.H. Robinson after that. 

Throughout my career, I worked in operations, account management, sales and general management. One of my goals was to be president of a company in order to use what I had learned to positively impact the growth of the business and the people in it. I was able to meet that goal at Print Craft. My next goal was to join a company in an industry that I loved (logistics) with people I’d love to work with. That’s how I came to BNSFL. 

 Describe what you do in a few sentences. 

The Chief Operating Officer role brings strategic direction, oversight and management to BNSF Logistics. I work with the senior management team and am charged with providing both strategic leadership and hands-on, tactical execution management of the company's operating and growth plans.  

What’s the first and last thing you do at work every day? 

In addition to people being my first priority, I am pretty alignment and goal driven and like to make the most of each day.  I review my calendar weekly and daily. My goal every day and is to move at least one initiative forward.  Every day we all have many requests that come in that need to be responded to – that is part of all of our jobs.  That said, I like to create a map of sorts to make daily progress on our people, growth and productivity journey.  

How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day?  

I use my calendar to associate time with each item on my task list. I review the next week or two on the weekends to see what is missing in terms of updates, connections, walkabouts with my team, time to think, etc. and to allot time to accomplish my tasks.

How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work? 

I want to bring women up by being open, authentic, and approachable, so we can have meaningful conversations. I love giving people opportunities to try new things — to imagine out loud — and to give it a try in a 100% judgement-free zone.  I want people to have the opportunity to learn every single thing they can because when someone is given the chance to try and learn, they build stronger legs, a stronger core and a confidence that isn’t dependent on other people. 

What are the top three qualities you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate? 

Intellectual curiosity, candor and energy. I’m not looking for perfection, but for someone who is ready to come in and make an impact. 

Why do you think your company is a particularly supportive work environment for women?  

We are a people-first company and are building a formalized way to support each other. Our guiding principles — protecting the well-being of self and each other, innovation, respect, collaboration, inclusiveness and keeping our commitments — set a strong stage for everyone to bring and do their best. I hear of other companies having their principles hanging on the walls, but not following through on them. I’m joyous that BNSFL has been working so hard to make our principles real and bake them into our processes. 

We are also committed to our Women in Leadership program and continue to work to make it meaningful for women to connect, develop and grow. When we launch something, we then listen to our employees to hear what is working and how we can do better. When the actions meet the words, that’s when we begin to make a difference. 

What are you trying to improve on?  

Slowing down. I’m typically not impatient with people, but I can be very impatient with processes. Everyone has their own way of communicating and doing things, and I try to bake time in so people don’t feel rushed. I try to always ask questions and listen, plus let those conversations take the time they need. (That goes back to how I manage my calendar — I try to make sure I have built in the time for people).

What’s one thing you think young job seekers should know about BNSFL? What about those who are in a more advanced career stage?  

If you’re just starting your career, logistics is a great industry as there are so many opportunities to learn a lot and not just do one narrow activity. BSNFL works hard on our training so that there are opportunities to grow and learn. 

At the mid-level, we’re great because we’re in such a dynamic industry. You can bring your experience and really add value to the team by expressing an external viewpoint and a new way of looking at things. We like diverse thinking – that by nature is where innovation can be found. 

From a senior level perspective, we’re building something very unique with a very broad group of people in a dynamic industry. Plus, we’re all just really cool. We’re a great people to work with — a little less formal than many organizations our size and much more open. We have a high candor that starts from our leadership. 

We value thoughts and opinions no matter what stage you’re in. I mean, who doesn’t want to work here?


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