A calm hand at the helm on UPS's busiest day

Jill Schubert, president of district operations, says of the holiday season's peak time: "It's controlled madness or controlled chaos. But the key is that it's controlled."
Jill Schubert, president of district operations, says of the holiday season's peak time: "It's controlled madness or controlled chaos. But the key is that it's controlled." (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 17, 2013

If the United Parcel Service Inc. forecast is correct, Tuesday - that's tomorrow - should be the busiest day of the year for Jill Schubert and the 15,205 UPS employees she supervises from its regional headquarters in South Philadelphia.

Shipping volume is already up from 2012 and Tuesday is peak day with 29 million packages expected to be delivered globally, up from 27.5 million last year.

"It's controlled madness or controlled chaos," said Schubert, 51, president of operations. "But the key is that it's controlled."

Question: What's your strategy for managing in that craziness?

Answer: I have to be the calm in the storm. I'll talk to a manager at 3 in the morning and she'll be all wound up and managing through duress. I hope she is communicating to her people more calmly than she is to me. I think she is venting. It is safe to do that, and I have to calmly not react.

Q: How is online shopping affecting your world?

A: I was at the dentist and I asked my hygienist - "Have you done your shopping and shipping?" Please do your shopping and shipping. I was having lunch with a woman in Philadelphia and I asked her. I said: "Don't wait. Get it done."

Q: You nag people to ship early?

A: Oh yes, in my family.

Q: What about from a broader perspective?

A: I think the unknown of what Internet shippers are going to ship across the country is what makes it a little bit of a moving target for UPS in general. We have good forecasting, but if a shipper puts a special out there the week before Christmas, it could increase volume levels in a way that we will not have planned.

Q: So one big retail sale can make a noticeable difference?

A: There was a recliner that was a buy-one, get-one-free late in the third quarter this year. We had a large surge in recliners to deliver. We knew it was coming but [not] how much.

Q: You were 18 years old when you started as a UPS driver-helper in Colorado Springs. You rose into management without a college degree. How was that?

A: At the time, college wasn't emphasized in the workplace. I was initially told that I didn't need any college. It's not like you have to go get algebra or some type of biology or rock collecting to be a good UPS manager.

Q: Yet you went on to earn a business degree. Why?

A: In 2002, a district manager said, "I need you to get your degree." I said: "What? Are you crazy?" He baited me into it.

Q: What was his point?

A: What I didn't know at the time was that he was preparing me for additional responsibility. It was a challenge to see what I could get completed in a difficult situation with traveling and working long hours.

Q: Did you actually learn anything that helped you?

A: I learned about myself. It was about time management, discipline.

Q: Take me back to the days when you were a driver-helper at the Christmas season.

A: The best part of it was when you knew the kids, when they hear the UPS truck pull up in front of their house, they know that you are walking up with a package from a grandmother.

Q: But the winter is tough.

A: You learn how to walk on ice and snow safely. You take some slips occasionally because you are learning what footwear is the best in the snow. You run from a dog that's out loose in the yard, playing in the snow. As miserable as I was, I look back [at those] 12-hour days and I loved it.


JILL SCHUBERT

Title: President of operations, Chesapeake District, since Feb. 2013

Hometown: Haverford

Diploma: Columbus (Ga.) State University, business.

Resume: Rose through the ranks from UPS driver-helper, moving five times in five years in the process

Favorite cheesesteak: Jim's Steaks, South Street.


CHESAPEAKE DISTRICT, UPS

Local headquarters: South Philadelphia

Territory: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia

2012 revenue:

$1.6 billion

Employees: 15,205

District 2012 package volume: 213,519,026 packages, local daily average is 843,949

UPS company headquarters: Atlanta

Total 2012 revenue: $54.1 billion

Global 2012 delivery volume: 4.1 billion packages

UPS Lingo:

Package car =

UPS brown truck

Browntail =

UPS airplane


MORE ONLINE

Jill Schubert on managing by hairy eyeball. inquirer.com/jobbing


jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen

|
|
|
|
|