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VOL. 128 | NO. 185 | Monday, September 23, 2013

Citrone: Logistics Not Just for Men

By ERINN FIGG

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It’s hard to picture Cheryl Burch Citrone, a partner at executive recruiting and consulting firm Vaco Memphis, hanging around railroad tracks or shooting the breeze about shipping lanes and trucks.

CITRONE

After all, besides being a polished business leader, Citrone is a veritable force in femininity. Friends and colleagues often describe her as nurturing, she loves to cook for her large Italian/Southern family, and she’s an avid gardener. She’s also the author of the humorous blog “Southern Belle Blog: Adventures and thoughts of a perfectly normal Southern Belle” (southernbelleblog.blogspot.com).

And the logistics industry – that world of production, packaging, transportation, railroads, highways, trucking, shipping lanes, ports, warehousing and anything else required to move materials from Point A to Point B – is a man’s world, right?

Wrong, Citrone says.

Citrone, who also heads Vaco’s Logistics division, is passionate about spreading the word about the many career opportunities for women in the industry. To further this cause, she’ll be participating in a Mid-South Women in Transportation Panel and Networking Session from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, as part of the Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute’s Intermodal Freight Conference at the University of Memphis. The conference is free, and lunch will be served. Participants can attend the whole conference (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) or single sessions and can register at surveymonkey.com/s/2013_Intermodal_Conference.

The purpose of the session is to reach out to women and educate them on the many aspects of and business roles in the logistics community, she said.

“It’s so much more than being a truck driver, which unfortunately is the misconception. There are opportunities in accounting, business, engineering – it’s a wonderful career path for women,” said Citrone, a University of Memphis graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer education. “If someone would have reached out to me while I was a freshman in college and educated me on logistics, I probably would have chosen it as my career back then.”

Instead, Citrone says she stumbled upon the industry by accident. After launching and managing Vaco’s Technology division for six years, she got an urge to try something different. So in 2010, she moved to Vaco Logistics to manage that team and expand that division. It turned out to be a perfect fit.

“After I got into it and started learning about it, I fell in love,” she said. “The people in this industry here are just wonderful. They’re a competitive group, but they’re also the first to help each other out if it’s needed.”

Soon, her affection for the field carried her beyond her job. Today, she is a member of the board of directors for the Mid-South chapter of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and has been a guest lecturer for The University of Memphis’ Supply Chain Management Program. She also is an active supporter of The Traffic Club of Memphis and the Memphis World Trade Club.

This extensive involvement is one reason Mid-South Women in Transportation Panel organizer Dr. Stephanie Ivey, associate professor in the university’s Department of Civil Engineering, asked Citrone to participate in the panel.

“She has done so much for women in logistics, and she has such a passion for this topic, we thought she’d be a perfect person to help spearhead our initiatives,” Ivey said.

Those initiatives include starting a Society for Female Transportation Professionals, which will engage Memphis-area undergraduates, graduates and women already involved in the profession in networking, educational and mentoring opportunities. Tuesday’s panel will be a jumping-off point for the group, during which Ivey plans to gauge interest and poll attendees on what types of activities they’d like to engage in.

“We really want to get a handle on how many young ladies are really doing something in transportation,” Citrone said. “Our gut tells us there’s not enough, but we need a baseline.”

From an executive recruiter’s perspective, Citrone says the state of the logistics industry is a strong indicator of how the country as a whole is doing. A robust number of successful truck drivers means goods are moving smoothly from one place to another. Railroads are also indicative of progress. Currently, she says, she’s excited about what she’s seeing.

“Jobs in this industry are increasing. There’s a lot of economic development going on.”

At Vaco, the impact of the industry is also evident.

“As we dig deeper into logistics, we’re also expanding the roles we offer, including human resources services and moving more into an operational focus so we can further help distribution and transportation professionals,” Citrone said.

She said Vaco also is focusing more on permanent placements.

“It’s becoming more strategic, more consultative, and that’s what I love,” she said. “Because of that, I’m able to have more work/life balance – it’s easy for me to go home and turn it off.”

And on that note, speaking from the perspective of one of the most successful job recruiters in the Mid-South (Inc. magazine recently named Vaco as one of the fastest-growing privately held recruitment firms in the nation), Citrone shares some keys to success. She advises young professionals to identify their passion and see where they can apply it. But she also urges them to remember favors and pay them forward.

“Never forget where you came from, never forget the people who helped you get where you are today,” she said. “And while you’re headed up the ladder, help as many people as you can to get up behind you.”

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