UBC Sauder alum recognized as Innovator of the Year

Innovator of the Year winner Loretta Davis addresses the audience at Business in Vancouver’s BC CTO Awards.

Posted 2019-10-29
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Business in Vancouver’s inaugural BC CTO Awards recognized Loretta Davis (BCom ‘10) as Innovator of the Year for her work as Speedee Transport’s Vice-President and Chief Information Officer. She shares how her experience at UBC Sauder prepared her for her current role, why non-tech people should still try to understand technology, and how students can lay the foundation for their careers while at school.

At Burnaby-based transportation and logistics company Speedee Transport, Loretta Davis has made technology her business. Davis led the development of an in-house software that has helped Speedee grow its revenue and workforce by fiftyfold in just two years.

The software, Go-Speedee, is designed to streamline operations, sales, accounting and administration processes. It minimizes manual data entry, allows for real-time data monitoring, streamlines production of customized reports, and is integrated with the company’s accounting software to avoid duplicating work.

“It’s nice to be recognized for all the hard work you put into your company and your software,” Davis says. “Even though we don’t do it for an award. The point, we think, is to make a difference.”

And the difference isn’t limited to her own company. Due to popular demand, Speedee now plans to license and market its software to other transportation industry players. 

For Davis, Vancouver was the perfect place to study and kick-start her career in transportation. She says the skills, networks and experiences she built during her time at UBC Sauder remain relevant for her day-to-day work.

 

Learning through experience

Davis’s background isn’t in technology, and she says she wouldn’t have described herself as a ‘techie’ when she was younger. But instead of this being a deterrent, she feels it allows her to approach things differently than a computer scientist or traditional developer. “I can always picture how the user will feel, because I’ve been a user myself,” she says.

In fact, while working at Hapag-Lloyd, a global container shipping line, Davis became known as a “superuser” of their internal software system, receiving specialized international training and then being tasked with training others on her team.

Davis says the networking opportunities available during her time in school were key in landing that first job. “While I was at UBC Sauder I joined the Vancouver Transportation Club, and that’s actually how I got my first job, because one of the women in the club worked [at Hapag-Lloyd].”

“Vancouver is not so big a city that you can’t find your own community or meet people. There’s a lot of ways to get involved,” Davis says. “But it’s also not too small either, and in terms of opportunities in the transportation industry it’s great because it’s a major port city.”

 

Lasting lessons

Davis says another important part of her success in her current role comes from the knowledge and skills she picked up at UBC Sauder in a complementary area: human resources.

“I chose transportation logistics [for my concentration], but I also took a lot of human resources courses because I enjoyed them so much,” she says. 

“And those help regardless of the industry you end up in, because they give you tools that help you be a leader in your company. Tools like emotional intelligence, and knowing how to train a team, how to hire people, and all of these things that you need to successfully run a business.”

Davis says one of her favorite courses was led by David C. Bentall and focused on managing family businesses, saying those same skills can be applied to other businesses. “One thing that we learned was succession planning. At Speedee we’re always thinking, ‘Alright, who can we train up to be a supervisor or a manager?’ Because we need to build people up to the next position, and offer them opportunities to grow.”

 

Everyday innovation

“I try to take care of daily tasks in the morning, just to get them done and then feel like I can just focus on brainstorming,” Davis says. “Then I don’t feel like ‘Oh, I have something else to take care of’ while trying to work with a software team to develop new features or better ways to use the software.”

Davis also says keeping an open and curious mind is an important part of her process. “I read a lot about other software systems or other companies. It doesn’t have to be our industry, it could be any industry that’s doing things differently or that is being innovative.”