Monday, June 18, 2018
Sheila Benny relishes WERC’s numerous opportunities to serve within the industry
Former WERC Board President (2015-2016)
With her personal dedication to service, former Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) Board President (2015-2016) Sheila Benny initially joined the organization as a means to become more involved in the warehousing community at large.
“Community service has always been a major part of my life and WERC is one of the industry’s leading professional associations that exemplifies service to our community,” she explains. “Having a connection to this organization is a gift to me, as is the opportunity to connect with industry leaders.”
As co-founder and Executive Vice President of Optricity, Benny entered the field via her early career at an industrial engineering (IE) consulting firm.
“While there, I was exposed to a gamut of business operations, including marketing, engineering services management, teaming and leadership, as well as international partnering,” she recalls. “At that time, warehouse management software was coming into vogue. As a technology enthusiast, transitioning into the software side of the industry and co-founding a slotting optimization software firm was the perfect fit for me.”
Already a member of WERC, Benny ramped up her involvement in 2008. When seeking opportunities to network with her local and regional industry peers, she discovered that North Carolina lacked a WERCouncil. So she started one.
“I was inspired by the commitment I saw in fellow WERC members,” she says. “Establishing an advisory board, developing a programming agenda, making connections for warehouse tours, educational speakers, and student assistance programs—these were all part of the NC WERCouncil’s early years. We then added service projects supporting the NC Food Bank to further serve our community.”
Benny’s dedication to the NC WERCouncil—including a stint as Chapter President from 2008-2013—didn’t escape the notice of WERC’s national leadership. In 2011 she was asked to join the WERC Board of Directors, initially as WERCouncil Liasion. In that role she developed and launched a Council leadership event and a system to provide structure and benchmarks for success.
She then joined the Executive Committee. As she advanced through the ranks to her term as Board President, Benny continued to fill advocacy roles for Councils, Women@WERC and membership, as well as recruited sponsors for the Annual Conference’s Resource Center.
Although she recalls her term as WERC Board President was like having an extra day job, Benny says she truly loved that year. Fond memories include a pep talk from fellow WERC member Gary Master the day before her first Annual Conference speech as Board President; learning from the mentorship and role modeling of other Board members; and—prior to her presidency—her peers’ willingness to support her participating via conference call in a Board meeting she was unable to attend due to a family member’s health issue. (“I didn’t expect it to be a video conference, and although I was in my office on a Saturday, I was in sweatpants with damp hair and no make-up,” she laughs. “Thanks to the low resolution of computer cameras, I made it through.”)
Finding a way to be a part of that meeting was just one of many ways Benny has demonstrated engagement through action, one of her Board Presidency’s platforms, she explains. “That year the southeast faced extreme flooding. Thanks to my position as President, and my connection to WERCouncils, I was able to put out much stronger calls to WERC members, asking them to leverage resources to support the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) through both financial donations and human capital.”
Those efforts also aligned with Benny’s goals to increase engagement among WERC members, as well as to level the playing field by helping others find their way into the industry—particularly women. “It’s important to me that women have opportunities to take on active roles so the industry will grow healthier, become more talent-driven and increasingly collaborative, contributing to a supply chain community that is more inclusive for all,” she adds.
By way of example, she notes how her own involvement with WERC continues to provide both personal and professional opportunities. “I’ve grown close to many of the people I’ve come to know through trade shows, Board activities and WERCouncils,” explains Benny.
“My advice to women is to make sure your relationships—at all levels—are built on authenticity. Some of my connections are professional networking contacts; I can reach out and put a client in touch with a resource for a specific technology or service. Others have become mentors; one, in particular, would routinely check in on me and remind me that what he called ‘Project Sheila’ needed to have a little more balance in her life,” she chuckles.
“From experience I know the warehousing industry can create demanding pressures professionally,” Benny concludes. “But the people of the warehousing industry, and WERC members in particular, share a compassion for each other, which helps us all collectively shoulder the burden. That is profound.”
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