Friday, May 11, 2018
Annette Danek-Akey enjoys challenge of motivating volunteers throughout her WERC leadership roles
Armed with a Master’s degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University, Annette Danek-Akey began her career in warehousing at Sears Logistics Services, training warehouse management teams on quality leadership. Her interest in process improvement was piqued by that experience, so she convinced her superiors to place her in a temporary assignment, working as a receiving manager.
The gig was on second shift during the fourth quarter holiday season, yet she was hooked. “I worked about 16 hours a day, 7 days a week—and I absolutely loved every minute of being in that warehousing environment,” Danek-Akey recalls. “I particularly loved managing and training the employees. Because I was the one in charge of that shift, I was able to listen to the associates’ input and concerns and then make improvements.”
Her success in that role caught the eye of Penguin Random House, who hired her initially as an industrial engineer. Today, she’s worked her way up to the publisher’s Senior Vice President of Fulfillment, and still has boundless energy and passion for the field—as evidenced by her tireless volunteerism on behalf of the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), which began shortly after she first became involved in the organization.
“A long-time mentor, Bob Kennedy, believed I had a great story to tell about Penguin Random House’s own supply chain transformation, and urged me to submit a presentation to the 2012 Annual Conference,” says Danek-Akey.
“As I have now learned in the volunteer space, if you do well and you get things done, you are generally asked to do more,” she chuckles. “I learned a few months later that my presentation was one of the most attended and highly rated sessions at that Conference—so I was asked to join the Conference committee.”
A few years later, Danek-Akey was asked to join the WERC Board of Directors. She served as Director of Conference in the 2016-2017 term, recently concluded her position as 2017-2018 Secretary/Treasurer, and steps into the Board Vice President role next. Actively participating in WERC has allowed her to contribute her knowledge and experience, she explains—not only for the benefit of her company, but also for the benefit of the larger warehousing and logistics field.
“I am particularly passionate about promoting and mentoring women in warehousing and logistics, so I’ll also be helping to plan and organize the Women@WERC Annual Conference panels and sessions,” she says.
Danek-Akey has also tremendously enjoyed the challenge of rallying a team of volunteers to put their talents to work for WERC. “When you work at a company and manage a team, you’re the boss. So your power and authority are naturally motivating to your direct reports just by virtue of your position,” she explains.
“When you lead a group of volunteers who have day jobs, however, you really have to make the volunteer tasks exciting, find ways to make the organization’s vision resonate with many different sets of people, and motivate them to do work for you,” she continues. “That has been an opportunity for personal growth I’ve gained from being a part of WERC.”
Additionally, as a member of the WERC Board, Danek-Akey has appreciated the opportunity to think outside the four walls of her own operations to propose and evaluate topics and resources that all warehouse and logistics professionals will benefit from collectively.
“I am a huge proponent of continuing to learn—particularly in our field. You simply cannot stop your education in our industry because the warehousing and logistics space is changing so fast,” she explains. “Stop learning and you’ll be left in the dust. Joining WERC is one of the easiest ways to keep current, through its publications and articles, as well as by building your network of peers who work in other industries. And, of course, by attending a local WERCouncil meeting or the Annual Conference.”
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