When La Shawn Stanford joined UPS Inc. in 1995 as a delivery driver, management was not in the plans.
In the middle of a divorce and having to provide for two children, she rushed to find a job that would pay the bills and put food on the table.
She initially joined the delivery company as a seasonal worker. After only one year as a driver, she never expected to be approached by management and offered a leadership role.
“I was baffled,” Stanford told the Business Journal. “I was taken aback, and I thought, ‘I don’t have the skills.’”
Her supervisors believed in her, telling her she could be an asset to the organization. She was promoted to be a full-time supervisor of her fellow drivers.
Her mindset had been focused solely on her children, but it steadily grew to include her career and the communities she would come to know. Stanford climbed the corporate ladder to a variety of executive positions.
Currently based in Aliso Viejo, she is UPS’s West Region Community Relations Manager where she oversees a $1.2 million budget to help 167,000 employees in 26 states become more involved with their communities.
Her job as the primary field representative for the UPS Foundation is to be the connection between the company and its communities, and she maintains this relationship through organizing various means of philanthropy, partnerships and public relations.
Some 25 years after starting as a driver, Stanford won the Business Journal’s 2020 Women in Business Award in the category of Women on the Move (see other stories, pages 1, 4 and 8).
When she accepted the award in an Oct. 28 virtual ceremony, Stanford remembered how challenging her journey into management had been. She had learned to embrace the role and make it her own.
“Be yourself, stay authentic, be consistent and fair,” she advised.
Looking back, Stanford realized that management initially promoted her because they saw she has a “knack to talk to people and to get people to move into the right direction.”
She works closely with approximately 13 nonprofits in Orange County such as the Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF), Boys & Girls Club of San Juan Capistrano, Down Syndrome Association of OC, and United Way of OC.
After vetting each organization requesting aid, Stanford’s role is to raise the alarm within UPS for employees to act in their communities. Having a corporate sponsor like UPS offers nonprofits a chance to fully excel in their local efforts, with financial and human support, she says.
“It’s about doing the right thing. You call, you ask, you deliver,” she said.
When COVID-19 shut down the country back in March, Stanford and her team had to shift priorities. Donations switched over to large amounts of PPE, cleaning supplies, proper signage and other quarantine necessities to keep nonprofits open and safe. Finding volunteers became even more necessary than before.
Despite the shift, Stanford shared that the foundation is looking to log over 350,000 hours of volunteer work to date, and about 184,000 employees have logged those “neighbor-to-neighbor” hours in the western region.
Being on the move has been a major part of Stanford’s career at UPS. After starting out, she’s moved onto positions such as a supervisor in health and safety and human resources departments. She eventually became the community relations manager for Southern California District before she took over as manager for the West Coast.
“I tapped into my resources and found a system of support,” she shared.
As an African American single mother entering the work force and rising in ranks within a male-dominated industry, Stanford soon saw the need for more women in leadership positions.
In 2006, she created the Women’s Leadership Development group to provide an environment for the women at UPS to connect and mentor each other.
Eventually inviting both men and women to join the group and build bridges, it evolved into a larger movement beyond UPS. By forming Business Resource Groups, or BRG as they call it, Stanford found a way to include everyone in a professional business network of about six groups that span all genders and races.
She has found herself not only as a mentor but an ally.
“I feel like the mom to all these groups,” she said, laughing.
Stanford’s own two children seem to have inherited her drive in their own careers. Her daughter, Amber, is a nurse with Kaiser Permanente in Washington D.C., and her son T.J. joined the CIA after 5 years of playing for the Carolina Panthers in the NFL.
“Even when I had that [driver’s] uniform on, I made sure it was pressed. I was there to do the job. I carried that zeal into my career.”