Since joining UPS in 2015, Brandit Campbell has worked her way up from a loader to the executive ranks as division manager of the company’s bustling operations in Haslet. In her role, she creates strategies and collaborates with package and business division leaders to improve hub operations, all while overseeing 600 employees.
Campbell is among the 4.4 percent of Black women to earn a Ph.D., and serves as a leader in a male-dominated logistics industry. Here, she shares her journey of growing up in the Philadelphia projects, attending college while working and raising children, and learning to be her authentic self at work.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity*
A Different Grind
“I’m originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I went to William Penn High School, where I ran track. Track allowed me to get out of the environment that I was in; I came from the projects in North Philadelphia. I used my education to get me out of that type of environment. I went to Barton County Community College for two years, and then I went on to The University of Alabama.
“Looking back, growing up in the projects was not easy, now that I’m at an age to understand the struggles my mother was faced with while taking care of her three little girls. She worked two jobs seven days a week, trusting the neighbors to watch over us as she tried her best to provide. She never once allowed us to see the struggle or pain.
“You would have good days where everyone is grilling and sitting outside on the stoops, and you would experience bad days of violence in the streets of Philadelphia. Growing up in the projects taught me to grow up fast. I learned survival skills early in life and learned how to deal with adversity. I learn about choices at a young age and found my athletic abilities, running and jumping, young, too.
“I started running track at the age of seven. I really didn’t know what I was doing; I was just running around the track, following what my sister was doing. I was the youngest athlete on the team, and progressively, I got better. I was state champ at William Penn High School. Track taught me a lot, built my character, and made me strong in situations I never knew that I could be strong in.
“I have experienced and seen a lot growing up, so my drive and grind are different. I used my education and my athleticism to get me out of that type of environment. I learned how to re-channel my energy and focus on what matters and not focus on negative things people have to say. I learned to accept failure as an opportunity to grow, learn, and build off those failures and mistakes to become a better person.
“There are 365 days in a year: all you need is one day to be successful, and you have accomplished a lot. I never stop on the first no. I had to be innovative to get the results I needed. I am shaped not to conform to negativity, nor break when faced with adversity. I am shaped to win at all costs in life. Failure is not an option, it’s a choice—and I chose to be successful.”
Building Leadership Skills
“While I was coaching track, I had two athletes who worked at UPS to earn some extra money, and they suggested that I look into it, too. I said OK, because I was never running track again. I just needed to do something physical. So Aug. 24, 2015, I joined UPS. When I talk to our new hires, I call them industrial athletes. I take everything back to sports, just so they can understand the movement of the body.
“After six months, one of my supervisors said, ‘Hey, we like your work ethic. We like how you speak to the employees, even though you are a loader. We would like for you to become a part-time supervisor.’ I did the interviews, everything went well, and then I asked for a challenge: I was in Oakland, California, at the time, so I asked if I could run the biggest belt in the building. I took the challenge on, and I succeeded because it was more about the people. I made sure I gained a rapport with them; I made sure that anytime that we needed a plan, I encouraged them to speak with me. I never used titles. I made sure I stayed true to the employees and acted as an advocate between them and upper management.
“In 2019, I was offered the opportunity to relocate to Arlington, and that’s when I opened up our Lone Star building, which is the biggest in North Texas. I was excited, and I was nervous, but I had a great support system. My mom moved with me and my husband to help with the kids. It was a great opportunity.
“It took me three-and-a-half years to go from a loader to division manager, which normally takes people around 10 years to do. I’ve been an advocate for a lot of union employees, as well as part-time and full-time supervisors, to try to take the path that I took to move up, because they are the future at UPS.”
Setting the Standard
“UPS has a partnership with North Central University, and the company supported my desire to continue my education. Because of the partnership, the school understood my schedule. I was determined—but it wasn’t easy. I had to surround myself with a good support system, at work and at home. Everybody knew my schedule from the time I got up to the time I laid my head down at night.
“Obtaining my degree was stressful. I put myself on a timeline, plus I had to map out graduation with my kids and my job. My program was a five-year program that I finished in three years.
“There were days when I gave up. I even received my first F, because my professor and I did not see eye-to-eye. I really wanted to quit at that moment. But I had a great support system from the university as well as my family and friends who kept me on the right track. I hung that F that was outshining my A’s on my transcript on my wall, retook the class, built off of the feedback that I requested, and added more from my new professor, and I received earned an A. It was well deserved.
“I was reminded daily of who I was—and that was not a quitter. This degree was not just for, or about, me. This degree was for my kids. It was for the young boys and girls in Philadelphia who are experiencing the same struggles I had to go through; for the women of DFW who have kids and have the desire to go to school but stopped because of their growing family. Anything that is worth having, you have to keep going to get it. It does not matter how long it takes, you Just have to finish. Remember, your kids are watching. You set the standard.”
Building Her Own Table
“When I first got into management, I think that I was trying to fit in at work, and that’s not my personality. I’m an athlete; I’m very competitive. It was just me trying to fit in corporate America. I had to realize that that wasn’t my place. I told myself, ‘You’re not a man—you have to understand the man, but you’re not a man. You are a woman. You are African American.’
“I’m sitting at the table with a bunch of men. So, how can I get these men to respect me and what I have to say? I decided, ‘Hey, you have got to build your own table. You have got to invite them to your table.’
“The challenges women face are challenges we’re going to face every day, regardless of if we’re successful. It’s about learning through that journey, not taking any offense from it: You become stronger with your failures. You become stronger with your facts, and with your education, and your skill set, and you just have to build on it. Never take anything personally.
“That’s what I try to teach the women at UPS: When someone is saying something to you, don’t take it personally. Take the key messages out of it and build off of it. Learn from it. Once you get everything that you need, then you invite them back to your table to start speaking facts of your processes and what you have going on, and what you’re building off to make sure you don’t repeat the same behaviors.”