Loretta Davis wouldn’t describe her younger self as a “techie” or even as someone particularly interested in gaming.
“We didn’t actually have internet until I was in Grade 9, because we lived outside of the town so there was just no service there,” Davis said.
But she soon discovered that she did have an interest in learning how to use the software on her family’s computer, developing a knack for research and experimentation with Microsoft Office. “It’s kind of simple, now that I think about it, but I liked doing stuff on the computer,” she said.
Little did Davis know that this “simple” experimentation would mirror the experiences that would lead to her success in her current role as vice-president and chief information officer at Burnaby-based Speedee Transport, a transportation and logistics company.
At Speedee, Davis developed in-house software, called Go-Speedee, designed to streamline operations, sales, accounting and administration processes. Go-Speedee minimizes manual data entry, allows for real-time data monitoring, streamlines production of customized reports and is integrated with QuickBooks to allow for accounting processes to avoid duplicating work.
The software’s successful implementation helped Speedee grow from two to over 100 employees in just two years, with revenue jumping to over $50 million from $1 million.
Davis credits the success of GoSpeedee in part to the extensive experience she and her business partners already had in using other specialized software, and in their continued use of GoSpeedee to better monitor and incorporate design feedback. “It really helps, in developing software, to work with it in the day-to-day,” she said.
Speedee CEO Daryl Ee concurs that this experience and openness to feedback are key. “Loretta oversees the entire operation and understands what each department needs, and consequently, she can integrate their needs into the development of the system and improve user experience,” he said.
“I can tell you that without [GoSpeedee], we would not have as much growth as we have today,” said Speedee transportation supervisor Lisa To. “Especially with technology, it takes a great leader to understand the importance of feedback from users in order to modify and create a system that is efficient, user-friendly and, most importantly, that makes our jobs easier.”
Davis’ key role in GoSpeedee’s development might seem surprising considering her educational background isn’t focused on programming or computer science.
“In a way, sometimes not having a computer science background is good, because I come at it from the user’s point of view,” Davis explained. “I can always picture how the user will feel like, or how they will work with [the software].”
After graduating from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in 2010 with a degree in commerce, Davis went to work for Hapag-Lloyd, a global container shipping line. Over the next five years, she trained on its internal software system and became a “superuser” with international training, making her responsible for training others in her team.
“I just picked it up really quickly, and I liked how you could do so many things with this system – just all of the things it could do to replace manual work. That’s when I realized I really love doing things like that,” Davis said.
This user-centric knowledge of competitor software allowed Davis and her team to focus on developing a customized solution for Speedee when the time called for it.
“We did try other software in the industry, and we found that didn’t fully meet our needs,” she said. “We knew if we wanted to be No. 1, to succeed, we had to develop something customized that would help us scale quickly.”
After her years as a dedicated user and trainer with other programs, Davis was particularly aware of the importance of making Speedee’s own software easy to pick up and to use even by technologically inexperienced workers or those with little experience in the transportation and logistics industry.
This commitment has paid off in more ways than one. Besides fuelling Speedee’s success, the software has attracted the interest of a number of transportation, logistics and warehousing companies, which are testing it for their own use.
In response to that demand, Speedee rebranded its software for external use as GoLily – named after Davis’ daughter, whom she credits as her inspiration and joy. The company plans to license and market it to the broader industry in the near future. “It can help them just like it helped us,” Davis said.•
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