View from the Top: Erika T. Davis, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Owens & Minor
Erika T. Davis, senior vice president, human resources for Owens & Minor, joined the Fortune 500 Company 13 years ago. She quickly established herself as a leader and a valued member of the team. Rising rapidly through the ranks, Ms. Davis now leads a team of 31 associates and oversees human resources policy and procedures for the company’s 4,200 teammates nationwide. As a member of the company’s executive leadership, she works closely with senior managers and with the board of directors to develop and carry out corporate strategy.
Before coming to Owens & Minor, Ms. Davis worked for SunHealth Enterprises, Inc., for three years in the human resources field. She also worked for the city of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Ms. Davis earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Richmond on a full academic scholarship. She later earned a master’s of public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Ms. Davis is a certified compensation professional, a member of the American Compensation Association, a member of the Richmond Human Resources Management Association as well as a board member for the Boy and Girls Club of Metro Richmond. Ms. Davis, who grew up in Richmond, Virginia, now lives in Glen Allen, Virginia, with her husband and two sons.
What are some steps that you took to get to the position that you are in now?
I have always made an effort to seek new opportunities to learn. When I started my career at Owens & Minor, the leadership at our company demonstrated great confidence in me and allowed me to grow. I found that seeking assignments outside of my traditional role allowed me to learn more about our business. Training and education have been an important part of my own professional and personal growth. After earning a master’s in public administration from UNC, Chapel Hill, I have continued my education through the University of Michigan as well as through our own corporate university, Owens & Minor University. I have also been fortunate to have had influential mentors along the way, including our chairman and our chief executive officer.
What are some things that you learned on the job and not in the classroom?
In addition to understanding how our company operates, I learned a great deal about people and relationships. I discovered that leadership is not about titles; rather it is your ability to collaborate with others and motivate a team of people toward accomplishing a common goal. The classroom offers students a basis for understanding theoretical concepts of leadership and business. Throughout my career, I have learned how to actually apply those concepts. Often, I found that some concepts don’t apply, and you have to customize them to fit the company culture. Developing an “ear” for our company culture and what works within that culture has been key to my growth at O&M.
Do you think there is a glass ceiling in your industry? If so, how can minorities avoid hitting that glass ceiling?
I feel that anyone, including minorities, can be successful when they are able to consistently deliver value to the organization. Understanding the unique attributes of a company’s culture is imperative. I encourage people to seek a mentor who has experience with the company and understands the culture. I also believe that success is granted to those who are able to meet a need that has yet to be formally identified. Fortunately, health care is relatively open to women and minorities, and many hospitals have women in leadership positions.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
I am most proud that I have had the opportunity to participate in the development of a human resources team that truly serves our teammates with a genuine desire to help them become the best they can be! We view our teammates as our customers and we strive to meet their needs and treat them all with dignity. I find it intrinsically rewarding that we have developed an HR team that takes a leadership role in adapting to the changing organizational needs of our company; that we deliver benefits, programs and services that really meet the needs of our teammates.
What impact has your career had on your personal and family life?
At Owens & Minor, we focus on creating a good work/family balance. Fortunately, we have a very supportive and healthy environment that encourages family participation and involvement in the community. And I think our teammates go the extra mile. I have never had to sacrifice time with my family for work. Fortunately, at Owens & Minor, work/family/life balance is embraced throughout the organization.
Who is/was the most inspiring person to you in your career path?
I have been fortunate to work with a fantastic team of executives and teammates who have all helped me throughout my career. Gil Minor, III, Craig Smith, Drew Carneal, Hugh Gouldthorpe, and Charlie Colpo have all helped me and inspired me to learn and grow. Both Gil and Craig, as CEOs, challenged me to reach higher. They were forgiving of mistakes and inspired me to learn from them. Gil Minor, our chairman, opened the door and Craig, now our CEO, continues to challenge me and motivate me to expand my skills.
What advice do you have for a young person considering a career in your company/industry?
If you are the type of person who wants structure in every project and each assignment spelled out from A to Z, this may not be the company for you. But if you are a self-starter with an open mind who enjoys the opportunity to work on many projects, then come see what we have to offer.
If you were not in your current position, what would your dream career be?
I think my ideal career would be in the area of psychology, where I could focus on relationships and understanding people. I love studying human behavior; fortunately, that’s a big part of my job today.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Surviving in the workplace requires passion, and real engagement in the work at hand. I like to work with people that you almost have to hold back, rather than push. Those are the people who go the extra mile; they take the initiative, they enjoy what they are doing.