April 18, 2022 in PODCASTS
You and I – Fireside Chat with Lamont Nelson
Welcome to this special episode of The APLL Pulse Podcast. You and I is a podcast about the human side of logistics. We invite you to peek behind the curtain and explore how we connect people with culture as we move closer to a better world of work.
In this episode, Lamont Nelson shares an inspiring story from his days as a basketball coach. Join April and Lamont as they discuss how APL Logistics makes meaningful connections with students and prioritizes employee mental health.
April Chapman (Host): Hello, everyone. I’m happy to be joined by my guest today, Lamont Nelson. He is our Director of Diversity and Inclusion here at APL Logistics. Lamont leads the people, strategy, and employee experiences, and he has over 25 years of experience overseeing HR functions in multiple organizations. Lamont is starting up multiple employee resource groups for our employees to connect, and he’s making sure that everyone has a seat at the table. Today, Lamont actively promotes a culture of belonging and inclusion and builds a workspace that You and I love. So, Lamont, thank you so much for joining me. I feel privileged to call you friend and I’d love our listeners to learn a little more about you. What would you like to share about yourself?
Lamont Nelson: Thank you, April. A bit about me, I’m originally from Chicago. I spent 35 years of my life in Chicago. I had a great opportunity to move to Atlanta with FedEx. From there, I pretty much worked for a variety of organizations. My career has always been filled with great companies. I have worked for UPS, FedEx, and Staples, some big-time companies that have given me the experience I need for this moment. I am married for 23 years. Chance and Rock are my fur babies. I enjoy golf, jazz, and travel. Most of all, I enjoy helping and cultivating other people into great human beings.
April Chapman: That is something I see in you. We were talking about the fact that you’ve been in HR for 25 years. What led you to transition into the diversity and inclusion field?
A LEAP OF FAITH
Lamont Nelson: Being from the Midwest and transitioning to the South, I met many people from all walks of life. I’ve had the opportunity to see how people live in various places, but what had prepared me the most was doing community outreach when I was in Chicago. I coached the Chicago public basketball teams and college basketball teams. What sticks out most to me is the time I spent coaching at probably one of the roughest schools in Chicago. My good friend, former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, suggested that I would be a good fit. I took the leap of faith. That was when I realized that I was doing the right thing. The team I had was real.
These guys come from single-family homes with no male role models. I thought, man. These guys have a lot of anxiety and bitterness. It seemed like they never found peace even after winning games. So, before practice, I make everyone huddle. I told them, “Hey, we’re going through these trainers and players, and I just want to tell you how much I love you.” When I said it for the first time, there was complete silence. The following day, I said, “Okay, guys, we’ll shoot free throws today. From the bottom of my heart, I love you.” Silence followed.
On the third day, I’m frustrated, April. This exercise isn’t working. They aren’t listening to me. I say, let’s do the shooting drills. We’re going to do some running, scrimmages, and I broke the huddle. There’s one kid who I will never forget.
Sinatra said: “Coach, no one has ever told us they love us.” I had to walk away from the practice because I knew that feeling of someone saying, they love you.
Lamont Nelson: I had a grandfather who was a class act and a father who people called the stepdad, but I called my father because he stepped up to the plate.
The experience taught me that I could give to people. It inspired me to be where I am today and to help others understand that it is possible to work in a position with purpose.
April Chapman: Oh my gosh. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Lamont Nelson: The story is probably 20 years old, but it still feels emotional when talking about it because many kids don’t feel that someone cares for them or loves them.
April Chapman: Right, that’s the power to be the person willing to say it. Now I love you even more.
April Chapman: Let’s talk about some of the projects we’ve recently worked on, the Ideathon. Let’s share what that was about with our audience because that was an idea that came from you.
Lamont Nelson: The bigger purpose of the campaign was to recruit students from diverse backgrounds and attract some attention because we are still growing, despite being a global organization. Last year, I oversaw the internship program, and I developed some great relationships with the Deans and Presidents of the schools. We reached out to Prairie, one of our flagships HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) schools, and the Citadel.
We dealt with Doctor Williams, the first African American Dean of Citadel, and he helped us connect with Claflin University. So, we worked closely with Microsoft and got the judges and the mentoring. People don’t realize how much logistics are involved. I was grateful that I could frame it up and have others like you paint the picture.
We brought together 40 students from all three schools to tackle the data innovation challenge and create a more sustainable supply chain. You guys did a great job. We did this virtually from two different campuses and with many participants, Eva, Jamaul, Fabio, Frank, and Kevin, all under the leadership of Hakan.
April Chapman: Right, and the Ideathon was so much fun as well. This 48-hour event allows students to solve our industry, supply chain, and sustainability problems. It was fun to connect with the students in person.
Lamont Nelson: Absolutely.
It was phenomenal to know the number of women engineers with diverse backgrounds. Seeing minority women involved in engineering was an incredible experience and humbled me. You can’t count people out, not realizing that there are some great minds.
April Chapman: And the Ideathon led to more opportunities for internships. Thank you for doing that because I benefitted from having an intern last year, and it was amazing. Our interns tend to stick around.
Lamont Nelson: That’s awesome. Glad to see them on board.
My goal is to see people receive help and know that someone is thinking about them consciously.
April Chapman: Right, that’s awesome. I’m such an advocate for that. I don’t know if you are aware, but my daughter has mental health issues. It’s important to bring them up and acknowledge them because so many people try to push them down. You have to bring it up and deal with it, and I think focusing on doing that is awesome. So, thanks for doing that. I’m very supportive of that.
Lamont Nelson: Absolutely.
GET TO KNOW LAMONT BETTER
April Chapman: We’re going to do a lightning round. I will ask you a few questions, you will give me some short answers, and people will get to know you a bit more, all right?
Lamont Nelson: Okay.
April Chapman: So Lamont, what’s your favourite time of the day?
Lamont Nelson: Morning.
April Chapman: Introvert or extrovert?
Lamont Nelson: Believe it or not, I’m an introvert, people probably be surprised by that.
April Chapman: It’s hard when your roles make you extrovert, right. Text or phone call, what do you prefer?
Lamont Nelson: I’d rather pick up the phone to hear your voice. I’m a phone person.
April Chapman: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
Lamont Nelson: I would say, Nelson Mandela. Despite 27 years of imprisonment for trying to get peace in a divided country and fight for human rights and equality, he took over the presidency with humility. I believe this speaks volumes about his character.
April Chapman: I agree with you. Where would you be if you could be anywhere right now?
Lamont Nelson: I’d choose Uganda because it has a rich history, a vibrant culture, a friendly atmosphere, and a lot of equality.
April Chapman: I have one final question. Which basketball team do you support?
Lamont Nelson: If you asked me about the NBA, I would pick the San Antonio Spurs, because I like Greg Popovich. Popovich is a servant leader. He creates a great culture and is one of the few NBA coaches who speak out against social injustice. I have great respect for what he does and his courage and commitment to upholding human rights.
In terms of college, I would say John Thompson. He used to be the head coach at Georgetown University. You may have heard about the star basketball player Allen Iverson, who plays in Hampton, Virginia. Unfortunately, Allen got into trouble, and he got out of being incarcerated. No one would take a chance on him. Thompson took a chance on that kid, and he became an NBA icon.
April Chapman: We are leaving on a great inspirational note. Thanks again for being a part of this podcast today, Lamont.
Lamont Nelson: I look forward to many more adventures with you, April.