Flying High in Airfreight and Global Logistics

Lee Alderman-Davis, Global Airfreight Director

  • The views expressed in this blog are solely those of Lee Alderman-Davis, and do not represent the opinions of any entity Lee has been associated with, including her current employer.

“I liked to be pushed out of my comfort zone. I always like to challenge myself. It’s cliché but true… I’m a problem solver,” Lee Alderman-Davis tells me in her bright but undoubtedly resolute voice. The past year has posed challenges for various reasons. For Lee and her team in global airfreight logistics at Ligentia it meant creating entirely new ways of doing business.

Did you know that 90% of the world’s cargo is transported on passenger flights? So when you settle in on the plane for your family holiday and order your miniature G&T (Lee’s favourite drink), sitting below you in the cargo hold among your luggage could be anything from kitchen supplies to designer handbags on their way to a retailer.

Unfortunately, the global pandemic has grounded nearly all commercial flights, leaving a massive gap in the global supply chain. Lee was certainly challenged last year, having to completely rethink how to transport goods around the world. But she takes it all in her stride…

Changing focus in the time of Covid

In the airfreight charter business, the sheer amount of cargo being moved per journey means that if a single thing goes wrong, you can lose millions of pounds. If that isn’t pressure, I don’t know what is!

But the way Lee approached the pandemic tells you everything you need to know about her attitude. “It’s given us a new perspective, that even if we didn’t realise it, we can do anything,” she says.

And it’s not just a matter of business; Lee made sure that Ligentia helped frontline workers at the NHS after she was touched by a friends’ experience. “A very good friend of mine’s Matt McGahans’ father Alan McGahan died of COVID back in March 2020 when it first hit the UK,” Lee says. And when Matt went to visit his father in hospital, he was shocked by what he saw.

“They were working on a high-risk Covid ward with no masks and wearing black plastic bags for protection. That really inspired Matt to do something in his father’s name to help the NHS workers. So, he started the charity, Mask out Heroes.”

The charity raises money, procures PPE and hand delivers it to hospitals. Lee was touched by the story and joined the board of the charity, helping out where they can with the transport needs & logistics. The campaign has celebrity backing from the likes of reality TV star Calum Best, footballer Anton Ferdinand and actor Tamer Hassan, and continues to deliver PPE to hospitals, fire stations and schools.

Lee at work, image via The Business Desk

A versatile worker

From her first job as an office junior at a freight and logistics company, to becoming a global director, it’s apparent that Lee’s success is down to her determination, willingness to get stuck in and try new things over her 28 years in the business .

“I’ve worked in many different roles, from ocean operations, European road freight, sales, supply chain, virtually everything apart from driving a truck!” she jokes. “So, I’ve done most things in the freight and logistics industry. But my passion has always been air freight, so my career developed very quickly.”

After spending the first years of her career in operations, she moved into strategic development. “[This involves] looking after large contracts, developing new business and product development, which is finding new routes to market. So, if there’s issues with certain modes of transport, we look at what new routes to markets there are.”

The importance of this was recently brought to the world’s attention when the a ship became stuck in the Suez Canal, taking over a week to free. “That’s going to have a huge knock-on effect with delays and good shortage… But those things happen all the time. You’re always dealing with different challenges and problems. You look at what’s going on in the world and think, what can we do about it?”

A consultative leader

This problem-solving mentality has helped her to progress to management, where her background has helped to forge a particular management style. “Over the years, I’ve always had more of consultative style, because my background in development and consulting the customer needs, I think that comes naturally to me. So, my management style is more about discussion and listening, hearing and suggesting, a bit like the sales I’ve been doing for many, many years.”

She’s also very capable of getting things done herself. She recounts one of the highlights of her career as when she worked with one the world’s largest iron ore companies. “I got the opportunity to travel out to West Africa to Liberia and to Guinea, and it was such an amazing experience. Being able to start something from scratch and set that business up in West Africa was a real buzz and an achievement for me because I did that single handed,” she says.  

She made the move from middle management to a director six years ago when she joined Ligentia, where she is still working across multiple projects, and hasn’t looked back.

Climbing the ranks

Working in logistics and supply chain, Lee is often the only woman in a room of men, but that hasn’t stopped her from climbing the ranks.  “I class myself as one of the boys. It’s not an issue. If you’re a strong, confident individual, then you can still succeed, regardless.

“I’m sure a lot of women find a large male environment intimidating, but as I’ve spent my whole career in a male environment, I’m used to it. There have been many times where there’s 20 men and I’m the only woman… But likely if it was 19 women and there was one man, it would be intimidating for that man. Regardless, if you’re not a strong person, it can be hard.”

I think that’s the real secret to Lee’s success: strength. She is the embodiment of a strong female lead and proof that a can-do attitude goes a long way.

Quick-fire questions

  • Are you a morning lark or a night owl? Morning lark
  • Would you rather have an active holiday or relaxing holiday? Active
  • Cats or dogs?  Dogs.
  • What are you watching on TV right now? Your Honour, and then The Circle for some escapism
  • All-time favourite music album?  Jagged little pill, Alanis Morrisette
  • Biggest weakness?  Chocolate and Haribos
  • What’s your holiday destination?  Val d’Isere for skiing  
  • Favourite meal? Shepherd’s Pie
  • Favourite weekend activity? Walking the dog and going to the pub
  • Your favourite female icon? Jacquinda Ardem