Always Seeking Better
It is impossible to find ways to improve if you are not looking. Patriot’s Seaonus Cold Storage facility’s First Shift Operations Leader Derek “DJ” Johnson puts this statement into practice at every opportunity. Even when focused on accomplishing a specific task, he’s always visually inspecting his surroundings to ensure no detail is missed elsewhere. Searching for better is the trait that ultimately brought DJ to Patriot Rail and Ports and is also a defining characteristic of his leadership style.
DJ wasn’t supposed to make Jacksonville home. The city was only a quick stop on his way from South Carolina to Cocoa Beach, where he was headed to work for his grandfather. However, that all changed when DJ was in a hardware store and noticed that a lumberyard nearby was hiring. Since he previously worked in lumber at home, he filled out an application. With his experience and attitude, the lumberyard called DJ within an hour, and Jacksonville became his home.
By keeping his eyes open and being willing to pivot, DJ uncovered and obtained an even better opportunity for him and his family than the one he was heading towards in Cocoa Beach.
Focused on Greater Efficiency
The path to his current role as an operations leader followed a similar pattern. DJ left the lumberyard to become a stevedore at our Talleyrand port before transferring to the cold storage facility. He started at the bottom at every stop but worked his way up through hard work and a meticulous eye for detail.
Seeking out opportunities to improve has defined both DJ’s career path and how he leads at the facility. If there is a better way to do anything from receiving and prepping an order to loading a truck, he will find it. DJ is always looking for ways to do a task with greater efficiency.
With his team, DJ always sets a great example of working hard, and they appreciate his focus on becoming better every day. They also appreciate his compassion and willingness to listen. It’s not uncommon for his team members to speak with him about work or things they’re experiencing outside of the facility. Naturally, DJ finds his team to be an excellent resource for identifying and correcting the inefficiencies he is always looking to weed out.
“You have to have a close relationship with your employees,” DJ said. “Sometimes, in some jobs, people don’t seem to want to listen to the people on the ground doing the work. If you don’t listen to them, how can you find out what’s going on? How can you find out what is creating issues for them? How can you improve a problem you don’t know about? Listening to one another is key to getting the job done better.”
Calculated Decisions Are Crucial
“Better” is a never-ending quest for DJ. He is very perceptive of opportunities to improve and infinitely flexible in making the most of them. In an industry where every second matters and uncovering every possible efficiency is crucial, our operations leaders must make bold yet calculated decisions on the fly.
Derek “DJ” Johnson has repeatedly proven how competent he is in doing just that. It’s how he avoided the tropical heat of landscaping in the hot Florida sun and ultimately became the leader of a team in simulated arctic conditions