Patriot Profile: Irma Flores
During her many years on the dock, Irma Flores has always stood out. She doesn’t stand out because she is the only woman among a sea of men. Irma stands out because she is one of the most dependable and hardworking employees on the port.
In Irma’s nearly two decades at the Blount Island Terminal in Jacksonville, Florida, she has ascended from an administrative office worker to operations superintendent within the Patriot Rail and Ports’ Portus Stevedoring group.
Irma acknowledges that it wasn’t easy. “Women have worked very, very hard to get where we are in this industry,” she said.
First One In, Last One Out
Irma is the first one in every morning and the last one out. Her days can be very long, but she insists on being the last person because doing so lets her know that every member of her team left the port safely. Irma’s agenda is laser-focused and straightforward; take care of her team and customers. “Everybody calls me Mama because I try to keep these guys in check,” she said with a laugh and a smile.
The Team is a Family
She’s naturally nurturing and believes strongly that the team is a family, and they need to take care of their own. Irma practices it in little ways, like making sure she tells everyone good morning every day, and she practices it in significant ways like organizing and leading the charge for donations when a team member lost their home to a fire. It’s the way it always has been here and the way it always will be as long as Irma is around.
Errors on the port can be very costly. If something goes wrong, lives are at stake. Irma’s nurturing approach applies to correcting her team too, and it’s very effective. Instead of yelling at her employees when they make a mistake, she works with them to find a solution. “I’ll calmly tell them, ‘You know what you did wrong. You know why. Let’s figure out how we’re going to fix it.’ I’ve heard many times from employees I’ve disciplined that it was worse than getting yelled at.”
“Nobody likes to disappoint their parents, you know,” Irma continued. It has definitely earned her respect among her team.
“Even prior to becoming a manager, I could go out there and ask anybody to do something, and they would do it,” she said. “The group out there has treated me as if I were management, even though I didn’t have the title. I don’t know if it’s my reputation. Maybe it’s because they know I dabbled in everything out here, and I have the knowledge. But I can go out there with or without a title, and they’re going to work for me.”
The “Patriot Way”
In the end, doing the job right while taking care of customers and one another is most important. Irma realized this 18 years ago when she first started, and she has never wavered.
Irma, we are so grateful for your commitment to the ‘Patriot Way.’ Keep doing what you’re doing!