Sally Rowland-Ketley: A Born Leader
If you ask Sally Rowland-Ketley what she wanted to be when she grew up, she probably won’t say the director of Printing & Postal Services at a large university. And yet, for nearly two decades, Rowland-Ketley has headed up that department at the University of Houston. How then did she end up in printing?
“I was in the right place at the right time,” she says.
Born and raised in Haslett, Mich., Rowland-Ketley and her husband decided in 1981 that if they didn’t leave the town they grew up in, they never would. They ventured to Houston, Texas, without jobs, in hopes of starting a new life together. Now, Rowland-Ketley says she couldn’t imagine her life anywhere else.
She started her career in banking before she moved to the Lone Star state, something she was able to transition to her new city. After several years working in banking, Rowland-Ketley was asked to manage the mailing department at First Interstate Bank of Texas. She worked there for six years before being laid off.
After spending a year and a half out of work, she took a job with Xerox Business Services. She eventually became a customer account manager with two main accounts: Compaq Computers, which ran 10 Xerox DocuTechs to handle all of its computer manuals, and Enron, the now defunct energy and services company that became embroiled in one of the biggest controversies in recent decades.
Well before the Enron scandal, Rowland-Ketley knew she needed a change. In February of 1998, she was hired by the University of Houston as the postal manager. In the early 2000s, the director of Printing Services left and she filled in as interim director until someone else could be hired. The new director did not work out, though, so Rowland-Ketley was asked to take over the department as director after requesting that printing and postal services be combined.
Strengthening the In-plant
Since taking over as director of the combined printing and mailing services, she has brought digital technology into the shop, something her predecessor would never have allowed, she says. She has also staved off being outsourced, something that is a looming threat for many other in-plants. The university considered outsourcing, and has done so with other services, such as dining on campus. However, it became clear that outsourcing would not save the university money and that the relationship would be different.
“You just don’t get the same sort of response from those employees,” she says.
One of the things that Rowland-Ketley stresses is important in her shop is that everyone is cross-trained on the equipment and everyone is involved in the handwork, which she says contributes to a strong staff motivation.
“No matter how much is automated, there are still things that have to be done by hand,” she notes. “Everyone is involved in every aspect of the job, and that has made a difference. People talk to each other.”
In fact, one of the things that Rowland-Ketley says makes her most proud is her staff’s dedication and ability to meet any printing and postal demand on campus. She explains that any job the shop is given, it delivers.
“We pull off miracles every day,” she says.
An Unexpected Task
At the beginning of the school year, Rowland-Ketley explains there are normally about 3,000 to 4,000 packages expected to come in for students. However, at the beginning of the 2017 school year, the university’s postal service received 22,000 packages in a single week.
After Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston, the university’s basketball coach put out a request to his fellow coaches to send basketball shirts and shoes to the University of Houston to help those in need. What wasn’t expected was that the tweet would go viral. It garnered thousands of likes and retweets and eventually, nearly 18,000 packages came pouring in.
Although the tweet was altruistic, it created an unintended bottleneck for the in-plant, Rowland-Ketley explains. She says she was called at home shortly after the storm by the United States Postal Service asking for her to come pick up the influx of packages. Not only were donations coming in, but since it was the beginning of the school year, textbooks ordered by students were also arriving. She says that Printing & Postal Services sent a notice out to campus to explain that it couldn’t deliver on campus as it took some time to go through and log all of the packages.
Although it was a large task, Printing & Postal Services was able to sort through all of the donations and get every package to its rightful recipient. Incredibly, there are still some donations coming in, Rowland-Ketley says.
In her spare time, Rowland-Ketley says she has been very active in the Postal Customer Council (PCC) and the Mail Systems Management Association (MSMA), where she has been a chapter president four times during her 23-year membership.
In her professional life, she has developed a personality for leadership, something she may have gotten from her mother, whom she describes as “ahead of her time.” Her mother joined the WACs during World War II and met Rowland-Ketley’s father while overseas. According to Rowland-Ketley, she instilled in her the importance of speaking your mind and doing the right thing.
Rowland-Ketley will be retiring early in 2018, but if she could relay one message to her fellow in-plant managers it would be to evolve, to continue to change to keep up with the times and to strive for better, something her mother probably would have agreed with.
“Don’t be afraid to ask,” she says, “Ask for what you need to make your shop better.”