How to Ace Your Supply Chain Career

How to Ace Your Supply Chain Career

Want to be in a class of your own? These supply chain practitioners have some notes.

Take advantage of your organization’s mentoring program
or find your own mentor. Leaders have an obligation to support, coach, and lift up the next generation of employees. I would not be where I am today without sponsorship from mentors.

A mentor should be your truth teller—ensuring you see the reality of your actions or inactions. A great mentor gives you perspective and challenges your thinking. These relationships are invaluable no matter the direction of your career.

–Marcia Brey
Vice President of Distribution
GE Appliances
a Haier company

Become an expert. The world is increasingly reliant on the global supply chain. To have in-depth knowledge of all subjects in the global supply chain can take many professionals a lifetime.

Home in on an area you are passionate about and become a specialist. Solving complex problems and delivering strategic projects is not child’s play. Hence, being a person around the table that can speak with authority and experience is hugely valuable to any organization.

–Neil McEvoy
Vice President
Customer Experience
C3 Solutions

Be a curious, lifelong learner. Supply chains are always in a state of fluctuation with disruption as a constant. Keep current on the latest technology, especially in digital supply chain and artificial intelligence.

The supply chain leader of today is strategic—focusing on meeting customer expectations, anticipating new regulatory requirements, and improving visibility. They also keep a constant eye on how to make supply chains more sustainable and good for the planet.

Devour information about global events and use your global network of supply chain professionals to get a pulse on regional and local markets.

–Sumit Dutta
Supply Chain & Operations Leader
EY Americas

Gain as much experience across the discipline as possible. Supply chain roles encompass many functions, from procurement and customer service to demand management, logistics, and shipping. Gaining a broad perspective early in your career will enable you to progress more quickly and bring a unique perspective to senior roles.

Invest the time to understand the manufacturing operation. This foundational knowledge will enable you to better understand the key challenges and more accurately calculate and act upon risks, flows, and functions to create the smoothest possible supply chain operation.

–Chris Young
Supply Chain Director
Titanium Technologies

Embrace artificial intelligence. Over the past three years we have seen such fast and unprecedented changes in consumer demand, shipping, raw materials availability, and supply levels.

What has become painfully clear is a need to redesign and rewire most of the supply chain processes for end-to-end optimization, AI-based forecasting, a high degree of automation, fast response internally for constant external changes, and a maniacal focus on optimizing working capital while maintaining high service levels.

Today it is increasingly done based on advanced technology—probabilistic models, machine learning, and data science. So my best advice—move into the dynamic world of AI-based optimization. Learn about the new tools, take a class on data science or machine learning, participate in implementation of new software. This is where the industry is moving, and those who head the move—move up.

–Inna Kuznetsova

Focus on and get to know your global supply chain leaders. The organization is literally a chain—a connection of strategy, people, processes, and yes, problems.

Spend time getting to know your team members, discussing their challenges and ideas for improvement, and taking their candid feedback on what needs to change. Then get busy working as a team to make a difference and serve customers.

–Tonya Jackson
Senior Vice President
Chief Product Delivery Officer

Challenge the orthodoxies of the past and question why we run supply chain processes as we do.

I usually advise those looking to make a career in supply chain to continually work on using technology to modernize and simplify processes and always look for ways to make them more efficient.

–Jonathan Wright
Consulting Global Managing Partner
Sustainability Services and Global Business Transformation

Taking on a variety of different roles is a key element for success. My experiences working in planning, sourcing, and transportation helped me become a stronger employee—enabling me to connect the dots across my different job functions.

Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. Make sure you’re always challenging yourself; learn and stretch your skill sets.

–Melissa Dietz
Head of Customer Success

Keep Jammin’

During the recent supply chain crisis, I compiled a playlist to settle me down when things were a little too much. Here are a few songs that I view as my survival mantras that make me smile and keep me hopeful.

RESPECT by Aretha, the Queen of Soul, always gives me a boost when our team is battling incredible odds and sometimes taking it on the chin.

CARRY ON by fun. For our customers, our business, and for each other — “May the past be the sound of your feet upon the ground — Carry on!”

HOLD ON by Alabama Shakes. You see the theme here: “Get back up and you got to hold on.”

STAND BY ME by Ben E. King. Showing my age here, but no team gets through all that global disruption without standing together.

–Tonya Jackson

What I Would Tell My Younger Self

Recognize it takes time to make change happen, but it is worthwhile in the end. Diverse teams are critical to creating a successful, high-performing supply chain strategy.

Overall keep a positive attitude, be confident, celebrate successes, and have fun.

–Jonathan Wright

Careers are not linear. Don’t worry about the title that follows your name. My career path is one I couldn’t have anticipated as an English literature major in college.

By focusing on building high-performing teams, executing consistently and effectively, delivering unmatched client support, and growing those around me, my career has flourished in unimaginable ways.

Frequently ask yourself if you are encouraging others and building something that has the power to make a difference. Find and create spaces where you will thrive, and spend time doing work that challenges, inspires, and fulfills you.

–Julie Gerdeman
Everstream Analytics

Consider priorities carefully and be more selfish in making decisions. I would trust my instincts and would say “yes” and “no” differently based on what is meaningful to me.

I would unplug more often, take more vacations, spend more time with close friends doing random things at the spur of the moment, and say “no” to doing things that could be great opportunities but are not truly my passion.

–Tonya Jackson

Have the confidence to be uncomfortable and inexperienced. Being curious poses a challenge and forces us to rise up and add value to our skill sets.

No matter where you start there is always opportunity for more. New innovations, new ideas, new methodologies can flip this industry on its head. It isn’t always those with 30+ years experience who rise to the top. For those willing to break things and experiment, there are no limitations.

–Christa Hinkel
Vice President of Customer Success

Mantras to Live By

Be bold. Do not let one setback or failure lead to more or stop you. If you have a bad day or are told no, start fresh each day, and focus on smaller goals and what you can control.

Also, it is essential for women to mentor other women, provide opportunities when appropriate, and lift each other up. The professional direction women receive from other women is critical. My advice is to be bold and take chances in work and in life.

–Katerina Jones
Vice President of Marketing and Business Development
Fleet Advantage

Burn the ships. To be clear—this is not about today’s maritime transportation industry. It refers to a historical military tactic to destroy one’s boats to not offer the option of retreat for one’s soldiers before the next battle. Today, I continually apply this concept to current business supply chain challenges from two perspectives.

First, it reminds me there’s no going back to any perceived “good old” times or how things were before the pandemic. Second, it reiterates the necessity to commit to the new endeavors ahead with success as the only available result.

–Andrew McLoone
Executive Director
BDP Transport

Be humble, grateful, and pleasantly persistent.

No matter how far we advance in our careers, it is vital to remember we are no better than anyone else. If you forget to be humble, you are in for a reality check.

Gratitude is also key—we are successful because of the opportunities we are given by others. And lastly, being pleasantly persistent with requests and directions will enable you to accomplish your goals more quickly than by being pushy and demanding.

–Cynthia Martinez-Patin
Human Resources Director
iGPS Logistics

Data solves problems, but people are the solution.

Never ask your team to do something you haven’t done or won’t do.

I practice these two mantras in every position I hold. Regardless of occupation, a leader who leverages these concepts when engaging their teams is bound to win.

These concepts are something I use to ensure that my team knows that I take the human element into account when making decisions, not just deriving an action from a number.

–Gary Harber
Distribution Manager

Strong opinions, loosely held. Approach situations with as much of an informed opinion as possible, prepared to defend it as needed.

This allows us to have a bias for action—even in uncertain and ambiguous environments—avoid the mire of analysis paralysis, and stay open to adjusting viewpoints and strategies as new perspectives and data arise.

–Katie Martin
Sustainability & ESG Principal

First: Empathy is the key to success—only by understanding your customers’ challenges can you deliver solutions.

Second: Attitude, energy, and effort are essential to thriving in life and the logistics business.

Next: Cultivate confidence and set yourself up for long-term success by building skills through personal and professional development opportunities.

Finally: Anticipate adversity—working proactively instead of reactively keeps you ahead of issues.

–Will Diaz
Vice President of Business Development
Arrive Logistics