Laura Dearborn Stearns

The Lone Arranger

Sharp intelligence

The way you might squeeze juice from an orange, Laura Dearborn Stearns squeezes value from data. In one of her roles as a supply chain business analyst in Cisco's Global Manufacturing Operations, she builds reports that show how well components flow from suppliers to the partners that manufacture Cisco's products.

Do deliveries arrive on time? If demand for a part exceeds supply, do the supplier and manufacturer work together well to solve the problem? Stearns' tools extract the answers from a business intelligence (BI) system. Then she presents the information in ways that quickly tell users all they need to know.

"I make sure the data is available, accurate, and displayed in a usable format," she says. "Reports have to be useful to internal users, partners, and suppliers—people with a variety of roles and priorities."

On her own

The most impressive aspect of Stearns' BI work is that she leads the effort on her own, says nominator John Hutton. "She does not have co-workers or internal IT support to lean on for assistance." Instead, Stearns works directly with the software vendor to customize the BI platform for Cisco's particular needs. Stearns had no formal training to prepare her to work with this IT tool. "It was all on-the-job learning," she says.

She continues to create new reports, metrics, and dashboards, each one helping her team work a little smarter. "This effort is driving innovation, and creating more efficient ways to share information and collaborate," Hutton says.

Early warning

Stearns also uses the BI system herself, to keep an eye on how suppliers and manufacturers collaborate to avert component shortages. She ensures that everyone sticks to established processes, and sounds the alarm when things seem to be veering off course. "For example, a lot of shortages could indicate that things aren't going well industry-wide or for a certain commodity," Stearns says. "So I make sure management is notified."

Rewards of the job

"I enjoy telling a story with data to give people new insights," Stearns says. "Then they can use that information to do a better job for the business."

Do it right

Keeping tabs on a highly complex supply chain with many moving parts isn't easy. Stearns succeeds because she knows how to focus on the big picture and on a project's smallest elements. "I'm detail-oriented," she says. "I have an organized approach. And I like to look at the quality of the impact I'm having. I don't want to do something just to get it done. I want to get it done right."


AGE: 26

HOMETOWN: Visalia, California

ALMA MATER: California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo

CURRENT POSITION: Supply Chain Business Analyst, Cisco Systems, San Jose, California

NOMINATED BY: John Hutton, Manager, Supply Chain Operations, Cisco Systems

In Her Own Words

Most challenging part of your job?

Managing the complexity inherent in the supply chain, and the needs of all stakeholders in a given project or process.

Most exciting career accomplishment to date?

Leading the business intelligence for our supply collaboration platform. I pioneered the development and implementation of reports and dashboards that enable stakeholders to gain new information and drive action for increased efficiency.

30 Under 30 Program Partners

Institute for Supply Management® (ISM) is the first supply management institute in the world. Founded in 1915, ISM's mission is to enhance the value and performance of procurement and supply chain management practitioners and their organizations worldwide. By executing and extending its mission through education, research, standards of excellence and information dissemination—including the renowned monthly ISM Report On Business®—ISM maintains a strong global influence among individuals and organizations.

ThomasNet provides solutions that make it easier for buyers and engineers to partner with the right industrial suppliers. For nearly a century the Company’s “big green books”—the Thomas Register—were considered indispensable to B2B buyers and manufacturers alike. Today, ThomasNet offers tools to facilitate every step of the buying process. These include industry’s leading supplier discovery platform, free online at

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