It’s my opinion that most look back on their career and realize they never could have predicted where they would end up. For instance, my best subject areas in high school were instrumental music, math and science. When it came time to determine what I should study in college I chose engineering even though I had a full tuition scholarship to pursue a degree in jazz performance. At that point in my life I probably had only heard the term “logistics” as related to the military and the term “supply chain management” hadn’t been coined yet.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, I went to work in the aerospace manufacturing industry as a test engineer. I was lucky enough to work on some of the new commercial and military aircraft programs that took me to places like Patuxent Naval Air Station and Edwards Air Force Base. Again, logistics or supply chain management wasn’t part of my vocabulary or part of a long-term career plan.
I started working on a Master of Science in Engineering, but had second thoughts as to whether a MS degree was right for me. I looked into MBA programs with the thought that an MBA would create more career options than an MS. One piece of advice I received was if I was going to get an MBA to make sure to specialize in a functional area versus a general MBA. I looked at various MBA specializations and came across Materials & Logistics Management (MLM). From what I learned about MLM I thought there might be a good fit with my background in project management and engineering. I determined which schools were leaders in this specialization and was lucky enough to get accepted to one of the best. So off I went to Michigan State. I went not really knowing much about this intriguing business discipline.
Over the next 18 months I became completely immersed in my MBA curriculum and especially in MLM specialization courses. My love of supply chain management was first kindled and fed by legendary professors including Dr. Donald Bowersox, Dr. David Closs, Dr. Steven Melnyk, Dr. Dale Rogers and many others. Being an engineer, I fell in love with the strategic and tactical aspects of MLM and drew on my math and science background to excel in my studies. I graduated with honors and a GPA of 3.93 only missing a 4.0 due to a 2 credit speech course where I ended up with a B+ (heavy sigh).
While at Michigan State, I was lucky enough to win a graduate scholarship through the Council of Logistics Management (CLM) that included a complementary entrance to CLM’s Annual Professional Conference in Washington D.C. A fellow MBA student and I drove to D.C. from East Lansing. As a grad student in Logistics who was actively looking for employment after graduation the CLM Annual Conference was a “target rich” environment (Aerospace lingo). My love for supply chain management was further stoked at the conference and by my relationship with CLM and its successor, The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP). Over the years I took an active role in local chapters and the national organization. I truly believe I received much more than I contributed.
My love for supply chain management continued to grow through my career due to the nature of the discipline.
- SCM is ever growing and changing due to advances in technology, changes in market dynamics and continuous improvement to industry processes and the skill level of the smart people who manage them.
- SCM tends to be the unifying force in business that ties each moving part together. As a supply chain professional you have to be able to work with sales and marketing to understand and shape demand; with finance to understand and meet financial objectives; with product development to ensure products can be moved through the distribution network efficiently; with customer service to ensure supply chain capabilities can meet customer requirements; with partners to ensure their services and products meet yours and your customers’ needs; and directly with customers to ensure satisfaction and repeat business. Bottom-line is you really get to know the business.
- Many areas of SCM emphasize analyzing data, coming up with optimal solutions and efficiently executing. The analytical nature makes it impossible to feel bored because there are always new problems to solve, and never a shortage of ways to improve your operations, yourself and the industry at large.
- As a SCM practitioner you have the ability to add significant business value by increasing revenue, decreasing costs and improving customer service. With this involvement in strategic and tactical initiatives, you are often provided with opportunities that increase your voice and influence to define your company.
- By nature, SCM practitioners tend to approach life and work with intelligence and passion. Although the work can be challenging, SCM practitioners tend to translate their passion into a positive attitude that creates a fun and productive environment. Being a SCM practitioner requires a mentality that embraces continuous education. Training courses, certifications, short courses, conferences and individual learning efforts are synonymous with the industry, which to me, is enjoyable.
With almost 30 years working in the field of supply chain management, I still have to hustle to keep up with all of the new concepts introduced into the discipline. Looking back, it is hard to imagine a more interesting, challenging and rewarding career. Looking forward, I hope to be able to contribute to the supply chain management profession for many more years.
What is your supply chain story? Did you know this was the industry you would thrive in?