Podcast: Michigan State University Supply Chain Department – Judy Whipple and Kelly Lynch

By Published On: November 9, 2021

Hosts: Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple

In This Episode:

We talk with Dr. Judith Whipple and Mr. Kelly Lynch of Michigan State University as they share their insights and advice about how to develop students and work with the supply chain industry. They provide their thoughts about how the industry can best engage with students, faculty, and staff. They also provide advice to students about how to be successful throughout their university experiences, building strong lifelong networks.

Who is Dr. Judith Whipple?

Dr. Judith Whipple is Bowersox-Thull Endowed Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management and Faculty Director of the Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Program (MS-SCM) in the Broad College at Michigan State University (MSU). Judy has extensive teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate level, teaching in the full-time MBA, Executive MBA, MS-SCM and doctoral programs.

Who is Kelly Lynch?

Kelly M. Lynch is the Director of the Corporate and Student Relations Office (CSRO) with the Department of Supply Chain Management in the Broad College of Business at Michigan State University (MSU). Kelly’s primary responsibility is to connect undergraduate students and employers. The CSRO partners with approximately 200 employers to help them to enhance their message and visibility to the students, faculty, and staff in the Department of Supply Chain Management.

(01:43) First, let’s give the audience an opportunity to understand what you each do at Michigan State related to supply chain. And let’s start with Judy.

[00:01:57, Judy] Great. Thanks Mike. I am the Bowersox-Thull Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Michigan State. My role involves both teaching and research. From a teaching perspective, I currently teach in our full-time MBA and I also teach in our master’s of science in supply chain management, which is a predominantly online, part-time program, where individuals who are working full-time can still get that advanced degree. I also teach in our doctoral program in logistics. I’m also a faculty director of our MS SCM program. And previously taught at undergrad and our executive MBA program as well. And then on the research side, my main research interest has been buyer and supplier collaboration.

[00:02:43, Kelly] My role here at Michigan State is I’m the Director of Corporate and Student Relations. So, I always tell people if I’ve got to make an elevator pitch and I’ve got one floor to make this pitch, I tell people my job is to connect students with employers and employers with students. But if I have multiple floors and I’ve got somebody captive, I can go in a little bit deeper. When it comes to the student side, I’m a resource here, very focused on supply chain stuff. Primarily undergraduate students. As Judy mentioned, we have all levels of education, undergraduate, graduate MBA, executive development programs, certificate programs, things like that. I’m another resource for the students to use. And I tell them my job is to help you make informed decisions and make them aware of all the resources and the people that are here at Michigan State to help them through their process, whether it’s academic, personal, moving to campus, being away from home, into that employment realm.

And then when it comes to the employer-facing side, I tell the employers that my job is to help brand and position you and your company with the faculty, staff and students of Michigan State University’s Department of Supply Chain Management. And I do stress the importance of faculty. That’s one of the things I learned when I was at Chrysler, was it’s very important to understand the faculty and see what you can do to meet their needs. The faculty does bring knowledge into the classroom and they can bring knowledge into the corporate realm if you’re willing to do that. There’s no right way or wrong way to approach our students, but I do tell companies you need to roll up your sleeves and go to work that you can’t just show up at the career fair and expect people will be lined up to see you because there’s a lot of competition for talent. And we’re very, very fortunate to have a highly regarded, highly rated undergraduate and graduate programs. There’s competition for our students and you need to figure out how you can present that message to them.

In terms of other responsibilities for the students, I’m the faculty advisor for the supply chain management association. That’s our student organization that’s affiliated with supply chain. And back to the corporate side I’ve also got responsibility for our supply chain management council. So, we’ve got

approximately 40 organizations, enterprises that are actively engaged in supporting the department of supply chain management on many, many fronts.

[00:05:06] Kelly, you brought up an excellent point. We do see a lot of employers making the mistake of, we call it post and pray and like you said, show up, you do the very, very basics, but they don’t put enough effort and emphasis into the courting. And when I say courting, it’s reaching out and connecting, and building the relationships and doing it sooner than later, you can’t wait until folks are about to graduate.

[00:05:28, Kelly] Exactly. Exactly. A lot of companies think for example, they want to hire juniors as interns and hope to convert them into full-time people. So, they won’t talk to freshmen or sophomores. That’s a huge mistake. Freshmen will eventually become juniors and you can start building those bridges early, they will understand and they will appreciate that and they’ll keep you top of mind.

[00:05:49, Judy] Just to add onto that. I think employers sometimes underestimate the power of word of mouth and the students talking with each other. Hearing about a company, hearing somebody had a good internship experience there. I think that also plays a role in, again, showing up and rolling up the sleeves and really building a brand on campus.

[00:06:08] Excellent advice, especially during these times where it’s unprecedented demand for supply chain talent. I would love to understand, we’ll start with you, Judy, how did you first become interested in supply chain and what were some of the early influences that got you started and helped you along the way?

Probably like a lot of us, and hopefully this is changing a little bit, I found supply chain by coincidence. I was an undergrad at what’s now Kettering University. One of my choices for a major concentration was logistics. I didn’t know really what it was, but it sounded interesting. And so, I took that leap of faith and for not a very good reason made a very smart choice. I was a co-op student at GM, and I had the chance to work in a variety of supply chain areas from production, supervision, to material handling, expediting, procurement. And I just loved working across the supply chain. I loved the challenge. I love that every day is different and there’s a new problem to solve.

I loved it so much I decided to go and get my PhD in marketing and logistics at Michigan State. And I got a chance to work with Don Bowersox. He opened so many opportunities for me and including on the research side, a chance to work on a large-scale research project to look at world-class logistics and how companies are managing change. And that’s been a theme of my research and my teaching is how do we use supply chain to gain a competitive advantage? How do we sense what’s going on in the environment, whether it’s customers changing or competitors or economic conditions, how do we create new best practices and maintain that advantage over time.

[00:07:49] And Kelly, same question. How did you get started and what were some of the influences that helped shape your career, and set on the right path?

As I mentioned before, I was at Chrysler for many, many years, but as I was growing up, I was obviously interested in automotive. My dad liked to tinker around with parts and stuff like that. I grew up in an automotive town, so I did have some understanding that not every single component on a car was made by the people who sold the car, designed, it, developed it, manufactured, it marketed it, et cetera. I was a little bit intrigued by that. But as I was going through my undergraduate program, I had a friend who was a couple of years ahead of me. And he had just started the graduate program at Michigan State to get his MBA in materials and logistics management. And so, a little bit like Judy, as I learned more about it, I really became intrigued.

When it comes to early influences over my career, I did what a lot of students I wish would do more of, which is talk to people, talk to some academic advisors. I was able to talk with academic advisors who helped me shape a path to get my undergraduate degree. They gave me a roadmap and I got through that. So, that was my academic path.

When it came to employment, as I started, it’s your immediate supervisors are the people that you really start to learn a lot from and who can influence you. And I learned over the course of my career. Especially as I’ve made some progress up the corporate ladder that your supervisor really affects the people who work for them, they are probably the largest influence over people’s happiness and desire to stay with the corporation to be productive, to be engaged in all levels and aspects of their employment. The other influence was my coworkers. Maybe they were higher than me in the organization or maybe not, but just building that network internally and externally, I worked with a lot of suppliers and people from outside the company. I always tell students this today, when you learn from your manager, keep an eye open and keep your eye on two things, what do they do well and what don’t they do well, and you can learn from both and use that to build your approach to business.

[00:09:54] What are you hearing from companies about the kinds of hard and soft skills they would like students to develop while they’re at the university?

[00:10:01, Kelly] When it comes to hard skills, there’s a lot of focus on data analytics, management of information technology, and its many shapes and forms and the use of data to help drive decisions. One of the things that I learned, and I tried to impress upon the students that data can point you in the right direction, but it doesn’t always necessarily solve the problem for you. And as we all know, the people who are listening to this podcast, there’s constant change and constant challenges that you may not be able to plan for.

Based upon my experience, usually when a problem came up, there were about a hundred ways that you could go. And I would say 10% of those would be just bad, but the other 90 are all opportunities there, the other 90%. And so how do you sort through all of that and understand that your quest is to find an optimal

solution at that point in time. And what may have been the right solution last year for a similar issue may be completely different this time around. I think employers want people to understand and use math and statistics, regression analysis, what is the net present value. How do some of my decisions impact accounting and financial statements and things like that.

Soft skills are those interpersonal skills. So, it’s like working in teams, cross-functional work, being concise in your conversation, respect for others. Because as I mentioned before, these supply chains are dynamic and constantly changing and it has always been a person to person business. Building relationships with people is important and building your relationships between companies is important.

And finally, when I’m asked by students for advice like on what they want to do, when they start employment, whether it’s internship, co-op, or full-time, I always tell them the importance of the platinum rule. We all know what the golden rule is, but the platinum rule, to treat others the way they want to be treated. That means you have to know people on an individual level. So, don’t think that everybody thinks like you, because they just don’t.

[00:12:02, Judy] I echo the comments that Kelly made in terms of getting comfortable with software, being comfortable with quantitative, data, thinking about data visualization as well. So how do you tell the story with the data, to sell that idea? And then I think in particular, not only understanding the supply chain fundamentals, but integrating with the other functional areas in the firm, how do demand and supply integrate. How do I talk in the financial terms that the CEO is interested in? How do I think about supply chain at a more strategic level? Problem-solving, understanding today’s challenges, tomorrow’s challenges and building communication, teamwork, and then leadership skills as well.

[00:12:49] I felt like the soft skills can be equally as important sometimes. Like you said, it’s a supply chain is a people business, lots of folks and departments internally or externally to cut across. Are there courses that teach collaboration, influencing change, engaging stakeholders, presentations skills?

[00:13:05, Judy] Both the undergrad and graduate programs, our full-time MBA and the undergrad programs, students will take a series of supply chain courses, but they’ll also take some core courses in the business college. Every student takes an intro course to supply chain, intro course for accounting, intro course to finance, intro course to marketing, strategic management courses, leadership development courses, regardless of their major. So that’s a way that a lot of those skills get taught in the classroom. I think another great example of building some of those soft skills is participating in some of the student associations. Kelly mentioned the supply chain management association. SCMA we have a similar one at the graduate level. The SCMA is an amazing student organization on campus. They have a leadership retreat every year. They do other activities throughout the year to help students build some of those soft skills. So, I think those are other opportunities for students to get involved.

[00:14:03] Kelly, you touched on this earlier. You’re kind of the middleware between companies looking to hire and the students looking for careers, and we’ve seen a trend where the corporate relations has become increasingly important within the supply chain departments and the various programs. Could you give us a sense of how you engage with corporations and how they can best engage with your faculty, students, the overall university?

[00:14:30, Kelly] As I mentioned before, there’s no right way or wrong way for a corporation to work with a college or a university. But you have to do it beyond recruiting. Yes, we know you’re here to recruit our students. Yes, our students are interested in their career, whether in their career steps, whether it’s at that first internship or as they start their full-time professional careers. You have to think a little bit broader than just that. I intentionally tell companies, that my job is to help brand, to position themselves with faculty, staff, and students, because the faculty here, there’s more continuity cause students turnover every year. If you can think beyond just career fairs and beyond talent acquisition and think of a university-wide relations approach or department wide approach. That’s the key to success. For example, I ask our supply chain management council companies, our top 40 companies who engage very strategically with about 130 or 140 more other companies every year, I asked them, what do you want to do in terms of your engagement to come here to Michigan State?

We explained to them about the supply chain management association, how they meet a couple of times every year. And how we bring in company corporate people to talk about issues and to present their company to these students, help them build that brand. I asked them about faculty support. Do you want them to come into the classroom? Judy for example, has got several companies that come into her classroom as part of her lesson plan. And if you’re up there with a professor and you’re talking about a real problem and they see that real issue, and it’s reinforcing what they’re learning in the classroom, that goes miles and miles towards those students saying, wow, I really am interested in fill in the blank, or that sounds like a great opportunity for me. So, thinking about those engagement opportunities is the key. Beyond talent acquisition, approach the university broadly as he can.

[00:16:32, Judy] Universities are difficult entities to navigate if you are outside, and knowing who do I talk with, what are opportunities? It’s one of the reasons that we have the position Kelly has is that corporate director of student relations, is to be that conduit to the university for companies to figure out how do I go about this? Other opportunities would be doing mock interviews with students, doing resume reviews with students. That’s where Kelly can connect someone to our career management group, and just thinking about what are some other things that I can do where I’m building that brand and I’m engaging with the students.

[00:17:13] What would you advise the smaller companies looking to hire some of your graduates?

[00:17:19, Kelly] Like I mentioned before, my background was Chrysler and that was in Auburn Hills, Michigan. So, we’re an hour and a half away and lots of alumni, lots of people there to help support us. So, it was easier than it would be if you were a smaller company, however, you have to focus on the advantages to being smaller. So, you’re maybe more quick, or access to leadership is there. Just get your arms around it from a strategic point of view. Don’t spread yourself too thin. No matter what size of organization you are, you should not have 30 university partners. You may want to narrow that down to three or four. I would always encourage people of course, think about Michigan State when it comes to supply chain management, but it could be community colleges or other institutions that are local to where you are, headquarters are, where your operations are at that may make things easier.

[00:18:10, Judy] I think that’s also where maybe smaller companies can also or medium size companies can interact with faculty. Maybe there’s a project that a faculty member either from a research perspective, or student engagement perspective can participate in, is that something that you’re willing to open the doors and let students come in and do a tour. If they can be engaged with faculty who might be now talking about the company, if they can write a case or something with that company, the students can be hearing about it.

Or a faculty that’s looking for a project for a student group to work on. Kelly, you might mention, with COVID, and some obvious disruptions to operations and companies not sure about the number of internships they needed, Kelly was very involved in creating projects for students to work on that weren’t necessarily that internship.

[00:19:00, Kelly] We partnered with a couple of other companies who developed work programs for students who had their internships rescinded due to COVID. This would have been in the 2020 summer time period. Those companies did some specialized training and students could get certification online. One other thing, if you have identified a strategic partner university, I would talk to the Dean or the department chair, about carving out a position for something like my position. From my corporate perspective, it was great to have a single point of contact to come into Michigan State, whether it was supply chain or anything else. And that’s what I tell companies when they engage with me, I’m here for you. You can reach out to me and I will help you out. I may not have the answer, but I’ll find out who will, and we’re trying to make Michigan State University, big institution, as welcoming as possible for corporate partners, as well as our students and others who need access to the university.

[00:20:19] And what advice would you give a new student, regarding how to get the most out of the university experience? The advice applies to whether it’s undergraduates, graduate students, and then also continuing education types of students

[00:20:33, Kelly] I’m going to focus on the undergraduates because that’s where most of my time is spent. And then Judy will spend her time talking about the graduate students and continuing ed students.

When it comes to advice to the students, the first thing I mentioned to them, is stay here for a month or two, don’t go home on the weekends. Obviously if you’ve got a family commitment or something like that, no problem. Start to get to know the people who are in your dorm or your suite mates or whatever the case may be, because that’s how you start to meet people. And this is a great opportunity for you to learn about who you are. Maybe reinvent yourself a little bit, you get exposed to new ideas and different people. Try not to room with your best friend from high school, things like that. I encourage them to do a couple of things. One is pretty obvious, get good grades focus on those fundamentals, treat it like a full-time job and don’t try to cram at the end, cause that usually doesn’t lead to success.

But it’s beyond academics. I always encourage students to think of three organizations or student groups that they should get involved with. So, one, for example, if you’re going to be a supply chain student, then you should join the supply chain management association as a freshmen start right now, get engaged, figure out what this degree program is all about. I also encourage them to look into organizations for something that’s of interest to them. Whether it’s a business fraternity, or something else. There’s hundreds of student groups here. So, if you’re into rock climbing or skydiving, there are student organizations that have that.

And then maybe stretch yourself a little bit and think of something outside the box. Maybe you want to learn more about people from other cultures, or you want to learn a little bit more about something that has to do with society or some other type of issue. It’s okay to do that. And it’s okay to not go to every single meeting and is okay to not be on the executive board of every organization. Manage your time and just try to grow as a person. That’s what this university experience is all about.

[00:22:36, Judy] My recommendation for grad students is very similar. The MBA, they’re here just for two years. Get involved, build your network, not just among your classmates. Of course, that’s hopefully a lifelong network you develop, but also build your network with faculty, with staff, take advantage of resources that MSU has. As an example, if I meet a student, sometimes just in the hallway and they’re a senior and they say their supply chain, and I say, have you been working with Kelly Lynch? And they say, who’s that, then that’s not what we want. You need to be engaged and thinking about the different resources, getting to know career services, even other resources like our undergrads have access to get a Wall Street Journal online subscription. Be thinking about not just learning in the classroom, but learning through those other experiences, how do you keep track of what’s going on in the business world in general? So, I think that’s really a key. There are so many resources you have access to that it’s great to have that single point of contact that can help. Talking with second year MBA students, what was your internship like, building that network, learning what resources they did, taking advantage of opportunities like case competitions, mock interviews, all of those resources are really important.

[00:23:57] I wanted to circle back, we talked about soft skills. We talked about the hard skills. But there’s also the all-important leadership development and it comes in many forms, right? It’s not just managing staff, but we’d love to understand your perspective on leadership development, what you’re seeing in regards to the development of teams and future leaders.

[00:24:19, Judy] I’ll speak a little bit on the MBA program. The culture is very, team-oriented, very collaborative. At the MBA level, the first year MBA students are placed into teams that they work with through the core classes they’re taking in their first year. As a faculty member who teaches a core course, we spend a lot of time talking about how to engage those teams in our respective courses. We have a leadership lab and that is one of the big courses that they’ll take in their first five weeks in the program to really help them build that team and build that leadership.

Kelly, you might want to talk about that leadership development process through SCMA, and how the students run it. They have a faculty advisor, but the students start learning some of those skill sets.

[00:25:06, Kelly] What I’ve observed, not only from my time when I was at Chrysler, the thing that I always saw and I’m seeing a lot more of now is leadership at all levels flattened that organization a little bit, meaning not necessarily eliminate an organizational level, but make management more accessible and reach out. One of the things I used to talk about was MBWA, which was management by walking around and trying to get out from your office and get away from whatever that routine is and go talk to people where they’re at versus where you’re at. I think that’s a key, but communication and accessibility to leadership is important. Mentorship, empowerment and trust is what develops future leaders and giving those people the chance to learn, to make a mistake, learn from the mistake and being able to move forward.

We always talk about talent, acquisition, talent development, and talent retention are three things that cannot be separated. They are the three legs of the stool and you have to have all three and you have to have a people strategy for all levels of the organization. So, you can’t count on hiring college students to fix your problems throughout all levels of the organization. What’s your strategy for bringing in new people? What’s your strategy for bringing in people with say three to five years of experience to fill a middle management position? What’s your strategy for bringing in somebody to fill a director level position from either elsewhere in the company or outside the organization? You can’t separate one from the other. And you should really not confuse training with development. So teaching somebody how to use SAP, that is training. That’s not development, that’s not the investment in people. I always encourage people now to get your people outside of the company, meaning don’t do training, get them into professional organizations, certification program. Seminars, whatever the case may be. Look at graduate education for your people and some of these executive development opportunities.

Judy did mention our supply chain management association. We have a really good process in place for leadership succession and succession planning. And I’ve seen this student group do succession planning better than I’ve seen

companies in the past.

They may go offsite, they get all sorts of opportunities to get exposed to some leadership training, some mentoring from other students, exposure to people from the corporate realm. But, if you want to be a leader in this organization, you need to be engaged. They keep track of participation points. So, you have to be engaged throughout the course of the year. And you basically have to interview for the positions. The seniors who are on the SCMA executive board, they’re the ones who pick next year’s executive board. And, it’s a really great process. I’ve seen some companies who didn’t do leadership planning, if they were relatively small and the owner, for example, or if somebody got sick or whatever, there were no real plans. And those were the companies that would struggle.

[00:28:14] Internships, possibly more than one, seem to be a requirement these days. What tips do you have for students and companies regarding how to make that whole internship lifecycle work out the best?

[00:28:26, Kelly] I’ll start with this one because that’s what I do a lot of, helped students find their internships. I always ask the students to think their way through it. Meaning, try to understand what your preferences are going into an internship and a full-time position. What industries are you interested in and why, what companies you’re interested in and why, do you have a geographic preference or geographic restriction? Those are the types of things you need to think about because we will have about 180 companies do some active talent acquisition and you can’t possibly be interested in prepared to work at all 180. So, narrow your focus and let’s start to think about it.

On the corporate side. What is most important is that it’s a meaningful opportunity for the student that they have to see that they’re impacting the organization in some way, shape or form, and you have to size the internship, meaning if your strategy involves bringing in freshmen or sophomores to do an internship, you have to understand that they may not have had a lot of core supply chain courses, for example. Don’t give them something that’s over their skillset. So right-size that internship. I think other keys are a welcoming environment and be ready. That first day is very important. The intern shows up at the location they’re supposed to be at, and oh, I didn’t know you were going to be here today or, we don’t have a computer ready for you or, I didn’t know I was getting an intern this summer, so you have to be ready. And part of that readiness is actually staying in contact after they’ve accepted the position. I’ve seen some really good things that companies do, which I wish we’d have done when I was at Chrysler. Cause it just makes for a better environment. When they fill out their application you know their birthday for example. So, there’s nothing wrong with sending them a birthday card or some sort of a virtual Starbucks thing or something like that and wishing them a happy birthday.

Contacting them two months before their internship starts. And, Hey Mike, we’re really looking forward to you coming here. We’re all set for you. And Judy mentioned this before, and when I want to reiterate it, just remember you’re in a competitive environment. So, you’re competing for talent and the students, they

communicate much more broadly than they would have in the past. Your reputation as an employer depends a lot on how that student experiences that internship, because they could very well-influenced somebody for the same opportunity next year.

[00:30:49, Judy] The other thing I would add is, not just before the internship, but after the internship, keep communicating with them. Some companies will make an offer for full-time right away. Some companies may not be able to make that offer right away. Maybe having to wait till the end of the year to determine how many people they’re going to hire. But what I hear a lot from students is when I left, they said, keep in touch. What does that mean? The students don’t necessarily know what that means. Am I supposed to email you weekly? Or am I supposed to wait for you to call me. And I think that’s even more complex with a lot of these internships that have been remote, because you don’t have the same relationship with those people because you’re not physically there every day with them depending on what your internship was focused on, but have a plan for staying in contact with those interns, I think is really important.

And then I think the other thing is, similar to Kelly, the worst thing is showing up the first day and not having a role, a job, something that you’re going to be working on. But then also think about before they show up. Is the student moving to a new state? What kind of things are you telling them about housing? Is a student left alone to search, are there ways to connect them with other interns that they might be able to room together? So, I think that’s also part of that student experience as well. I’ve seen companies do a great job where they have all of that planned out. We have housing for you, here’s what’s going to happen versus others where it’s almost an assumption that you know the area and they may not. So how can you help onboard that student? Not just in terms of having meaningful work, but in terms of helping them get set up for personal success as well.

[00:32:39, Kelly] And if I could add one thing real quick, don’t forget about the importance of social media to the people you’re hiring right now. LinkedIn is what we primarily use in the business world, but others to do a lot more beyond that, say Instagram, for example, put a little post on there, Judy just started here today, welcome to ABC company. And then whoever’s following them or their parents or whatever sees that. And it’s like, oh wow, how great. And that really builds your brand.

[00:33:05] I would love to hear your perspective, you have a lot of companies that you’re working with, if you had to get your crystal ball out, some industry wide influences and changes that are coming to supply chain careers in the next few years.

[00:33:18, Judy] I think one of the big things is companies sorting out what this sort of post COVID environment is going to look like. In supply chain, a lot of our roles are still in person. You’re in a plant and you’re in a distribution center. But a lot of the roles have still been remote. Is that going to continue? How do they match that up with the talent you’re

back in face to face. There are people that like the flexibility of remote, how do you try to match that up? And then how do you then still create and instill a culture in both of those environments. What will the new normal look like? How will that affect talent? How will that affect culture? How will that affect relationship building? How do we use social media? How do we use other tools? How do you do mentoring virtually. All of those things I think are going to become part of that career development planning strategy.

[00:34:16, Kelly] One of the things I always tell our students is that every company has a supply chain, but not every company has supply chain management. It may sound like an unimportant nuance, but it’s critically important. And I think what’s going to happen is a lot of companies that assumed that everything was fine because I never had problems or disruptions before, they had a rough time of it. And they probably still are. There’s going to be a much more strategic focus and bringing supply chain into the C-suite. I think part of that is going to also involve much more of a thought process around risk management. Like where are my exposures? More near sourcing or near shoring or onshoring and things like that. As companies do start to get their arms around a strategic approach to supply chain management, it’s going to mean lots of career opportunities for people.

We talked about talent retention before. It’s a competitive world and I think companies need to be prepared that people are on the prowl for your talent, because if you’ve got a great supply chain function in your company and I don’t, and I need to get up and running quicker, I’m going to not wait and try to grow it in my organization.

[00:35:25, Judy] And on that risk management piece, I think a lot of companies are going to be really looking at their global supply chain networks and trying to understand where are their risks. And I think for many companies, we’re going to go through a sort of a reflection of, are we too lean? You mean, are there areas that we need redundancies. Whether it’s capacity, whether it’s people, whether it’s inventory. And how do we rethink responsiveness, given we’re seeing more and more disruptions, and the magnitude of the disruptions, not even just focusing on COVID, but magnitude of some of the other disruptions we’ve had in the last decade. What does that mean from a continuity standpoint? As well as from an environmental and social, et cetera standpoint, what does that mean?

[00:36:12] Kelly and Judy, you shared some amazing advice and perspectives today and was just curious if there was any nuggets of wisdom that you would like to share, perhaps some of the best career advice you’ve received in your career. We’d love to have you share your final thoughts with our audience before we wrap.

[00:36:30, Kelly] I’ll start with some of the advice that I’ve given to people. I started doing this when I was at Chrysler and as a matter of fact, one of my daughter’s childhood friends just started a new job as a buyer in a large organization. And she knew that I spent most of my career in procurement and she said, what do you advise? I gave her two bits of advice. So, one is, and it’s a

[00:39:03, Judy] I will often tell students before their internship or before the full-time job, a story from when I was a doc student, and I had a chance to be on a large research project. This research project culminated in a book called world-class logistics. It culminated in six dissertations for doc students, we had like 13 faculty. The first meeting, myself and the two other doc students that were working on the project at the time, we go into the first meeting and it’s a large conference room and the big table in the middle, and then there’s chairs against the wall. So, we think we’re going to be good students. And we’ll sit at the wall and we take copious notes, but we don’t say anything through the meeting because we’re just students and whatnot. And at the end of the meeting, everybody got up to leave and professor Bowersox pointed at us and said, you three stay. And we didn’t know what we’d done wrong, but we know we did something wrong. The door shuts and he turns to us and says, do you guys want to be on this project? Well, of course we want to be on the project. Absolutely want to be on the project. He said, then you’re not going to go through another

meeting where you sit at the wall and you don’t participate. I chose you for a reason. I wanted you on this team for the capabilities you’ll bring to it. And you’re a part of the team, you’ll be a part of the team. And so, I try to remind you, I always think about that is that you need to take the initiative, you need to realize that you’ve been hired for a reason. There was something about you that that company wanted, from the internship or full-time perspective. And they’re bringing you in for what you’ve learned, your ideas, your creativity. Don’t sit at the wall. Obviously, you have to read the room a little bit on some of those things as well, but they want you to take initiative. Volunteer, be willing to raise your hand and say, can I get more involved in that?

And I think that also that leads to my second piece of advice is build a good network and build good mentors. And I think we talk about mentorship a lot. I think a lot of mentoring relationships are under achieved. Some companies I’ve seen have great, very formal mentorship programs and there’s a list and there’s things how often you should meet and what kind of things you should talk about. And others have very informal. And on those informal ones, oftentimes it’s up to the mentee to reach out to that mentor and let them know what they need. Can we meet? I’ve had mentors where I’ve created the how often are we going to meet and how often are we going to do these things and really put my mentors to work. And it was a great experience. Think about taking initiative, showing you’re interested, in showing you’re passionate, volunteering, but then also, really finding good mentors and building those mentorship relationships. And Kelly talks about the importance of your direct supervisor, but also maybe look for mentors in other areas. So, if you’re in a procurement role, but you’re thinking maybe I want to move to another area in the firm, seek out a mentor in that area. Talk to your current mentor. Who else should I be working with? Those are my two pieces of advice.

hard thing for people to get their arms around. But when it comes to supply chains and this enterprise wide thought that needs to take place and helping people understand, it’s a very simple mathematical equation, which is price does not equal cost. And don’t confuse those two because people do all the time and really understanding the cost of doing business with a supplier or a logistics firm or whatever, and how that impacts your overall organization.

And then, when it comes to whether you’re an engineer or you’re in procurement or some other supply chain, job operations, you need to get close to the source. Meaning, if you have a supplier. In this case, my daughter’s friend, it’s automotive and she’s going to start buying brakes. And I told her, yeah, you’re buying brakes, but you’re buying more than that because you’re buying that company’s manufacturing capability. You’re buying their development capability. You’re buying their ability to manage new projects, life cycle things, so in automotive and like a lot of other industries, when you start a brand-new part number that could be a 30 or 40 year commitment between you and that company. So, you need to understand how they make it, how they do it. So, you can’t be a good negotiator and a good procurement person or a good supply chain person, whatever your role is in the organization if you don’t understand what it is and whether it’s brakes or shocks or mirrors or computer chips, whatever the case may be. If you don’t know how it’s manufactured, you don’t know how it’s designed. You don’t know how it functions on the product that you’ve got responsibility for. Then you’re just not going to optimize things for your organization. One of the other things that one of my professors here told me this a long time ago at Michigan State, when I started the MBA program. You have to go all the way back to the hole in the ground, meaning it comes from somewhere and you need to understand all those tiers and how it could impact you. And it’s difficult and it’s challenging, but that’s what makes it fun. You just have to be up for the challenge and recognize if you’re going into the supply chain world, that if you’re thinking your job is still put in your daily planner, I’m going to get these five things done today. My phone won’t ring and I won’t have an issue. Well then, you’re definitely in the wrong career.