Podcast: From Corporate Supply Chain to Entrepreneurship, with Oakmont Founder, Lindsey Walker

By Published On: September 11, 2023

Hosts: Rodney Apple and Chris Gaffney

In This Episode:

In this episode of the Supply Chain Careers Podcast, we speak with Lindsey Walker, Founder of Oakmont Supply Solutions, and an experienced supply chain professional. Lindsey shares her supply chain career journey and how to build an agile career. She discusses leadership and career advancement while advising supply chain pros to move around both vertically and horizontally as they develop transferable skills. Lindsey also explains how she enjoys the control of having her own business and how running your own shop compares to corporate life. She notes the best advice she received and some of her own while sharing with us the vital importance of networking, mentoring, and finding role models can be for a career. She encourages people to closely watch for examples of how to interact with other people. It is an art that is not taught well in school. She closes with advice about the value of taking on hard work.

Who is Lindsey Walker?

Lindsey Walker, founder of Oakmont Supply Solutions, is a Supply Chain Planning expert with over 12 years’ experience leading Supply Chain strategy and execution in companies ranging from Fortune 50 retailers to mid-size global manufacturers. Her deep expertise includes S&OP Design and Implementation, Supply Planning/Management, Inventory Optimization, Domestic and International Transportation Strategy, Manufacturing Operations and Team Structure and Development. As a consultant, Lindsey specializes in partnering with small to mid-sized businesses build strong and resilient Supply Chain planning teams and processes.

[00:00:00] Mike Ogle: Welcome to the supply chain careers podcast. The only podcast for job seekers, professionals, and students who are focused on career enhancing conversations and insights across all aspects of the supply chain discipline. This podcast is made possible by SCM talent group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm.

Visit scmtalentgroup at scmtalent. com to search for or to post supply chain jobs. Visit the Supply Chain Job Board at supplychaincareers. com. Are you tired of struggling to optimize your supply chain? Look no further than ProfitPoint. The experts in supply chain network design and technology integration solutions.

Visit ProfitPoint. com to learn more. That’s ProfitPT. com. In this episode of the Supply Chain Careers podcast, we speak with Lindsay Walker, founder of Oakmont Supply Solutions and an experienced supply chain professional. Lindsay shares her supply chain career journey and how to build an agile career, particularly if you want to move up and lead.

But advises people to move around both vertically and horizontally as they develop transferable skills. She explains how she enjoys the control of having her own business and the comparison to corporate life. Lindsay also provides the best advice she received and some of her own. She tells us how important networking, mentoring, and finding role models can be for a career.

She encourages people to closely watch for examples of how to interact with other people. It is an art that is not taught well in school. She closes with her advice about the value of taking on the hard work. I’m your

[00:01:47] Rodney Apple: podcast co host, Rodney Apple

[00:01:49] Chris Gaffney: And I’m your podcast co host, Chris Gaffney

[00:01:54] Rodney Apple: Lindsay, we’re very happy to have you on our program today. Welcome to the Supply Chain Careers Podcast.

[00:02:02] Lindsey Walker: Thanks for having me, Chris and Rodney. Glad to be here.

[00:02:05] Rodney Apple: Well, Lindsay, you’ve got a very broad and diverse background in our space and supply chain and would love to hear how you got started on this journey. What were some of the big influences back in those days?

[00:02:17] Lindsey Walker: Absolutely. So this is kind of a funny story, but how I got started in supply chain was my dad told me in college and I needed to stop switching majors and that pre law might not be the best fit for me. So I did some evaluation of the business. School and between accounting, finance, and logistics.

Logistics was the only one I thought would be a great fit. So studied logistics at the University of Tennessee before it was a trend and graduated with a degree in supply chain and started my career and I’ve only been working in ops. So it’s been a great, great decision. Really happy.

[00:02:52] Chris Gaffney: So, Lindsay, one of the things that I always am fascinated about with people in supply chain is when you see in their career that they have moved both in role and across industries.

And my belief is that’s a very good indicator of agility. And you’ve had those types of experiences. So when you think of not only those experiences, but how you have succeeded and advanced, what are your keys to guide our audience around how to gain that agility and how that agility comes to be and what you would tell others in order to be able to have that same success moving up and around and actodd?

[00:03:30] Lindsey Walker: I think it’s a great point. Agility is critical in a supply chain career, especially as you’re looking to develop into a well rounded leader. For me, a lot of it was being in the right place at the right time and the willingness to make a change and to stretch myself. Um, so I was really fortunate early on in my career to have great mentors and leaders that believed in me at large companies, which really allowed them to advocate for movement for me within organizations.

So that upward movement is great, but I actually think horizontal movement to your point is equally, if not more important to develop into a well rounded leader. So. I guess for listeners, my advice would be to be willing to make a change that stretches you. And if a leader thinks that you are well qualified to move into a role that you haven’t filled before in an area you haven’t seen, take the chance, take them up on the offer, that builds a lot of trust within your leaders, and it also builds a lot of capabilities for yourself.

[00:04:25] Rodney Apple: And I think that’s great advice, Lindsay, but what about. The individual that has grown up in, let’s say, transportation, maybe they’ve been 15, 20 years in it and all of a sudden they’re like, I’m sick of transportation. I really want to work and expand my horizons. What would you advise that person that’s been a bit siloed that wants to broaden out into some other functional type disciplines?

[00:04:48] Lindsey Walker: Yeah. So I would say that there are transferable skills in any area. So let’s say you’re 20 years deep in transportation. Even if you’re 20 years deep in that field, you’ve interfaced with other people within the supply chain, find out what you’re interested in doing and talk to those people. Right? So if you’ve been interfacing a lot with sourcing from a transportation standpoint, you say sourcing is really an area.

I’d like to learn more about have coffee with the person sourcing that you’re interested. And learning more about what they do. And then once you learn more about what they do, and you see if that’s really of interest to you, then you can talk about the transferable skills. And generally the person that’s in that role is best suited to help you figure out how to get to that side of the fence.

So for example, in that instance, you might say, okay, transportation, you’re used to running RFPs or carriers. That’s a lot of what you’re doing. Well, in sourcing, we run RFPs too, right? So figuring out what those transferable skills are. And then making sure you’re reflecting those on your resume and in your conversations with the leaders in that area, use those to your advantage.

[00:05:47] Chris Gaffney: Your depth in that area would be my suggestion. Lindsay, I think I’ll build on that. You started in the software side, you went. And as a consultant, then you went in an operating role in Home Depot, moved to HD supply. And I guess, how did you surprise yourself when you went from your initial experience into Home Depot in terms of what transferred well and why?

And where did you have to build something that maybe you didn’t get in that first experience at Manhattan?

[00:06:20] Lindsey Walker: I’ll always be grateful that I started my career in consulting because I think as a 22 year old, 21 year old right out of college, I was interfacing with directors and vice presidents of a major North American and global.

It forced me to really grow as a professional very, very quickly in front of a client. So that level of professionalism, I think, translated really well in my other roles, differentiating me from peers. So that piece was really helpful. Things that didn’t translate so well, going from software into an operational business, those hard skills didn’t translate, to be completely honest with you.

I was doing UAT testing and picking in a warehouse and being on an operational floor looking at material handling equipment. That doesn’t really translate to Home Depot, 45 hours a week, looking at a computer system on inventory management and presenting to merchants. So for me, the soft skills, and that’s what I found with almost every role, that’s probably the most drastic difference going from software consulting into the operational day to day.

But every operational role I’ve held, there are certain skills that are transferable and certain skills that aren’t, but I’ve been really focused on amping up the toolbox, I guess, so to speak, and every move that I’ve made. That’s a work in progress.

[00:07:38] Chris Gaffney: Absolutely. So having been a consultant and having been in an operating role, what’s your coaching to younger folks in terms of the value of getting onto the playing field and the battlefield of that operating role, particularly in the planning space?

[00:07:52] Lindsey Walker: I don’t think there’s anything more critical. This is not to dismiss the idea of growing up in consulting. I know a lot of incredible leaders that grew up in the consulting space and worked at these big four firms, and that’s all they’ve done.

And they’ve seen an incredible number of companies. They’ve seen a lot of problems. They’ve solved a lot. But I think there’s a difference in seeing the problem and owning the problem. So there’s a level of urgency when you own the problem as an operator. So what I’m thinking about, like in the director role of supply chain, I own supply chain for a 750 million business.

The pressure of solving an operational problem as the owner is just different than as the consultant, I can speak on both sides. Cause I’m, I’m on the consulting side right now. And I feel pressure on my client’s behalf and I feel pressure to deliver for my clients, but it’s just different. I do highly recommend for people that are coming out of college, look at consulting as a polisher.

So it is a great place to start your career. It teaches you how to work. At least when I started, which was, you know, 12 years ago, there was no such thing as a 40 hour work week. I build 60, 70, 80 hours a week. And it taught me how to work coming out of college, which I didn’t really know what that felt like.

So then going into an operational corporate role. Well, kind of like a vacation, to be honest, until you start getting into those leadership roles.

[00:09:11] Chris Gaffney: Well, I know our audience, many in our audience aspire to run their own show. And it took me 35 years to do it. And you’ve done it at an earlier point in your career.

So what really either motivated you, inspired you or caused you to say, you know what, I’m ready to go out and do this on my own.

[00:09:31] Lindsey Walker: To be honest, that’s still a question that I’m answering daily for myself. I would be lying. I think there’s a statistic out there that says 80 percent of women have. A significant form of imposter syndrome.

And I think that’s important to address for your listeners. And for anyone that’s listening to this podcast, like you mentioned, I’ve done this early earlier than most, but what I can tell you is the support from my network, whether it’s former leaders, encouraging me that it is the right time to step out and do it.

And then I do have the experience that’s needed between that and the need for balance for my family. This really wasn’t an option for me. I was on the GM track or senior leadership track for a very large manufacturer. And when I really looked around and looked at my priorities, raising my family, I have two small children was a big priority for me.

And getting control over my schedule was a big priority for me. So the idea of owning my own consultancy really came down to the fact that I want to deliver incredible results, but I want to have control over how I do that. So that’s what led to me founding Oakmont.

[00:10:32] Chris Gaffney: Well, I can tell you both from my experience and from a lot of the discussions we’ve had, taking control of your own destiny is the right thing to do.

Some people do it early rather than late. And I think trusting your network is wise counsel. If you’ve done the work to build that,

[00:10:49] Lindsey Walker: I appreciate that. I’ve been really fortunate that it’s, it’s been very well received and I’ve been quite busy. It’s been a great experience.

[00:10:56] Rodney Apple: So, Lindsay, as a follow up, what do you recommend for folks that are thinking about popping out of a corporate role and maybe having their own shingle to hang up?

[00:11:06] Lindsey Walker: Oh man, such a loaded question, Ronnie. That’s a good one. So I’m a little over a year into this entrepreneurial journey. So I don’t have as many insights to share as you do, but the insights I have are very fresh. So take it for what it’s worth.

I would say advice to anyone who’s thinking about doing this. If you think you’re going to work less, you’re wrong. That would probably be my first insight. Even if you’re a solopreneur, you are not just delivering results. You’re doing business development, you’re marketing, you’re invoicing, you’re finance, you’re doing all of these things now as an entrepreneur and even hanging your own individual shingle.

I can’t tell you the number of people over the last year who’ve said, man, I really want to do that. Wow. I’ve, I’ve thought about doing that. I think I’m going to do it. So we’ll set up 30 minutes and I’ll kind of walk them through. Here’s my week. Here’s what everything looks like for me. And 90 plus percent of them have opted out of doing this.

Corporate is easier if you want. An easier career path, corporate’s the way to go. It’s clear, it is structured. You can move around, your skills are transferable. And most of the time in an ops role, the work is presented for you. You don’t need to go find it. So, for anyone looking to hang up their own shingle, although there are huge benefits to this, that I’ve seen and experienced personally, I think the biggest one is control.

I might work more hours, but I work them on my schedule. I’m able to pick up my kids from school. I’m able to do the things that I want and need to do and being able to work on my schedule and really still deliver excellent results for clients has been huge. And then also expanding my horizons. I don’t just work for one company anymore.

I’ve now worked with seven clients in the last year. I’ve seen seven different companies challenges. I’ve been able to implement best practices in seven different places. For me, career development wise, I’ve always been one that seeks a challenge and I’m very much a type a personality. So for me, that’s been very appealing.

You’re building a business. This becomes your job and your hobby and your passion. And you start seeing these opportunities laid out in front of you. It’s hard to say no to, but saying no is as important as saying yes. And that’s something that I’m learning right now. That it’s important to pick your lane and pick it well.

[00:13:18] Chris Gaffney: We always love when we have our chats where we get the gold nuggets from people. So that’s really priceless, precious stuff for those who are doing it. For those who think about doing it

[00:13:32] Mike Ogle: during this short break, we recognize that this podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm.

Visit SCM Talent Group at To search for or to post supply chain jobs, visit the supply chain job board at Are you tired of struggling to optimize your supply chain? Look no further than Profit Point. Be experts in supply chain, network design and technology integration solutions. Visit profit to learn more. That’s profit

[00:14:10] Chris Gaffney: I’d like to shift gears because you’ve been at this a while and everybody now said Blackpink wasn’t cool or maybe wasn’t mainstream when you got there, but in your view, even from UT to today and your father’s wonderful advice. What’s changed in your mind in, in the field itself, all positive things.

[00:14:30] Lindsey Walker: I mean, even if you told me 12 years ago that I’d be sitting here on a podcast talking about supply chain, that would have blown my mind when I graduated. It wasn’t really even as much of a corporate function in the big fortune fifties, yes, but even in the smaller to midsize guys, you’d call it something different, right?

You call it purchasing or you call it transportation, but there was no strategy behind it. So I think the industry as a whole, COVID accelerated us by 20 years, maybe more as far as businesses understanding the importance of what we do, because we all felt felt it as consumers, right? I think COVID sped up everyone’s awareness of what we do and why it’s important, which has trickled into corporate ownership and excitement around the topic.

So yeah, I think that’s been a big change in industry. I think even the one thing I haven’t noticed though, is now everyone’s an expert in supply chain after COVID. Just because we know what the buzzwords, I mean, how many times have you heard the word supply chain resilience in the last three years, a ton, and what does that really mean and how do we make these concepts practical for businesses?

And not just the big guys, big guys know how to do it. For me, and what our practice focuses on are the small to midsize companies who really don’t know how to do this yet. They know the buzzwords, but we don’t know how to actually integrate those into our business models.

[00:15:49] Rodney Apple: Shifting gears again, and I agree with everything you said there.

It’s that there’s a silver lining with the pandemic. It’s it finally brought the much needed spotlight to the profession. And I think it’s also brought a bigger focus on the career paths. It’s hard to go wrong as long as you put in the effort.

[00:16:03] Lindsey Walker: Something I hope we start seeing more as it becomes a more well respected area of business is more ascensions to that CEO chair.

I don’t think that’s something we’re seeing a whole lot of right now, but if you think about supply chain, you’re balancing. All of it, right? You’re balancing your operations, your customer service. You’re balancing your finances. You’re focused on cost savings. You’re focused on efficiency. There’s really not a part of the business as a supply chain leader.

You’re not touching. I’m really hopeful that we start seeing some ascensions into CEO. I think a lot of businesses would be really well served to start looking in that direction.

[00:16:41] Chris Gaffney: Lindsay, you mentioned early in your career. It sounds like you’ve got some Good guidance, good mentorship, and I’m curious if there are a few lessons that have really stood you well over time.

And let’s start there, but then I also want to separate that and then talk about advice that you have received and give to others. Sure.

[00:17:04] Lindsey Walker: So advice that I received early on in my career. Let’s see, there were a couple of really good ones. So my first role out of college in the consulting role with Manhattan Associates, I had a lead consultant who was really great.

And he taught me the duck analogy, which probably most of us know by now, but the ability to be paddling like crazy below the surface, but to never let them see you swept. That has been an image that I’ve held with me for a long time. And it’s an image that I still continue to try to adopt. Other people seeing you panic doesn’t serve anyone.

Well, certainly doesn’t serve you and it does not serve them. So understanding that. There might be some cause for panic, especially in supply chain. You’ll forget to order. You’ll forget to expedite a truck. Customer’s going to come on with something that’s significantly more than what you thought. There are a million situations that make you sweat, but figuring out how to power through those without losing your cool is probably the most important advice I got early on in my career that served me well.

I do a decent amount of mentoring with either people that have worked for me, with me, and then also through some organizations. So the top advice I give. People that I’m mentoring or that I speak with. Usually pretty close out of school is to find a mentor, but it’s actually to find two mentors, one that’s internal to your company and one that’s external.

Your internal is generally something that they know already off the bat. They know who their champion is. They know who’s going to help propel them to the organization. They found that person pretty early on in their role. And if they haven’t, it’s relatively easy to find that champion. The piece of that a lot of people forget about is the external mentor.

And why that’s important is because if you have to exit a company or if it’s best for your professional development, your internal mentor, isn’t necessarily going to be looking out for you only. They’re going to be looking out for you in the context of the company you’re employed with. Great. You have to have that lens, but the external mentor gives you a little bit more context as a whole person versus a person inside of an entity.

So, for example, if you’re considering leaving a company, they can help counsel you on how to do that. If it’s the right time, help you work through those more delicate scenarios that you wouldn’t necessarily want aired internally. Those external mentors are hard to find when you’re young. So plugging into like organizations like an ASCM, CSCMP, finding a professional mentor that’s in those groups, most of those groups are more mature individuals that are more than happy to take on a mentor.

And if any of your listeners want a mentor, you’re welcome to message me. And I would be glad to work with my network to find someone for you. Another piece, probably the secondary piece of advice I would say was most helpful as a woman in a heavily male dominated industry, especially when I first started.

It was embrace the things that make you unique to help kind of pivot back into the first part of your question, Jen McKeon at Home Depot. So as the vice president of IPR had a incredibly rapid ascension into that chair and was a really a remarkable leader for me to watch as she was a young female leader in a fortune 50 company.

In a really tough department, like IPR inventory planning is not for the faint of heart. So watching how Jen handled a lot of really stressful situations, watching how she dealt with people, how she actually cared was really inspirational for me as a female leader in a heavily male dominated space, but I can still be me and I can still embrace the parts of me that are unique and be a really great and effective leader in operations.

So I would say another shout out would be to Andrea Hill. Remarkable leader that really taught me a whole lot about leading a whole person versus leading a department or a group. And the amount of grace that you can extend people while still holding accountability. She’s really, really great at that. So I’d say those two people in particular, I would consider to be great mentors for me as I grew.

I think universities were missing something on teaching people how to network. Because it is an art. It is not something that I came out of college knowing how to do. I watched people that I trusted and that I, I saw them do it. And that, a lot of that was through professional organizations like CSCMP. I got involved in that in college, and that was really, really great for me to see how professionals interacted.

We’re in such a heavily virtual world, but face to face coffee goes a long way with people and shaking someone’s hand. That means something today, and I think even networking, I’ve had people that are midway in their career, similar to where I am. Saying like, well, it’s too late for me. You know, I don’t have this great network established and it is never too late to start that.

Finding someone within your, even if you feel like your network is small, you’ve worked with someone who is a great network. Take them to lunch. See if they can help you understand what they’re doing that’s working and why they’re doing it. I’d say 80 percent of my business comes referral from people that I’ve worked with in a corporate role.

And it might not be that person hiring me, but it’s the counterpart of that person or it’s that person has moved to a different company. So if you’re looking to hang your own shingle and you don’t have a great network, go build your network for two years and then go out and hang your own shingle.

[00:22:10] Chris Gaffney: I think another golden piece of advice and my fine point of that is my network is X.

But my network plus their network and they will reference me is almost infinite and there’s plenty of business there. So it is really a two level exercise there. I think your point on it’s never too late is really important. And I’m going to ask you one more unscripted question, because I love an author who wrote a book called Do Hard Things, and you have done some hard things, and I guess a lot of people shy away from them.

But what’s your thought around the value and the ability of going and doing hard things in your career?

[00:22:51] Lindsey Walker: Oh, man. Hard things are the only way you grow. You don’t go grow through easy. And the path of least resistance is the path most commonly taken. When you think about doing hard things, the reward is there.

If you can figure out what your reward is before you start the hard thing, you got to make sure that the heart is worth the reward and that you’ve identified and quantified what that reward could be. If you start something hard and you have no vision. So for example, when I started Oakmont, I had a vision for what I want this firm to look like.

And it’s a very specific vision. And it’s evolved over the years as far as what I want to build. And as we start the build, it’s evolving even more, but I’ve identified the end of the rainbow for me. What does that look like? Um, and that could be an acquisition that could be growing a firm that is more of a midsize or global boutique, right?

That could be a lot of things for a lot of different people, but before you start the hard journey, figure out what is at the end of your rainbow. What are you trying to achieve?

[00:23:53] Rodney Apple: Fabulous. That’s great advice. Great advice. As we wrap up here, Lindsay, maybe you could tell our audience about, uh, Mott Supply Solutions.

What’s the core niche there that you focus on in terms of solutions, service offerings or focus areas? And then secondly, where can our audience, if they want to learn more, go to find more information about your company?

[00:24:17] Lindsey Walker: Absolutely. So Oakmont Supply Solutions, we are a woman led boutique consultancy that focuses on small to mid sized manufacturers in developing supply chain processes end to end.

So we focus everything from your procurement processes, demand planning, supply planning, S& OP, design and implementation, distribution, transportation, and customer fulfillment. So we don’t focus on designing a process and handing it off to you to implement. We’re beside you every step of the way. We don’t have a lot of the red tape and we really focus on results.

Very results oriented and results are guaranteed with us. We work with multiple industries, but predominantly CPG. And then we also work in the hardware home improvement and industrial goods space. You can find more information about what we do at oakmontsupplysolutions. com. And there’s a inquiry there that if you’d like to set up some time to meet with me or with anyone at our consultancy, we’ll get that scheduled.

[00:25:14] Rodney Apple: Well, we wish you the best as you continue to evolve your consulting practice. Thank you so much for a great conversation. We appreciate you sharing your perspectives, your career journey and insights on Supply Chain Careers.

[00:25:28] Lindsey Walker: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

[00:25:35] Mike Ogle: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Supply Chain Careers podcast.

Be sure to listen to other episodes and sign up to be notified when future episodes are released as we continue to interview industry leading supply chain experts. This podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit S C M Talent [email protected] to search for or to post supply chain jobs.

Visit the supply chain job [email protected]. Are you tired of struggling to optimize your supply chain? Look no further than Profit Point the experts in supply chain network design and technology integration solutions. Visit profit to learn more. That’s profit