Podcast: A Day In The Life of a Chief of Staff

By Published On: June 13, 2023

Hosts: Rodney Apple

In This Episode:

Dive into a captivating new episode of the Day in the Life of a Supply Chain Professional Podcast as we engage in a stimulating dialogue with Jade Jones, Chief of Staff at Boeing.

Jade opens up about her professional journey in this discussion, revealing the daily obligations that come with her position, the elements of her role she finds most rewarding, and how one can effectively advance to her position.

We explore some of the following topics:

  1. Could you describe the day-to-day responsibilities of your role?
  2. What aspects of your role do you find the most enjoyable?
  3. How can one make career progress from your position?

Who is Jade Jones?

Jade joined The Boeing Company in April 2018, and currently works as an IT BDS Business Success Leader Chief of Staff. In her current assignment, Jade supports executive projects, report outs, organization success and trainings. She has held jobs at Boeing as an IT Procurement Agent, and a BDS IT Business Success Leader. She has a passion for project management and international business, and is always looking for other learning opportunities. She was just accepted in the IT Global Rotational Program at Boeing, and will be moving to Bristol, UK in July 2023 to be an IT Project Manager for Global Strategy and Operation.

Jade holds a BS degree in Supply Chain Management and a minor in Business Management from Iowa State University. She also holds an MBA from Grand Canyon University. Jade has her green belt in Six Sigma and is studying for her PMP.

Outside of work, she enjoys reading, traveling and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Jade also enjoys learning new languages, and playing board games and solving murder mysteries with her friends.

[00:01:15] Rodney Apple: Welcome Jade Jones to the Supply Chain Careers podcast, day in the life of a supply chain professional. Jade, we’ll go ahead and get started. We appreciate you coming on the show. Thanks so much. Would love to hear how long you’ve been working at your current job and what led you to pursue this type of career path.

[00:01:36] Jade Jones: Thank you so much, Rodney. Thank you, David. I’ve been working for Boeing for a little over about four and a half years actually. I started right after I graduated from Iowa State University. I double majored in human resources and supply chain, and my first job was in procurement.

What really led me to procurement and supply chain was I was accepted into a program where I got to work with Target’s corporate office, and we got to evaluate their whole supply chain from start to finish, which included going to even China and visit all their raw materials factories. We got to visit their UDC and their distribution centers all over the country and in California, and that was just the most amazing experience. To see actually things being made from almost nothing from start to finish and to being sold in the store was just astonishing to me.

I was in procurement for a little over a year and when I was in procurement, I always wanted to know, wanted to work on the other side. We worked with something called business Partners to understand requirements and they were really driving the need for product, whatever it was and it was our job to actually do the negotiations, different things like that. But I was so eager to know about the other side, so I actually got a job as an IT business partner so that I could do the other side of it as well. And I did that for about three years, and I newly transitioned into a chief of staff role. I was tapped by my director to be his chief of staff, so I’ve just been transitioning into that, which also, even though I’m not an IT business partner, I’m still dealing with supply chain as a whole and how that relates to IT and all our objectives.

[00:03:24] Rodney Apple: And just for our audience, maybe perhaps take us through a basic overview of the role that you just vacated, the IT business partner. Is that more like business analyst focused role?

[00:03:37] Jade Jones: That’s a great question. At Boeing, I transitioned into software buying. So that is a long process and it is more than just paying for something, it’s actually going out and getting RFPs and selecting, doing the whole thing. And so basically, I can help do that, but from a business, from the IT standpoint, so I’m not necessarily in the weeds, but I can facilitate the new supplier conversations on the backend with the business, like the engineering team, Hey, we have this need. Okay, let me go and see if we have something that does that already. Let me get RFIs, informational meetings with different companies and see what they can offer. So, really, my job is to also, is to make sure that I can communicate with supply chain. So, if there’s something that we buy or purchase that we’re working on, I do work with supply chain and the business. I’m that link. But that’s pretty much as a whole how I relate back to supply chain and a lot of the supply chain work I did in the role.

[00:04:38] David Miller: Thank you. That’s awesome. To get into that kind of position and job function, what does it take to qualify, for something like that in terms of your educational background, your experience, skills, hard and soft skills, or what kind of qualifies someone to do those type of roles that you’ve done.

[00:04:54] Jade Jones: I think one of the biggest things in being an IT business partner is being driven. And I say that because sometimes you can’t wait for answers. You have to go and find them. In procurement, it was nice because we were being told, Hey, we know these companies do this, but we need you to reach out. We need you, like facilitate that on the back end, but people are coming to me with requirements, expecting me to fact find and to determine how I can get this for them, that they need it. And you really have to be someone who’s willing to go out and just fact find, talk to people and be outgoing, be willing to talk to people, be willing to not find answers, and then start over.

I think one of the best skills that I had learned was perseverance, really. And, of course, you have to be able to use different systems. I know when we had transition systems, I have to use supply chain procurement systems as well, especially if in IT. I do also have a job to make sure our line, if we support production, to make sure our engineering team has everything they need as far as even laptops have to go in there and go through all our agreements and make sure I can get those ordered. So, there’s a lot of small and big pieces to it.

Education background wise, I know that we in most cases require at least a bachelor’s degree. I do have a bachelor’s, two bachelor’s degrees, and I have an m MBA. And I have a few certificates and I’m starting my PMP soon, which they really preach in our organization, is that project management certificate as well, which is something that I’m working towards.

[00:06:33] Rodney Apple: Well, what are some of the top goals and objectives of your role, and could you provide a high-level overview of just the typical day-to-day tasks?

[00:06:43] Jade Jones: I think for this question I may talk about the role I just left. A lot of the goals and objectives are about strategy as it relates to even working with our suppliers and our engineering team that we do a lot of purchasing. I was one of the people on the team that did a lot of the software purchasing. So that’s working with supply chain or the vendor in both in conjunction as well. And so, a lot of our objectives were either like cost saving measures, which I feel like a lot of companies are doing, trying to find ways to reduce costs.

A lot of our other objectives were actually maintaining partnerships. I feel like a lot of people think a lot of businesses, oh, we do business together because we have to, but it’s actually, we do focus a lot on that relationship as well, especially when you’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars with someone. And that’s the one thing I actually like about my company is it doesn’t matter, at the dollar point. That relationship is everything.

Another one of our key objectives is to always find new ways to optimize. If we’re paying for five tools, and there’s one tool that can do everything, is finding a way to make sure that we don’t have too much redundancy, but we have three tools, when we can just go down to one. So, a lot of our objectives are around just reducing in every way. And it’s not too unique to my industry.

[00:08:08] David Miller: Jade, to kinda talk further about some of the stakeholders that you engage with when you were a IT business partner, can you kind of describe some of the key stakeholders, both internally and externally that you would communicate with on a day-to-day basis?

[00:08:22] Jade Jones: I remember when I had two job opportunities, one with my employer now who is hundreds of thousands of employees and one with a smaller, company, not too small, 30,000. I remember when I left my org, a lot of people said, well, you won’t get to meet, you won’t get to talk to people at the top, at a big company, you won’t get to, and that has been the opposite of my experience. A lot of the stakeholders I communicate with, especially my chief of staff role, I mean VPs, directors, individual contributors, all levels. Especially when I was in procurement. A lot of other companies when they work with a company of our size send director minimum, director level minimum, or senior manager minimum.

So, a lot of the stakeholders that I communicate with are at a higher level, which is great cuz I get a chance to learn from them. But I also am able to talk directly with the customer, engage their concerns they have with us, which is one of the best parts. I love to meet people.

[00:09:25] David Miller: You explained when you were first in the procurement side, you would be talking with vendors and the business partners, but then when you transitioned to the business partner side, what changed in that regards to the people you communicated with?

[00:09:36] Jade Jones: Great question. what really changed in procurement? I did a lot of direct to business. I would have suppliers come visit me. It was a huge external focus however, moving on to an IT business partner role, you really communicate with whoever your customer is, whether that’s someone from the engineering team, and then also with, I also have to talk to finance because I need to make sure that we have the money. I also have to talk, so I’m actually getting all these people together, which I didn’t realize when I was in procurement, I didn’t realize that it was actually, I thought they had it easy. I’m like, they’re literally just asking me for status and giving me things. But actually, now I’m on the other side. I see that actually they are the ones that are helping, to meet with, so get sourcing in there to get finance, to get engineering team, to get to put in the ticket so you can even contact supply chain.

I didn’t realize how, that you can’t just reach out. There’s many processes. And so, I do a lot of more internal talking and gathering. At every company there’s a certain culture, it’s more comfortable, can be more comfortable to meet with people in the company. Whereas in procurement, you’re going outside of the company and meeting new people, sometimes face-to-face, many times face-to-face. And you’re meeting and having to manage many new relationships. And that to me, was definitely harder than it was being an IT business partner, I think the relationship management is a lot easier cuz you’re dealing with a lot of the same people over and over again. And, procurement, I think you definitely have to be a lot more outgoing and a a lot more willing to go outta your way to meet people and to manage those relationships.

[00:11:20] Rodney Apple: Jade, could you tell us what you’ve enjoyed the most about your work there?

[00:11:24] Jade Jones: Yes. My first job in procurement. I love to talk to people. I’m so outgoing. I like to joke around and I had some really good customers, some really good suppliers. I loved meeting new suppliers. I loved when they’d come on site or just meeting people. That was the best part about it to me. And I also liked learning different parts of the business as it relates to contract management. I don’t do any of that now as an IT business partner, but as a procurement agent, we had to actually meet with our law team and so the law department and actually go through contracts and the terms and conditions and what indemnification is, and I actually really liked that. It helps me in my personal life, and I realized that you can negotiate in the real world. It doesn’t matter. That’s one of the biggest things that I learned is even in the real world, you can negotiate, even if you’re booking a hotel or Airbnb or a rental car, everything is up for negotiation.

In my IT business partner role, one of the things I really enjoyed was I feel like it was kind of like a little, a little family. I knew exactly who to go to and exactly how to work with them. And we became close and focused on the task at hand. I talked a lot with upper management, whether that was directors or vice presidents, and I feel as though that’s helped me along in my career. It’s definitely helped me and that’s why I am where I am right now. And so, I think that some of my biggest advice would be to make sure that you manage your internal and external relationships because they can help you get to the next level and accomplish your next goal.

[00:13:05] David Miller: And then I guess either in your previous roles or your current roles, what are some of the challenges that you would run into?

[00:13:11] Jade Jones: Oh, interesting. Some of the challenges, well, I would say depending on the company that you are in, different challenges can be not agreeing. It’s no secret that in the procurement world, you may want this and someone may want this. It’s a big challenge to level set with people when everyone has a different agenda or everyone has a different opinion. So, I think that’s a huge challenge. And there are different ways to counteract that.

Another challenge I dealt with was, you have to prove how valuable something you need is, especially for the finance side it can be difficult to do that and facilitate those conversations to understand the business need or to help other people see it. Because this may be a group of 10 people and it may be a million-dollar thing that they need. Whereas it, this is a group of a hundred people and this is $500,000 thing that we need. However, that 10 people million-dollar thing could be more valuable than, or save more money. And so, it’s hard to get that point across, especially when you are at a company that’s really big. So, I feel like people are the best part of the job, but sometimes it can also be some of the different hindrances as well.

And not ever bad, but just different hindrances that you have to manage. So, I think managing people is a really, tough thing sometimes. And I heard from one of my managers that, well they were actually director and they said the hardest job they ever had was being a first line manager and I think that just goes to show that sometimes managing people, even in that sense can be, sometimes directly can be one of the most difficult jobs you can do.

[00:15:01] Rodney Apple: Yeah. It comes down to procurement, everybody has wants and needs and exactly. Not everybody gets what they want either. Exactly. Put that on the next year’s plan, we will revisit. Nobody wants to be told that.

[00:15:15] Jade Jones: Oh, nobody. Oh, it’s the worst. They hear you say that, but they hear you’re not important. We don’t like you. We can’t do that.

[00:15:23] Rodney Apple: And how do you overcome that too? That’s a relationship, communication skill. Shift the blame to someone else. I didn’t make the decision.

[00:15:31] Jade Jones: No, that’s the easiest one. Right, right. I think our leadership is really good at managing that, if I can say that. Our leadership in my specific organization is really good at managing that, which is great. And I’m the chief of staff for my current director, and I see that all the time. And he’s always taken that pressure off of the individual contributors or first line managers, making sure that you guys can blame me. So, how I dealt with it before shifting the blame is I think you sometimes do need to tell people they’re important. Because all they hear is it’s not important, not today. I think a little bit of understanding goes a long way. Hey, this is actually, we know this is actually extremely important and I know it’s important. Tell them why. Repeat what they said. Like you said, it’s important because of this, and I know that’s why it’s important. These things are important as well, and this has to be prioritized. And one thing that we do now, where we get our requirements from, we actually have them. So, we actually leave it to them, you amongst yourselves, tell us what you think is the most important, and then that’s what we’ll do, because us deciding is sometimes is not the best way to go about it, but amongst themselves, they all report to the same person, Hey, you all decide what you think is important.

So, it kind of can be thrown it back over the fence, but it allows them to talk amongst themselves and say, oh, I didn’t know that we had John over here that was working on this and that, oh, that’ll be great. Or, I didn’t know that Susan’s got this going on. And I feel like they’re able to see like, oh, there may be something that may be better and mine can wait. I’ve seen that happen before. There’s no one way to do it all, but I think those are a few ways that have really helped us.

[00:17:20] David Miller: What are some of the common career paths that someone in your type of role moves into?

[00:17:25] Jade Jones: Well, I feel as though, it’s actually very common now. I know quite a few procurement agents that went on to be business partners, whether that was an HR business partner from that side, or IT business partner. I feel like that’s a common thing because we work so close together that you’re able to see that other side and you may want that experience.

I know many other people who have become leads, procurement leads and went on to become a first line manager. Also, IT business partners, I’ve been in that role the longest, and I don’t think I’ve seen a single person follow the same path. A lot of people, either you can go into a different part of IT, but for me, as a chief of staff, usually when you leave a chief of staff role, you can become a manager or maybe the next level. So maybe a chief of staff or a VP or a president. Or something of that caliber. And I think when I leave this role, that’s something I would like to do. I would love to get into first line management, but when I was in procurement, I always said I wanna be a IT business partner. I wanna be a chief of staff. And it’s crazy because I’ve done both of those things, and so I think that procurement is one of those really good jobs because you’re able to talk and meet with so many different people at different levels of the company, in different departments, and so, I know a lot of people will leave procurement or stay in procurement and know, oh, I’m staying because I like this and this is my trajectory. I’m gonna be a manager here, or I’m gonna go into sourcing. Or, oh, I worked with these finance people. I really liked that. And so, I feel like a lot of people are really happy when, after they work in procurement, whether that’s staying there because they love it, or leaving and going to do something else. I think it’s a really great segue into elevating your career. Whether that’s through staying or going.

[00:19:21] Rodney Apple: Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, right? Mm-hmm. But the sooner you can figure out what you enjoy, and what you’re good at, in your career, you can start having some visibility into that, into what that career path could look like.

[00:19:35] Jade Jones: Exactly. 100%. And I’ve truly seen that. I’ve truly seen that with many, many of the people I’ve worked with and I’ve even known people who left and said, maybe I don’t wanna do procurement, but are now right back in that role. So, I feel like it’s a really, a really good segue and supply chain. No matter what job you do, you’ll be a part of it and affected by it. And to me, that’s why I actually majored in supply chain because I felt like it was a basis for almost every job.

[00:20:05] Rodney Apple: Exactly. It is. Yeah. Would love to hear your perspective, or advice towards others that may be thinking about pursuing a career path, within the procurement space. What would you advise to them?

[00:20:18] Jade Jones: I have so many ideas. I’m trying to think of what to say first. I’m not sure how a lot of other companies are structured, but I do know that the company I work for you’re able to move around to different disciplines. It’s really just about someone who is willing to persevere. Someone who has leadership. Someone who is not afraid to talk to new people. And not afraid to learn new things because I feel like it’s a job where you’re always learning, doing something new, someone who can catch on quickly because there’s a lot of different procurement systems that you will have to use on the job.

I’m actually so happy that was the first job I did. Looking back, I would change absolutely nothing. I did have other jobs on the table and I’m so happy I chose that job. It’s a really great job to even just stay in procurement. There’s so many different companies that still reach out to me to this day, hope we’re looking for procurement. It’s once you learn procurement and you’re good at it, I feel like there’s a lot of job opportunity there. And so, I think that it’s really good to just to try to get an entry level in to either a big company or small company. We had some lower roles that were like a procurement coordinator, something that you can do if you weren’t quite confident yet in being an agent or you didn’t have some of the other requirements. As so you can always do some support roles that support a procurement agent or that support the procurement roles. You don’t always have to start at the top. You can do a few of the other roles that are also related to procurement.

[00:20:05] Rodney Apple: Jade, thank you again for coming on the Supply Chain Careers Podcast Day in the Life episode. Thanks again for your time. Really do appreciate it.

[00:20:18] Jade Jones: No problem at all. It was so nice to meet you, Rodney.