Why now is the best time to start a career in supply chain

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Generations are defined by experiences unique to their lifetimes, like Boomers and the space race or Millennials and the advent of smartphones and social media. For a generation shaped by disruption, climate change and globalization, could supply chain be the next cultural touchpoint?

In the Straight Talk podcast series from Supply Chain Insights, host Lora Cecere speaks with supply chain pioneers to understand how the next generation of professionals will shape the supply chains of the future. In her interview with Kinaxis CEO John Sicard, the two discuss how supply chain’s impacts will ripple beyond the industry and into vital parts of daily life, plus the skills today’s hires will need to lead the way.

“I don’t know of another discipline that has a more pronounced impact on the health of the planet itself. It’s now becoming about a lot more than about just the sourcing, manufacturing and distribution of necessities and niceties. It’s becoming about what we do to ensure we do no harm while we source, manufacture and distribute these things.” - John Sicard, Kinaxis CEO

Preview two of John’s recommendations below then listen to the full interview to learn more.

Leave things better than you found them

“People who are joining this craft today will not only experience, they will be part of, establishing a generational shift in what governs the planet’s supply chain,” John says. “The by-product of that, while it will certainly serve humanity, more importantly it will be a massive improvement on the environment.”

Companies across all sectors are embracing this transformation already. Schneider Electric uses supply chain planning to reduce waste and lower emissions. Unilever has lowered emissions and increased sustainable sourcing with better supply chain planning.

The next generation of professionals that will prosper in supply chain will have to be trailblazers who are ready to lead similar innovations. The techniques of the past are already falling away, and companies are transforming their processes to meet sustainability and business goals 20 or 30 years in the future. “My advice would be to frame the next decade as being one of setting the path, setting the right technique for generations to come. Leave it better than you got it,” John says.

Hide nothing, share everything

Setting the new standard for supply chains won’t happen in a vacuum. Although we often look to single innovators as role models (think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Elon Musk), the philosophy at the heart of supply chain’s generational shift is one of humility and goodwill. “Everything I’ve ever learned has been through the generosity of others,” John says.

In the past, if you managed inventory, supply or demand and only prioritized your own KPIs, your team might have been successful even if it came at the expense of other teams’ achievements. Today, that no longer applies. “The greatest teams in the world are all people who know each other extremely well,” John says. They are intentional about who they communicate with, how they collaborate and what their goals are.

The next generation of supply chain professionals won’t think about their team in terms of their company’s org chart. They will start building relationships with those in adjacent functions and contribute to the health of the entire organization. They will understand that for systems as large as today’s supply chains to succeed, everyone will have to be willing to listen, share and pay it forward.


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