8 Attributes Supply Chain Professionals Can’t Live Without

Supply chain is an excellent career destination, but it takes a particular skill-set to reach the top. For our fifth and final podcast in the “Bravo” series celebrating women in procurement and supply management, Telstra’s General Manager of Planning Carlee McGowan shares the top skills and attributes that every supply chain professional needs.

Would you regard yourself as influential in your organisation? Do you frequently put your courage to the test? Do you genuinely enjoy immersing yourself in data? If so, then you just might be destined for an incredible career in supply chain. Procurious interviewed Telstra’s GM Planning, Carlee McGowan, to learn the eight skills and attributes every supply chain professional should master if they want to get ahead.  

  1. Have an analytical mind

“Supply chain professionals must have the ability to look at the data, manipulate it and then come up with a recommendation”, says McGowan. “When I’m hiring new team members, sometimes I even go so far as giving them a study in Excel and asking them to determine what improvements could be made and what conclusions they would draw.”

“I truly believe integration of data and transparency of that data is the next big challenge  (and opportunity) for supply chain”, says McGowan. “But it needs to be correctly integrated within your planning, forecasting and operating tools. With full transparency of data you can identify where your risks are and galvanise the organisation to mitigate those risks to get the best outcome for your customer and ultimately your business.”

  1. Know how to influence

Having the ability to influence others is important in any career, but particularly important when trying to land a change program in supply chain management. According to McGowan, it’s an area where some of the top professionals really let themselves down. “You can have the smartest mind in the world, but if you can’t present your ideas in a way that your colleagues and stakeholders can understand, you won’t get the results you’re looking for.”

  1. Seek out continuous improvement

Being able to learn from failure is vital, says McGowan. “You’ll never get everything right all the time, which is why a continuous improvement mindset is so important. You need to be able to take learnings from your day-to-day work and apply them to the processes and procedures you’re working with. People in my team who can learn from their failures are really valuable – it also shows they have a bit of resilience.”

  1. Be courageous

Landing any significant change takes a great deal of ambition and courage, says McGowan. At Telstra, the supply chain team has the goal of being recognised as the most improved supply chain function and to become a benchmark for the industry. “To achieve this we’re engaging in a total supply chain transformation. We’ve built up the people, the systems and  the processes and changing our distribution centre – essentially we’ve decided to take something huge and make it bigger.”

 

“It’s a very significant change, and there have been many times when the team and I have had to call on our courage, really believe in ourselves and find the motivation to make sure we not only meet these targets, but to smash them out of the park. It’s a massive undertaking and not many organisations have embarked on something at this scale, so we have to remind ourselves how momentous it is to keep achieving results.”

  1. Embrace your transferable skills

“With supply chain, you can go anywhere in the world across any industry and apply the same principles, whether it’s in telecommunications, retail, or FMCG”, says McGowan. “You really can take your skill-set and apply it wherever you want to go.”

  1. Love tangible results

One of the advantages that supply chain has as a career is that you get to see real results as a result of your efforts. “It’s really tangible”, says McGowan. “Either you get the goods to their final destination in full and on time at the lowest cost, or you’ll learn how to achieve a better outcome next time – it’s a continuous improvement journey.”

  1. Earn your stakeholders’ trust

Supply chain managers should seek to become a trusted business advisor. “We want to be known as the function that forecasts where the business is headed and predicts what resources we’ll need to get there.”

  1. Be excited about technology

Technology has already impacted supply chain exponentially, but McGowan predicts that the best is yet to come. “Technology has raised customers’ expectations of supply chain – they want the 24/7 ability to shop and track items. As supply chain professionals we need to respond to this by acting faster, acting with urgency, using accurate data and enabling our customers to have that transparency. If you don’t have transparency of your end-to-end supply chain available to customers, they will judge you as untrustworthy.”

  1. Get close to the customer

“There are so many opportunities to better understand your customer. If you don’t try to understand what they really want, you risk setting up a supply chain that doesn’t provide the right service for them, or waste time on an area the customer doesn’t really value.”

“To give an example, one customer valued first in first out (FIFO) as a KPI, but we hadn’t been monitoring or tracking that at all. We had no idea it was upsetting the whole supply chain and causing wasted energy and time. But with a small tweak of our supply chain – setting different processes and systems – we were able to exponentially increase the satisfaction of that customer. Without understanding that need, we might have lost that customer because in their eyes we weren’t meeting the service target.”

In Bravo, our five-part podcast series celebrating women in procurement, five inspiring and courageous women share their stories and the secrets to their success. Sign up now (it’s free!)