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5 Favourite Supply Chain Job Interview Questions…And Answers – Best of the Blog 2019

There is no limit to the types of questions that can be asked at an interview for a mid-level role in supply chain management (SCM).  We have selected five of our favourites which come up regularly…

interview questions
Photo by Johanna Buguet on Unsplash

This article was written by Elaine Porteous and first published in August.

There is no limit to the types of questions that can be asked at an interview for a mid-level role in supply chain management (SCM).  We have selected five of our favourites which come up regularly but first, let’s pause for thought about what employers are looking for and why.    

Supply chain careers of the future

According to Unilever, a big global employer with complex supply chains, future opportunities are in:

  • Manufacturing
  • Data analysis 
  • Procurement
  • Transportation
  • Customer service

The accepted way top employers assess your specific skills and technical competencies and your future potential is by conducting a behavioural based interview.  You may be asked to describe situations or tasks you were involved in, your exact role and the results. 

They may say “tell me about a time when ………” The skill here is to steer the answers to the best work you have done. Aim to demonstrate how you understand the challenges of today’s complex supply chains, especially theirs. This should lead the interviewers to outline their current problem areas. 

What competencies are employers looking for?  

Problem-Solving

Day-to-day supply chain management involves facing unexpected problems, failures and disruptions. Interviewers need to find out if candidates can identify issues and establish root causes. You may be asked to explain how you resolved types of situations or if you did not, what lessons you learned.

Analytical Skills

To stay competitive companies have to find ways to reduce costs, move goods more quickly and manage supporting operations. You will need to demonstrate your ability to find solutions and implement process improvements using available data.

Communication

Interviewers want to know how you can manage difficult situations such as an angry customer or unhappy service provider.  They will try and establish whether there is likely to be a communication barrier between you and others, both internally and externally.

Global Perspective

Businesses are becoming increasingly global; online connectivity is available 24/7. Interviewers are likely to try to establish your grasp of economics, cultural differences and current world events that may impact their business. 

Five favourite supply chain interview questions

Q1. What is supply chain management? or  What are the key elements of supply chain management?

A. There is no one correct answer. Basically, the purpose of SCM is to make goods or services readily available to fulfil customer demand. One possible answer is “supply chain management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities.” (CSCMP’s definition). 

Consider adapting your answer to suit the employer; its business may be more involved in services than goods.   

Q2. What experience can you bring this role?

A. This is where you can shine. Using what you know from the job specification, be prepared to explain what you have achieved in similar circumstances.  .The key is to be specific and factual when describing projects. Include actual values such as savings achieved, processes improved and size of teams. Go on to describe how these projects benefitted your employer. 

Interviewers use the STAR technique:

  • SITUATION  you were in
  • TASK performed
  • ACTION you took
  • RESULT of this activity.

Important: do not overstate your level of experience. It is possible that the interview will dig deep. 

Q3. How can you add value to our business?

A. Your research into the current financial and operational status of the company and its place in the market is useful here. Listen carefully to any additional information the interviewer gives you on what’s important to them so that you can respond directly to their problem areas in the supply chain. 

Explain about your ability to use the new tools and technologies available, how you would improve supplier relationships and what you would do to save them money, (e.g. reduce inventory, eliminate wastage, procure better).  The aim is to demonstrate your understanding of the role on offer and how you are a perfect fit for their needs.

Q4. How much do you know about our company and our supply chain?

A.  Organisations expect you to know what they do, where they fit into their industry hierarchy and who their main competitors are. You have to demonstrate that you have done the required homework. They may ask for example: “what do you know about our products and services” or “what is our approach to sustainability?”

Fast-moving consumer goods manufacturers and retailers are particularly expert at this. Interviewees at L’Oréal and Diageo have been asked for detail about product ranges, customer bases and global sales figures.

Q5. How are you keeping up with the new developments in supply chain management?

A. Explain what you are actively doing to understand the new developments in processes and technology, especially as it affects their operations. However, be honest and realistic when you express how you will use this new knowledge to further their goals.

The interviewer is trying to assess your future potential. Consider your answer to an imaginary question such “ what do you think we can do to improve our supply chain agility?”

A hot tip

Many inexperienced interviewers ask silly and irrelevant questions. Some questions are just pointless such as “what is your greatest weakness?” or “how would you describe yourself in three words?”  

Read up on these inane questions beforehand and be prepared to address them with stock answers.

At the end of the interview

Ask questions about any areas that you feel have not been adequately covered to your satisfaction. Remember, they may be interviewing you but you are also considering whether you want to work for them. After thanking the interviewer, ask about the next steps in the process and a possible time frame for an offer. This is the point at which you have the opportunity to close the deal. 

10 Phrases You Should Never Say at Work – Best of the Blog 2019

What are the phrases you should avoid in the workplace? We reveal the top ten most irritating and annoying phrases that are guaranteed to wind up your colleagues…

never say these phrases
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

This article was originally published in June.

Some are just totally meaningless pieces of jargon – thrown into the conversation to disguise the fact that you have don’t know what you talking about. Others are downright rude or deliberately confusing. While some of the things we say at work just make us look stupid.

So, what are the phrases to avoid? Well the top 10 most irritating and annoying phrases to say at work (things that are guaranteed to wind up your colleagues) are:

1. With all due respect

When someone says this, what do they actually mean?

Often, it is the exact opposite… this is just a passive/aggressive way of saying, “I know better than you”.  Respect you? Well, they obviously don’t.

So, it is probably no surprise that these four words really wind us up and have been voted the most aggravating in the workplace by around half of those surveyed by CV-Library. If you are ever tempted to use this phrase (even ironically), don’t.

2. Reach out

The problem with this phrase, is that it can have so many meanings. When you thank someone for “reaching out” to you, are you implying they are offering to help you or that they are asking for help? Telling someone else to do this (as in ‘go and reach out to accounts’) is patronising particularly if what you really want them to do is make contact in a highly professional manner.

While “I’ll get my people to reach out to you” is incredibly confusing. What does mean? That they will be in touch next week? Or is this just a polite way of saying “don’t call us and we won’t call you”?

3. At the end of the day and 4. It is what it is

So, the boss is stumped…and cannot think of a solution. So, they say “it is what it is” as a way of saying let’s just accept a bad situation. Worse, “at the end of the day” implies that what will be, will be. Put the two phrases together – At the end of the day, it is what it is – and you might as well throw your hands in the air and give up. Please: just say it like it is.

5. Think outside the box

What is wrong with telling someone to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions? Context. Generally, you are told to “think outside the box” when everyone else is stumped for ideas. So, you are being asked to do the impossible. Also, most organisations don’t actually welcome unconventional and original thinking.

6. Let’s regroup

This is another phrase that has too many meanings. Is this a polite way of telling a group that they are all useless and new people need to be brought into the meeting? Or that you need fresh ideas? Or just more time to think of new ideas? Confused? You will be.

7. Can I borrow you for a second? and 8. Have you got two minutes?

Another irritating habit is using a euphemism to impose on your time when you are already extremely busy. Let’s face facts: the interruption is never for two minutes let alone a second. The person who uses this phrase, knows you would refuse to give up your afternoon to help them. But when they pretend that all they need is just a small amount of your time, it is really hard to say “’no” without appearing difficult. Irritating, isn’t it? When you are tempted to use either of these phrases, think about that.

9. At this moment in time

This is a great way to obfuscate when you do not have a clue/haven’t completed the project/forgot to follow a lead/don’t want to commit to a yes or no.  etc. So, “Is the client going to make that purchase?”. Answer: “At this moment in time, they are considering it”. The truth? Anyone’s guess.

10. Get the ball rolling

This is a bit last century when sporting metaphors dominated the world of business gobbledegook. Remember: “pass the ball”, “left field”, and “knocking it out of the park”?  Not only is this dated, once again it is not good communication… tell it like it is.

Surprisingly, motoring metaphors such as “in the fast lane”, “shift up a gear”, “put the brakes on”…or that highly annoying “let’s park this to one side”, don’t feature in the top ten.

So next time you are tempted to slip into jargon remember it is highly irritating. Also, being direct gets better results. “People may take what you are saying the wrong way,” says Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library. “If you’re hinting a circling back to the task later or asking for more hands on deck, this can come across as rude. Are they not good enough for this task?”

….AND THE 10 THINGS THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY IF YOU WANT A PROMOTION

While jargon is annoying, in an interview for a step-up the career ladder, it is being too informal that is the problem.

What are you trying to convey? If you are a more mature candidate, perhaps you believe (wrongly) that saying words like “epic fail” makes you down with the kids. It doesn’t.

Or if you genuinely litter your conversations with “totes” perhaps you don’t realise that this is NOT the way to get a better job (even if it is a very informal setting). It is just not professional.

So don’t be tempted. These are the buzzwords employers are fed up with hearing:

  1. Literally 
  2. Like
  3. Just sayin’ 
  4. Banter
  5. Totes
  6. Amazeballs
  7. My bad
  8. Yolo 
  9. Me thinks
  10. Sorry not sorry

“Be mindful that if you’re after a promotion, your employer won’t appreciate you saying a buzzword like ‘my bad’ to excuse yourself for making a mistake,” advises Lee Biggins who warns that using colloquialisms makes you appear less intelligent, can confuse colleagues if they don’t know exactly what you mean and frustrates those you work with because there is a “lack of substance” behind what you’re saying.

Could RPA Make Procurement Jobs More Human? – Best of the Blog 2019

The new “hot” technology generating hype in 2019 is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Here’s how it can help procurement…

RPA - procurement
Photo by Matan Segev from Pexels

This article was written by Bertrand Maltaverne, and first published in February.

Procurement is, by nature, in the business of relationships. Whether it’s managing suppliers or stakeholders, the success of any procurement organisation relies heavily on building relationships between people.

Despite this, many procurement professionals do not have the time to focus on the human side of their job. Data collection, reporting, transactional activities, urgencies, etc. are all tasks that eat up their precious time. They prevent them from focusing on relationships that could generate more value and better outcomes.  

This problem isn’t new. It’s the main driver behind the constant, growing interest in procurement technologies that automate processes and increase efficiencies.

What is new, though, is the pace of innovation and the hype around some of the latest technologies.

Emerging technologies have begun to dominate discussions in the procurement space, and it has become impossible to avoid debates, articles, publications, etc. on artificial intelligence (AI) or blockchain. The new “hot” technology that has been generating a lot of hype in 2019 is Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Before jumping on the RPA bandwagon, it is critical to look beyond the features to understand the bigger picture. In the case of the latest RPA technology that has integrated AI, it is about making procurement jobs more human by offloading even more mundane, robotic tasks to… robots!

The goal is to augment, not replace, people by combining the best qualities and capabilities of both human and machine to achieve better outcomes.

RPA: Copy/paste on steroids…

“[RPA is] a preconfigured software instance that uses business rules and predefined activity choreography to complete the autonomous execution of a combination of processes, activities, transactions, and tasks in one or more unrelated software systems to deliver a result or service with human exception management.”

Source: IEEE Guide for Terms and Concepts in Intelligent Process Automation

This technical definition of what RPA is and how it works can be summed up with a simple analogy. Imagine that you have to repeatedly copy data from one Excel file to another to produce a monthly report.

One way to eliminate these mundane, low-value, tedious tasks would be to create a macro that would do all the copy/paste for you. In addition to saving hours of your precious time over the course of the year, it would also reduce the risk of errors. This is, essentially, a simplified definition of what RPA is about.

It’s a way to automate repetitive and scripted actions that are usually performed manually by users (not just copy/paste!). It is a form of business process automation.

Typical Benefits

The typical benefits of RPA are:

  • efficiencies to free-up resources usually spent on manual tasks and re-focus them on core business (efficiency fuels effectiveness)
  • better consistency and compliance in data entries by reducing errors
  • from a system/IT perspective, RPA is a valuable workaround to break data silos. It avoids the costs (investment, change mgmt.) and risks associated with replacing an existing system or creating interfaces. RPA solutions sit on top of the existing infrastructure and simply simulate user actions to take data from system ‘A’ and put it in system ‘B’.

RPA has limitations and it is important to be aware of them and consider if the trade-offs are worth it. Some of them are:

  • RPA can do one thing and only one thing. If there are changes in the source or in the destination systems, then it will stop to work correctly
  • It requires extensive programming to ensure that the RPA solution takes all cases into account. If not, it will not work or, even worse, it will create even more issues as it is very consistent in executing rules. If something is off, the same error(s) will be consistently repeated
  • For the same reason, it is vital to ensure that processes are running well before implementing RPA

If RPA only had a Brain…

There’s no getting around it: RPA is a very dumb technology.  It does exactly what it’s told, blindly executing whatever set of rules it’s given. Such technology has been in use for years but on a limited scale.

However, with the advancement of other, smarter technologies opening up new opportunities to make RPA more useful and less “dumb,” it is experiencing a revival. AI is one of the emerging technologies revitalising RPA, and stirring up hype. These days, it’s rare to see RPA without an AI component, which has also lead to a lot of confusion between RPA and AI.

“[AI is] the combination of cognitive automation, machine learning (ML), reasoning, hypothesis generation and analysis, natural language processing and intentional algorithm mutation producing insights and analytics at or above human capability.”

Source: IEEE

By nature, RPA and AI are very different technologies:

Because most business processes require a combination of “DO” and “THINK,” newer generations of RPA solutions integrate AI components to:

  • Understand input via natural language processing, data extracting and mining, etc.
  • Learn from mistakes and exceptions
  • Develop/enrich rules based on experience

It is this new, smarter generation of “RPA+AI” solutions that has broader applications as a valuable tool for Procurement.

RPA Applications for Procurement

“It is not the type of business process that makes for a good candidate for RPA, but rather the characteristics of the process, such as the need for data extraction, enrichment and validation.”

The Hackett Group on Procurious

RPA is particularly well-suited for operational and transactional Procurement because these areas are characteriSed by countless manual activities. Here are some examples:

  • Automation & elimination of mundane tasks
    • Invoice processing: It is possible to drastically reduce efforts and cycle times to extract essential information from an invoice and perform an m-way match by using a combination of RPA and AI (Optical Character Recognition + Natural Language Processing)
    • RFx preparation: Tasks related to data collection (quantities from ERPs, specifications from PLMs or other file sharing systems, etc.) and even the drafting of RFXs can be streamlined by using RPA.
  • Data compliance and quality
    • Supplier onboarding: RPA can automatically get more supplier data or data needed to verify registrations or certifications by crawling the web or other data sources.
    • Data mappings and deduplication: RPA can be a great support in Master data Management (MDM) by normalising data (typos, formatting, etc.) and by ensuring that naming/typing conventions are respected.
  • Support to gain better insights
    • Supplier score-carding: This is an activity that requires thorough data collection. RPA can be leveraged to collect data from various sources and integrate the information into one system either for internal purposes and/or for the preparation of a negotiation or business review
    • Contract analysis: RPA can crawl file sharing systems, network disks, and even emails to collect and gather contracts in one central location. Then, it can extract key terms and store them as metadata in a contract management solution.

Conclusion

RPA, combined with other technologies, is an efficient way to connect data silos to win back valuable time. It can remove the “robot” work from the desk of procurement teams so they can focus on the human side of their job.

On top of that, procurement organisations can gain tremendous insights from implementing RPA because it can make new data digitally accessible and more visible.

However, it is important to keep in mind that RPA is only a workaround; it does not break silos like an end-to-end procurement platform would do.

Half of us Lie to Get a Job – Can You Get Away with It – Best of the Blog 2019

Dying to move on? Then try lying. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone if you lie to get a job

tell a lie
Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

This article was originally published in April.

More than half of us confess to not telling the whole truth on our CVs and one in ten people have even managed to land a new role as a result. However, there are certain do’s and don’ts to take into consideration.

Embellishing experience

This is the most common untruth according to research from The University of Law, with nearly one in three confessing to lying about past experience on their CV – and that’s because it is easy to get away with a few exaggerations, provided what you are saying is based on facts.

Careful wording is key. So, “experience of leading a team” is fine even if you have only done this once or twice. “Experienced team leader”, however, is probably a step too far.

Avoid any claims that are easy to check. You can be vague on dates (for example, 2015 to 2016 – is a way to get around a very short time in a job that lasted just a few months from November to January), but listing your title as “Operations Director” when your LinkedIn profile/the company website clearly states “Manager” is asking to get caught out.

Giving your skills a boost

This is another aspect of our CVs where we are more likely to lie. Skills are easier to exaggerate than qualifications (which are easy to check) and as such you are more likely to get away with a few embellishments.

With many CVs now scanned electronically make sure you include the exact words listed in the job spec to ensure you get through to the interview stage. Most of us can give examples of when we have been “target driven” or have shown “great attention to detail” so think of how you have shown these skills (just in case you are asked to prove your claims).

Hyping your hobbies

This is often the most difficult part of a CV to write. If you own up about spending your free time in the pub playing pool and drinking pints, it doesn’t do you any favours. No wonder one in five say they would be most comfortable lying about their interests (but don’t forget to do your research – interviewers often ask about hobbies to break the ice).

Keeping quiet about things you want to hide

This is not exactly lying. Around one in ten of us feel pressure to lie about our age. Why bother? The Equalities Act makes age discrimination illegal. As such you are not required to put your date of birth on your CV and should not even be asked about your age. The same applies to marital status, religion, gender and sexuality. In fact, if you feel uncomfortable lying follow the “if in doubt, leave it out” approach.

If all else fails…own your failings

If you don’t quite meet the job spec, don’t worry. Talent shortages mean that many employers are now looking for someone with potential rather than holding out of a candidate that can tick all the boxes. The world of work is changing so quickly, that the job you are doing today will inevitably change over the next five to ten years.

As such adaptability and reliance along with soft skills such as relationship building, communication and organisation skills are more important than experience for many hirers. So, don’t forget to add these to your CV.

But when it comes to tech…don’t blag it

You may be able to demonstrate your soft skills by giving a few examples, but one area you are likely to get caught is with tech. Some employers may even give you a skills test or ask you to give examples of how you have used a particular piece of software.

James, 35, a Project Manager from London, and one of those surveyed by the University of Law, shares this cautionary tale: “Earlier on in my career I applied for a job that was out of my reach in terms of experience, but the money was good, and the company was one I’d always wanted to work for, I thought, why not try my luck? To help me secure the role, I exaggerated on my previous roles and claimed to be able to use a software I hadn’t even heard of (how hard could it be to learn on the job, right?).

I landed an interview but didn’t expect them to go into a detailed discussion about the software, asking me how I’ve used it to help run my projects and report effectively. I tried to guess my way through it, but they definitely knew I had no idea what they were talking about. Safe to say they didn’t call me in for the second round.”

So better to be safe than sorry…and if you are going to lie, don’t lie about being able to do things you can’t.

Contract Management: What Does ‘Good’ Look Like?

By necessity, Contract Management has moved on from the old days of paper copy and filing cabinets. But what does ‘good’ really look like?

contract management
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

We recently published a piece about what ‘good’ strategic sourcing looks like. After all, if you are one of the many procurement organisations in the vast middle of the market, good is more likely to be your goal than total dominance.

In any area of a business, the difference between okay and ‘good’ may be the presence of a few extra steps, a little more attention to detail, or a bit more creative energy. This as is true for strategic sourcing as it is for contract management.

Contract management has evolved substantially since procurement started applying technology to expand its impact. It used to be that ‘good’ contract management meant your filing cabinet was complete, paper files were maintained in some sort of recognisable order and the drawers didn’t squeak too loudly when you opened them!

Legacy contract management was completely hard copy and based on the premise that procurement would be handled by a team co-located not just with each other, but with the stakeholders they supported. 

Today contract management has the potential to be one of the most critical and impactful activities conducted by procurement. This is partly due to the many changes the modern workforce has gone through. Companies and teams now span the globe, working in distributed offices or even from home. A filing cabinet full of dusty paper doesn’t stand a chance of being considered “good” today.

So what does ‘good’ contract management look like now?

‘Good’ contract management…

Has escaped the filing cabinet and gone completely online

Going beyond the filing cabinets of the past is essential given today’s new workforce trends. But the benefits of taking contracts online are far greater than just accessibility. Out of sight, out of mind as the old saying goes, and if there was one thing filing cabinets did almost without fail it was to ensure that contracts would be forgotten.

Now that contract management is conducted in the cloud, expiration and renewal dates can be set to alert the appropriate points of contact. The same is true for purchase volume thresholds associated with discounts or alternate terms. Contracts are regularly referenced and actively leveraged between signature and expiration, partly because they can speak for themselves, thanks to ‘good’ contract management technology.

Makes legal just as happy as procurement

While procurement and legal may not always see eye to eye or have the same priorities for contract management technology, it is absolutely essential that both teams fully adopt the chosen solution. The maximum value is achieved when red-lining, signature, storage and reporting all happen in one place, and for that to be a reality, legal has to support the solution.

This probably played the greatest role in contract management solutions growing beyond repositories. Quick access to standard language, a clause library and the ability to support eSignatures gives legal meaningful reasons to embrace contract management.

Is an active process that supports additional enterprise efforts

Procurement can achieve so many things through contracts, far more than just designating approved suppliers and specifying prices and service levels or delivery timelines. Companies can invest in, and benefit from, their small and diverse supplier programmes, ensuring that certifications and accreditations are both up to date and documented.

While strategic sourcing and contract management both have a process component and a technology component, the tie is much stronger with contracts. Given the needs of distributed accessibility and centralised data, contract management can not exist without effective technology, let alone aspire to be ‘good’. If all spend brought under management is covered by contracts, then all of procurement’s work should be conducted under, and informed by, contracts.

Supply chain risk can be monitored and mitigated, as can complex regulatory oversight and compliance. Better still, contracts can become a launching pad for innovation and collaboration projects with our most strategic supply partners. All of this is made possible when actively managed contracts create a safe, protected space for business to happen in.

If you would like to know about about Ivalua’s Contract Management Solution, please visit the Ivalua website.

Adventure, Exploration and Gold – Why Supply Chain is the Career of the Future

Time to step out of your silo, get your body and brain ready for the future, and find your inner gold. Catch up with Career Boot Camp to get yourself on the track for the summit.

supply chain career
Photo by Simon Migaj from Pexels

The supply chain profession attracts some of the best minds and biggest thinkers around. Are they drawn to the chance to travel the globe, have diverse experiences and learn lessons from a myriad of people? Are they energised by the idea of finding a role that gives them a broader perspective and makes them a more well-rounded person?

Or maybe it’s the chance to enact real change, set bold personal goals and aim high?

It is, in fact, all of the above. Don’t just take our word for it – these are the thoughts and experiences of the fantastic trainers from Career Boot Camp 2019. Here are just a few of the insights from this podcast series:

Change Your Career Trajectory to Aim Higher

The strange thing our trainers all had in common this year was that they weren’t initially directly involved in supply chain, or didn’t set out for a career in it. But, far from falling into it, three made active choices to change their careers to supply chain.

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director MIT Sustainable Supply Chain, started out with a degree in Environmental Management Planning and then gained a PhD, but wishes that she had found a supply chain earlier in her career. This view was echoed by Supply Chain Executive, Steve Day, who, after starting out in Engineering and Telecoms, found that his supply chain career was some to “feel energised about”.

And Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain, didn’t gain qualifications in supply chain, but has found that supply chain has opened doors for him around the world, giving opportunities he may never have had otherwise.

Cultivating the Common Habits

All five of our trainers picked up on some key habits from their careers and experience that they have cultivated to reach their own summits. Could you do anything differently in your career in the future?

  1. Be curious – don’t tell yourself you can’t do something. Replace limiting thoughts and see what’s possible.
  2. Don’t believe that you only need training in one area – broaden your perspective, and then bring this perspective into new roles to enhance your expertise.
  3. Be a more holistic thinker – get a rounded experience, have a passion and set ambitious personal goals that allow you to aim high.
  4. Take the chance when it’s presented – it might seem like random chance or something out of the blue, but you won’t know unless you try it.
  5. Keep current but also talk about broader topics than just your area – it will show a broader knowledge that could change the trajectory of your career.

Learn from the Past, Look to the Future

Dr. Karen Darke MBE believes that we should learn from the past, but not to let it define us. Your behaviour and emotions in the moment can actually shape your future, through the power of your mind.

The way you think and feel can impact your own reality. Study of the mind was also part of Professor Moran Cerf’s podcast as he discussed why the human brain might still surpass AI and machine learning. The brain is still one of the most power muscles we have and we should still be training it, just like our other muscles when we, for example, go out for a bike ride!

Whatever trajectory your career is on right now, know you have the power to change this. By applying yourself, training hard (your body and your mind) and setting your sights on what you want to happen, you can be the master of your own destiny now and in the future.

It’s not too late to catch up on all the Career Boot Camp podcasts and access all this great thought leadership. Sign up here now!

From Mountains to Medals – Find Your Inner Gold

How can you accelerate your supply chain career? By finding your inner gold, of course, on Day 5 of Career Boot Camp 2019.

CBC 2019 - Day 5 - Gold

Dr Karen Darke MBE is our coach on Day Five of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to listen to her podcast now.

Ability is a state of mind, not a state of body. 

We all have incredible power within us to change our thoughts, our emotions, and our energy field. We can all learn to be our own alchemist, to transform unwanted emotions or experiences into gold, be creators of our reality, change our performance, our wellbeing, our world.

That’s the powerful message you will hear from today’s podcast guest Dr. Karen Darke MBE. Karen could be described as a modern-day alchemist: an adventurer, athlete, speaker and author all rolled into one. Karen’s purpose is all about inspiring and impacting, about turning challenge into opportunity – finding your ‘inner gold’.

Karen started out as a geologist in the Bolivian Andes researching and searching for gold. But a life-changing accident that left her paralysed led her away from being a ‘rock-doctor’ to a quest to achieve Paralympic gold.

Finding Your Prime in 79

Karen is fascinated by the importance gold has had on her life.  Her gold medal in the sport of hand-cycling in Rio 2016 was the 79th medal for Britain, and 79 being the elemental number for Gold led to Karen creating ‘Quest 79: Find Your Inner Gold’.  

The project has seen Karen cycle 7 continents and 9 rides, raising £79K for Spinal Injuries and encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and discover their passion, purpose or ability: their ‘inner gold’.

Karen views life as an adventure, and embraces all its experiences as opportunities to learn and grow. She has faced some extreme lows on her own roller coaster, and knows how trauma and life events can lead to fear and pain.  

As a part of her journey, Karen has generated some highs on her roller coaster, exploring and extending the limits of possibility physically, mentally, and emotionally. She has skied across icecaps, kayaked at extreme latitudes of the planet, and hand-cycled the world’s biggest mountain ranges and longest rivers.

She has also extensively explored and studied what goes on inside, from the power of the mind and thoughts to enable performance, to the impact of high frequency emotions to transform and heal. Her career as an athlete and adventurer, combined with her unique studies of mind, wellbeing, and healing make Karen a specialist in transformation.

Finding Your Own Gold

Karen recommends starting with a few simple steps.

  • When difficult or unwanted things happen, hold back from reacting and instead ask “What can I learn from this? How can this make me stronger? How can I use this experience to help myself or others?” Know you are going to learn something useful.
  • Be the observer of your own thoughts, and practice stopping or changing the unhelpful ones. Transform limiting thoughts into curious, expansive thoughts: for example, change “I’ll never manage this” into “This is interesting as I’ve never done anything like this before…I wonder what will happen next.”
  • Develop your self-awareness and take a gardening approach, digging out the unhelpful weeds! (Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can plant flowers, or you can grow weeds).  This way helps you to stop getting caught up in ‘stories’ and being a victim of circumstances, to become the creator of your reality.

Karen has distilled valuable learning and lessons through her years of experience and study so that she can share them with others. Subscribe or contact Karen at www.karendarke.com/contact to receive information about forthcoming webinars, courses and learning experiences.

Exploring New Places in Your Supply Chain Career

If you thought a career in supply chain meant you’d be working in the same place with the same people for many years to come, think again!

supply chain career

Ron Castro, Vice President IBM Supply Chain is our coach on Day Four of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to his podcast now.

If you thought a career in supply chain meant you’d be working in the same place with the same people for many years to come, think again! 

Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain’s CV sounds more like a global expedition of discovery than a traditional professional career.  Australia, China, Brazil and the US – Ron’s career has taken him to roles in all four corners of the globe.  He even managed to fit in a stint in France along the way.

Work Across the Business

So how did Ron achieve his impressive globe-trotting career?  He attributes his success to an unquenchable thirst to explore and work in every aspect of the business.  “Rotating across the supply chain and your organisation can help to connect the dots,” advises Ron.  Becoming a subject matter expert in all aspects of the work, he believes,  makes it easier to develop a holistic approach.

Ron hasn’t limited his experience to just the world of work.  His involvement in learning and development to support supply chain professionals across the industry, plus a board position on a non-profit organisation, show his thirst for new ideas and different perspectives extends outside working hours.

Ron recommends that supply chain professionals “be involved across initiatives”.  He’s found that this approach helped him to see things from a different perspective – one of the skills that is essential at a time when the world is constantly changing and moving forward.

Don’t be Afraid to Fail

Ron is concerned that “people play it safe and have a fear of failure.”  His career success had been built on taking risks and using trusted early warning systems to course correct if his ideas start moving off track. 

In Ron’s view, far too many supply chain professionals aim to low and achieve unambitious targets.  “Better to shoot for the stars and hit the moon,” Ron stresses.

Your Exploration Road Map

So how can you chart your expedition to supply chain career success?  Ron has seven tips that you can try:

  1. Be bold – set yourself an ambitious target today
  2. Make time for the important things rather than letting urgent things dominate your day – being able to achieve important things will define your career
  3. Take care of your mind and your body – perhaps take up mountain biking like Ron
  4. Be balanced and be a holistic thinker – seek out opportunities to gain insight that can help you join the dots
  5. Build a strong network – connect with as many people as you can inside and outside your work
  6. Skills become obsolete – learning is lifelong not just for when you are at school
  7. Have passion and love what you do – if not find yourself something another role.

Why not start your expedition today by setting yourself an ambitious career goal?  Follow Ron’s chart for success to see where next for your supply chain career journey.

Step Out of Your Silo to Propel Your Supply Chain Career

Are you ready to step out of your silo to share skills and expertise freely with other areas? 

CBC Day 3 escape your silo

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director MIT Sustainable Supply Chain is our coach on Day Three of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to here her podcast now.

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director of Sustainable Supply Chain at MIT, believes that a career in supply chain has the potential to be varied and exciting.  “I’ve been able to bring new insights and fresh thinking [to my role] and in some ways I wish I’d found supply chain earlier in my career,” she says. And she is clear that an open approach to ideas and people could be the key to an upward career trajectory.

Many people and Many Views

The variety that’s embedded in a career in supply chain comes, in part, from the departments of the organisation with which the function needs to interact. Alexis loves the way that this collaboration exposes her to many different points of view. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to interact with so many people,” she says. “Almost everyone has something to teach me.”

Alexis describes her sustainability and supply chain role at MIT as one of working with people from different disciplines who have a variety of conceptual experiences. She believes that working across organisations can really help us to think more broadly about issues and projects.

The opportunity to work in a team with many perspectives is something that Alexis sees as being a key part of a supply chain professional’s role. From engineers, technicians, analysts, and strategists, every discipline and perspective can be part of a supply chain team. Close collaboration and problem solving, she says, is just what’s required when you’re working to improve sustainability.

When she’s leading teams at MIT, Alexis’ role is to make sure these roles are aligned, and voices are heard equally. In her experience, “all voices are there for a reason and unique perspectives can push a project forward or enable the team to think of something really innovative.”

Get Out of Your Silo

“A silo view of the organisation and consequently the topics covered in learning and development is the wrong way to progress a supply chain career,” warns Alexis. She advocates against a heads-down, staying in your comfort zone approach. In her experience, where someone broadens out their perspective to think about how they can apply their expertise and knowledge, a range of opportunities to progress will appear.

Alexis urges people to think more broadly about what they do next. “In supply chain, expertise can really be moulded to different positions,” she reports. And the good news is that, in her experience, having an open mind can be a chance to advance your career.

Thinking about your supply chain career trajectory is something that Alexis would encourage all supply chain professionals to do. Supply chain looks at the organisation from many different perspectives: sustainability, logistics, procurement, last mile, and this means that are many roles where different expertise is required.

“There’s so much upward mobility in supply chain,” she says, “from Chief Supply Chain Officer all the way to the CEO.” Alexis is optimistic about the opportunities that are out there for supply chain professionals who love variety and are prepared to broaden their experience and their skills.

Making Variety Part of What you Do

So how can you seek escape the silo and understand the world and the variety of opportunities out there? Alexis has these tips that you can use to embed the search for different into your routine:

  1. Read a lot – try to fit lots of reading into your life;
  2. Read daily – set a slot aside each day when you make time to read;
  3. Read about different subjects – it doesn’t always have to be about supply chain;
  4. Listen to podcasts – they’re a great way to absorb new information particularly when you’re on the move.

Why not embrace variety into your life by becoming a reader and podcast listener? Follow Alexis’ tips to unlock the potential for success in your supply chain career that could take you right to the top.

Supply Chain Hack – Get to Know Your Brain

Could the human brain be augmented in the future to the benefit of supply chain? Find out on Day 2 of Career Boot Camp 2019!

Career Boot Camp 2019 - Day 2 Brain

Professor Moran Cerf is our guest on Day Two of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to listen to his podcast now.

Do you sometimes wish you could upgrade your professional performance to the next level by simply inserting a micro-chip into your brain with the supply chain skills you need?

Professor Cerf started out in the depths of the cyber world as a hacker, spending 15 years cracking the secrets of computing’s black box.  His career took a different course when Francis Crick, of DNA discovery fame, gave him some career advice.  Moran recalls that his mentor encouraged him to move away from focussing on computers and  “apply his expertise to the most complex black box in the world,” the human brain.

We’ve all heard of the concept of ‘biohacking’, where people make small, incremental changes to their diets and/or lifestyles, resulting in changes to health and wellbeing.  At one end, this can be as simple as reducing your sugar or caffeine consumption.  At the other, perhaps more extreme, end it can involve the use of technology, gadgets or implants designed to ‘hack’ your biology to improve yourself.

Moran is fascinated about the way the brain solves problems, imagines the future and even composes music.  He thinks we may never fully understand the processes inside our heads but he’s excited about the ways that machine learning can mimic the brain and potentially augment it.   

Consider how this could be used to improve the day-to-day lives of billions of people. Could the future hold a time when we have a microchip inserted to augment our brain to become a Human 2.0?  Could this be applied to help our brains do the analytical things we need to do in supply chain?

Playing to your Cerebral Strengths

One piece of Moran’s research, in partnership with Red Bull, sought to identify why some people perform better than others.  How do some people manage to carry on while others give up?  The research team “wanted to see whether we could tap into the part of the brain that regulates performance.”

And it turned out that it was possible to identify the conditions when performance started to dip.  By monitoring the reaction in the brain in the seconds before a person gave up, the research team could send trigger to give a performance boost.  The brain would then react to increase performance and improve motivation to carry on with a task.  Moran’s team’s findings were clear – “There is always the potential to do more and do it better.”

Moran advises Boot Camp participants to think of  the brain as a muscle whose performance you can improve. “The key,” he tells us, “is to play to your brain’s strengths and carry out tasks at times and condition.” 

Five Steps to Improve Your Self-Control Muscle

How can we get into the neuro-science gym and practice the professor’s spin class for our brain? He has five steps we can take to improve our brain performance:

  1. Identify the key activities you do in your role and keep a diary to capture data about the times of the day when you carry out these activities
  2. Review your performance each day – did you do these activities well, were there any factors that influenced your performance?
  3. Identify the times of the day and conditions when your performance in each activity has been the best.
  4. Align your schedule so that you do these activities at the time of day that works best for your brain

Why not kick-start your training today by running through these steps, starting your very own diary and seeing if you get even more than you thought possible from your brain?

And what better way to start than by listening to the Professor himself on our Career Boot Camp 2019 podcast series!