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Women in Today's Supply Chain - An MSCE Recap

Joan Lim
Senior Manager, Product Marketing

Now on its second year, the Women in Supply Chain Networking Luncheon took place last Jan 29, Day 1 of the Oracle Modern Supply Chain Experience, and gave attendees the opportunity to meet and interact with other female registrants prior to the start of the conference.

Attendees interested in a particular solution area sat at marked tables where fellow subject matter experts led conversations on topics such as procurement, logistics or product lifecycle management, or chose to focus on discussing the importance of an end-to-end supply chain. Conversations flowed throughout lunch, with many attendees getting to know other likeminded women sitting at their tables.

Women Leaders Share Experience

Chris Kite, VP of Global Business Finance at Oracle, led the panel on “Breaking Through the Supply Chain Glass Ceiling: A View From the Boardroom”, speaking with Susan Hayes, Senior Director of Product Operations at Cisco Systems, and Elizabeth Hoegeman, Director of Procurement at Cummins. After the panel discussion, Chris Melching from Center Stage Group gave the attendees pointers on improving their leadership skills, how to establish and maintain presence, and how to build confidence.

During the discussion panelists shared certain aspects of their career -- from how they started in the fields of technology and supply chain to the different challenges they faced when it came to solving problems, building and managing teams, and finding work-life balance as they grow in their careers, while still making sure they spend enough time with their families.

Susan Hayes spoke about the challenges she faced when she transitioned from working for a start-up to a big enterprise and advised attendees to take advantage of the exciting space we are experiencing in supply chain and technology. “We’re at the forefront of tremendous change,” Susan shared.

Elizabeth Hoegeman shared her experience starting out in manufacturing and becoming a plant manager. Over the years, she kept going up the ranks and was continuously recognized by her peers. Upper management eventually asked her to help the company define organizational roles when it came to developing new business and setting up supply chain operations in new markets.

Be Capable, but Also Be Likeable

When it came to giving advice for women looking into starting and growing their careers in the supply chain space, the panelists mentioned having the ability to solve problems and to focus on data analytics. Strategic thinking and having a multi-disciplinary background are also important, with the panel sharing additional pointers:

  • Develop a strong capability for problem solving
  • Be technically competent in what you do
  • Have the tenacity to keep asking questions
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks and seize opportunities
  • Set boundaries, but stay flexible and realistic
  • Be capable, be likeable

Explaining the last point, Chris Kite emphasized that “you shouldn’t just strive hard to be good at what you do, but creating the proper relationships with your peers and your team are also important.”

“Sometimes women can be hard on themselves,” Susan responded when asked about handling failures. “Sometimes you just need to start over and give yourself a chance,” Elizabeth added. “The best leaders are the ones who can lead at adverse times.”  

Both Susan and Elizabeth have since become women pioneers in their organizations and have founded supply chain resource groups focused on developing female talent and diversity.

Listen To Your Voice

Chris Melching led a session on leadership, and offered some guidance on maintaining confidence:

  • Focus on what you can control – your skills and capabilities. Seize opportunities in education, training, and work experience. When you focus on where your strengths lie, your passion comes through.
  • Don’t forget to listen to your voice, modulate and strengthen your personal presence.
  • Don’t think twice – sometimes it doesn’t work. Other people don’t need to hear that little voice in your head.  
  • Work with a mentor. Choose someone outside your department or team who can provide not just advice, but also another perspective.

“The best way to know what to do is to first, know yourself,” Chris explained. “If you are a self-doubter, look into ways to improve and find ways on how you can become more fearless.”

Closing the luncheon, Chris gave the audience one final advice. “Know what you want, become contagious and tell the world. Passion is a contagious spirit.”  

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