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The Future’s So Bright, I’ve Got to Wear Shades

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, January 28, 2016

At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, I’d like to share a recent experience with you. We all have heard the comments about Millennials, their work ethic (or lack of), no ambition, things that are all pretty much what any older generation thinks of younger generations.

This week I traveled to Brigham Young University and had the opportunity to speak to a group of young women considering a career in Global Supply Chain. BYU is working to attract more women into their program and asked me to share with them my experience and thoughts about a career in supply chain. The first two speakers were women who had already graduated from the program and were already working in the supply chain field. My first impression of both of them was their enthusiasm and passion about their work. They shared the challenges and opportunities they have experienced and the on the job education that no textbook can replicate. The three things that both ladies shared that I think are common among supply chain professionals are:

  1. A desire for organization – a little OCD is a good thing for supply chain professionals.
  2. The importance of building a strong network – who are you going to call when you need help (and you will need help)
  3. On the job training is the best teacher – experience and hands on training stays with you forever.

When it was my turn to speak, I have to admit to being a little uneasy. As I’ve written before, I’m a transportation geek which seems to be at the bottom rung of the supply chain ladder and the most overlooked when it comes to education programming. But I plunged right in, sharing with them a little bit about my career, but more importantly about the importance of mentors, and learning to push past the fear in order fulfill your goals. I spoke about the transportation industry and its vital role in the supply chain and the fact that it is the one discipline within the supply chain that is the most affected by outside factors (weather, regulatory, and legislative issues). I attempted to make the connection between developments in Washington and the impact of our government’s actions on transportation and the supply chain in general. We talked about how disruptions in the supply chain (i.e. weather or manmade disruptions) can affect a company’s stock price. Exciting stuff to be sure…but was it enough to convince these bright young women to sign on to a life in supply chain?

During the Q&A I received a number of questions about the possibility of working for a non-profit or some humanitarian project in the supply chain field. This is one of the really great things I love about Millennials, their desire to give back and to make a difference. I was able to share with them some of my experiences working on humanitarian projects and told them about ALAN (American Logistics Aid Network) which was founded by several professional and trade associations who came together after Hurricane Katrina to help provide humanitarian relief. Today, ALAN comprises hundreds of supply-chain businesses who stand poised to respond in the event of disasters. This information was by far the most interesting to these young women. I even think I got a few of them to actually consider transportation as a career.

I came away from this experience with a renewed optimism about our future. If these are the folks who will be taking over from us old geezers, we are in good hands my friends.

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