In a number of prior commentaries Supply Chain Matters has amplified the growing talent gaps that are today impacting multiple industry supply chains. As more baby boomers reach retirement age, supply chain and procurement executives are looking with trepidation at a looming talent gap. The industry needs an influx of fresh faces, especially professionals drawn from the millennial generation — people born between 1982 and the early 2000’s.

In May of 2014, The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and ThomasNet jointly sponsored initiative titled the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Program. Supply Chain Matters called specific attention to this program in an early April commentary. The stated goal of this joint initiative was to advance the future of the supply chain profession thru recognition of up and coming professionals making significant contributions within multi-industry procurement roles.

As a follow-up to our April commentary, this Editor was provided the distinct opportunity to interview two of the nominees included in this year’s 30 Under 30 Rising Stars program. They were Amy Schwantner, currently serving in the role as a Manager of Strategic Sourcing for CBS Corporation in New York City, and Wesley Whitney currently in the role of Sourcing Specialist at Enterprise Products in Houston Texas.

In our conversation, we touched upon a several areas in our discussions with these noteworthy 2015 Stars candidates.

Both Wesley and Amy indicated no prior detailed knowledge for the areas of procurement and supply chain management while pursuing undergraduate studies. Wesley indicated that his awareness to the field stemmed from his grandmother, whose career included a purchasing role at a local school district. Later, his interest was initially peaked from a friend who was pursuing a career in the field. Currently, Wesley’s responsibilities now include forging strategic agreements with suppliers.

Amy, who acquired an undergraduate degree in business administration, entered the field of procurement after a role as a financial analyst within a healthcare system. She indicated that she did not know what supply chain management really was while in her undergraduate studies, but now thoroughly enjoys her role.  According to Amy, every day brings different challenges and at the end of the day, she truly feels that she is making a direct contribution to various CBS business needs. Wesley expressed a similar satisfaction, indicating that he feels that his role is not solely pushing transactions, but making a discernable difference in both satisfying business needs and in building more strategic and collaborative supplier relationships. Wesley always strives to engage his stakeholders to learn exactly what their needs are, and works to craft a supplier contract that will deliver on such needs. He noted he truly enjoys what he does every day and desires to someday expand his horizon in other areas of supply chain management, both in pursuing a Master’s program, and in broader exposure to areas such as logistics and transportation.

Regarding what excites each of these Stars, Wesley indicated his belief that he is delivering bottom-line value and impact to the table, something that cannot be said for other roles assumed by those in his generation. Amy expressed a similar view along with her pleasure at the opportunity to contribute to so many different business and functional groups that make-up CBS today. She has opportunities to contribute to advertising, human resources, finance, legal  and media teams for their supplier sourcing and services needs. She has exposure and learning within new areas such as multi-currency requirements as well as building trust among project stakeholder.

Regarding occasional frustrations, both pointed to the challenges of working at large organizations where lots of stakeholders express different motivations and needs. Working in areas of supplier sourcing and procurement, both have to balance the needs of cost savings and P&L attainment with building stronger relationships with key suppliers. Wesley observed that supply chain has tended to lag in advanced technology adoption which he would like to see accelerated.

Both of our interviewees expressed the value for having active organizational mentors.  Wesley noted the value of an intra-company rotational program supported by his employer that has a mentorship foundation while Amy noted that a mentoring system is fundamental for learning. According to her Stars biography, it took Amy just 18 months to rise from  a role of analyst to one of manager for CBS.  Amy attributes that accomplishment in-part to active support and mentoring. Both indicated that they have not experienced overt millennial clash but instead experience supportive environments that let them mature at their pace.

Regarding futures, both Stars expressed their individual enthusiasm in learning even more about the various different aspects of supply chain management and in continuing to advance in this area. Amy noted that procurement provides everything millennials desire in a career in terms of day-to-day challenges, more responsibility and the ability to make a day-to-day difference for the organization.  She indicated that she does not hesitate to recommend her generational peers to explore and pursue their careers in procurement and supply chain. Wesley urged his millennial peers to get involved and explore the vast opportunities provided in this field.

Overall, from speaking to both, this Editor was equally impressed with the maturity and communication skills expressed by just two of these 2015 nominated 30 Under 30 Stars.  Both serve as great ambassadors for this program and for the next generation of supply chain leadership. Consider active mentorship and support of rising stars within your organization.

Bob Ferrari