Foster City, CA, November 3, 2015: When the 2015 Bio Supply Management Alliance Conference met in Foster City, CA on October 15th this year, every supply chain professional in attendance was in agreement about one thing. The way that we think about and approach the career path of young professionals in biotech hoping to move up the supply chain management ladder is fundamentally flawed.
Currently, higher-ups in the field focus on vertical progression without appreciating the potential of broad horizontal exposure to the elements of the supply chain being managed. Within the corporate sphere, talent development has been severely lacking, and many corporations don’t have adequate training grounds in place to help young professionals in supply chain management move upwards from one position to another. Universities have been slow to embrace training in the field of supply chain management overall, and have only really started offering serious programs in the last ten to fifteen years.
It was with those challenges in mind that the Bio Supply Management Alliance drew together speakers for the conference’s Young Professional’s Initiative to impart lessons and thoughts about what it takes to advance in the supply chain management career field as a young professional in biotech. The four keynote speakers that met to deliver their thoughts all had experience with supply chain management as it relates to biotech, and shared some specific ideas about how the field will look moving forward.
Kevin Pegels, the Vice President of Bayer Healthcare’s Global Supply Chain, shared a presentation called “SCM as a Competitive Edge in Biotech: The Practitioner’s Perspective.” In it, he discussed some of the challenges that modern health care providers face in delivering increasingly tailored care, and the challenges that biotech companies face in producing and stocking products to meet these tailored care needs. He pointed to supply chain management as the field responsible for orchestrating many of the key functions of modern biotech companies as they relate to meeting the needs of practitioners. Ultimately, Pegels pointed out that supply chain management professionals would need to develop skills in business acumen and leadership as well as supply chain fundamentals in order to orchestrate key business functions.
Dave Malenfant, the Executive Vice President, Industry Liaison and Talent Development with BSMA and Former Vice President of the Global Supply Chain with Alcon Laboratories delivered the second talk, entitled “From a Warehouse Supervisor to the Global Head of Supply Chain: The Zigzag Journey.” In his presentation, Malenfant recounted his rise through the field of supply chain management and stressed that young professionals shouldn’t be worried about always moving forward. He noted that his own trajectory was more of a “zig-zag,” which gave him ample chances to build and use his leadership skills. Malenfant opined that learning agility, not constant progression, is the most important element of moving up the career ladder as a supply chain management professional.
Jim R. Kellso, a current Professor of Practice at ASU and former Intel Supply Chain Master gave, the third presentation, called “Supply Chain Professional Development Program at Intel: A Blue Print for Action.” He talked about his early days with Intel, before the company had a dedicated supply chain management career ladder, and talked about how Intel came to develop a separate career path for supply chain professionals outside of the existing managerial and engineering ladders of the day. Kellso shared that Intel’s recipe for success in establishing a distinct supply chain management career ladder was in taking an interdepartmental approach, and drawing lessons from different authorities knowledgeable about the different elements of Intel’s massive supply chain.
Cindie Blackmer, the Former Supply Chain Master at Intel, presented the fourth and final talk before break-out workshops, entitled “Development of the Low Cost Supply Chain Master Program at Intel – The Mechanics for Change.” In her talk, Blackmer broke down how Intel developed its modern approach to low cost supply chains. She focused on how the development of the Low Cost Supply Chain Master Program depended on project management and supply chain management fundamentals, but was only able to be successful because of the soft skill of risk taking.
After these four presentations, the session moved into a hands-on workshop where young professionals were given the tools to plan out their own hopeful career paths in supply chain management. Participants were urged to self-asses and reflect on their backgrounds and education, and take a critical look at their own weaknesses and strengths. The workshop was professionally facilitated by many of the speakers from the earlier presentations, and focused on helping young professionals walk away with a concrete plan for their own advancement that integrated the lessons from the earlier talks and the themes from the conference.
This session was only the first of hopefully many in the Bio Supply Management Alliance’s Young Professionals Initiative, which will continue to share useful information on how to make sense of the changing and varied career paths available for supply chain management professionals hoping to progress up the career ladder. In future conferences, the Young Professionals Initiative will continue to share tools and strategies that the corporate training world and academia have been slow to advance, and continue to take a real look at what it takes to advance and succeed in supply chain management.