2016 AWESOME Scholars Essays

Kyani Alford

Conference at Large
Being afforded the opportunity to be an AWESOME scholar for this year has benefitted me in a number of ways. Being an AWESOME Scholar has provided me the chance to network with a number of executives that have a slew of experience and knowledge under their belts. The organization also introduced me to a group of women that I enjoyed making acquaintances with and plan to keep in contact with. My group of scholars were all different and similar in a number of ways. Each one of us had a diverse background, culturally and educationally, which allowed each of us to learn from one another. These differences provided the glue that made us stick together during the conference as well as become friends outside of the event.

The CSCMP Conference was an amazing experience. Sunday evening’s cocktail event with DSC exposed us all to the world of networking and connections. I met a number of individuals ranging from academia professionals, current students, and executives who all knew one another. Throughout the entire conference, the most impressive aspect was being able to see how many professionals were acquaintances and happy to reunite. The experience was one like no other. The environment was very open and welcoming. All of the scholars and students in attendance were treated as equals and not potential candidates for employment. This made the largest difference! Being able to openly communicate with the different attendees on an open playing field allowed for us as scholars to build relationships with those who we were introduced to and exposed to. The networking opportunities created the cushion needed for me to personally learn and grow from those successful individuals who have experienced a number of obstacles during their journey towards success.

Day one of the conference was exciting and overwhelming. There were a number of events that we had to choose from to attend that fit all of our interests. The most difficult part of the conference was deciding how to manage your time wisely to attend all of the events that would be most beneficial to you personally and educationally while also balancing the mandatory events for the Scholars. One key event that stood out was the “If I knew then what I know now” event. Heather Sheehan was one of the panelists that spoke and struck home with me. One key note that was taken from her portion of the panel was that one should not be afraid to make difficult changes. In our careers, we will have to make decisions that will change our lives and ways of responding to things. We must know when it is time to throw in the towel, but, also when to stick it out through the tough times. I absorbed this message particularly due to the difficulties and differences that I have learned while interning at different companies. I’ve seen a number of differences in ways that people respond and act in different situations which has allowed me to learn from their successes and failures. This information will give me the structure and grounds needed to withstand any obstacles that may come in my direction.

Connections and Professional Growth
There were a vast number of connections that I was able to make while attending the conference. Two of the most memorable were that of Michelle Halkerston, President and CEO of Hassett Express LLC, and Martha Cooper, Professor of Marketing and Logistics of The Ohio State University. I first grew my initial acquaintance with Michelle during the AWESOME cocktail event on Sunday evening. She spoke with me about her well rounded journey with her career and how the challenges faced helped her to succeed and be in her current career position. Martha and I became acquaintances during the DSC event on Monday evening. She and I were scheduled to be on a panel together the following day. Being exposed to her knowledge and expertise was worthwhile. She gave me information on how the supply chain industry has changed over time for women and with technology. One of my professors, Dr. Terry Esper, was a student of one of her Ph.D. students who was the first African American woman to earn her degree in Supply Chain from The Ohio State University. Hearing the hardships faced by her and those who followed her was inspiration enough to succeed and push for my end goal within my career. The panel that Martha and I were both panelists on focused on Omni channels and the supply chain industry. My purpose was to express the millennial perspective on the topic and how we are impacted by the different stereotypes placed on us as a whole. Having the opportunity to speak with both Michelle and Martha helped me to shape my responses and ways of viewing the different questions commonly presented to millennials. I can say that I learned how to handle a tough situation in a mature and professional manner. My new acquaintances and future mentors helped me to develop a skill that I will continue to utilize throughout my career with Nestle Purina and as a woman. I learned how to maneuver through a sensitive area of discussion with ease and professionalism that can be clearly understood and relatable.

Overall, I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet, learn, and present during the 2016 CSCMP Conference while representing the AWESOME Organization as a scholar, the University of Arkansas as a student, and Nestle Purina as an intern. I can’t even begin to list all of the benefits and experiences that I was able to experience. I would recommend that future recipients take full advantage of the networking opportunities that are available. I would also recommend that they not be afraid to stand up and speak on what they believe. That one voice of knowledge could be their ticket for employment! Thank you all for such a wonderful and worthwhile experience that I will cherish and always remember!

Katie Gerard

When learning about what CSCMP was about 2 years ago during my summer internship at KC Smartport, I was instantly engaged and wanted to know how to get involved. I immediately became a student member and jumped right in. I was fortunate enough that both KC Smartport’s Business Development Manager and President were on the executive board for our local KC Roundtable. Over the course of the summer, I was able to sit in the executive board meetings and assist my boss, Morgan Bell, with planning three events. From then on, I’ve been hooked and I knew I had to attend the national conference that all the board member raved about. When my professor Roger Woody, selected me to apply for the AWESOME Scholarship, I was elated that I had the chance to attend the conference.

When I arrived at the conference, I was ready to learn as much as I could, because being just a student in SCM I still have so much to learn. When I first looked at the schedule, I was really overwhelmed, there was so many options and so much I wanted to learn about. I began to study the schedule and research the people on the panels or the main speakers and this is how I ultimately choose my educational sessions. Since, I had such open interest, I chose to choose my session based on the people leading it, because I found their jobs or past jobs peaked my interest the most. I found this was a very good choice for me, because a large majority of them used their career experiences to lead the session, so it was a win-win. I was able to learn more about a topic in the field of Supply Chain Management while also learning how they reached that point in their career. Over the course of the conference I learned so much, it was almost hard to process all of it. The session I learned the most in related to supply chain was led by John Lund who had worked with Disney’s supply chain for over 23 years. He talked about how he had worked on a project for multiple years to really refine Disney’s supply chain, which was all outsourced to approximately 19,000 different supplier and manufacturers. He really focused on how reputation can really make or break your company and that truly comes from where those products are being sourced from. Disney got a bad name for a while because one of their supplier’s partner companies had underage workers and a factory fire. This was really what Mr. Lund’s whole job was, reducing the suppliers to make the best choice for the overall Disney brand and gaining visibility in their supply chain. He really focused on the coined term “integrate, consolidate, and educate.” This really struck home with me as I think about all the advances in the supply chain industry I have watched over the past three and half years of studying it. Making sure that your suppliers are a part of your companies and really understand the value you hold, I think, will be important to me as I begin my career. The other session that I took the most away from was one that was powered by AWESOME, with four women senior executives talking about the trends in the supply chain. This session really helped me understand C-level women in the work place while also talking about trends in their individuals work places. The one that was most interesting to me when Ms. Danek-Alky from Penguin Random House talked about how their company faced a real challenge to fill their warehouse when e-books became prevalent. But, they recovered and found a way to make money from their empty space, by becoming a 3PL for National Geographic. So even though the trend of e-books impacted their business negatively, they recovered with a positive, because National Geographic will always publish books.

My other sessions were Panel based sessions where the panelist talked about their overall experiences in supply chain. These sessions I feel helped me the most in guiding me to begin my professional career. The advice from all the supply chain professionals is something I value most, because I am just entering my career and I want to come in as prepared as possible with the most knowledge that I can. The session “If I knew then, what I know now…” with Heather Sheehan and Roger Woody, was one session that I could just not get out of my mind. Ms. Sheehan’s comments about throwing out the career path and being open to anything is something that really hit home. I am a very type A personality, so for the majority of my college career I have been trying to get the best grasp on a plan for after college and where I want to see my career go. But, hearing Heather’s advice on not being afraid to throw that plan out, because it will always end where it is supposed to was so refreshing to hear. Also hearing how they have failed multiple times, but always have turned it into a learning experience was very reassuring. One of my biggest fears going into my new career is epically failing, but hearing seasoned professional’s failures and their success makes that less fearful. Roger’s story about how he left Hallmark a company he was so happy with and a great company nonetheless, but he did it to push himself and grow even more was so inspirational. That was so inspiring to me because, even if you’re happy and comfortable with a job, doesn’t mean have to keep working there, rather find something the pushes you outside your comfort zone and never come to a stalemate. The mega session powered by AWESOME was the most inspirational to me, hearing from all the very established women and how they are constantly making a noticeable impact on their company. The woman from L’Oréal really hit home with how they are trying to really innovate their make-up to reach all consumer markets to keep their customers happy. I really had never thought about all the companies who have a very complex supply chain, like a make-up company. I think so often in the classroom we get stagnant and are constantly learning about the same cases, like about a printing company or about a large machine manufacturing company that we are not exposed to companies like L’Oréal or Mars Candy Bars. Attending the CSCMP conference really opened my eyes to the endless opportunities that are out there within the supply chain field.

When I left the conference on Wednesday, I came away with 103 business cards of new people I had made some sort of connection with and I left with none of my own business cards. That alone says a lot about all the connections I made over the course of the conference. I connected with people from all over the world who are working in a large variety of industries, but all had a common interest of supply chain management. I connected with women working at Abercrombie and Fitch, Nike, Mars, DSC Logistics and many more. I learned about their stories and how they came to love this wonderful world of supply chain management. I also connected with many men in the same fashion and learned about them. I especially enjoyed connecting with the individuals from the KC Heartland Roundtable. I had met quite a few of them throughout my summer internship with KC Smartport, so it was really great to get to reconnect with them.

While I feel like I really did everything I could to get the most out of the CSCMP conference, my advice to future AWESOME scholarship recipients would be to get connected within your local CSCMP roundtable as early on as you can. This organization can be very influential in your college career and can provide you with a multitude of opportunities. Also, go to every networking reception they have, even though the conference days are long and you may really want that break, those networking receptions are really where a lot of impact can be made. This can prove to be very helpful if you are in a job/internship search. Lastly, really connecting with your fellow AWESOME scholars and learning about them and what they want to accomplish, because they will soon become your colleagues.

As all the emotions of senior year have started to become even more real, I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection. Looking back on the CSCMP conference all the other professional development opportunities I had through-out college, attending the CSCMP conference has been one of the most transformational experiences in my college career. Getting to be a part of something so much bigger than myself and getting to learn and connect with so many professionals who have made huge impacts on the field of supply chain management, is an experience I will always be so beyond thankful for. Aside from just attending the conference, getting to become connected with AWESOME is something I am very thankful for, because it is an organization I quickly become passionate about. Being a woman in a field of so many males, (connecting with the women in AWESOME) is a constant reminder not to ever give up or be pushed back because of my gender, because a woman can serve at a C-level and to never forget that. I overjoyed that I finally got to experience the CSCMP conference that I had only heard great things about and this is something I never want to miss.

Julie Ludwig

I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship from the AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain, Operations, Management, and Education) organization to attend this year’s annual CSCMP conference. I am so incredibly grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity. This was an invaluable experience and I learned a tremendous amount about the supply chain field, the importance of mentorship, and how there’s many different ways in which you can define “success.” Most importantly though, I was able to learn this from outstanding women. Being in the Supply Chain field, I am aware that I am a minority. This is a primarily male dominated field and it was inspiring to hear from women who have been able to achieve tremendous success and gain leadership roles in this field. These are the women that I look up to and that I aspire to be like. It is 2016 and only 20% of the senior leaders in supply chain roles are women. That is something that I would like to see changed in the future and something that I think the AWESOME organization is definitely an instrumental tool in helping to improve. This conference gave me opportunities to network with executives that I probably wouldn’t have been able to meet elsewhere, to learn from people in an assortment of industries and positions, and to connect with mentors that I hope to stay connected with for the rest of my career.

Throughout the duration of this conference, I had the opportunity to network with people in all stages of their career: fellow young professionals, people that are a few years into their career, high-ranking executives, and professionals that are closing out their time in the supply chain field. Hearing from all of these different groups of people gave me very diverse perspectives on the supply chain field and careers within this field.

Throughout my time at the conference, I attended as many sessions as I possibly could. Although I found all of them to be very beneficial, there were a few key sessions that have impacted me the most. These were the “Nasa- A year in Space” session, the “Supply Chain Leader: If I knew then what I know now” session, and the “Supply Chain Innovation” session.

During the NASA session that was conducted by Captain Scott Kelly, I felt that I took away a lot of general advice about his time in space that I can apply that to my professional career. When he decided to go on this 143 million mile adventure, it was a huge risk. He spoke about how hard it was to be up in space for a year but how much satisfaction he gained from doing this very difficult task. I definitely could identify with this because I enjoy challenges and I think it’s so much more satisfying to know how hard you had to work before you became successful. He also talked about how you have to be willing to fail to truly see the limits of your possible achievements. While I am just now in the stages of deciding on my first job, I definitely see myself as a risk taker so it was nice to have him explain how much that drive helped to motivate him to go on this huge endeavor.

In the session that was run by Rick Blasgen and had a panel of executive supply chain leaders, I think that I learned the most from Heather Sheehan. She started this panel by stating her biggest piece of advice was to “give up the 5-year career plan.” I am a very organized person and before I began the job search this year, I had a 5-year plan. I thought I knew exactly what area of supply chain interested me and what job I wanted. Now that I’ve been interviewing and seeing the opportunities that are present however, I couldn’t even tell you my 1-year plan. It was very inspiring to hear her discuss how you don’t need to have a finite plan of where you want to go. Not having one can turn out to be a benefit because you’ll be more willing to look for opportunities for growth even if they don’t fit right into your “5-year plan.” A 5-year plan can only be made with what you know today. It doesn’t account for any game changers that could completely change your path. It’s important to have goals, but there can be many different paths you can take to achieve the same goal. She also spoke about making the decision to stay or leave a company. She provided very valuable insight as to how important it is to be continuously learning and growing. In my job search, that is the first question that I ask a potential employer. “How will you ensure that I continuously learn and develop in this position?” At the end of this session, the panelists also discussed how we’re going to spend the rest of our careers in something that probably doesn’t exist today. The world is constantly changing and we need to be prepared and ready to welcome any opportunities that come our way.

The session that talked about supply chain innovation was very interesting to me because of how much they discussed the future. Supply chain innovation is driven by business strategy, it creates new value for customers, and it delivers quantifiable and sustainable results. It is important in any organization that you’re in, to never settle and become complacent with the status quo. There is always room for improvement and innovation. Leaders need to be the ones to fuel and drive innovation by hiring the right people that will challenge the current state, and creating a safe environment where employees are not afraid to fail. Innovation all starts with people.

I will definitely use what I learned at this conference to guide me professionally as I move forward. After hearing about the paths that these executives have taken to get to the top, I realized that they’re all very different. There’s not one correct way to become a leader in this industry. There’s not one way to define “success.” Success can be whatever you want it to be. Personally, I aspire to be a leader in this field and to be a role-model for other young women in this field. But for others, that may not be how they define “success.” Going throughout my career, I will not be afraid to fail or to make a mistake. The only mistake I can possibly make is to not learn from my experiences. Trying to select my first job for when I graduate in May is difficult and before this conference, I was very worried that I would make a bad choice. After this conference however, I realized that I can’t make a bad choice. Whatever choice I make, will teach me something different. There is no need for me to have a concrete “5-year plan” if I am willing to take opportunities as they are presented to me. I aspire to constantly learn and develop myself as a supply chain professional throughout my career so any company that can support me in that endeavor would be a good choice.

I have two pieces of recommendation to future years’ recipients. The first, is to not be afraid to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. For my fellow scholars and I, this was our first conference. It can be a bit intimidating and a bit overwhelming at first but all of the people I met (no matter what their rank), were so willing and eager to talk to me. They enjoy talking to young professionals and potentially influencing their future career paths. If you see a session listed that sounds interesting, go to it. Even if none of your fellow scholars want to attend, that shouldn’t stop you. You all will have diverse interests and it’s important to take advantage of all of the opportunities that will be presented to you at this conference. Don’t be intimidated by the executives, be motivated by them. Take advantage of their insight and advice. At this point in your career, it’s important to seek guidance from those who have found success in this field.

My second piece of advice, is to make as many connections as possible. Both with your fellow young professionals and the high-ranking executives that you will meet. Having the opportunity to meet my fellow AWESOME scholars was an amazing experience. Though we were all from different areas of the country, and we had been through different experiences during our time in college, we all had one big thing in common. We were all young female professionals that were highly motivated and eager to learn as much about supply chain as we could. It was a great bonding experience to get to know my fellow scholars. I hope to stay in contact with them throughout my career. As for the executives, they will provide you with insight and advice that is invaluable to you as a young professional so come in with an open-mind and be eager to learn.

I cannot express my gratitude enough for this opportunity that was presented to me by the AWESOME organization. This conference has definitely been the most impactful experience that I’ve had in terms of my professional development. I gained knowledge, mentorship, and guidance from this conference and the leaders that I got to meet. The sessions provided me with an abundance of insight from executives about the supply chain field; the networking receptions provided me with insight, advice, and mentorship that will help guide me throughout my professional career; and the AWESOME organization made it all possible. I hope that I am able to stay connected to the wonderful people that I met through this experience. I would highly recommend all young women professionals aspiring to work in the supply chain field apply for this scholarship. I am so thankful for the support I received from my professors here at Miami University encouraging me to apply for this scholarship.


Hannah Welcher

When I look back on my college experience in 10+ years, I am sure that I will see how pivotal the CSCSMP annual conference was for my professional development and career. The AWESOME environment was incredible to be a part of. The opportunity to be surrounded with successful professionals, innovative supply chain solutions, and impactful speakers felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. To know that the CSCMP conference occurs every year and that this what my future could look like makes me even more excited for my future.

There are several keys for future scholarship recipients to maximize the value that they get from the conference, but I would say that stepping out of your comfort zone is definitely number one. At the AWESOME networking and welcome reception, the scholarship recipients felt a little unsure as it was our first event, so we stuck together in a pack. Once I stepped out of my comfort zone and started approaching AWESOME members, I was able to network and meet some incredible female leaders in supply chain management, including Trish Young and Susan Jezak. What surprised me most about these women was how down-to-earth and approachable they were. They were so willing to spend their time with an undergraduate student, discussing their careers and companies. Connecting with these powerful, approachable women boosted my confidence and made me more driven to become one of them.

I was shocked that a former VP of North America Supply Chain Operations at Nike, one of my dream companies, was willing to spend her valuable time having coffee with me. My coffee with Trish Young was a big highlight of my trip. Nike is a company that I am very excited about from both a consumer and student perspective, so being able to learn about their supply chain from the woman who ran it was incredible. Attending CSCMP with the AWESOME Excellence in Education scholarship is what made this possible.

In addition to meeting professionals, I was able to meet some incredible fellow students. In a relatively new and small supply chain program with relatively few women, it was so valuable to connect with other driven students. It is refreshing and encouraging to be surrounded by like-minded people, and that is what the AWESOME scholarship provided me. Not only was I able to spend a week with the four other incredible scholars, but I was able to share ideas, excitement, and future goals with people who really understood.

Aside from connecting with incredible people, I was able to learn a lot from the conference itself. Learning content is great, but I often feel like I learn more from real life experiences and advice. For this reason, I found the ‘If I Knew Then What I Know Now’ panel with Heather Sheehan particularly valuable. There are a lot of contradicting ideas that I have heard regarding career advice, so having a panel of extremely successful professionals and academics answer these questions was helpful. I learned how important it is to be flexible in your career and planning. It is more beneficial to say yes to exciting opportunities and learning new things than to follow a plan that you have made for yourself.

The sentiment that was shared the most frequently across all panels was that failure is positive. Most sessions discussed innovation in some way and all innovation involves risk. Heather Sheehan shared in the ‘If I Knew Then…’ session how failures show the innovation that everyone is striving for and shows that new ideas are being tested. As a high-performing student, the idea of failing can be scary, so learning that it is critical to growth was an important realization. Your career is a place to grow and learn, so you should use it to try new roles and take advantage of exciting opportunities that come up. If you are in a role that you aren’t learning in, you need to move on and find a new one. You should be pushing yourself and learning new things, which will inevitably result in some failure. As someone who enjoys learning new things and wants to continually be bettering myself, failure is something that I need to not only get used to but also embrace.

This was also touched on during the AWESOME Mega-Session. To encourage supply chain innovation, you need to have a broad functional experience which comes from taking opportunities as discussed earlier. A creative view is also needed, which can come from taking risks. This reinforces how important failure is. To encourage innovation within an organization, you need to let your teams have space to take risks and fail. I look forward to taking this knowledge and new perspective to my future work places. I truly believe that it will make me a better employee and leader.

I am so very grateful to AWESOME for this incredible opportunity to network, connect to other female students like me, and learn. The CSCMP annual conference was a once in a lifetime opportunity that has opened up my mind to new thoughts on supply chain, keys to successful career development, and incredible job opportunities. I am very much looking forward to the AWESOME Symposium and know that it will be just as enjoyable and valuable.

Annie Zheng

Attending CSCMP has been one of the most incredible experiences as it refueled my passion and curiosities for supply chain. Not only did it provide a wonderful getaway from the cold climate of Central New York, but also exposure to a multitude of information and people in the supply chain industry. Through CSCMP, I gained more insight on the role and implication of Internet of Things, perception of millennials in the professional setting, and women leadership.

After visiting several sessions and the exhibition, it was clear that supply chain innovation will rely heavily on information technology and data utilization in the future. With the Internet of Things, companies can react proactively to issues and delays in their supply chains so they can deliver faster customer service. For instance, Intel is able to use 3D imaging to measure the DIM weight of airfreight package to save time measuring dimensions manually. One of the sessions that I really enjoyed was the major session held by GE Transportation’s Chief Digital Officer, Seth Bodnar. He shared how supply chain systems must have empowered teams and guiding principles in order to fit the culture of speed and innovation. However, how will matrix management accommodate the increasing need for speed, especially in larger corporations where lengthy approval processes undergo multiple departments? Although lengthy approval processes can help mitigate risks in different perspectives, it can conflict with lead time and hinder a company’s ability to adapt to the culture of speed.

Another theme that was often brought up was how companies can empower millennials despite the distracting stereotypes. It was interesting being in a room filled with C-level executives and more seasoned company representatives because I felt like my individual actions and dialogue can either define or alter presumptive generalizations. Nevertheless, the concern of “too” connected millennials should be subdued as we are inevitably moving into a more connected world. It’s important to possess the ability to communicate quickly and effectively across all channels in the value chain. For companies who are worried about the low retention rate of millennials, they should shift their focus on how to empower and challenge them to be a stronger employee.

At the Women at Work session, Michelle Meyer’s comment on how women can still be successful leaders even with a female vibration, struck a chord with me. As a person who considers herself to be a quieter leader than others, I don’t have an “aggressive” leadership style. Nevertheless, knowing that it’s still possible to lead others with a softer style from the Director of Supply Chain from PWC is inspiring. In order to be an effective leader, you don’t need to be the loudest, but to be able to influence others and engender change.

CSCMP had a plethora of networking opportunities across disciplines, industries, and experiences. I was able to connect with many professionals with senior positions to discuss their journey into the supply chain industry and what they anticipate for the future. Hearing their concerns and excitement for where the supply chain industry is going will help me better understand the competitive landscape for my future employer. The networking opportunities and education sessions opened the door for more possibilities in different industries and tracks. Originally, I considered supply chain to encompass forecasting, transportation, and inventory management. However, I now see the increasing role of technology in the field as well as other tracks that supply chain can host.

As a senior seeking employment, I am applying for positions in small to medium enterprises (SME) and corporations. I had difficulty deciding between the two sectors, but attending CSCMP solidified my desire to start my career in an SME. On the last day, I was impressed by the mega session, Supply Chain Innovation, Leading Change for Future Success for its all-female panel and the valuable advice the leaders shared. Heather Sheehan advised that if you feel like you’re not learning, then it’s time for change so you can challenge yourself to grow. This advice has encouraged me to go into SME because there are more cross functional responsibilities and room for change. There are many benefits in working in a corporation, but I personally believe that I can grow more in a smaller setting initially.

For future year recipients, I recommend taking advantage of all the opportunities CSCMP has to offer. It’s a platform to not only exchange business cards, but information and ideas about supply chain innovations. It was incredible to see how passionate people were about the supply chain realm especially if their prior background were different. My advice for future scholars is to be open and active in meeting others because there is so much to learn from everyone socially and professionally. You will be surrounded by professionals who are also interested in hearing the perspective and expectations of young people entering the work force so don’t be shy!

Lastly, I am grateful to be able to attend the conference as an AWESOME scholar. I enjoyed connecting with other scholars because we were like minded individuals that shared a passion for supply chain. It’s encouraging to know that there’s a network of women (and men) in the field that continuously strengthen the female community and presence in business while inspiring younger generations to strive for success.

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