2018 AWESOME Scholars Essays

Sarah DiPietro

Michigan State
Over the four days of the conference, I attended various engaging sessions, was able to network with many people in different industries and think about my future as a business woman and leader. I am so grateful for the opportunity and impact AWESOME has provided for me! Thank you for creating this wonderful experience.


Around the World, It All Comes Down to People
One of the first sessions I attended was “Around the World in 75 Minutes”, where panelists discussed different regions around the world and business opportunities and challenges. I learned about the US impacts of inflation, trucking capacity constraints, and tariffs. It was discussed how the role of automation has shifted the traditional thinking mindset for many companies, and how analytics has been a game changer for the final mile. In Europe, it was discussed how there is increasing regulation, and high geopolitical risk, which has led to a lot of time and effort on contingency planning. Other regions were also discussed, but I really took away that the common theme globally is it’s the people and the investment in relationships that continue to drive success. It was discussed how one of the best ways to defend against many of the challenges globally is to make sure you have a local trusted team in countries operated in. I found this to be very thought provoking because a lot of times changes within supply chain occur without the right people in the right places, and I’ve had experiences in new product launches where it causes products to fail. They also talked about curiosity from both a cultural and product standpoint and gave examples where lack of curiosity caused challenges.

A Good Supply Chain Solution Requires Equally Thought Out Change Management
Another session that stood out to me was the Transportation Optimization session by Meijer and Llamasoft. Llamasoft is a software company that partnered with Meijer to enable and provide the tools for change, ultimately helping to reduce the load planning process by 30-40 mins and lowering miles driven by 10%. They discussed the actual implementation decision and process in detail, but my main takeaway was how Meijer thought about change management. I’ve been on projects where something is just decided and then pushed out to the organization, team, or plant, and I’ve seen the struggles that result. In this case, Meijer basically followed a process to ensure alignment across all the business groups. They did this through 4 main steps: 1. Forming a strategic vision 2. Enlisting a volunteer army 3. Enabling action by removing barriers 4. Generating short term wins. I thought all four of these actions were very strategic and impactful, and you could see it in the end results of improvement. In addition, Chuck talked about how the team would go at the start of shifts (sometimes at 4am!) when pilots were running, and how that physically being present shows the collaboration and teamwork/partnership corporate had with the DC’s. I learned how important buy-in is among the entire end to end supply chain and was able to think about this process and how it could be used in the future when I lead a change.

Find Your Calling and Go For it!
There were a few sessions that really made me think about being passionate about my supply chain career and each step of the journey. This was first brought up at the Women at Work session, and then at the Hackrod and UPS session, and then again at the Keynote session by Keller Rinaudo from Zipline. In the Hackrod session, the company basically has invented a way to 3D print large scale vehicle body chassis and pair that with a video game style augmented reality interface that allows a customer to virtually design and create the car of their dreams. This all started because of the passion of the CEO (a former stuntman and actor), and you could tell by the way he talked about the company. I was really interested because of my time at Ford for my MBA internship. In the auto industry, I feel like there is a lot of pressure and difficulty, especially with large OEM’s, to have “out there” ideas. His idea and developments are really in a new space, and I could just see how creativity and following a passion can lead to something great! In the Zipline keynote, it was amazing how many times he got told that it couldn’t be done and then overcame those odds to be successful. The way that that company can participate in impacting lives and making a difference, while being profitable, is so profound. As I look at companies for full-time, I want to understand this end difference and how my leadership and decision making can influence those internally around me, but at the end customer level as well. It makes me realize I don’t just want a job- I want work where I feel passion and drive to make a change, every day.

I Admire CSCMP and AWESOME Women, and I aim to inspire too
I absolutely loved meeting and learning from the women leaders at the CSCMP conference. There are so many qualities and skills I aim to strengthen and grow, and I found it so helpful to be able to connect with women that are in amazing roles and have had achieved such great success and impact. I will never forget trying to find the AWESOME networking reception, how I ran into a couple others also trying to find their way ther. We all teamed up to find the reception and were having fun chit chatting and laughing. Strolling through the conservatory area, one of the women was asked how she was feeling about presenting. Thinking that she was presenting at one of the break out sessions, I asked her where/when she was speaking. Calmly, she says, “The opening keynote!”. I about fell into the atrium river! It really made me think about how truly real, awesome, powerful and personable women leaders are. On the last day, I attended the Global Volatility and Risk Session powered by AWESOME, and I loved listening to the panel. I especially liked at the end where they talked about leadership and advice. Remaining true to oneself (even in chaos), the fact that it’s OK to stand out, and how in being a leader you can’t do it all yourself were things that I really will hold close to me as I continue to grow.

I made numerous connections during my time at the conference. I discussed above, but I was able to connect with many AWESOME women leaders at the events, and it was so nice to then have friendly faces to say hello to at the reception and continue to connect with additional people. In addition, since I will be looking for a full-time job, it was great to be able to go to the career fair. It was there that I met a contact at Penske that introduced me to the Young Professionals group and I met a lot of individuals from Michigan that said they would be very willing to suggest contacts within their own companies looking for the right people! My professor who nominated me (Dr. Whipple) was also in attendance and introduced me to people at Meijer, Llamasoft, and more.

Lastly, I want to mention I found it so valuable to be able to meet the other scholars! I was able to get some mentoring in with Monica, Megan, and Lauren in more of the informal downtime and evening. I found it very fulfilling to be able to chat with them and give them advice as they start out on their careers, since it wasn’t too long ago for me that I was in their shoes. I think this helped with extra perspective, and I really was happy to be able to give back to upcoming leaders.

Being able to participate in the conference will guide me forward as I continue the next step of my career journey. During the conference I was able to share my own experiences and best practices, but also be inquisitive during sessions and learn from industry experts. I loved seeing the diversity of thought and knowledge during the conference and the different paths and challenges that companies and attendees have been through. I will be able to use the insights I discussed above and more as I advance in leadership. Having worked for 5 years, I found the conference very relatable on both the professional and academic side of learning. I’m also very much a people observer and I love to take note on interactions, presentations styles, professionalism and best practices and incorporate things I admire into my own professional presence.

I would recommend that future years’ recipients really make sure to take advantage everything the conference has to offer. I tried to look high level through the schedule and sessions prior to arriving so that I was warmed up understanding where I needed to be and what I wanted to do! If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have been aware there was a career fair.

I would also recommend scholars “hang out” as much as possible. Our group did a pretty good job meeting up for lunch, chatting between sessions, and getting dinner. It was in those more casual times that I was able to really see the power of the scholars and talk about their goals, uncertainties, and passions. I think it’s amazing that we had undergrad and MBA scholars- I mentioned this above, but I found so much value in being able to share my experiences and support my fellow scholars, as I’ve been in their shoes and felt a lot of the same pressures/unknowns and could really relate. I think that we had a stronger group by being diverse in experiences and point in our lives, which enabled such great conversation and perspective. As one scholar put it, “Omg! You’re MARRIED?! WOW!”. I would really recommend in the future if you can get a good mix of experiences (MBAs and undergrad) that there would be a lot of value for future scholars.

Thank you again for the remarkable experience. I look forward to continuing to be a part of AWESOME and connecting, collaborating, and mentoring with other inspirational supply chain women!

Kate Kobza

University of Tennessee
Attending the 2018 CSCMP Edge Conference through AWESOME was an incredible experience. This conference provided the opportunity to converse with supply chain professionals from various industries and universities in a 4-day event to learn of cutting-edge technologies and real-world applications of supply chain principles. This experience was exciting and beneficial in being able to take concepts I’ve learned in the classroom and directly hear how corporations are applying these in an ever-evolving industry. It put into perspective the daily impact technology has on company strategies and objectives, and what I could expect in industry following graduation.

One of the most impactful sessions I attended was hearing Keller Rinaudo, the CEO and founder of Zipline, speak. This talk focused on the significance of implementing a drone delivery system at a national scale, to deliver medical supplies within the country of Rwanda. What was most interesting to me, is while most distribution channels rely on a set infrastructure (whether that be, ocean freight, roads, or rails), in various areas of the world this is hard to control or come by, so the use of drones significantly expands one’s distribution networks. Drone technology also does not hinder the ability for remote communities and less economically developed societies from obtaining frequent and dependable deliveries.

With the Rwandan airport serving as one of the busiest airports in the world thanks to Zipline, the company’s drone delivery system is expanding to Tanzania and the United States to further distribution of blood-transfusion supplies, vaccines, and other medical items. However, this distribution system has the potential to offers a future commercial aspect outside of healthcare. With 85% of Amazon deliveries weighing less than 5lbs, and Zipline’s ability to deliver up to 3lbs worth of products, this technology has huge potential effects in improving “last mile” deliveries in a variety of industries.

During the CSCMP conference, I had the opportunity to network and foster connections with a variety of attendees, ranging from other MBA and undergraduate students, university faculty, as well as industry representatives both internationally and nationally. Specifically, it was great meeting other AWESOME women equally excited in growing the presence of women within supply chain. In furthering my growth professionally, AWESOME’s Global Volatility and Risk panel provided key insights I hope to incorporate in my own career. For example, the importance of staying true to one’s values when in a leadership role and making sure others within the same work environment are aware of these values, as this is what motivates an individual and helps establish professional and personal core drives. I also learned of the importance of creating a problem-solving culture within my future organization, with a “fail forward” and “fail fast” mentality. By taking ownership of one’s learnings and personal development, failing fast requires one to learn and grow from situations gone wrong in order to achieve long term success. This mentality is vital, specifically within the supply chain field, as risk mitigation occurs on a daily basis due to global volatility.

I highly recommend future recipients take advantage of any opportunity throughout the conference to meet others and learn of their experiences and professions. Each attendee’s career path is vastly different, but the perspectives shared offer additional viewpoints and advice which could be useful as one begins their own career. This is an event where you receive as much as you put into it, so recipients should not be afraid to approach people and introduce themselves. There are not many opportunities where so many supply chain professionals from both academia and industry are present in a single location to network and learn from, so use this to your advantage.

Lauren McGlon

Auburn University
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Edge Conference provided invaluable, direct exposure to a wide variety of topics, industries, and innovations that cannot be replicated in the classroom. Attending the conference allowed me to see where the supply chain industry is going while fostering relationships with industry leaders from various realms of supply chain management. This scholarship also provided me the opportunity to connect with women leaders in supply chain and learn from their experiences, hardships, and goals for the industry.

I kicked off the conference with the Women at Work session, where attendees participated in collaborative discussions surrounding current issues in supply chain related to diversity and inclusion. It was impactful to see how bottlenecks surrounding these topics affect a variety of industries and how companies are combatting them to create a healthier work environment and increase productivity. Later in the evening, I attended the AWESOME Welcome Reception, where the other scholars and myself met AWESOME members, educators, and influencers. Discussing AWESOME initiatives with numerous supply chain leaders from an array of backgrounds showed me the true impact of this organization and made me even more proud to be a part of it. I can attribute where I am today to many strong women, so being recognized at this event was a great honor.

The main lesson I took away from the conference was “be curious.” Never embrace what is the current norm and continuously strive to improve yourself, processes, and technology. This was discussed in the day 2 opening session “How Iconic Brands are Building the Future Supply Chain,” which featured executives of Nike, Amazon, and IBM. The key takeaway was that disruption is always going to be a way of life, and companies must turn this disruption into value by leveraging their data and supply chains. In order to continuously adapt and embrace disruption, one must tune into their own curiosity and take risks. Following the opening session, I attended the transportation track, “A Look Down the Road: Carrier CEOs Speak.” Today, the transportation industry is facing driver shortages, technological innovations, government regulations, and other challenges. In this session, executives spoke on how they are combatting these issues and trying to stay ahead of the curve. Studying these bottlenecks and asking questions to find cost-effective solutions will deliver the least amount of impact to the transportation industry and the supply chains it touches.

I worked to leverage CSCMP’s sessions to amplify my procurement knowledge, since I am passionate about apply strategic sourcing to sustainability, cost savings, and company core values. The most intriguing session I attended was Intel’s “Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Computive Learning Based Sourcing Intelligence.” This session discussed Intel’s recent implementation of cognition into supply chain analytics to assist in driving sourcing decisions. This session opened my eyes to AI and cognition’s potential to touch more areas of the supply chain than driverless cars, and it demonstrated how companies are successfully implementing it into their technology today. It sparked curiosity on the topic of technological innovations in procurement through demonstrating the value it can add to an organization.

I found the second opening session with Keller Rinaudo, the CEO and Founder of Zipline, very inspiring as it stressed the importance of taking risks with technology, untapped markets, and social entrepreneurship. His company is using automation and drones to deliver blood to hospitals throughout Rwanda, combatting the previous issue of poor transportation infrastructure and decentralized blood storage, which led to late deliveries and waste. Being a sustainability studies minor, it was impactful to see how sustainability does not take away from profitability and efficiency when incorporated in the supply chain properly. This was not the only session sustainability was mentioned either. Every session I attended throughout the conference mentioned sustainability in some capacity, with one session dedicated to it entirely. It is an issue that many companies are trying to scale to keep up with consumer demands of quick deliveries and environmentally friendly products. This topic is discussed frequently within the program at Auburn University. Seeing the number of industry leaders focused on this topic added more weight to the issue and demonstrated how future supply chain leaders must leverage strategies to create sustainable solutions while maintaining profitability, core values, and consumer satisfaction.

Attending Edge Conference and establishing relationships with AWESOME women truly proved to be one of the most impactful experiences of my college career. Women influencers are a necessity to supply chain management in order to broaden the perspective and facilitate diversity in the workforce. Being surrounded by influencers at the conference gave me a glimpse into what diversified leadership can accomplish and how collaborative efforts between organizations can catalyze results. I am honored to be a part of this effort to promote change and leadership within the supply chain and hope Auburn University’s exposure to this organization and award will foster women students to become involved in the future in order to continuously support AWESOME’s initiative.

Monica Sewell

University of Arkansas
The 2018 CSCMP conference was an experience that was not only beneficial to my future career and professional development, but it was also an enjoyable and exciting event. Getting the opportunity to learn and grow in this context at such a young age was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am extremely grateful for. I was able to make connections with professionals, learn about hot topics in the supply chain industry, hear tips about my future career, and meet four other women who had gotten the scholarship. These four women were all very different and being able to bounce ideas off of them and hear their advice was invaluable. If I had to choose one thing that I got most out of this conference, it would be the impact that it made on future. It helped guide me in areas in supply chain that I am passionate about, and opened my eyes to areas that are interesting, but ultimately not for me.

Although I am extremely grateful for the education I am receiving at the University of Arkansas, being able to learn about current events and hot topics in the supply chain industry gave me knowledge that will be particularly relevant as I graduate and move on to the real world. I was able to apply the fundamentals I have learned in classes to the sessions I attended, giving me a snapshot of careers in different areas of supply chain. Having two majors has proven difficult for me because it broadened the horizons for options that I have for a future career, but ultimately, the CSCMP conference helped guide me in the areas and careers I am intent on pursuing.

Before this conference, I had never heard about opportunities in government and in the non-profit sector for a supply chain professional, and now it is an area that I am heavily looking in to. I attended a session that was called, “Speed Kills, so Does Lettuce.” This was the first session that I went to during my time in Nashville, and it set the bar high. During this session, I learned from a panel of professionals, one of which works as the Chief of Staff for the Defense Logistics Agency, and another who is the Executive Director for the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN). Being in these significant positions, both of these women were incredibly knowledgeable about the industry and had a wealth of knowledge to share. This session taught me about supply chain risk, which is a topic I haven’t learned much about in my classes at the U of A. I learned how to differentiate between a well-known risk and something called a black swan, or a predictable surprise. Overall, this breakout session peaked my interest in working for a non-profit and working to mitigate risk, which I had never thought about for a future career until the CSCMP conference.

The next session I attended seemed to be the popular choice of the conference. This session was called “The Uberization of Freight,” which is a hot topic not only for many logistics and supply chain professionals, but even people who aren’t in the business industry at all. This talk, who was led by a man who works for Uber Freight, was very insightful and helped me learn a lot about the future of supply chain and logistics. Uber Freight allows carriers to book a load more quickly than ever, just by the touch of a button. This gives truck drivers the opportunity to take control of where and when they work and simplifies the process as a whole. This session was one of the most fascinating ones I attended because of the audience. The speaker highlighted important aspects of Uber Freight that are helping to push innovations through simplicity and transparency. I learned a lot from the questions that were asked. Although transportation is not the direction I am interested in going, I am glad that I attended this session because of the relevance to today’s world.

My favorite session that I attended was towards the end of the conference. This breakout session was called “Alexa, Let’s Play the Beer Game: Artificial Intelligence in Supply Chain.” I have always been interested in the technical side of supply chain, but I have never understood how artificial intelligence works. This session broke down how to create the algorithms for the process to work. The speaker demonstrated a technique that he has created and is continuing to improve, which helped me understand the process way more than I could have by reading articles about it. This talk impacts me directly because I am working with artificial intelligence in my current job. I was able to learn about the different types of learning: reinforcement learning, supervised learning, and prescriptive learning. The type used for artificial intelligence will change the outcome, and they should be used for different purposes. This session really captivated me and helped me learn about what I may want to focus on for my future.

While going to all of these sessions were beneficial to my learning experience during the conference, the networking and learning I got from talking to supply chain professionals along the way was invaluable. Simply learning about supply chain careers from people I met during the conference helped me in more way than one. While I love supply chain and the area I am studying in school, I am not always provided with the opportunity to learn about actual jobs that I can do after I graduate. I enjoy a lot of the topics I am learning about in school, but I was still unaware of how I could utilize these topics for my future. This experience really helped guide me and teach me about these possibilities. All of the people I met during the conference provided me with information that will guide me to my future career. From this conference, I learned that I am interested in pursuing a career that deals with inventory and supply management.

Along with the industry professionals that I connected with, I met a lot of professors that gave me tremendous advice about the future. I also talked a lot with another scholar, Sarah DiPietro, about the possibility of attending graduate school in the future. This is something I had never thought about in the past. The professors I met all had many great things to say about how much graduate school can develop me as a person and a professional. I am grateful that I was able to hear the positives of this, because it has never been something that I was interested in. Learning about how having this experience can further my career has pushed me into wanting to do this in the future.

This scholarship has been extremely beneficial to my growth in supply chain and in business as a whole. I have learned so much and met many people who will continue to guide me along my career path. I would recommend any supply chain woman to apply for this scholarship, as it will give you an experience that you are unlikely to gain in any other format. For the future excellence in education scholars, here are a few tips to maximize your learning and growth at the CSCMP conference:

    • Connect with as many people as possible; they are more than willing to talk to you and give you advice.
    • Get to know your fellow scholars. They all have different qualities and experiences to bring to the table and you can learn a lot from them.
    • Get out of your comfort zone and attend sessions that you don’t immediately think of going to.
    • Create a schedule for yourself before arriving to the conference. It gets hectic once you arrive!
    • Take all the opportunities to learn that come at you. It is a short conference and can be tiring but it will be worth it to attend as much as possible.

Meghan Tomassetti

Syracuse University
Although I initially went to the conference knowing no one except Professor Tucker from Syracuse University, I left three days later with great connections with industry professionals, the AWESOME staff, and the other four scholars. From this experience, I gained insights about current industry trends, the linkages between my two majors of supply chain management and finance, as well as ways in which supply chain is improving the lives of millions. By attending both daily and AWESOME-sponsored networking events, I was able to discover my career aspirations and get advice from professionals. I recommend that future participants get out of their comfort zone by attending a variety of speaker tracks, enabling them to get a well-rounded view of the industry, as well as introduce them to speakers and attendees with viewpoints different from their own.

By attending the Building Analytics Capabilities in Organizations, the Uberization of Freight, and Supply Chain Impact of a No Deal Hard Brexit sessions, I became more informed on where the supply chain industry currently is, and where it is heading in the future. As technology continues to constantly change, I’ve learned how important it is to integrate these changes into a company’s supply chain. For example, Randy Smith of McDonald’s explained the company’s use of data analytics to determine where new restaurants should open up, while Angharad Porteous of Nike emphasized the importance of finding talent who can use data properly to solve problems, which has encouraged me to look into taking another business analytics course at school. Additionally, being aware of the political climate and its effects on supply chains is equally important, especially as U.S. tariffs on China continue to rise and Brexit terms are negotiated.

At CSCMP Edge, I was also able to discover the overlap between my two majors of supply chain management and finance by attending finance track sessions such as A Quest to Profitability and Value Using Value Chain Segmentation and Analytics, which described how supply chains can cut out wasteful complexities to create lean customer segmentation. Lastly, I was able to learn about how supply chain management is making a difference in the lives of others. The most impactful session I attended was Keller Rinaudo, founder of Zipline, who uses drones to solve the issue of transporting blood and medical equipment throughout developing countries like Rwanda. I found it extremely moving to learn about how a simple supply chain solution is able to save the lives of millions of people.

By being a part of the AWESOME community, I was able to make many connections at CSCMP Edge. For instance, I was able to get advice from Sarah, one of my fellow scholars about attending graduate school for Supply Chain Management, discussing when is the best time to return to school and how her industry experience compliments her studies. Additionally, at the AWESOME breakfast and cocktail hour, I was able to connect with professors and professionals from companies like Expeditors, many of whom were women, giving me the confidence to pursue a career in an often male-dominated field. Another beneficial connecting experience was the lunches offered at the conference, at which I was able to sit with people from all different companies, allowing me to learn about various career paths.

In addition to the connections I made as a result of participating in the Edge Conference, being a member of the AWESOME community has helped and will continue to help me in my professional endeavors. By being a part of AWESOME, I know I will always be tied to a group of strong, accomplished women in the field through events like the CSCMP Conference and the AWESOME Symposium. I believe having a support system like the AWESOME community is essential in order to reach my full professional potential. Other events at the conference that aided my professional development include: the Women at Work session, opportunities to get headshots taken, and the career fair.

For future recipients of the AWESOME Scholarship, I encourage them to attend various tracks in order to meet a large variety people, allowing them to truly see everything that is currently going on in the industry and to learn about all possible career paths. For example, I attended a C-Level track session about data analytics to see what higher level professionals thought about developments in this area, as well as understand what their companies are doing to incorporate it into their operations. Additionally, scholars should not be intimidated to go up to professionals and ask about their careers just because they are a student with less experience. Everyone at the conference was extremely friendly and willing to answer any questions and give academic and career advice.

In conclusion, having the opportunity to attend the CSCMP Edge Conference as an AWESOME Scholar was an indispensable experience that allowed me to develop personally, academically, and professionally. As a naturally shy person, networking events pushed me out of my comfort zone and made such events in the future less intimidating. Academically, I am able to connect a lot of the sessions I attended to the supply chain courses I am currently taking. For example, in my Global Supply Chain class, my professor was contrasting Nike’s and Amazon’s supply chains, and I was able to draw upon the first General Session on Monday at which executives from both Amazon and Nike spoke. Lastly, I was able to professionally advance through being more informed on industry trends, networking, and joining the AWESOME community. I sincerely look forward to attending the AWESOME Symposium in the spring because I will be able to continue to develop in these three areas, as well as meet past scholars and see where their participation in AWESOME has taken them professionally.

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