2019 AWESOME Scholars Essays

Gabrielle Burns

Auburn University
During my time at CSCMP, I learned more about the Supply Chain industry in many ways. I made connections with professionals and students from across the country, and thoroughly immersed myself in the conference within the span of 3 days.

During each day at CSCMP, I challenged myself to attend session topics that I wouldn’t normally be able to learn about, especially in the classroom. I wanted to gain the unique experience that I wouldn’t be able to have elsewhere.

During the first session I attended, I was inspired listening to Ashley Tyrner talk about starting her two companies, while she juggled life as a mom. Hearing about her success and how passionate she was to be successful in helping food-desert communities was very impactful. I was truly inspired to follow my passions even when challenges are thrown my way. Ashley followed a passion she had for food and for her community, and this passion has transformed into an incredible career. I took away from this session the search for passion in everything I do. I want to find passion or bring passion to the multitude of projects and jobs that I will have in the upcoming years.

Due to broadening my knowledge in the areas I wouldn’t normally learn about, I attended the session about Disney and how they plan, store, and execute their Christmas decorations and everything in between. I was blown away by all of the challenges, time constraints, and the detail of all of their operations. Every bow and Christmas ornament were planned to a tee. From this session, I saw the value of attention to detail. The two speakers explained how Christmas never really stops at Disney and at all times they need to know where and in what condition every piece of the ensemble is in.

Lastly, one topic that continued to come up throughout the session of “who’s going to run tomorrow’s supply chain” was generational differences. This topic is one that not only came up at the conference, but I hear about it in almost every setting I have experienced within the industry. I appreciated the advice that was mentioned to all generations and a solution to bridging the gaps between generations. The advice given was “to learn from each other.” The lesson here is one of the best pieces of advice I received from the conference. I learned not to disagree with the different generation differences, but rather learn as much as you can from them and why they do and believe, what they do.

The connections I made at CSCMP are people I will continue to stay in touch with long after the three days. From the four other AWESOME scholars and other students in attendance, to the AWESOME women, and all of the professionals there, these were some of the most impactful people I have met during my time in this field and at college. The diversity of thought and background gave me such a broad breath of perspective that has impacted me in my studies and in life. These perspectives challenged my traditional way of thinking, which has open my mind to different possibilities and opportunities that exist.

Overall, I learned endless knowledge and met even more people, but one thing I took away from the conference that has continued to impact me are the quotes from leaders that I look up to.

The opening session on the first official day was one of my favorites. The first thing that I have tried to continue to keep in mind through my studies and work were the four pieces of advice Rick Blasgen shared with us in order to be the best at what we do.

    1. Be vigilant
    2. Evolve or die
    3. Be open to anything
    4. Grow and assemble talent

These four bits of advice are relatable in so many ways to a student’s life and as I am entering the industry, and I see that more and more each day. It is important to continue to evaluate and improve in every way.

Another speaker’s words that have stayed with me after my time in Anaheim was Kathy Wengel. When she accepted her award, in her speech she mentioned that “every single person makes a difference.” When truly thinking about this, I have realized how much of a difference I can make in a person’s life and within the industry. This has continued to inspire me to be deliberate in my actions and choices in every aspect of my life.

Another moment of inspiration from Kathy was watching her as an AWESOME woman, and seeing the shoes us, AWESOME scholars, have the opportunity to try and fill. I admired Kathy as she told her life story and connected it to her success and where she is today. I realized how influential our past, present, and future can and will be.

Another speaker that gave advice that I have continued to think about was Jeremy Gutsche. He said, “push yourself and team because no one else will but you.” No one cares more about your success, your team, and your failures, than you.

The last quote that I want to continue to remember moving forward was what Liz Faulkner from Johnson and Johnson said, “fail fast, and fail often.” This was counter intuitive at first; however, seeing the impact that failure can make and how success comes from failure, it all makes sense. Failure is not a bad thing, but it can lead to success.


    1. Participate in everything.
    2. Talk with everyone.
    3. Explore after the conference.

There are so many opportunities for you to be involved and learn. I firmly believe that you get out, what you put in. If you go into the conference with this mind set of learning and participating in everything, you will have an incredible experience at CSCMP full of learning and connections.

Just like the endless opportunities, there are just as many people that are there looking to network with you. Don’t be afraid or intimidated to talk with people and network, and don’t forget to connect with them on LinkedIn or by email afterwards.

Lastly, explore outside of the conference. After all of the activities come to a close for the day, visit the surrounding town. Anaheim was a place I had never been. The scholars went as a group and explored the local beach together one night when the activities had ended, and it was such a great memory that I have from CSCMP and with the scholars.

Katie Gustas

Penn State University
“One day we will no longer need female organizations, conferences etc. because we will be the majority and no longer the minority.” These were the words of the opening speaker for Sunday morning’s Women Leaders Forum. I have since carried this idea with me and think about it often throughout my studies and career endeavors. Although the majority of the CSCMP conference attendees were men, I am grateful to have been surrounded by such successful current and upcoming female leaders of the Supply Chain industry as well. Before I even stepped off the plane in California for the conference, I was welcomed by a team of AWESOME women who were sure to make the conference as beneficial of a learning experience as possible. Throughout my time at the CSCMP 2019 EDGE conference I gained exposure to industry insights and innovation, connected with some of the world’s top business leaders and developed a better sense of how to be successful as I launch my career.

AWESOME member, Kathy Wengel’s, speech after receiving the Distinguished Service Award during the conference truly reminded me how passionate I am about the major and why I love the work we do. Kathy mentioned 2 main things that epitomize my enthusiasm for Supply Chain. One, “Find your passion and create your own story.” Two, “we are capable of improving lives.” My path to supply chain was created by my love for problem solving, efficiency and the idea that I can make a difference with the work that I do. I am proud to work in such an impactful, innovative and up in coming area.

Jeremy Gutsche brought up the need for innovation in the supply chain during his “Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas” keynote session. He focused on how to identify innovation blind points and exemplified tools and techniques to implement meaningful change within the supply chain. Through his anecdotes he taught us to recognize patterns and clues that will lead to better investing, better innovating, better creating and better adaptability. Some of the most successful companies have been those that took a risk or thought outside the box and Jeremy provided a great reminder of this and identified how to capitalize on innovative opportunities.

I personally chose to attend the Crisis Response: Trade Wars, Natural and Unnatural Disasters as well as the How to Solve the Challenge of Last Mile Logistics – GS1 sessions. During these sessions I was exposed to information on some of the most relevant and impactful things going on within Supply Chain that I haven’t been exposed to in my undergraduate classes. Unfortunately, are classes are limited in the depth they can go into and are not often focused on current issues within Supply Chain. The Crisis Response session focused on the United States vs. China trade war and Brexit, two topics that are disrupting supply chains and have forced completely new strategies for companies all around the world. Prior to attending the conference I had little to no exposure on the issues. I was able to hear directly from company leaders about the strategies they have implemented to avoid problems between these government policies and their supply chain fluidity. The How to Solve the Challenge of Last Mile Logistics session focused on what has been one of the biggest questions in supply chain. GS1 provides a unique way to solve this issue but also has room for potential improvement that reminded me what a key area this is within the supply chain. Creating innovations in the last mile can be a game changer moving forward.

Amongst all these learning opportunities, one specifically helped to lay out for me what it takes to be successful professionally moving forward. The last session I attended, hosted by the AWESOME organization, “Leveraging Talent to Innovate, Disrupt and Scale Your Supply Chain” allowed me to hear from some of the most accomplished women in the industry first hand. One of the biggest takeaways I got from this session was to take whatever role is asked of you, no matter the location in the world, in order to build your professional experience and global mindset. The women leading the session have held up to 14 roles within their company to develop the expertise they have today. I am now encouraged to push my limits in my career and take chances that may be outside of my comfort zone.

It excites me to know the AWESOME organization is working to build their headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. Upon graduation I will be moving to Chicago for my full time job. I feel much more comfortable knowing I will have a network of awesome women to help make me feel “at home” in this new city. The leaders I met during my time as an AWESOME scholar have been nothing but supportive and filled with knowledge to share. Not only did I meet these leaders but I also developed friendships and connections with students all across the country. The other AWESOME scholars have quite impressive resumes and leadership and internship experiences that interesting to hear about as well. Learning from someone of your own mental caliber is another great way to gain insight. The network we created amongst ourselves and now the prior AWESOME scholars will be great to have as a resource as we move forward in our careers.

I even had the chance to meet a PHD student and professor who are conducting research on the same topic that I am writing my thesis on. Speaking to them and hearing their thoughts and new ideas on how to handle disaster relief was great exposure that helped me think outside the box and push the limits of what I am conducting my own research on. I have held quite a few skype sessions with the professors and students I met during the conference since then to develop my ideas and hear different perspectives. The conference gave me an opportunity to build a network that will hopefully continue to elevate the level at which I think about the question at hand for my thesis and the lasting impact it can have on supply chains during natural disasters.

One of my recommendations for future scholars is to BRING BUSINESS CARDS! I was able to create all these connections but wish I had a business card to make future correspondence easier. Additionally, do your research on the speakers, session leaders and even AWESOME women. Having a good idea of their background and expertise will better prepare you to learn through questions during the week. Everyone has so much knowledge, the more you can gain, the better!

McKenzie Meehan

University of Arkansas
The AWESOME Scholarship has been one of the most beneficial aspects of my college career. I had never taken part in an experiential scholarship before, so I did not know exactly what to expect. After attending the CSCMP Edge Conference I can truly say that experiencing a conference like this, gave me the opportunity to network with so many different industry professionals, universities, and colleagues that I never would have never gotten the chance to, if it wasn’t for the AWESOME Scholarship.

While attending the CSCMP Edge Conference I was able to learn about various topics in supply chain ranging from trucking to technology to the health care field. I found it inspiring to see how supply chain has a hand in so many different aspects of the economy. There were a lot of sessions that I attended where I was able to connect the information I had learned in my classes at the University of Arkansas and apply it to the discussions during the sessions. In addition to the industry relevant information and perspective I gained, there were four main points I took away from the conference as a whole.

    1. Find comfort in the uncomfortable.
    Many of the women and men I heard from stated that they got to where they are, by stepping out of their comfort zones and attempting tasks that they had never tried before. Some found success in their exploration. Others, found failure, but were able to grow from the experience and learn what to do next time. By saying the word “Yes” and not having a fear of failure many of these industry professionals were able to change their companies and the industry of supply chain for the better.

    2. Mentoring (and reverse mentoring) is necessary for growth.
    I have always been a big believer in mentoring, but I never considered reverse mentoring. Many companies have mentoring programs that allow new hires to immediately become immersed in the culture and gain perspective through a more seasoned employee. I found it very interesting that some companies that spoke in sessions for CSCMP are creating programs where younger generations mentor older generations on the new technologies and how to use them in everyday work. I find this concept very interesting and I am curious to see how companies will use this innovative teaching idea to grow in the future.

    3. There are no dumb questions.
    This point I saw expressed in almost every session and networking event I attended. No matter who the speaker was or who was attending the networking event, I was told over and over “what questions do you have?” or “Can I help by answering any questions?”. The only way to promote growth between people and create conversation is by asking questions and listening. Both CSCMP and AWESOME create atmosphere’s that encourage all and any questions. Being a college student and attending a conference where the vast majority is knowledgeable professionals and professors, it can be intimidating to ask a question or share a statement. I am more than grateful to say I felt encouraged and supported to ask questions and share my perspective.

    4. I’m not the only perspective.
    My personal goal of this conference was to learn and bring back as much as I possibly could to the University of Arkansas. I was able to hear from so many different perspectives that crossed over vast areas of the supply chain, while learning from both an industry and academic point of view. After leaving the conference I felt that I had gained so much knowledge in a just a few short days, because of how many different ideas and stories I had heard from so many people. Before attending the conference, I felt that the best way to stay up to date with the supply chain industry and business trends was to listen to podcasts and read articles. After the CSCMP Edge conference I realized that my new favorite way to stay educated on industry trends is through conferences like these, but these conferences are only possible by organizations like CSCMP and AWESOME. Both organizations encourage the members to gain various perspectives to continue innovation and grow the supply chain industry.

The networking events were one of my favorite aspects of the entire conference. The AWESOME Networking Reception was by far the most impactful networking event. This reception allowed me to get to know the other recipients and how they got involved in supply chain. It was interesting to see how each of us didn’t really know what supply chain was coming into college, but once we got involved in the major we fell in love with it. The moment that stood out to me the most from this event, was when we had the chance to talk to Ann Drake. Ann was very relatable and easy to talk to, but what made her standout was that she was more interested in learning about us than telling us about herself. After hearing about her accomplishments and work ethic it does not surprise me one bit that she puts others before herself and has a true heart for mentoring younger women. Through all of the networking with the AWESOME members I found a new appreciation for those that paved the way for me.

I plan on staying as involved as possible with AWESOME in the future and as I head into my career. The women that are involved with AWESOME are leaders that I want to personally and professionally learn from. At the University of Arkansas I am the president of WISE (Women Impacting Supply Chain Excellence) and due to the support of AWESOME and the knowledge our faculty advisor, Stephanie Thomas, gained after attending last year’s AWESOME Symposium; WISE was able to hold its first WISE Future Leader Symposium this past month. 12 universities attended, bringing 4 collegiate women from each university and a faculty member. This collegiate women’s symposium created some great conversation about how to get more women involved earlier with supply chain and how we can continue to support each other and grow. AWESOME was a huge inspiration, behind making this happen and I am excited to say that next year’s WISE Future Leader Symposium is already planned. I plan on coming back as a speaker or industry professional that can speak about the empowerment I received on a collegiate level with WISE and a professional level with AWESOME.

For future AWESOME Scholar Recipients I would recommend to be comfortable with trying new things, look for someone that could mentor you through CSCMP or AWESOME, ask as many questions as possible, and take in as many perspectives as you can. My parents are big believers in putting your full effort into what you do and I would say the same goes for AWESOME; the more you put into it, the more you will gain from it. The CSCMP Edge Conference was outstanding and I have no doubt that the AWESOME Symposium will blow all expectations out of the water. Through this single scholarship I have gained more than I ever expected. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to learn more about supply chain and meet so many insightful people. I hope to be able to give back to AWESOME and it members one day, like it has given to me.

Kailey Peterson

Michigan State University
Defining scholarship can be a difficult task. The dictionary defines scholarship as “Learning or knowledge acquired by study.” however, AWESOME is fundamentally much more than just learning or knowledge. It is the opportunity to learn, grow and evolve into the leader you envision yourself to be. The CSCMP confrence challenged the way I view my career trajectory and reaffirmed that Supply Chain Management holds great weight for the future of our society. There are three key takeaways I took from CSCMP: always build your network, continue lifelong learning and adapt or die.

Supply Chain is an ever-changing industry that requires a need to be dynamic and solve problems. On my first day of CSCMP the keynote speaker, Jeremy Gutsche, posed the question “How much have we really changed as a society?” When we think about evolving as a society or an individual we have come a long way. What resonated with me is how much further we still have to come. The past is a critical component to understanding the future. While I took time to reflect on this concept, the quote came to mind “the only thing constant is change”. This brings us to the first lesson of the conference. Adapt or die. As a future leader I asked myself. How can I continue to change and adapt while starting and continuing my career?

The answer is very simple, be flexible, patient and continue to strive for lifelong learning. During attending the numerous sessions and networking events I was consistently impressed by the different backgrounds and paths that the attendees exhibited. I remember sitting at lunch speaking with a professor from Milan, Italy and discussing how to attract students to pursue Supply Chain. This is the kind of unique opportunity you are awarded at CSCMP, an opportunity for a global conversation with an industry professional. Attending this conference as I student, I was amazed by the opportunity to share my unique perspectives in an impactful way. Whether it was giving advice to a professor or listening to numerous industry professionals discuss sustainability within the Supply Chain. The concept of continuous learning was reinforced time and time again by top executives in attendance. This poses another question, how can I continue lifelong learning in my career?

Network. This small but impactful word is the way in which you continue to learn and grow as a leader. We have all heard the saying, “business is 10% of what you know and 90% of who you know.” Leaving CSCMP I believe this concept has been reinforced tremendously. From taking the time to get to learn about others to learning everything you can about the role you are in currently, this initiative to be a continuous learner is a challenging one. Building your network of individuals to support you and advise you on your career path is instrumental. The network that I have gained through the AWESOME scholarship program is inalienable as I move into my career. Each one of the scholars truly impressed me in their accomplishments and passion for the industry. I truly admire their success and know we will be lifelong friends. In addition to the scholars, the incredible women that have instituted AWESOME and continue to grow this successful organization serve as role models for me. Their courage to define women in Supply Chain and pave the path for us is nothing less than admirable. As I continue to progress forward I will continue to “reach back” to generations behind me and uplift them just as these women have done for me.

AWESOME is truly an inspiring and incredible program that I would recommend to any woman who wants to be a future leader in Supply Chain. The people truly make the organization. Looking back on my time at CSCMP I would encourage a future scholar to be bold, ask questions and expand your horizons. Constantly taking notes on the sessions you are in will help you to solidify your understanding and retain your learning. If there was one thing I could recommend to get more benefit out of the event it would be the opportunity to attend the young leader’s forum. Every person I met involved in that cohort stood out to me as someone I wanted to maintain connections with. Continuing on that principle of expanding your network would be my only suggestion for change.

Now that I have obtained the network, recognized the skills of lifelong learning and adaptation, how will I persevere through the challenges that lie ahead? My only answer is head on. Tackling the challenges that the Supply Chain field is facing such as renewable energy, automated fleets, growing populations and pollution are no easy feats. However, I feel confident that after going to this conference my peers and I will be able to solve and innovate these issues in a way that will lead to better quality of life for everyone.

I want to take this opportunity to thank and praise the amazing women who made this possible for us. Without your hard work and dedication none of this would be reality. You deserve a lot of recognition for not only your outstanding career achievements but your dedication to something larger than yourself. I agree whole heartedly with the concept of giving back that which has been given to you and cannot wait to stay connected with the AWESOME program as the year’s progress. My goal is to strive to be the kind of leader, mentor and women that you all are today. Thank you again for this incredible opportunity.

Alyson Weber

Syracuse University
Reflecting upon the CSCMP conference, the one word that comes to mind is transformative. The word transformative is applicable in many senses. From attending various lecture sessions, I came away with the understanding that the Supply Chain field will never be the same again. It is constantly going to be driven by technological innovations, digital transformations in leveraging data, and demanding consumer expectations. Thriving within this environment will require flexible managers and teams of exceptionally passionate employees in Supply Chain driving efficiencies within every process imaginable. Prior to this conference, I would have been intimidated by the keynote speakers who talked about the future competitive and challenging Supply Chain environment. Now I’m invigorated and excited for all of the opportunities that lie ahead in my career.

The lecture session topics at the conference ranged anywhere from the realities of environmental sustainability in supply chains, to geo-political impacts on procurement. The panelists were refreshingly honest and facilitated insightful conversations with the audience members. A piece of advice I would give to future AWESOME scholars is to actively participate in the lecture sessions. I found it extremely rewarding to contribute to the discussions and ask questions. The other industry professionals in the room want to hear your student perspective because you’ve learned the most recent material in the field. As a student, don’t disregard the value and knowledge you bring to the table at conference-settings or internship experiences as well.

The Supply Chain problems consistently addressed throughout the conference were trucker shortages, the debate on achieving the right balance in labor and automation, and the high expectation of both speed and customization. During the information session on the future of fulfillment centers, the industry professionals in the room expressed concern for finding talent that will be able to leverage future automation and data systems. Understanding what employers are struggling with and what skills they’re looking for in new employees has been extremely advantageous during my interview process for full-time positions.

Although it was important to learn about the technical aspects of Supply Chain at the CSCMP conference, what I realized from the AWESOME Mega Session is that the soft skills are actually harder to obtain and are what distinguish one Supply Chain professional from another. The ability to lead with agility, flexibility, and straightforward coherence in this current complex business environment is necessary in achieving success in this career. I find it fitting that these are the key Supply Chain employee attributes, as many of my undergraduate courses revolve around continuous improvement and lean practices.

Meeting the other four AWESOME scholars and the AWESOME leadership directors was an incredible honor to say the least. During one of the networking events, the other scholars and I enthusiastically talked about Supply Chain-related current events and what we found most interesting within the technological sphere of Supply Chain. That moment I truly realized that I had found the correct path and the kinds of people I want to work alongside in my career. Demonstrating my enthusiasm for innovation while networking at the CSCMP conference was extremely beneficial, and I will apply this practice throughout the duration of my current job search process.

I want to thank the AWESOME organization again for giving me the opportunity to attend the CSCMP conference through this scholarship. I couldn’t be more grateful for the educational and networking experiences I gained. I am looking forward to the AWESOME Symposium in Chicago this June and to remain connected with AWESOME throughout my career in Supply Chain. I truly believe staying connected and supporting other women in business through organizations such as AWESOME will help all of us expand our network, grow personally and professionally within the field and ultimately improve the bottom line success for companies near and far.

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