AWESOME Scholar Spotlights

Kate Kobza

During the intense months of Covid-19, when disinfectants and personal care products were in great demand, Kate Kobza was in a role where she had an immediate impact through working with manufacturers on the development and execution of these items. As Associate Manager for Procurement for S.C. Johnson, Kate was responsible for the end-to-end performance management of the company’s North American liquid-fill and monodose pack contract manufacturing portfolios.

The experience convinced her that “This pandemic has prompted supply chains to adapt to changing consumer behaviors resulting in supply chain reassessments to maximize efficiencies and best serve customers. Our supply chains have to be agile and proactive in mitigating component shortages and capacity constraints to respond to significant consumer demand increases to best serve our customers.”

Kate continues to grow and expand her capabilities and now, since August of 2021, is an E2E Supply Chain Agility Manager for Mars, Inc. 

She’s taken a path to the supply chain profession that might be considered unique. Graduating from the University of Virginia in 2014 with a degree in Biomedical Engineering, Kate’s first job was as a Development Engineer and Project Manager for American Accessories International, where she oversaw the design, development, and manufacturing of custom consumer products for Fortune 500 Companies.

When she decided in 2017 to pursue an MBA at the Haslam School of Business of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Kate became aware of supply chain and the direct link of her prior roles within the industry. She explained, “Supply chain’s broad range of activities and diverse jobs is what further piqued my interest in a career path within this field which spans all industries and countries, allowing the opportunity to develop new skill sets personally and professionally.”

She worked as a Global Supply Intern with S.C. Johnson the summer during her MBA and then accepted a full-time position. 

One of the aspects of supply chain that’s most intriguing to Kate is the human element. “People working in all aspects of the supply chain are necessary to drive each function within the field, effectively communicating and collaborating with each other.”  She’s also aware of the importance of the supply chain field’s problem-solving culture, where “you are challenged to actively drive growth while mitigating risk on a daily basis. Supply chain is an extremely volatile field requiring critical thinking and adaptability to achieve success.” 

Kate highly recommends young women consider supply chain as a future career. “While this field has a history of male-dominated roles, women provide a well-rounded addition to the field overall through diverse skillsets and perspective. Supply chain is a field in which one is not restricted to one particular function. Due to the collaboration and connectivity between each aspect of the supply chain, opportunities are endless.”


Meghan Tomassetti

Meghan Tomassetti is a 2018 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar who graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Supply Chain Management. She is currently a Financial Analyst with JP Morgan Chase.

In some ways, Meghan may have “inherited” her future career, but she didn’t know it. 

Her grandfather started a small drink distribution company, and when his two sons – one of them being Meghan’s dad – began running the company, Meghan was introduced to many of the processes she only later recognized as being part of an entire industry. She watched demand planning and forecasting in action, but it wasn’t until her first supply chain course at Syracuse University that she knew what’s she’d been seeing. Then she found it so interesting to be able to apply the concepts she was learning to her family’s business, she decided to major in supply chain management. 

Since finding out about supply chain – and developing her knowledge base through courses, activities and internships — Meghan has charted her own course. The topic that has always interested her most is supply chain optimization. She says, “Whether it be through Blockchain technology or Six Sigma, companies are always looking for ways to make a process more efficient in terms of time and money. I find that developing an eye for optimization is extremely beneficial, as it transcends supply chain management and can be applied to a variety of situations.”

In one of her SCM courses her junior year in college, the assignment was to make an everyday process lean. Meghan and her group set out to reduce the service time at their campus coffee shop. By observing the staff serve customers and mapping out the process, her group was able to apply their learnings about supply chain optimization, analyze the situation, and cut the service time nearly in half. 

Through Meghan’s current work as a Financial Analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., she is finding that supply chain plays a major role in all kinds of companies. “I’ve learned that providing a financial service to a customer requires just as much oversight and planning as the production and delivery of a physical good to an end user.” By taking a course on automation that focused on making reoccurring processes more efficient for my team, Meghan was able leverage her background in supply chain management – specifically, optimization – and streamline processes for her team. 

Meghan thinks supply chain is an exciting career choice because there is such a variety of possible roles. By working as an intern on the technology side for Nestle Waters North America, she learned about inputting and tracking purchase orders and invoices. She’s attended factory tours where she learned about quality control and production processes. “There are so many stops along the supply chain, all of which have something interesting to offer.”

Her advice for other women entering an industry that is largely male is to not be afraid to pursue their dreams and challenge the status quo. Meghan also recommends they build a support system within the field, which they can do by getting involved in a female-led supply chain organization such as AWESOME.


Jennie May

If circumstances had been different, AWESOME/MIT Advancing Women through Education Fellow Jennie May might have graduated from Syracuse University with just two degrees: Marketing and Public Relations. Supply chain was the third and final major she added to her academic pursuits. She says that “after an amazing introductory class and a summer traveling abroad, my interest in logistics and operations peaked.” Still, she sees that good communications contribute significantly to a successful supply chain, too. According to Jennie, “Every facet of every industry has a supply chain factor that can make or break the user’s experience and it usually stems around the maturity level of communications.”

After graduating from Syracuse in 2017, Jennie joined a leadership development program at Pratt & Whitney. There, she loved learning about jet engine manufacturing and realized that, although all commodities navigate through ERP issues, demand planning, inventory management and financial challenges, every company has its own challenges. For example, lead times are much longer for constrained raw materials versus companies that sell short life span commodities like perishable food or flowers. In addition to offering a solid view of that type of supply chain, Jennie says her time at Pratt & Whitney helped connect her with her own family history, because generations of her family were instrumental in the development and success of the Rust Belt in Cleveland, Ohio. 

After completing the Pratt & Whitney Materials Management Development Program – a two-year rotation program where she learned about the jet engine manufacturer’s supply planning, shop floor tactical operations, inventory management and more – she moved into the position as the F135 Alternate Sourcing manager. In that position, she says being able to collaborate and communicate with different functional departments helped her to move projects forward.

While in that position, Jennie made the decision to pursue a master’s in supply chain management and that decision, she explains, stemmed partially from Hurricane Irma in 2017 damaging her family’s home and other homes nearby. As Jennie explains, “A whole new aspect of supply chain management opened up after seeing families try to navigate disposing of all their water-logged belongings and manage rebuilding their house. There is a gap to fill with uncertainty analysis, education, and safety stock plans, in terms of supply chain management, to proactively prepare for the next disaster.”

Jennie is currently attending MIT and will complete a Master’s of Applied Science, Supply Chain Management in spring of 2022.
As for advice to other young women considering supply chain management as a career, Jennie says, “Young women should look into supply chain as a career because it is a door opening into every industry, company and future entrepreneurial initiative. The core foundational studies and learnings can be applied to all companies.” She also recommends pursuing an additional interest in a complementary subject, such as finance, marketing, Spanish, etc. because “we are now a global society and another pandemic is bound to happen. The world is finally recognizing the importance of the supply chain principles and we can be those leading voices in the decades to come.”


Kyani Alford

Kyani Alford already was inspired by the prospect of supply chain as a profession where there is always something new to learn. Then the pandemic hit. What she saw during that time convinced her that the supply chain industry has been changed forever, with COVID demands resulting in requirements for more flexible transportation, more agile and lean processes at production sites, and updated demand forecasts.  

With her first-hand experience as a Procurement Specialist for Nestle Purina Petcare during that time, Kyani saw the pet food market increase dramatically due to the vast number of adoptions taking place. She’s excited that her company will continue to grow and change to fit the consumer’s demand.  

Kyani was first introduced to all that supply entails through her mentor when she was an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. As a 2016 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar, she graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management and Logistics and a minor in African and African American Studies. In 2021, she completed an MBA at LSU Shreveport. 

Her journey at Nestle Purina North America began as an intern and included a number of other positions leading to her newly promoted role of Materials Manager at Purina’s new Dry facility. Her expectations of supply chain changed once she entered the workforce and she gained a better understanding about how many other business units the supply chain industry touches.  She sees supply chain as being essential to making the overall process and success of a business flow.  

Kyani’s advice to other young women interested in a supply chain career includes “being adventurous” and taking advantage of opportunities, such as career fairs, all through the college years. She is an example of that herself, serving as president of WISE (Women Impacting Supply Chain Excellence) – a University of Arkansas student organization focused on promoting the field of supply chain management/logistics. She also recommends that young women who are interested in a supply chain career connect with someone currently in the industry to get insights on the daily “ins and outs” of being a supply chain professional.  

Early in her career, Kyani has learned that working in supply chain opens a range of opportunities as the industry touches so many other business segments. She’s excited about the unlimited options offered by her chosen field.


Hayley Peterson

Meet Hayley Peterson, a 2020 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a 2021 Pennsylvania State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management. Hayley is currently participating in a Global Supply Planning Co-Op with Johnson & Johnson and will graduate in December.

Supply chain has always been a part of Hayley’s life; her dad studied business logistics at Penn State and has worked in the supply chain industry since before she was born. When Hayley applied to Penn State, she knew she wanted to be in the business school, however, she had not declared a major yet. In the fall of Hayley’s sophomore year, she chose to take an introductory supply chain class. She remembers on the third day of class, her professor showed a slide with eleven different common career paths for supply chain graduates. Because of this interesting set of diverse supply chain opportunities, she quickly decided to be a Supply Chain Management major.

Throughout Hayley’s experience at Penn State University, some of her most important learnings were supply chain concepts, communication strategies, and critical thinking skills. Her classes taught her an end-to-end view of the supply chain solutions. In addition to classroom learning, Hayley researched emerging supply chain issues for the Center of Supply Chain Research at Penn State during her junior year. As a team leader, she further improved her communication skills. More recently, through her internship experience, she developed her critical thinking skills to solve problems. Hayley will be able to implement the skills learned in class, research projects, and internships throughout her career.

Although Hayley has not entered the workforce yet, she has gained real-world supply chain experience through co-op programs. As soon as Hayley decided to major in Supply Chain Management, she interviewed for and accepted a demand planning co-op position with Hershey. While working at Hershey, she realized how her role as a demand planner affected the entire supply chain. After this experience, Hayley decided that she wanted to start working in a rotational program to get additional professional and leadership experience in various disciplines.

“The co-op program at Hershey allowed me to learn and explore all parts of the supply chain after graduation. The biggest surprise was how important flexibility is in supply chain careers. Each day was different, and I learned how to adjust and react quickly.” She now is broadening her experience through  the Johnson & Johnson Co-Op.

One of the main reasons Hayley chose supply chain was because it offered career flexibility. There are so many different parts of a supply chain (procurement, operations, planning) and Hayley wanted the opportunity to rotate through every department and continuously learn new parts of the business in order to gain a wider perspective. Hayley’s excited to start a profession in supply chain management and make an impact.

“In the supply chain professional industry, each day is different. Especially in today’s world where COVID-19 is forcing supply chains to change their processes and the way they work. I believe companies will need to become more resilient and more flexible in the future. For them to survive, the critical factor will be balancing resilience and optimization. I’m excited to learn the new processes for effectively managing supply chains, and to be in an industry where I learn something new every day.”


Katie Gustas 

Meet Katie Gustas, a 2019 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a 2020 Penn State University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Logistics, Materials and Supply Chain Management.

Katie’s path to supply chain began at a young age while watching episodes of “How It’s Made.” She was curious about how things are made, what they are made of, and how they get to the consumer. Katie was naturally drawn to problem-solving, being efficient, and being able to make a difference.

While in high school, Katie spent summers working full time as a packer on the assembly line of an ice cream cone factory. She was responsible for working closely with production and had exposure to the warehouse and procurement. It was here that Katie learned about distribution, and in particular, batch sizes, run rates, turnovers, and more.

When Katie took her first Supply Chain class at Penn State University, she knew it was the right major for her. During her junior year, Katie received a cooperative opportunity with Johnson & Johnson in Supply and Demand Planning department. She attended a weekly Risk and Recovery meeting where leaders discussed potential areas of risk and the various solutions for recovery. At Johnson & Johnson, she learned about preventative measures within the supply chain, the solutions needed to solve the potential risks, and the importance of creating and maintaining a resilient supply chain. What surprised Katie most through this experience was seeing how the supply chain department worked and collaborated with other departments such as finance, marketing, packaging, etc. to complete deliverables.

Katie wrote an honors thesis on drone optimization for medical use in Sub-Saharan Africa. The focus of her thesis was on the optimization strategy Zipline uses to deliver blood products across Rwanda to save lives.

“Knowing that we can optimize supply chains and utilize new innovations to save lives is what excites me the most for my future career in supply chain. I may not be the one creating new technologies, but I am certainly able to help implement them, and to me, that is the most fulfilling.”

As Katie reflects on her supply chain and AWESOME Scholar experience, she remembers an inspirational speech delivered by Kathy Wengel, an AWESOME Advisory Board member and Executive Vice President & Chief Global Supply Chain Officer for Johnson & Johnson. Katie remembers Kathy telling the audience to “find your passion and create your own story,” and also that “professionals in supply chain are capable of improving lives.” These words left a mark on Katie and helped her stay confident especially while interviewing.

Katie spent the summer of 2019 in New York as an intern at KPMG, which turned into a full-time opportunity as a Life Sciences Core Operations Advisory Associate. In that role, she is part of a team that helps execute process and strategy improvements related to supply chain and operational improvement projects. She received a scholarship award to the Supply Chain Management Master’s program at MIT.


Yailynn Melendez

Meet Yailynn Melendez, a 2020 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and an upcoming 2021 Colorado State graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a minor in Global Environmental Sustainability. Yailynn will be joining Target’s global supply chain team as an Inventory Analyst at their HQs in Minneapolis upon graduation in May.

Yailynn first learned about supply chain when she was 17, while reading a New York Times article that focused on Sambazon. The company strategically gained the açaí export market by paying farmers higher wages and encouraged the use of sustainable harvesting practices. Yailynn was immediately interested in the philosophy, as it matched her passion for the environment and for the supply chain industry. Yailynn originally thought her career path would be ecology-based, however, after learning about supply chain, she hasn’t looked back.”

As a college  student, Yailynn has loved learning about the different success drivers in supply chains. She found that using the health of our ecological systems as a driver is her passion. Yailynn says that her decision to major in supply chain is attributed to Yvon Chouinard’s book, “Let My People Go Surfing,” and his explanation for Patagonia’s philosophies on production, distribution, and management.

“Patagonia’s business strategy emphasizes using the best practices that cause no unnecessary harm, not only to reduce the company’s ecological footprint but to drive a higher return on investment. In supply chain, the operations, materials, and processes all have an impact on the people and environment in which they’re manufactured, produced, or mined. We live in such an interconnected world, yet also detached from where our products come from. As I begin my career in supply chain, I hope to work on impact initiatives that implement sustainable business solutions.”

While in class, she learned that strategic communication helps build agility in supply chains and how contract negotiations have a place in every project. During her internship, Yailynn learned about the importance of visibility and collaborating with suppliers.

“I’ve always been taught that suppliers value transparency. While interning, I was able to understand how that directly ties into the success of a partnership. Although I didn’t realize it in class, being in the workplace helped me recognize that relationship management is my favorite aspect of supply chain.”

Yailynn is excited to find a challenging career that forces her to find innovative solutions to an ever-changing global market. She lives for the opportunity to deliver impactful results in an industry that excites her most and also hopes to work on improving a company’s sustainable business practices.

“Supply chain is a broad spectrum, but in essence, it’s an ever-evolving puzzle that requires continuous problem solving and finding a part of the puzzle that speaks to you. It’s important to find networks that will encourage you to seek out your internship, develop mentorship relationships, and help you navigate  through any questions you have about the industry.  Finding your voice in the workplace may take time, but never underestimate yourself or your skills.”

Last semester, Yailynn took a risk mitigation seminar. Throughout all her research, “pandemic” was listed as a vulnerability but always in the sense of small outbreaks in particular parts of a country. As Yailynn reflects on her supply chain experience and the impact COVID-19 has on supply chain, she finds it interesting how different sectors pivot current production to adjust to the unprecedented levels of demand for certain commodities. She believes this will redesign the way organizations prepare for risk planning.

“I think now it’s about redesigning our new normal. Companies will stress agility, being able to evolve with rapidly changing circumstances, and have strong recovery plans. I am interested to see if and how different companies will approach reshoring following the global pandemic.”


Danielle Willmott

Meet Danielle Willmott, a 2015 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a 2015 Syracuse University graduate with a Dual Bachelor’s Degree in Supply Chain Management and Advertising. Danielle’s interest in supply chain grew during her sophomore at Syracuse University when she realized how much planning, coordination, and management of logistics went into managing supply chains. It was fascinating to her. At that time, Danielle also realized that her skill sets and core strengths were aligned with the industry and applied for a major in Supply Chain Management. Danielle knew it was right for her.

As a process-driven person, Danielle’s academic goal was to study and understand every component of supply chain, and, in particular, how they interconnect and work together. She found the various specialties and different opportunities within supply chain interesting and wanted to learn more about all of them.

“I feel that the most important and influential learning from my supply chain studies has been my new understanding of the true vastness of the industry. I never truly understood until starting my career all of the different components that make a supply chain function. It is amazing how much there is to learn and there is so much opportunity to take your career in different directions.”

Danielle is currently a Senior Manager in Contract Reporting & Analytics at Johnson & Johnson. Her responsibilities include oversight of reporting and analytics related to the end-to-end process that customers use to secure contracts and purchase products. Although Danielle’s role is not in Johnson & Johnson’s Supply Chain department, she works closely with them by analyzing customer data associated with their orders.

“My role is very data-oriented and it is my responsibility to help understand and manage all of the systems and processes that produce data for our organization so that I am able to produce reports that help us make informed data-driven decisions. I find it interesting to learn more about every aspect of a customer’s experience to get them their needed product.”

As Danielle reflects on her academic and professional experiences, her advice for other young women consists of three principles. First, supply chain is so much more than the basics we learned in school. Go out and explore and learn because a profession in supply chain has so much to offer. Next, do whatever you can to push yourself out of your comfort zone, because that is where you will truly grow. Don’t be afraid to do it early in your career. Finally, reach out and build relationships with others in the industry, whether it be the AWESOME Scholars community or other networking organizations, or with professors at your university.

“There are incredibly talented leaders in the supply industry willing to help and so many opportunities to be learned and earned.”


Alex Kester

Meet Alex Kester, a 2014 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management. Alex earned a Master’s degree in Engineering and Systems Management from Naveen Jindal School of Management, University of Texas, Dallas.

Alex’s interest in supply chain came from her dad. “My Dad first introduced me to the idea of a Supply Chain Management degree. Around the time I was applying to college he accepted a role in SCM and his job sounded like an exciting challenge.  From my first supply chain course I knew this would be a career path that I would enjoy, as I thrive on change and new ideas. Supply Chain could not have been a better fit.”

During college, Alex’s most influential course was Global Supply Chain Management. The focus on modern supply chain’s global nature and how to navigate in a global environment taught her the many cultural and regulatory differences, as well as how to differentiate import/export licensing and negotiate and check contract terms and conditions carefully. This was especially helpful when she managed the account for a supplier in the Netherlands and could implement what she had learned.

“The supply chain will only become more globally integrated, so I think it’s imperative for students to learn. In school you expect that everything will go by the book and you’ll always get to an easy answer if you just follow the process. However, this is rarely the case. There will often be curve balls thrown at you that you must learn to anticipate and mitigate. The most surprising thing to me was that there might not always be a correct answer when dealing with suppliers. Yes, there are contracts and purchase orders in place, but building an effective relationship with your suppliers is often the best way to get changes executed and have timely deliveries.”

As a Senior Operations Engineer at Lockheed Martin, what Alex finds most exciting about her role is that the Supply Chain is “where the magic happens,” especially in her industry where 70% of the cost of the product is procured. In her opinion this is where the opportunity to have the most impact on cost and schedule resides. She enjoys that supply chain is a constant learning environment, there is always a better or faster way to get to the result and you just have to find it.

During the past year, COVID-19 has drastically changed the way her company sees work getting accomplished. “In the defense industry, most people thought it was essential to be on site to get work done. What they have learned is that their employees just need to be connected to get work done. Virtual workspaces are becoming more important than ever, and I believe will remain a primary way to communicate even when we have returned to the office. The supply chain is resilient and has adapted to the new working environment well. The need for supply chains to be adaptable has been tested through COVID-19 and I think companies will build more redundancy into them to help combat disruptions in the future.”

As Alex reflects on her academic and professional experience, her advice for other young woman is “be prepared to wear many hats in a role in supply chain.” She rarely has had a boring day in any of her positions. She says, “Sometimes you’re negotiating a contract and at other time, you’re helping prioritize delivery schedules. To have a successful career in SCM a person needs to be a problem solver and not shy away from a challenge. Being the person that runs toward the fire will get you recognized and help advance your career.”


Monica Sewell

Meet Monica Sewell, a 2018 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a 2019 University of Arkansas graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Supply Chain Management.

Monica first became familiar with supply chain while taking an introductory class at the University of Arkansas. She was interested in the way that companies revolve around supply chain and by the amount of cost savings achieved when supply chains operate efficiently. Monica decided to make Supply Chain Management one of her majors and although she did not know much about supply chain at that time, she knew it would offer a lot of growth and opportunity.

“While studying Supply Chain Management, I took away a particularly important learning that without supply chain, businesses do not exist. Supply chain is truly an art and a science and having an academic background in supply chain has helped me in my career because I am able to understand what’s ‘behind the scenes’ and apply it to what I do.”

After graduation, Monica began her professional journey as a Business Management Associate at General Mills. Although Monica’s current role is not directly in the supply chain department, her academic experience helped her understand the fundamentals and challenges and apply them to her current role. Monica quickly learned how supply chain is a critical component to her day-to-day responsibilities. She collaborates often with supply chain colleagues to get aligned on assumptions and the current offers that are being made to their customers. While working at General Mills, a multinational manufacturer, Monica saw firsthand the impact and challenges COVID-19 has caused the supply and demand chain around the world.

As Monica reflects on her supply chain experience academically and professionally, she’s inspired by all the women making a difference in supply chain. She credits the University of Arkansas and the AWESOME Scholars Program for offering her the opportunity to meet some of the most influential women in supply chain and mentors that have helped her find the way.


Ellie House

Meet Ellie House, a 2017 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a 2018 graduate with a dual bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management and Accounting from the University of Kansas (KU).

Ellie first learned about supply chain as a career from Professor Roger Woody who presented about an upcoming Supply Chain Management (SCM) Club trip to Louisville, Kentucky in her statistics class sophomore year. “Roger listened to me speak about my interests in international business and convinced me that I simply must attend his trip and explore the experiential learning curriculum that he had developed for supply chain at KU. While in Louisville, I had the opportunity to tour the largest UPS Worldport, as well as a nearby UPS Supply Chain Solutions center, and several other logistics operations in the area. The Worldport tour was a pivotal moment for me. I remember standing in awe in the center of the Louisville Airport watching UPS employees seamlessly process millions of packages from all around the world in a matter of hours.”

During the remainder of her time in the KU Supply Chain Management program, she attended five domestic trips and two focused study abroad programs to logistics clusters in Panama and Northern Europe. In total, the seven trips that she attended with the KU SCM Club continued to evolve her perspective and grow her love for supply chain. “Studying supply chain taught me about the complexities and interdependencies that exist between people, processes, and technologies within organizations. I learned to approach problems with a process-driven mindset and be mindful of change management. My involvements with the KU SCM Club, CSCMP, and AWESOME taught me the extent to which relationships matter in the professional world.”

Ellie’s learnings have paid off during her time in the Operations Leadership Development Program at Lockheed Martin. She has seen the supply chain through three different roles in supply chain strategy, supplier quality, and industrial engineering. In her current role as an Industrial Engineer, she has leveraged her Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification to improve complex systems and facilitate change management across the organization. Ellie also credits her perspectives to an internship with Deloitte Consulting that taught her the power that information systems have to enhance or hinder supply chains and data availability. “My supply chain classes shaped the way that I view the world around me, while my experiential learning opportunities have provided me with tools to apply that mindset,” she remarks.

Her expectations of supply chain have changed with industry experience as she has discovered some of the challenges that exist. Leaving academia, she was instilled with a very holistic view of the supply chain. Working at large corporations, Ellie has seen the ways that silos disrupt supply chain continuity and create the disconnects that exist as forecasting, planning, procurement, receiving, warehousing, and operations work side-by-side but ultimately report up to different organizational chains. She has made efforts within her various roles to explain the importance of communication systems within the supply chain and work to bridge these divides. She hopes to continue emphasizing the significance of organizational alignment throughout her career.

During the past year, Ellie thinks that Covid-19 has created a much greater awareness about supply chains and how essential they are to the world. She believes this pandemic will encourage us all to be more strategic about sourcing decisions, risk mitigation plans, and the distance of goods from the customer. The supply chain, like many other aspects of business, will need to become increasingly more agile to meet the demands and unforeseen risks of the future. Additionally, Ellie notes that a silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic is the extra time that it has given us to learn about, and consider, the world around us. She has been taking this time to learn more about supply chain sustainability initiatives and develop her future career goals.

Ellie would encourage young women considering supply chain as a career to jump in and learn more! “There is so much diversity in the opportunities that the supply chain has to offer. My biggest takeaway from the 2019 AWESOME Symposium was that women are inherently less confident in their abilities and willingness to take risks. I always encourage young women to recognize the power of their voice and make their own seat at the table. We have intrinsic strengths and diversity of thought that add value to any business. My involvement with AWESOME has shown me how impactful women can be in supply chain leadership and I will continue to advocate for that as I encourage other women to realize their full potential in the field.”


Gabriela Lamas Oporto

Meet Gabriela Lamas, a 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate with a Master’s Degree in Supply Chain Management and a 2019 AWESOME/MIT Advancing Women through Education (AWE) Fellow.

Prior to studying Supply Chain Management at MIT, Gabriela worked in manufacturing, however, had very little visibility to end-to-end value supply chain solutions. In 2014, Gabriela joined Johnson & Johnson’s Global Operations Leadership and Development (GOLD) program. The GOLD program gave her exposure to every aspect of a supply chain, including leadership rotations in manufacturing, replenishment, and end-to-end operations. When Gabriela initially joined GOLD, she wasn’t sure if supply chain was right for her, however by the time she graduated the program, she knew it was the right career. After graduating from GOLD, Gabriela spent over three years leading key strategic initiatives and was a program manager for new medical products where she got to see how the entire ecosystem of supply chain connected, in a stretch assignment.

“Supply chains are the heart of every business and as a problem solver, this is where I love to drive value! I encourage any woman that loves problem-solving, working on teams, communicating, and driving results, that supply chain is right for you.”

Academically, Gabriela’s experience has taught her to integrate data and use it in a way that brings value to the business. Her professional experience helped her learn how to manage data and the importance of leveraging technology in our new digital world. Gabriela also now understands the importance of knowing the company’s strategy, understanding the bigger picture, and particularly how the supply chain plays a vital role in meeting the company’s objectives.

“There’s a growing need for data and transparency in businesses. As a newer supply chain professional, we have an opportunity to lead these changes, and at the same time be connected to every aspect of the business, which makes our ability to create value an essential trait.”

Gabriela is currently leading the deployment of Digital and Data Analytics in one of Johnson & Johnson Medical Device SC platforms. Gabriela observes two ways in which COVID-19 is impacting Johnson & Johnson. She explains the first is how COVID-19 highlighted what they already knew was a challenge, the need for supply chain end-to-end visibility and the use of advanced analytics to drive customer connected solution and operational excellence. She foresees them investing in capabilities that truly make their supply chain more agile and hopes that COVID-19 will speed up the adoption of their capabilities. Gabriela says the second impact is the realization that working from home is an option. She believes working from home all the time may not be sustainable for a business, but that the company is now aware that business still carries on.

“As a young woman looking to start a family someday, knowing that this may be an option, balancing working from home and the office, is exciting to me!”

Ashley Servais

Meet Ashley Servais, a 2020 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and an upcoming 2021 Texas Christian University graduate with a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Supply & Value Chain Management and Marketing, and a certificate in Consultative Selling from the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University.

As the daughter of two supply chain professionals, Ashley has been learning about supply chain her entire life. Her mother is a Senior Director of Transportation and International Operations at Office Depot and her father is a VP of Operations for a small chemical company. Ashley has watched both of her parents serve as a crucial connection between various international distributors and suppliers. Since Ashley was already familiar with the industry, she began taking classes as a Supply Chain Management major during her first semester and has never looked back.

“Throughout my supply chain courses, I grew to love the wide variety that a career in Supply Chain Management holds. Demand Planning, Procurement, and Logistics all look completely different – and I am excited to start a career in a field with so many possibilities.”

One of the many important lessons Ashley has learned for her academic experience is to constantly analyze the ripple effects of any given solution, and that each alternative carries multiple consequences that affect various business departments. One of her fonder memories is when one of her professors, Travis Tokar, dedicated a lecture to the impact of the supply chain and taught the class how to break down the different components that logistically go into the manufacturing and delivery of the simplest products.

“We also learned about a hypothetical world without a supply chain. Even though it is easy for professionals to lose our wonder, it is important to keep in mind the greater purpose and significance of Supply Chain Management as a whole. Together, we connect different parts, businesses, and even countries, making the world a brighter, more unified place.”

Ashley will graduate next May 2021, and has already accepted a full-time role in Dell Technologies Supply Chain Development Program. As she looks towards her future as a supply chain professional, Ashley knows that Covid-19 will change the way businesses view sourcing. She’s hopeful that companies who rely on international outsourcing will return to the home country and understand the need for greater flexibility and adaptability in manufacturing capabilities. As a dual major, Ashley is excited to see the deeper connections between Supply Chain Management and Marketing and looks forward to blending both skill sets and mindsets in her future career.

“Supply Chain Management professionals should continue to remember the value of having a career in supply chain holds. Together, we have the potential to impact not only business, but the world. Remembering the connection-driven purpose of Supply Chain Management as a whole has been the most influential take away from my studies thus far, and I am hopeful that my dual major makes me an even more dynamic Supply Chain professional in the future.”

Alyson Weber

Meet Alyson Weber, a 2019 AWESOME Scholar and a 2020 graduate of Syracuse University – Martin J. Whitman School of Management with a Bachelor’s Degree in Supply Chain Management.

Alyson first became interested in supply chain while taking an introductory course during her sophomore year. In this course, Alyson’s professor addressed current events taking place around the world and the impact that supply chain has on the economy. She also learned about the complex, analytical, and innovative aspects of supply chain. Alyson’s professor was enthusiastic and passionate about supply chain and the potential for impactful change. She decided to change her major after this course and has never looked back. She knew it was the right decision and would lead to numerous exciting career opportunities in the future.

As Alyson reflected on her academic experience majoring in Supply Chain Management, she said that learning how supply chain interconnects globally was one of the most influential topics discussed in her classes. She also learned the importance of understanding all the factors beyond bottom-line costs in order to develop a strategic set of diversified suppliers and maintain resilience in one’s supply chain.

“It’s important to understand why we engage with international suppliers in so many industries today. I needed to learn about how government trade regulations, labor costs, and exchange rates are all related and can impact sourcing decisions and costs for a company in the United States,” she said.

Alyson advises young women studying supply chain to think beyond logistics or operations and learn about all the different career options for supply chain. She foresees that exciting new career opportunities and impactful change will be brought by new technological innovations and continuous improvement methodologies entering the industry.

“I would tell young women to take classes and look for internships in as many different supply chain areas as possible. This exposure will deepen your understanding in how the entire supply chain flows. ”

In July, Alyson began her career in supply chain as a Sourcing Analyst at General Mills and looks forward to creating positive change not only for the company’s financial performance, but hopefully someday for the environment, food security, and labor conditions for manufacturing and farming too.

“I am incredibly excited to begin my career at General Mills and work with other passionate individuals to solve unique and interesting sourcing problems in our supply chain. It’s very fulfilling to know that the work my team does ultimately have a downstream impact on consumers’ shared experiences that are created while eating the products we make,” she added.

Nancy Odero

Meet Nancy Odero, a 2014 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a 2015 Miami University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Supply Chain and Operations Management.

Nancy first applied as a major in Finance, however, after attending an information session on Supply Chain Management (a relatively new major at Miami’s Farmer School of Business) and learning more, Nancy knew that Supply Chain Management was the right major for her.

When Nancy graduated and started working, she loved being in the trenches and managing the challenges of supply chains. When being interviewed for her AWESOME Scholar Spotlight, Nancy said that the two most important and influential things she’s learned while studying supply chain are to embrace change and to seek improvements in the way things are done.

“Supply Chain is about continuously seeking improvements. Nothing is perfect, there is always a better way to get things done. It’s an ever-evolving industry and as more and more innovations come into play, you need to learn to fully embrace change to thrive and excel.”

Nancy adds that in times of economic distress, such as the devastating impact that COVID-19 is having on the global economy, supply chain logistics and demand have been exposed more than ever. She envisions in a post COVID-19 that organizations must embrace digitization in order to build more resilient supply chains.

Nancy has recently accepted a new role that is a small pivot away from supply chain. She’s always found the challenge of continuous improvements to be most exciting. She loved the opportunity to work behind the scenes, be part of the process that enables others to get what they need when they need it and to take what she learned as a Supply Chain major and experience it every day.

Nancy is currently working for Moko Home + Living as a Senior Project Lead within the Business Operations team in Nairobi, Kenya. Her goal within the company is to ensure the operations are running as effectively as possible, which includes a variety of cross-functional projects. Nancy is the acting head of the Operations team which includes inventory, facilities management and dispatch/delivery. She has been working closely with the team to streamline their processes and establish stronger structure to ensure high performance.

“Every organization goes through periods of change and being in the SCM field you need to learn to embrace it or be left behind. Supply Chain is all about improvements, and you need to continuously seek to improve processes as there is always a more efficient way to get things done.”

Kailey Peterson

Meet Kailey Peterson, a 2019 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a 2020 Michigan State University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Logistics, Materials and Supply Chain Management.

Kailey was initially set on a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business, however, when she began applying to colleges, she was fortunate enough to meet with a student relations director who introduced to her to Supply Chain Management. After learning more, Kailey felt that supply chain was more aligned to her interpersonal skills and her desire to drive change.

While studying at Michigan State, Kailey said that since her degree encompasses operations management, logistics, and procurement management, that fully understanding the various ways supply chain impacts corporations was extremely important as a foundation for the technical skills she needs today.

“My degree encompasses operations management, logistics and procurement management, which can be reframed as producing, moving, and selling of products. Supply chain supports every industry and is essential to having a successful business.”

After graduation, Kailey accepted an offer with Kohler Company as a Supply Chain Associate. She’s in the trenches every day and is learning the complexity of supply chain, the factors that go into problem-solving and decision-making, as well as all the parts that can be interchanged to solve one problem.

“The most exciting part about starting my career is the endless possibilities it holds. One of the great things about supply chain is that it is such a vast and dynamic field. There is so much to learn about supply chain that it inspires me to innovate and collaborate with the best and brightest of the industry — especially during these uncertain times, where the needs of supply chains are constantly changing, pushing me to learn and grow.”

When asked about the impact that COVID-19 has on supply chain, Kailey feels that COVID-19 has uncovered an overlooked component in supply chain—the importance of human labor. In addition to human labor, she mentions that the other challenges the global supply chain is currently facing include locating and procuring materials, having enough lead time, and the diversity of resource management.

As Kailey reflects on her supply journey thus far, she is happy that she’s in an industry that offers an infinite field of possibilities and also offers the opportunity to continuously learn and evolve.

“The opportunity to try new things comes naturally in this industry and will always allow for critical thinking and self-discovery. I cannot emphasize enough how versatile and outstanding the world of supply chain is and would urge young women to get involved and help us change the standard of a male-dominated industry.”

As an AWESOME Scholar, Kailey says the AWESOME program teaches her advanced learnings, new ideas, and innovations that she brings to her full-time career. Last year, she had the opportunity to attend as part of AWESOME the CSCMP Edge conference in Anaheim which exposed her to women supply chain leaders and adds that being part of the AWESOME community has not only increased her technical knowledge of supply chain but also her confidence.

Hannah Walcher

Meet Hannah Walcher, a 2016 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a 2017 Colorado State University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Concentration in Supply Chain Management.

Hannah started learning about supply chain while taking an introductory level class at Colorado State University. Immediately after attending the first class, Hannah declared it her major. Hannah’s interest in supply chain wasn’t a surprise. As a little girl, she played with trains and Legos, and never missed an episode of the show “How It’s Made.” Hannah is certain this was the right decision.

“Supply chain management is logical and systematic while being full of opportunity for creative
problem-solving. It connected the dots between the subjects I was interested in, matched my passion for making an impact, and my skillset for solving problems.”

After graduation, Hannah accepted a position as a Supply Chain Associate at Johns Manville. As a professional, she learned right away that real application was more complicated than in theory. From a technical standpoint, Hannah quickly became an Excel expert, learned how to visualize and present data, and how to structure business-critical negotiations.

“In a lot of organizations, cost is the #1 factor when evaluating operational solutions, supplier partners or capital investments. In theory the right solution or partner should mitigate risk, be the ethically superior option, and provide additional innovative/value-add benefits. Defaulting to defending cost as total landed cost and quantifying the value of productivity or brand reputation was a habit that had to be developed.”

As Hannah reflects on her academic experience, understanding the many ways that supply chains were both connected and interdependent within an organization was very helpful. Other key takeaways include learning how a supplier’s actions can impact multiple levels within an organization and beyond, how to present data effectively, and how communication and alignment of priorities were critical to achieving success.

Today, Hannah has been in the supply chain profession for three years and is now an Internal Auditor at Johns Manville. Her current responsibilities include conducting on-site audits of operational processes, global manufacturing plants, and financial transactions. Hannah enjoys waking up and using her supply chain management skills to make an impact at Johns Manville in an atypical application.

“The favorite parts of my career thus far have been opportunities to see operational processes firsthand, whether it be a raw materials supplier’s mine in the Midwest or one of our manufacturing plants in Germany. Seeing it, understanding it, and determining how it can be completed with greater efficiencies, safety, and quality makes me feel eager for the future of my career.”

Ashlyn Bowman

Meet Ashlyn Bowman, a 2020 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar who is studying Supply Chain Management and International Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Ashlyn was first introduced to supply chain in high school when she took a business course that focused on different functions within businesses. The course on supply chain, in particular, piqued Ashlyn’s interest. Ashlyn naturally wanted to learn more and decided to join a mentorship program with United Parcel Service (UPS). At UPS, Ashlyn learned how logistics and operations work together and how technology supports supply chain’s critical need to problem solve quickly. She enjoyed that each day was unpredictable and a continuous learning experience. It was then that Ashlyn knew a career in supply chain was the perfect match.

“It makes me excited to know my work and ideas can have a meaningful impact. The opportunities in supply chain are diverse and plentiful. The idea of being able to expand my horizon and learn the supply chain from end to end is motivating to me. You can’t put supply chain in a box, and I am inspired that my career can reach as far as I push myself.”

As Ashlyn began studying and working in supply chain, she quickly realized that the supply chain process is about filling the gap between expectations and reality. She looks forward to problem-solving situations in which there are multiple solutions.

“We deliver on promises that have been made. I’ve learned that everything can’t be perfectly planned, however, I have the capabilities to fill in that gap. It’s something I’ve translated to all parts of my life, not just my future career in supply chain. People will always have expectations, but you can only control the reality and make the best of that chance.”

One thing in particular that inspires Ashlyn is the advances that have been made within the supply chain function and the ripple effect they have on every function throughout an organization. She believes now more than ever companies will rely on partnering firms to help the demand and supply flow process. Ashlyn added that COVID-19 has pushed companies to prove their capabilities and prioritize.

Ashlyn is happy she pursued a career in supply chain, and particularly as a female. Being an AWESOME Scholar, she feels reassured to be part of an organization that empowers women in supply chain at every stage in their career. She recognizes that it’s become one of the most innovative fields in business and the search for outstanding women in supply chain is in high demand.

“Supply chain is influential and will continue to procure the next leaders and new CEO’s. To have women in those positions will alter what the industry could look like down the road. It’s time to rise up and lead the way.”

Zoe Mattis

Meet Zoe Mattis, a 2017 AWESOME Excellence in Education Scholar and a 2017 Lehigh University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Supply Chain Management and Logistics.

Zoe is currently employed at Air Products as the North American Fleet Business Improvement Lead with one of her responsibilities being quantifying various telemetry data types including runouts, cycle times, and maintenance costs to increase productivity as well as identify opportunities to decrease the number of return trips.

Prior to Air Products, Zoe worked at Nestle Waters where she brought inventory costs to an all-time low by reviewing their current supply process, delivering the necessary amount of raw materials to the optimal locations and implementing a plan to maintain a record-low Days on Hand (DOH) of raw materials for Co-Manufacturing locations.

Zoe has been an AWESOME Scholars Excellence in Education since she graduated in 2015. Zoe’s interest in supply chain started in college when she reached out to professors to explore a degree in Supply Chain Management and Logistics. She loved how passionate they were about the work they accomplished in the field prior to entering academia and their diverse career trajectories.

“When I first started at Lehigh University, I originally wanted to pursue a dual degree in engineering and business. I wanted to combine my passion for mechanical engineering and my love of business, but then found out that my “love” for mechanical engineering was not about how things function – it was how things are made.”

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoe sees firsthand the impact that COVID-19 has on supply chain as well as the shifts in demand and the need for customer prioritization. Air Products, where Zoe is currently employed, provides industrial gases and related equipment to dozens of industries, touching the lives of consumers every day. Now more than ever, they’re focused on gathering teams and working together to support any facility that has a need for medical oxygen, holding safety as their number one priority.

Zoe goes on to say that the most influential and important learning from studying and living the world of supply chain revolves around agility.

“Agility focuses on being able to keep up with the flow of changes in business and adaptation to meet stakeholder needs. This is something that I struggled with prior to studying supply chain, as it was tough  to be flexible when plans didn’t go their originally planned way. This has been a critical skill in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and has proved invaluable in my professional and personal life.”

As Zoe thinks about her career in supply chain what excites her most is the endless opportunity. She’s inspired by the various career paths, business sectors, and organizations that have robust supply chain programs. Zoe finds the possibility to grow and morph into a different industry at a moment’s notice exciting and enjoys waking up every morning with anticipation of what the day will bring, especially a time when supply chain is facing new challenges than ever before.

“There are so many different career paths, business sectors, and organizations that have robust supply chains. Having this experience is invaluable and it is energizing to know that there is a possibility to grow and morph into a different industry at the drop of a hat. I also find that every day in the supply chain is a little bit different, and there is always something new to tackle. It is fun to see what each day brings, especially during the current times with supply chains facing new challenges than ever before.”


McKenzie Meehan

Meet McKenzie Meehan, a 2019 AWESOME Scholar and a 2020 graduate of the University of Arkansas – Sam M. Walton College of Business. McKenzie was also named one of the school’s Outstanding Supply Chain Management Students.

McKenzie’s career journey began when she took an Introduction to Supply Chain course taught by Stephanie Powell Thomas, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor at Walton College of Business. Dr. Thomas has since become a mentor to McKenzie.

“Professor Thomas teaches by integrating theory and material with her personal experiences of working in the supply chain industry,” McKenzie shared. “Her stories and lessons made me really interested in the relationship and problem-solving aspects of supply chain.” In a recent interviewwith her favorite professor, McKenzie said that changing her major to supply chain was the best thing she’s ever done.

“It’s been a privilege to work with and mentor McKenzie,” Professor Thomas shared. ”She is so authentic and I’m so proud of all that McKenzie accomplished at the University of Arkansas, but I know this is just the tip of the iceberg for her. She is truly AWESOME!”

In her Scholar Spotlight e-interview, McKenzie touched on the disruption of COVID-19 on supply chain and how businesses need to react quickly to changing conditions in order to meet customer needs. She feels inspired by the new innovations, discoveries, and technologies that have entered the supply chain industry during a time of devastation.

McKenzie is currently working at General Mills Inc. as a Sales Associate on the Walmart account team. She hopes to support the Cereal product team as she did during a prior internship at the company and continue to work with brands such as Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Reese’s Puffs.

“Everything General Mills is doing now, especially with COVID-19, really makes me feel like I have a purpose and that I am joining a company that is helping people maintain a sense of normalcy during a time of change and unsureness.”

As an AWESOME Scholar, McKenzie looks towards connecting with numerous industry leaders and to continue learning all the different areas of supply chain. The distinction has also provided her the opportunity to be a champion for AWESOME and, eventually, mentor future AWESOME Scholars.

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