Highlights of the May 2017 Symposium



VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS of the 2017 Symposium




More Symposium Highlights



Panel of leading business school deans on The Future of Women’s Leadership: Achieving Gender Equity in Business Education & Beyond


Panel of senior male leaders on Leveraging Diversity: How Companies and Colleagues are Changing the Leadership Environment


Panel of pioneering women in architecture and urban design


Up-Close Conversation with Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont from 2009 to 2015 and Donna Zarcone, CEO of the Economic Club of Chicago


Out in Front with Pat Mitchell, media industry leader and President & CEO of Pat Mitchell Media and TEDWomen


Out in Front with Trish Lukasik, COO of SpotHero. Trish also spoke to Emerging Leaders.


Emerging Leaders heard Leadership Lessons from panel of leading women in supply chain and participated in workshop with Daniella Levitt, author of Ready, Set…RISK! — Positive Strategies and Tactics for Women to Turn Career Risk into Opportunity


Dana Stiffler, VP of Research for Gartner, discussed results of 2017 AWESOME/Gartner Women in Supply Chain Study


Leveraging Networks

A panel of leading women in supply chain offered insights about personal networks and company networks – and multiple ways connections can be successfully leveraged. Panelists were:

Micaela Bulich, VP Onshore Wind Global Supply Chain, GE Renewables

Michelle Dilley, Chief Supply Chain Transformation Officer, DSC Logistics

Linda Guzzi, SVP Enterprise Sourcing and Business Optimization, McKesson

Amy White, VP Global Planning and Executive Sponsor of Nike’s Women of Operations, NIKE, Inc.

Moderator was Sarah Pfaff, Principal, Ernst & Young Supply Chain Advisory Services

Focusing on the topic “Building Connections for a Networked Future,” panelists looked at networks from several perspectives. They and their companies recognize that as an end-to-end system, the supply chain connects with suppliers, partners and customers all along the chain. Fostering those connections and the communication and brainstorming that go with them can lead to new efficiencies, innovative ideas and best practices.

Connecting with other companies who may have similar situations and challenges is also valuable. Finding the right company or person to contact is the first step and that’s where a leader’s personal network – for example, a professional network such as AWESOME — can be helpful. Through networks, members widen their circle of contacts and find commonalities.

Panelists also talked about the benefits of a network to their own career. They see social media networks, such as LinkedIn, as potentially a good resource, not just for recruiting, but as a way to reconnect with people they’ve worked with in the past, to follow up with people they meet, and to ask questions and trade ideas through online forums.

2017 AWESOME Legendary Leadership (ALL) Award

The ALL Award was presented on May 3, 2017 – opening night of the AWESOME Symposium – to Francesca DeBiase, Chief Supply Chain and Sustainability Officer, McDonald’s Corporation, and Kristin French, retired Brigadier General, U.S. Army, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (Logistics and Materiel Readiness), U.S. Department of Defense.

Francesca BeBiase
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Kristin French
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Steps, decisions, experiences and actions that contributed to their success

Highlights of the Up-Close Conversation with Francesca and Kristin

Supportive parents

    • Both Francesca and Kristin mentioned the influence of their mothers in giving them confidence to pursue their careers. Francesca said her mother told her every day: “You’re smart and beautiful and can do whatever you set out to do as long as you work hard.” Francesca said “she might have been a little biased but that was okay for me. I really felt I could do anything.”

Kristin said her mother didn’t get to do a lot of things Kristen was able to do growing up and “she always empowered me to try to reach the fullest.” Although Kristin hadn’t any experience with the military and didn’t come from a military family, she had her parents full support when she decided to attend West Point.

Came to supply chain through other experiences

    • Francesca came to her career in supply chain working as a finance person for McDonald’s in Europe about the time the European Union was formed and borders began disappearing between countries. Francesca was involved in re-thinking McDonald’s strategy for locating their facilities and how they would distribute their products through Europe. She took on the role of support person to the supply chain organization and loved learning about the way things are made and the production facilities. She moved from finance to supply chain 15 years ago and advanced to Chief Supply Chain Officer.

While a cadet at West Point, Kristin spent a tour in Texas and worked in petroleum and logistics and “fell in love” with logistics. In the early stages, she did warehousing (receiving “stored issue and repair parts”), then progressed through the ranks to senior levels of leadership. When she retired from the military as a Brigadier General, she had the “opportunity of a lifetime” to work with the government in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a career civilian. She had originally wanted to fly helicopters.

Not afraid of the “big jobs”

    • As CSCO, Francesca realized the major impact a supply chain of McDonald’s scale and scope could have on the environment. She also saw “a lot of opportunities to embed sustainability in the business.” The position of Sustainability Officer opened up and Francesca suggested she combine that role with her supply chain role. Initially, she was told it was “too big a job.” It took two years – and, Francesca explained – a presentation she created on the topic to market the idea to everyone in the organization, but she succeeded in combining the roles.

Kristin’s years in the military included two deployments as a commander, resulting in her being awarded a bronze star for each. In 2003, she went to Iraq in the midst of the U.S. defeating Saddam Hussein and commanded a logistics squadron of 1,000 men and women providing multifunctional supplies and services throughout western Iraq. In 2013, she was commander of an expeditionary sustainment command in Afghanistan, leading 8,000 people doing all the logistics for the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. In the biggest, broadest view, Kristin says “One thing that makes America so strong is that we’re able to deploy anywhere at any time and sustain our combat forces overseas – and that’s because of logistics.”

Forming relationships outside the usual parameters

    • In her sustainability leadership role, Francesca and McDonald’s started a global roundtable for sustainable beef, bringing together the people who provide the beef for McDonald’s to agree on practices. She’s also a believer in transparency – and is making an effort to communicate to customers the quality of the beef based on the supply chain and the sustainability practices that deliver it.

As part of her responsibilities with the Department of Defense, Kristin is in the strategic level, making decisions that affect service members all across the globe. She currently holds bilateral discussions and forums with other countries and is the U.S. lead in a joint supply chain forum with English-speaking partners – UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

Supporting the advancement of women

    • Francesca also serves as the Global Advisor to McDonald’s Women’s Leadership Network. She’s working with women officers from around McDonald’s global operations on a business case for gender balance at the company (defined by McDonald’s as between 40% and 60% men and women). Francesca’s direct report leadership team is 50% women and 50% men and gender balance has been achieved throughout her teams as well as her emerging leaders.

Kristin recognizes that the only about 14-17% of military members are women, but women have made gains in many of the areas previously closed to them, including serving in aviation, on submarines and, most recently, in combat duty. She said that after hearing some of the discussion at the Symposium, one of her driving forces in the future is going to be “going out and trying to find young women who really can excel.” In 2016, Kristin attended a celebration of 40 years of women at West Point.

Giving Back

    • According to Francesca, “At a certain point in your career, you realize ‘I might know a few things and it’s time for me to give back.’” She focused on what she was really passionate about and now is active on the boards of Loyola University’s Supply and Value Chain Center and Hephzibah Children’s Association, a local organization where she lives that supports abused children. She’s also active in AWESOME events, and says coming to the AWESOME Symposium gives her “the inspiration and the courage to go on” with her demanding job and life.

When Kristin was in the military, she was not able to be on outside boards. Now that she’s a government civilian, she serves on the board of the National Industries of the Blind. There are 73 different agencies across the U.S. working with blind persons who produce items for the military. With Kristin’s background she is able to help them understand what’s needed most.

Words of Wisdom for other leaders

    • Francesca: 1. “Think about your situation as if it was your best friend or your daughter – and ask, ‘what would I want her to do?’” 2. “Don’t take your decisions too seriously. Make the decision – and go out and do it.” 3. “If you really think you have something to add and you don’t get a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Kristin: 1. “You have to be willing to take risks early on in your career and that might mean relocating or working in a job that’s not in your comfort zone, but you’ll learn from it and you’ll be a better person and more well-rounded because of it.” 2. “Think about the next 5 or 10 years and figure out what’s best for you regarding work/life balance.”


Day 3 of the Symposium — and the networking and learning just kept going

United Airlines Network Operations Center – the most sophisticated and technologically advanced nerve center in the airline industry

      • In addition to a behind-the-scenes look at United’s technology, AWESOME leaders met some of the company’s leading women, who talked about their responsibilities and their careers.

1871: the impressive new Center for Technology and Entrepreneurship in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart

      • Participants in this AWESOME tour were guided through the creative workspace located in the Merchandise Mart and learned about 1871’s education programs, incubators, and accelerators. They also heard first-hand from some aspiring entrepreneurs who are part of 1871’s WiSTEM program.

      • The entrepreneurs they met included:

        • Tiffany Mikell, AerialSpaces
        • Patrice Darby, GoNanny
        • Angela Rivera, InReach
        • Kara Scanlin, Lystr
        • Stella Ashaolu, WeSolv


The moderator was Jessica Williams, Co-Facilitator of the WiSTEM program, 1871

Architectural Tour: A guided walk through Chicago’s renowned architectural wonders with a special focus on the evolution of the skyscraper

In spite of a chill in the air, Symposium participants came back with an understanding of some of the city’s most outstanding buildings.

Signature BUZZ Sessions

One of the most popular features of the AWESOME Symposium is the “BUZZ”- talk around the table with other leaders. Conversations at the 2017 Symposium related to session topics and began with participants answering this question: What word best describes what you want to gain from the Symposium? The answers:

BUZZ Session comments also contribute to AWESOME Collected Wisdom, published in REALITY CHECK: Volume 6.

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