I’d like to thank CSCMP, an organization that has given so much to me throughout my career.
Receiving such an honor is really overwhelming, and it causes you to look back over your career and reflect on the journey, the roadmap that led to where you are today, and lessons learned along the way. I’d like to share a bit about my lessons learned and recognize and thank some of the people who have influenced me along the way.
The single biggest factor that influenced my journey flies in the face of advice we have all gotten through our careers – especially as women. We are often told we need to learn to say no – so we can focus on doing our “real” job well, so we don’t burn out, because we are not up to the task, because we don’t want to fail. All good reasons to say no – right? And of course, along the way you hear from the people you know and love – people that would like a little more of your time and attention – that “you just need to learn to say no.” And it is true – sometimes you really do need to say no.
Yet, I believe the opportunities and experiences that challenge you the most, that take you out of your comfort zone… these are the ones that can have the biggest impact, not only in your own career and but also in your ability to make a difference…. if you just say yes.
My first big lesson in the “power of yes” came when I had the opportunity to leave a 15 year career with DuPont, a great company that taught me about supply chain before any of us knew what that meant – to join a relatively young and growing company in India – Reliance Industries. It was a scary move. But it was also a chance of a lifetime to learn in a very different company, country and culture. That experience led to my fascination with doing business internationally – working across borders and across cultures – and a desire to share what I had learned. That led to my second big lesson in the power of yes.
When I returned to the US, I had the opportunity to transition from industry to academia – not that I had any idea what that meant. So I connected with faculty I had met through CSCMP to explore the possibility of enrolling in the University of Tennessee PhD program. Two of the people who influenced my decision, both former Distinguished Service Award honorees, were John Langley and Tom Mentzer. This too was a scary decision – and I remember saying to Tom – if I do this, I will be 52 by the time I complete my doctorate. He looked at me and said – if you don’t do this, you’ll still be 52. OK – I think that was Tom’s way of telling me to “just say yes.”
Tom was a wonderful mentor and friend, and he was a strong believer in the importance of making a difference – not only to the students he worked with, but in the industry as a whole. Through Tom, I experienced my next lesson in the power of yes. When he called me and said send your resume to Bob Lusch, at the time the Dean of the Business School at TCU, I didn’t ask a lot of questions – I just said yes.
TCU gave me another opportunity to learn and grow and to make a difference. With Bob’s support and working with great friends and colleagues like Zach Zacharia and Laura Meade, we were able to build a program that will prepare generations of supply chain leaders. And nothing is more rewarding than to hear from a student that you have made a difference in their lives – or to be able to share what you have learned as you give them their first experience in another part of the world.
Shortly after joining TCU, I got a call from Fran Tucker at Syracuse University inviting me to join CSCMP’s research strategies committee. Hmmmm… I had been a member of CSCMP for years, but had never really played an active volunteer role. I’m working to build a new program at TCU and teaching, my husband and I are commuting between Fort Worth, TX and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, pretty good reasons to say no. But ….. I did say yes.
Jim Stock – also a previous Distinguished Service Award honoree – took on the role of Chair of the Committee that year and under his leadership, we launched a number of new initiatives. CSCMP Explores, CSCMP Global Perspectives, and the Supply Chain Innovation Award to name a few. Working with that committee and developing those offerings gave all of us an incredible opportunity to learn – and to give CSCMP members access to latest thinking, new ideas and an incredible breadth of knowledge about current issues. And I encourage you to attend one of the supply chain innovation award sessions at the conference this year. Finalists for this year’s award will share incredible examples of supply chain innovations that have delivered tangible results in their companies.
When Jim Stock left the Research Strategies Committee, he gave me the opportunity to take on the role of Chair and to represent the committee on the CSCMP Board of Directors. I served on the Board in a variety of roles over the next 8 years. Through those years, I learned a lot, developed many great friendships, and hopefully have given back in some measure to this organization and our industry.
My last great lesson in the power of yes came just over 3 years ago when my friend and colleague, Ann Drake, presented me with another opportunity. Ann is the CEO of DSC Logistics and the first woman to receive the Distinguished Service Award. In 2012, she founded an organization called AWESOME, focused on advancing women’s leadership in supply chain. Knowing I had just retired from TCU, she approached me about taking on a 3-month project to develop a business plan for AWESOME. I can still remember that morning, as she prepared to kick off the 2nd annual AWESOME Symposium, when she looked at me and … literally … said “just say yes.” 3 months became 3 years and what an incredible journey we have had. Heather Sheehan joined the team and AWESOME has grown from a network of 300 senior women leaders to more than 1000 today. We’ve partnered with incredible leaders like Kathy Wengel at Johnson & Johnson and Trish Young at Nike to engage, empower, and inspire women at all stages of their careers. As our industry experiences a growing need for leadership talent, and we continue to see only a small percentage of women in leadership roles, we are working to encourage companies to take advantage of the untapped potential of women in their organizations and to help women take steps to advance their own careers.
It has been an incredible journey. I am so appreciative of the opportunities I have had to say yes. Receiving this Distinguished Service Award is a huge honor and here’s the secret. Whatever contribution I may have made along the way, I have been rewarded many times over ….with wonderful opportunities to experience new things, to learn every day, and to build great friendships along the way.
As I talk to young women (and it is true for men as well) about what they can do to advance their careers, one piece of advice I always give them is to “just say yes” – to opportunities to learn, to develop new skills, to expand your network.
And to those of you further along in your career, I encourage you to say yes to opportunities to give back – to make a difference in the careers of those coming behind you and in the industry and organization we are all fortunate to be a part of…. And I am confident that one of the biggest beneficiaries will be you.
So I want to say “thank you” to the many people who have made a difference in my journey.
I want to thank my son Kevin and daughter-in-law Jess for being here and for “putting up” with me all these years.
And I particularly want to thank my husband Cliff for supporting me over many years. He has been my strongest advocate and a wonderful mentor and friend along the way.
Thank you once again and “just say yes”.