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Careers in supply chain continue to evolve!

Lately, I’ve written about how sexy supply chain careers (and people!) can be; how the empowerment afforded by agility, better forecasting, and improved control has led to the evolution of the standard supply chain career, but now I want to talk more specifically about the evolution of its people.

Hiring in FMCG has come a long way from relying only on supply chain professionals with relevant experience in a specific industry. Now talent can cross over from food to non-food, and from small to large business and back again. We can really drill down into this fluidity by examining the current career paths:

At entry level, the supply chain career options are more diverse than ever!

Quite often a supply chain professional - graduate or not will ‘fall’ into a role and will work their way up the corporate ladder.

However there is a trend where more and more graduates are choosing one of two ways to specifically to kick start their supply chain career:

1. Pick a graduate scheme in an established company like Unilever or Kraft, or
2. Join a start up, maybe something in craft beers, startup businesses with rapid growth or similar businesses to Innocent drinks.

It’s no longer just the established go-to organisations providing valuable opportunities for supply chain professionals. Smaller companies can now give graduates much wider exposure to the whole supply chain. End-to-end experience shapes their learning, and enables better development of their problem-solving skill sets.

On the other hand, blue chip structures make it easier to learn the specific functions of the business. Smaller businesses may not have the benefits packages and structure of a corporate but they often have a more informal culture, with perks that can make the work place more fun. This can be a very strong pull to attract tomorrow’s talent.

Supply chain is becoming more influential and commercial

In my last post I wrote about how over the last few years, supply chain teams have had more direct contact with customers. A relatively new function known as the ‘customer supply chain’ has evolved over the last 6-8 years in larger companies. It’s attracting a whole new breed of supply chain professionals that can be both commercial, technical, and makes for some great career progression for individuals on this path (such as going on into sales or marketing roles and vice versa). This gives them more fluidity and a holistic view of the organisation.

Usually problems with the supply chain means bad news for business, so the need for skilled and accurate forecasting of supply has become seriously commercial, and customer demand planning is one of the roles that has come out of that. Those forecasters have to do better than the Met Office! So the skill sets that come from more technical roles can really come out to play for this type of role.

Professionals who have, up to now, travelled a more technical route, such as IT, analytics or consultancy, can be seen moving into these roles.

Organisations value supply chain professionals more

Supply chain professionals are no longer left in the shadow of the warehouse or factory; they’re being asked to apply their skills and knowledge in other areas instead.

Secondments in departments like marketing or finance provide professionals with a valuable holistic view of the business, making work more interesting for them, and they can really benefit organisations too.

For example, one of our candidates in supply chain went to work in the accounts/finance department on a secondment. While there, she identified an inefficient process already met by a report from the operations department. Would she have known about that report if she hadn’t worked in operations? Probably not!
Thanks to this type of success, some of our clients maximise on the opportunity to encourage secondments from within when members of the workforce move into internal projects or go onto maternity leave. This is a great way for all professionals to get new exposure and skills within a business.

Putting this into perspective

Clients often tell us they want to hire the Supply Chain Director of tomorrow, but that person will have to have exposure to all areas and not just be a specialist in one. Rounded experience by the time they get to a senior level is crucial to success for the appointment, the candidate, and ultimately the business. If you’re aiming to be a Supply Chain Director one day, make sure you’re on the right path and give me a call to talk about your options. 

Thanks for reading. This post was originally published by Jayna on LinkedIn.

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Jayna Kalyan

Associate Director - Supply Chain & Procurement

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