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At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we think it’s important to elevate the voices of the female trailblazers who are boldly changing the face of our community. That’s why every month we highlight a woman leader in the industry on our blog. We share the stories, achievements, and advice for other women coming up the ranks in supply chain.
This month we’re proud to feature Jessica Vania in our Women in Supply Chain blog series. Jessica discovered Let’s Talk Supply Chain as a student. She is now a business operations analyst in Singapore for global Information Technology giant, HP. Jessica is an up-and-comer in the industry and a recent graduate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.
- What made you pursue a degree in supply chain management?
I’ve always been a dreamer. I always wanted to be creative—whether through illustration, as an architect, or a film editor. But Indonesia doesn’t have a lot of opportunities compared to America. So I did what my parents wanted me to do, got a diploma in accounting with the exception that I could pursue it abroad. But I wasn’t doing it for me and I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do.
So that’s when I took every single booklet of every single major my university offered, flipped through every single page and happened upon logistics and supply chain. I interviewed some of the seniors and figured it might be a subject I could enjoy. It was a big decision for me to actually sign up and go to the classes. I told myself that there’s no going back. I’m going to take full responsibility for my decision. Fortunately the more I learned, the more interesting and exciting it became. I felt so at home, like I made the right decision.
- What made supply chain feel so right?
When you compare it to majors, like finance and economics, supply chain isn’t as much of the business side. It has some business, but also a bit of a technical side. Plus, you get to be creative. In one of my modules, we designed a warehouse based on a real company that we had to research. We made some assumptions, but it was a mix of real world and being creative. Finding Solutions and being practical helped me to combine my love of business, tech and creativity.
- Speaking of being a dreamer, where do you see the chain taking you?
In the short-term, I want to be an awesome planner (my current position). For the long term, I’m looking to go into sustainability. I want to bring value in supply chains by looking at sustainable options that might not be considered. Being environmentally and socially responsible doesn’t mean a company needs to give up on economic profit. Being creative, I can incorporate sustainability by design. Whether that’s through the supply chain design or product design—seeking new sustainable materials options.
- What factors are you looking for in a business you want to work for?
In Singapore right now, there are a lot of management training positions. Almost like a glorified internship—companies are following the trend to attract new talent, but they don’t have a solid scheme that would benefit both the company and the person they are hiring. Because I am a foreigner here in Singapore, there are a lot of quotas and regulations that make the job search difficult and because of that, the size of the company is a default factor for me—leaving me open to multinational companies. I would look into company culture, career progression and the possibility of transfer or relocation. I remember asking about the possibility of switching departments or later relocating to another country, or even the possibility of business travel in interviews and getting a negative response. So I’m fortunate that I’m at HP where learning new things and taking new steps in your career is embraced. Every two years you’re allowed to move departments if there’s an opening. I’m lucky that the organization I work for ticks all the boxes above.
- How can more supply chain companies attract your generation and appeal to their values and cultural differences?
There’s a saying in Indonesia: “Tak kenal maka tak saying,” or “you can’t love what you don’t know”. We really need to expose more people to logistics and supply chain, so they can know more about it and see where they could add value. There are a lot of preconceived ideas and the industry is misunderstood. People think it is stuck in the traditional—all manual labor—and that the environment is dirty. For me, it’s more of like a backbone of the company’s operations. Once you invest and support the supply chain department, you get a return on investment very quickly. Even though it’s a back-end role, the younger generation should know that you have influence and you can contribute a lot, (even though you might not be seen doing it).
- What needs to change in supply chain?
We need more female role models in the industry, especially in Asia. What [Sarah Barnes] has done [with Let’s Talk Supply Chain] has really opened up access to the industry. Especially with the Women in Supply Chain podcast and blog and The Trade Squad video series. This gives more exposure to people behind the supply chain industry. Three years ago, I didn’t even know about logistics and supply chain. And when I searched on the topic, there weren’t many people who talked about their experience in the industry itself. I would also love to see more ethical and sustainable supply chains focused on the circular economy. Like H&M recently opening their first Garment recycling facility—they basically take up used clothing, sanitize it, re-use the cotton and create new garments all inside one container-sized facility inside the H&M store itself. Lastly, I’d love to see companies focus more on utility than on profit. It might be a little far-fetched, but one of my favorite quotes from Esther Ndichu, the Humanitarian Supply Chain director at UPS is “Hunger is not a food issue. It’s a logistics issue”.
- What advice can you give to others wanting to study supply chain?
Ask yourself two questions: First, is this really the industry or job you want? And second, what’s your passion that will keep you going when you don’t want to do it anymore? Do a lot research and some soul searching. Find somewhere in the supply chain where you can incorporate your vision and passion. Then try to link the two and pursue it, that can be your niche.