Great Career Advice from Industry Leaders!

Career advice
Unchaining Change Leadership

We have had the opportunity to publish dozens of interviews with tremendous leaders as a part of our Seasoned Leadership in Action™ Interview series. With literally a millennium of collective career experience these leaders have selflessly shared their thoughts, expertise and advice, including their career advice, with us.

Here at Supply Chain Game Changer our fundamental mission is to share experiences and expertise for the benefit of all. Whether you are a student, at the beginning of your career, or an expert sought after by others, we can all continue to learn from others. We can all benefit from professional career advice.

In that spirit we have taken excerpts from our collection of leadership interviews. Specifically we have compiled here the great career advice that these leaders would like to share with others.

1. Bryce Boothby, Board Advisor and Consultant

  • Your customers will tell you what you need to do
  • Don’t overthink things – take action early
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Be absolutely clear on roles and responsibilities
  • With new Customers, manage expectations from the start
  • Have the courage of your convictions

2. Michael Massetti, VP at Gartner

My message is for young professionals to keep their options open and value diversity in opportunities. The more they can do to broaden their skillsets, whether in various supply chain functions or even on the dark side of product development, marketing, or other key business areas, the more valuable they will be to potential employers. I would not be where I am if I did not take a number of different assignments at IBM or the move to Dell or the abrupt move with Lucent!

Enjoy the journey. Supply chain is both deep and broad. Explore. Be curious. Look up and down the chain to see what goes on before and after you … the most effective supply chains are the ones that are highly integrated and collaborative! Try to never get stuck in your functional silo.

Lastly, stay relevant. I read multiple magazines and supply chain blogs to keep current. Technology is moving at a phenomenal speed. What you use in the first 10 years of your career will change dramatically by the time you retire. My first PC had 64K of memory and a 256K HDD. My new iPhone X is over 1000X more powerful with 256GB in it!

3. Paul Kretz, Head of SCM at Church & Dwight

Do what you love!   The reason I love Supply Chain is the breadth.  You touch every part of the business and can have an impact in many ways.   So, learn from other people’s perspectives, gain skills in all the fundamental processes, understand how they all interact and learn to connect the dots.

Get an education.   All too often people fall into Supply Chain from other disciplines so continuous learning is great insurance for a long career.  More than once I have seen a person rise through the ranks at a company and achieve great career success.  A restructuring happens and if they don’t have that piece of paper it can be very difficult to get back to the same level in another company.  A diploma gives a lot of credibility.

Set career goals and create a plan to get there.  You own your career and while your boss can help and guide ultimately it is up to you

Networking is important.  Roles can go away, strategic directions can change, and life can get in the way.  But your network will endure if you nourish it and for sure it will help you find your next role.

4. John Heffernan, Chief Supply Chain Officer at ModusLink

Be passionate about what you do. Always embrace change, it is your friend! Supply Chain is one of the most challenging but rewarding careers available these days. Even after so many years I enjoy coming to work every day!

5. Neil Hampshire, CITO at Parallel

The next phase of supply chain innovation is going to be faster and more disruptive then previous ones. Whatever your area of focus, you need to take time to learn about as many of the new technologies that are gathering momentum as you can.

If you can bring an understanding of one or more of these technologies, when you progress in you supply chain career, you will see more opportunities and how these can transform and improve your company and supply chain.

6. David Cefai, CIO at IMAX

The only advice I can give is do what you are passionate about.  Whether that is business or supply chain.  The other factor I love about a career in Supply Chain (or in my case IT) is the fact that these skills are transferrable to many different industries as evident from my career path, High tech to gold mining to the movie industry. If you can learn to solve problems you will have a great career.

7. Brad Jackson, COO at Northwest Rubber

My advice would be to always seek opportunities that you are passionate about and opportunities that provide you with a real sense of purpose. The closer you can get to directly impacting the well-being of people the greater the satisfaction you will derive from your career.

8. Scott Cleaver, COO at ecobee

I still remember one of my first managers telling me that being in Supply Chain is thankless.  You are never right, and you spend all your time working on challenges and problems.  As you start out your career – always be learning.  Keep current on what is happening throughout the industry and learn from others from their experiences.

I also put a lot of value in working for bosses that I both respected and was able to learn from.  Lastly I look for individuals who are always positive and looking to improve.  It is easy to critique, blame and make excuses – but the most successful individuals are the ones who focus on solutions and results.

9. Derek Panchyshyn, SVP Operations at

Whether you join Supply Chain on purpose or by ‘accident’ like me I would recommend it. It is such an important part of any company today and those that do supply chain well are leaders in their industries. Look at Amazon – that is customer-centric company with a supply chain core competency.

There is so much to learn in many functions of supply chain, whether it is IT tools, planning and buying, commodities, global supplier management, logistics, warehousing. Every day is about communicating, collaborating, organizing, problem solving, cost and environmental management. These are skills that are so applicable to many jobs today.

You will never stop learning in Supply Chain!

10. Sandra Ketchen, President & CEO at Spectrum Health Care

Pick a career that you love and don’t try to predict the outcome – but rather, ride the peaks, weather the valleys, and enjoy the view along the way. Don’t be afraid to colour outside the lines.

Play to win – but know the rules of the game and never under-estimate the other players.  Pass down your experience to the next generation of leaders.  Learn as much as you can each day.  Build your network and really connect with people.

Be bold in your thinking and have the confidence to make a difference, regardless of the magnitude.  And don’t forget to let people see you smile, even on the tough days.

11. Jill Button, CEO at ProcurePro

To have a successful career in Supply Chain or any field for that matter, you need to have both soft and hard skills, what I call “Will and Skill”.

The soft skill, or Will, is the ability to build strong, trusting relationships including a willingness to continuously learn and build strong communication and interpersonal skills.

The hard, or Skill, side is much easier to learn, however, you must continue to build on the foundation of knowledge and skill learned in post-secondary education by exposing yourself to as many varied experiences as possible.

You can read how to be a good negotiator but there is no substitution for being involved, in the trenches and actually negotiating or shadowing someone who has the experience you are looking to gain.

12. Bronwen Hann, President at Argentus

I’ll speak specifically to Supply Chain. First, I would advise people to go into the field because, as a recruiter, trust me when I say there’s huge demand for candidates. 

There are so many roads to go down in the field, so it’s important to make a roadmap. Do you want to focus on the Procurement side of things, or more on the Logistics and Planning side? Get a good understanding of the various subdisciplines in Supply Chain, and try to figure out where you want to start.

After that, it’s crucial to learn the ropes of your niche, but find ways to learn how your niche fits into the wider Supply Chain. Broaden your scope to understand the financial side of things. How is your organization’s Supply Chain impacting the business? Where is it falling short? Where are there opportunities? 

After you have some work experience, there are some fantastic MBAs or designations that can help you broaden your scope, but that boots on the ground experience – with a wide exposure to different aspects of Supply Chain – is crucial. 

In terms of skills, Supply Chain is considered a STEM field, but with increasing automation the soft skills are more important than ever before. The ability to read and parse data to find efficiencies will always be huge, but it’s even more important to learn how to speak to leadership in plain English. That’s how you really progress. 

When you can gain business acumen, forge relationships, present opportunities for improvement with a high degree of polish, and be a real advocate for the role of Supply Chain within the business, that’s when you can really kick your career into high gear. 

13. Stephany Lapierre, CEO at tealbook

Make sure you ask about the importance and vision of the company and function.

Ask questions about actions taken to drive change and tolerance for risk associated with innovation.

And look for a company and a team that will embrace your contributions and stay ahead of the transformation.

14. Tony Giovaniello, President of Shasta EDC

These are amazingly interesting careers. They provide an opportunity for life-long learning. Don’t let the stereotypes that are portrayed cause you to miss this opportunity.

Manufacturers are looking for talent. They will show you their operation. One of the things that you’ll find is that it is not atypical for a company with 125 employees to have 40 different job classifications. This offers flexibility as your interests are fine-tuned.

You will also take great pride in being part of a team that builds a product widely used in the market place or that enables a larger product to function.

All in all, I am so glad to have had this wonderful career. It has afforded me the ability to work in sales, marketing, product management, sales management, general management, and start new companies.

If you are curious, willing to roll up your sleeves, and can grab on to the coattails of a mentor, the possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

15. Steve Radewych, Direction Supply Chain at Precision Global

  • Be accommodating to change – especially if you see yourself employed in a global context
  • Consider how you will keep yourself knowledgeable in the areas that are of interest to you
  • Don’t underestimate the value of all forms of communication
  • For a global setting – get to know the cultures you will be interfacing with
  • Explore the value of a diverse network

16. Sam Samadi, Head of Global Quality and Compliance at Casper

Despite the premature and early notions that Operations and Supply chain is on a path of demise, these disciplines continue to be critical and essential to every business regardless of type or channels they sell into.

If you are already in the field, I suggest to continuously expand their horizon, learn other aspects of the business / process allowing flexibility and ability to serve the business in different areas. Further be open to changes and technologies that are rapidly evolving and changing the business. 

For those who are entertaining getting into operations and Supply Chain, I would encourage them to jump in as operations and Supply chain remain critical to success of every enterprise, large or small.

And remember, flexibility, willingness to learn and being lucky enough to be paired with people who can mentor will be a strong recipe for success.

17. Kristie Syndikus, VP Procurement at Maple Leaf Foods

Supply chain provides a unique opportunity to cultivate broad skills from marketing, strategic sourcing, finance, manufacturing and logistics to enable some of the most coveted skills in any organization.  

Embrace the opportunity to move around to different roles in your supply chain career to learn new skills but to also be able to uncover new sources of value.

18. Ron Emery, Continuous Improvement Consultant

Find a mentor.  

Pick up my book called “Growing Comes From Planting Seeds” by Ron Emery, on Amazon.

Think about everything you do and why do you do it.  Focus on doing the right things.  And focus on relationships.  

And if you are having trouble, look for my next book called, “How to Network at A Funeral” and we will teach you how to network for success.

19. Mike Croza, Founder of Supply Chain Alliance

If you are in Supply Chain, you have already made a good career decision. You need to develop experience in one or a number of the supply chain disciplines and the more you understand the physical operations and downstream activities, you can then gain the planning experience that drives downstream flow closest to the customer.

In supply chain it always starts with the customer so a good working understanding operationally of customer needs is critical to then start changing upstream process and behaviours.

20. Chris Darbyshire, VP Operations at Softchoice

I’m currently a Career Mentor at Ryerson University and participate in Career and Mentoring Discovery here at Softchoice.  So I meet people from all walks of life and at various stages of their careers from fresh grads to people new to Canada looking for a start.  

This is incredibly rewarding.  What I tell people I meet who are uncertain what they are looking for or if they are looking to get into say IT. I tell them where I got my start, understanding the flow of material from a forecast to an order to a purchase order to a vendor to a receipt to a shipment to a customer then the invoice and maybe the occasional return.  

If you can understand and talk to the supply chain you have credibility with your customer. I tell them supply chain is everywhere and is applicable to almost every industry. The skills are transferable and in very high demand.

21. Sheri Hinish, The Supply Chain Queen

Never stop learning new things and honing your craft. Take on the challenging projects, but also allow space in your career for your mental and physical health.

When I speak to top CEOs or CSCOs, they want two things: an edge, whether in prioritizing strategy in talent, tech, and transformation or branding themselves for the future of work. The second thing they want is vitality…more energy, nutritional blueprint, and feeling their best.

You can’t sacrifice your health for success. It will catch up to you in the end. Take the time now to build a solid foundation.

Lastly, help others. Giving back is the most rewarding feeling in the world. The ability to have an impact in someone’s life is a blessing.

Never forget it.

22. Danny Wang, VP Sourcing and Procurement at Canada Goose

I never really planned on being in Sourcing and Procurement when I first started my career after graduating with an engineering degree.  Like several of my peers today we fell into this role after several rounds of formalizing what we may have done in different functions across various roles to what we better understand what Sourcing and Procurement may mean today.  

My advice to those considering on joining this field is to understand if they have a passion to identify what people want vs. need and why; find or develop the supplies to fulfill these needs; work across the enterprise to satisfy budgets, legal constraints and timelines; and then in rare occasions, when needed, negotiate with facts instead of bargaining for pride.  

People will also need to be comfortable with never being an expert on what they may source but collaborating with those who believe they are the experts and thus do not need your involvement to buy/negotiate those goods/services.

In its most mature form, Sourcing and Procurement is very strategic and core to any company’s success and profitability. It interacts and guides across the enterprise to ensure everyone is empowered to identify better suppliers and more efficient ways to consume those products/services while guarding against bias and complacency.   

Sourcing and Procurement like other roles in Supply Chain are rarely glamourous or the first subject in the headlines but these support roles are critically needed and a fantastic career path for those who want to see their efforts materialize in tangible results.

23. Joe Carson, CEO at Spend Strategies LLC

This is an amazing time to join a Supply Chain team. As I have spoken about here, many important and business-impacting areas are getting a lot of attention.

If your interest is in people, supplier managers operate across multiple functional areas both inside the company and with the suppliers’ companies.

If business experience is what you are after, managing a supply base means overseeing millions of dollars of business and working with senior executives, including your suppliers’ CEO’s.

If your interest is in data and analytics, then much is happening in the application of Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning as an analytical toolset.

If your curiosity lies in environmental issues, risk management, ethics, compliance, or a variety of new areas of concern, once again, there is a place for you in Supply Chain.

This is a maturing and evolving part of business that is going through a dramatic sea change – and as they say, “a rising tide raises all boats”. Come on aboard! 

24. Wolfgang Lehmacher, Supply Chain and Technology Strategist

If one wishes to operate at the center of the world economy, then business, and supply chain is truly the place to be. No other profession provides more insights in the real life of business than the supply chain. And a deeper understanding about how value is created goes a long way in life.

Succeeding in business and the supply chain industry has always required problem-solving capabilities. An open, hands-on approach, pragmatism and strong relation-building skills are critical. Today, people also need a good knowledge about digital technologies and solutions. Which is valid for supply chain as well as business in general.

Covid-19 is a human tragedy. But it is also an opening. There is no pivot without pain. Covid-19 brings an opportunity to make major changes. It is now that we can build a better world. But we are the ones that need to take initiative to make it happen. The people that imagine a better future and mobilize towards their goals will make a difference. This is valid for people in business, government, but also for everyone in society.

Everybody can contribute. Robert F. Kennedy once said. “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” 

25. Stephen Beard, VP at Flexe

Ask a lot of questions. I probably learned more in the course of my career from picking the brains of the best subject matter experts in my company than I did in business school. Wherever you are, there’s a wealth of knowledge around you. Make it your mission to find it.

Most people with experience are all too happy to share with those who express a desire to learn. Maybe you’ll get lucky, like I did, and find leaders that are willing to impart more than just subject matter knowledge and become your mentor. 

Don’t expect to be taught or trained. You might think your career development is your company’s responsibility. It isn’t. No one is going to take more interest in your development than you, so make it a priority. Always make it your side hustle to be learning and not just doing. Volunteer for stretch assignments.

Ask a lot of questions of a lot of people. Interview people about their recent successes (and failures for that matter). What did they learn? How did they do it? What would they do differently? How can you help next time? 

Lastly, play the long game. Some of the best (and admittedly most difficult) decisions I’ve made in my career were choices to maximize my learning opportunities and expansion of my resume over my short-term earnings. 

This takes a lot of soul searching and a personal inventory of your priorities, for certain. In looking back, those choices put me on a direct path to where I am now…in the best role of my career. 

Check out more of our Seasoned Leadership In Action™ interviews, including Raymon Krishnan, Grant Chapman and Dr. Muddassir Ahmed.

Originally published on June 8, 2021.