Seasoned Leadership in Action™! An Interview with Brad Jackson, COO at North West Rubber!

Brad Jackson
Brad Jackson
Brad Jackson, EVP at Rakuten Kobo

At Supply Chain Game Changer we believe in sharing experiences and expertise from people in every industry and from across the globe.  As such we have introduced our “Seasoned Leadership in Action™” Interview series at Supply Chain Game Changer.  This interview is with Brad Jackson, Executive Vice President of Supply Chain Management and Device Sales at Rakuten Kobo, now at North West Rubber.

I first met Brad while at Celestica.  I was in need of a new Test Engineering Manager in the Power Division.  It was a very difficult job as we had launched an extremely complex set of new products which had more than their share of growing pains.  On top of that the products had to deliver industry leading reliability which meant the test platforms and protocols had to be exceptional.

Brad was recommended to me as a candidate for the role.  From my first meeting with him it was obvious that Brad was extremely intelligent, highly ambitious and driven.  I gave Brad that promotion into his first management job.

From that point on I have had the opportunity to watch as Brad progressed onward and upward throughout his career.  My initial impressions of Brad were proven true and it was great to watch him grow and succeed.

Thank you Brad  for your friendship and taking the time to share your experiences and expertise with us.

Here is our interview with a dynamic industry leader, Brad Jackson!

Tell our Readers a little about your background and experience?

I started my career at IBM Canada in 1990 as student intern working as a Power Products Test Engineer.  Following my graduation from Queen’s University in Computer Engineering, I returned to IBM (which ultimately transitioned to Celestica) where I spent the next ten years in technical and operationally based engineering and leadership roles.

In 2000, I completed my MBA at the Schulich School of Business and shortly thereafter had the opportunity to make a major career change within Celestica into business development.  I then spent the next fifteen years leading in a variety of Sales, Marketing, Line-of-Business and Strategy efforts across numerous vertical markets.

In 2014, I co-founded and continue to Chair the Board of ReMAP which is a $25M private/public partnership focused on accelerating the commercialization of Canadian innovations in the advanced and electronics manufacturing space.

And most recently, I joined Rakuten Kobo a little over a year ago to lead the eReader hardware business where I am responsible for global supply chain, manufacturing, sales and distribution.

What are some of your greatest achievements in Business?

From a customer and business development perspective, my greatest achievement was leading the expansion of a $15M after-market services client to $300M by establishing lowest total cost of ownership (TCOO) configuration and fulfillment solutions.  I subsequently then led the sales team that further expanded that relationship to greater than $1B in annual revenue by securing manufacturing.

Another one of my greatest achievements came during a time that I feel I faced the greatest adversity.  It was during the dark days of the financial crisis in 2008/09 that I transformed a rapidly contracting Design Service capability into a Product Solutions offering focused on Storage, Servers & Networking roadmaps. This was the beginning of what is now known in the industry as JDM or Joint Development and Manufacturing.

And last, from an innovation perspective and the achievement that I am most proud of, I co-founded ReMAP as a new model for “open innovation” securing an $8M Federal grant.  Along with $17M in additional industry contributions, ReMAP is establishing highly collaborative, purpose-built product enablement value chains that are having a very tangible impact on accelerating the commercialization of Canadian innovations.  7D Surgical is a great example of a Canadian startup that leveraged ReMAP to get a leading-edge machine-vision, image guided surgical (MvIGS) system very successfully to market.

How has the Business and Supply Chain changed over the course of your career?

I would have to say that the overarching change in Business and, consequently Supply Chain, has been the ever-increasing pace and complexity in which Business gets conducted.  Technology is squarely behind this and so I find it particularly fascinating, highly rewarding and I feel very privileged to be in the business of enabling the very technology and global value chains that in turn are allowing Business to move faster and faster and take on more complexity.

The rise of higher standards of Compliance and Social Responsibility have also been very significant over the course of my career. This has led to new norms of conduct that on one hand have contributed to greater complexity but on the other hand have also made the world a safer, more responsible and sustainable place.

What are some of the lessons you learned in your career that you would like to share for others to learn from?

  1. Don’t compromise on surrounding yourself with great people
  2. Collaborate early, collaborate often and embrace diversity
  3. Confront adversity as a team

What challenges facing the world are important to you?

Climate change, environment and sustainability.

What is the role of Business, Supply Chain and Change Leadership in addressing these challenges?

I think Business, Supply Chain and Change Leadership all have an integral role to play.  It is not enough for our Governments to be concerned about these issues but rather Business leadership needs to step up to be being more accountable and taking responsibility for the products and services they offer and the negative footprint and unintended consequences they may be leaving.

When it comes to Change Leadership, I believe that there is no problem insurmountable if the right minds and resources are brought together aligned to a common goal.

What are you working on these days?

At Rakuten Kobo, a lot has been done over the last number of years to optimize product, manufacturing and forward logistics supply chains for global markets.  We are now turning our attention to the reverse logistics supply chain to improve the customer experience for both in-warranty and out-of-warranty returns.  Secondly, we are looking to significantly reduce the amount of product returns and lower the cost to serve our customers.

With respect to ReMAP, we are currently in a renewal process whereby we are seeking a second round of Federal funding to not only continue the mission but also enhance the impact we can have on a much broader number of Canadian small, medium enterprises (SME) in Smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 competitiveness.

What advice would you give people who have a career in, or who are considering joining, Business and/or Supply Chain?

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.

How can people contact Brad Jackson?

Brad Jackson can be reached at:


Originally published on June 12, 2018.

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