Seasoned Leadership in Action™ – An Interview with Chris Darbyshire, VP Operations at Softchoice!

Chris Darbyshire

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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 Chris Darbyshire, Vice President of Operations at Softchoice.

As I was progressing through my career I first met Chris and saw him as one of the obviously up and coming highly intelligent and high potential new professionals.

He has a similar pedigree as I do with family ties to IBM and a career at IBM and Celestica, and beyond. Sounds great to me!

Chris Darbyshire
Chris Darbyshire, Vice President Operations at Softchoice

Chris worked across many areas of the company which provided him with an exceptional grounding in how business truly runs. This background and experience I expect has served him very well as he has grown and advanced in his career. His ability to be highly effective in Executive leadership roles has a solid foundation in his experience and aptitude.

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

Here is our interview with a truly Global Industry leader, Chris Darbyshire!

Tell our readers a little about your background and experience? 

Being born into an IBM family where my parents, cousins, brother and sister all worked there naturally my career began as an Intern at IBM which evolved into Celestica Inc where I met Mike Mortson.

I graduated from Ryerson University with a B.Comm. After graduation I went to work full-time at Celestica as a buyer / planner in our memory solutions group.  At that time 16 MB of RAM was over $1,000 – how time has changed and technology has evolved.  I spent almost 20 years between IBM and Celestica primarily focused on Global Supply Chain, Global Operations and Inventory Management.  

After Celestica I went to work for Psion Teklogix before starting my own Solar panel manufacturing company.  However Electronics was my passion and after starting out on my own I went back into Electronics for a smaller EMS player in Toronto and China.  Over my career I have established supply chains for global leaders like EMC, Cisco, HP and others in China, Europe, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Mexico and across North America.

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

Over the last 25 years Supply Chain and Business have evolved dramatically.  I joke often by saying when I started there were buyers and planners and it was called Purchasing and Planning.  Now we have Supply and Demand Planners, Commodity Managers and Sourcing, Logistics not the shipping department, and Forecasting is now done by Supply Chain Data Scientists.  Paper purchase orders are replaced by Robotic Process Automation ( RPA ) and AI.  The movement of goods and software is truly a chain.  

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The globalization of the economy now involves e-Commerce and Blockchain.   Quality is implied; making something offshore does not mean it is sacrificed. When I started MRP regenerated once maybe twice a week, now the expectation is that demand changes are captured by the minute.

In my current role at Softchoice I lead our Operations team from Strategic Sourcing to SKU set up, logisitics, order management, software licensing, customer service and returns.  Drawing on my years of experience I am currently leading my team through our own business transformation.

Having been through numerous end to end ERP and CRM installations my experience and expertise in change management provide an exciting opportunity for me. I’m also in the process of starting up a Strategic Sourcing team within Operations which will enable Softchoice to realize value that will translate into delivering an exceptional Customer experience.

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

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.  

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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.

What challenges facing the world are important to you and what is the role of Business, Supply Chain and Change Leadership in addressing these challenges? 

When I look at the world today the challenges I see us facing are of course the environment, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), and political instability to name a few.  

We as Leaders and specifically Supply Chain Leaders can make a huge impact where the environment and D&I are concerned.  Where my team is concerned we look at ways to reduce or eliminate waste in form of cardboard or plastic shrink wrap.  

We work with our vendors to ship direct to customers in reusable totes to eliminate waste. We actively promote e-waste programs and source from environmentally contious suppliers.

Where D&I is concerned our company actively promotes an inclusive work environment. A safe and welcoming place where you can be who you are.  

While we as Supply Chain Leaders cannot impact political decisions we can protect our customers from upheaval.  In my past we always focused on dual or alternate sourcing to protect our customers against macro environmental issues.  

Supply Chain Leaders must be change leaders.  Supply Chain issues change almost daily, demand changes, commodity prices change, weather events, technology evolves

How can people contact you?

People can reach Chris Darbyshire at www.linkedin.com/in/cmdarbyshire.

Originally published on November 12, 2019.

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