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 Fiona Lowbridge, Vice President of Client Success at ALOM.
I met Fiona Lowbridge on my first day on the job, as the COO of the company. A work event with all of the top leaders of the company was a great way for me to meet a lot of people quickly.
I talked with a lot of people that first day. Some of the conversations were introductory and cursory, others were a little more informative, but a few, including my conversation with Fiona, left a lasting impression.
I was brought into the company to lead a turnaround of the operations, improve company competitiveness and credibility, and create a leading organization. When I met Fiona we quickly got past the formalities. She told me bluntly about the problems, the challenges, and the customer (and employee) expectations. My first impression was that she cared intensely about the state of the company, her customers, and her peers. She was not shy. She stated her case. And she asked for my help in righting the ship and her sincerity shone through.
Over the ensuing days I continued to meet more people and learn more about what was going on. Within a very short time I had formulated my strategy, enlisted my team, and set about to making some transformative changes in the operations of the company.
A year after I had started, I had a chance to present the status of the operations, and the future strategy, at a company wide leadership event. As I gave the presentation I referenced my conversation with Fiona, amongst others, as informing my direction and drive. The accomplishments over the past year, and the direction for the coming year, largely addressed much of that early feedback that Fiona and others had given me. After the presentation Fiona approached me and said, “You listened.” I thanked her for her passionate, informative and pragmatic plea for help.
I’m sure that many other people have their own inspirational anecdotes of their interactions with Fiona. She is truly a phenomenal leader and a game changer in her own right.
Here is our interview with a truly remarkable global leader, Fiona Lowbridge.
Tell our readers a little about your background and experience
I feel so fortunate to have built a career serving the supply chain industry. I love the challenge and excitement in supply chain and can’t imagine doing anything else. I once thought about exploring opportunities outside the industry but couldn’t bring myself to make a move. I have held senior management positions directing global customer business groups across U.S., Europe, and Asia for PCH Intl. and ModusLink Corp.
Where I have felt most ‘in my element’ is here at ALOM, where I focus on the delivery of robust client engagement models involving all aspects of supply chain operations. I lead and work with talented, high-performing teams who share my passion for success and are committed to achieving results-driven performance objectives across our global client base.
What are some of your greatest achievements in Business?
I am a “keep my head down and do my job” kind of contributor. I focus on results and don’t like red tape or inefficiencies that inhibit my ability to achieve a goal. I am most proud of my accomplishments to remove barriers that are a roadblock to success. My word is my bond. I expect the same from my teams and key stakeholders.
I hold people, suppliers, and teams accountable for delivering on their commitments. Where I have been most successful in my career has been in leading teams that understand my expectations and know that I will stand up for them to get what they need to achieve their objectives. I empower my teams to make decisions and solve problems. In turn, they know I have their back to protect and advocate for their ability to succeed.
I have launched and achieved incredible performance results for hundreds of supply chain programs in my career, but what I think of as my greatest achievement is the collective and collaborative success of the teams I have been fortunate to lead and support over the years.
How has Business and Supply Chain changed over the course of your career?
When I started, supply chain success was driven by operational and production efficiency. There weren’t nearly as many product customization or sales/distribution channel variables as there are today. Just look at how e-commerce has transformed the industry for both B2C and B2B.
Today, supply chain is all about processing, integrating, and analyzing data. The scale, complexity, and speed that goes into planning, producing, and delivering a product cannot be compared to anything that existed even five years ago. Because of geographic distances and uncertainties related to economic, political, climate and weather, material availability, regulatory compliance, consumer expectations, transportation and the list goes on, planning is extremely complex.
Timely, accurate data is needed to make fast, smart decisions. That’s what positions ALOM to best serve our clients and makes my job so exciting. With an integrated technology-driven infrastructure that captures and analyzes vast data streams for up-to-the-minute and accurate reporting, we can plan for demand, anticipate and mitigate disruption, and rapidly scale or shift capacity to build, fulfill, and deliver incredible volumes of orders.
Data management technology is today’s supply chain performance differentiator.
What are some of the lessons you learned in your career that you would like to share for others to learn from?
As I stated earlier, make your word your bond. If you make a commitment, honor it. You will be paid back tenfold in staff, management, supplier, and client loyalty. Other lessons learned that have benefitted me: Never miss an opportunity to pay a good turn forward. Be brave enough to question everything. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t feel right or you don’t understand an issue or proposed course of action. Be creative – suggest the unexpected.
Identify the strengths of an individual and capitalize on that for the benefit of overall team performance. Don’t let anyone stand in the way of your success. If you believe in something, fight for it. Lastly, but very important, listen to everyone and strive to learn something new each day.
What challenges facing the world are important to you?
As a global supply chain professional, I have awareness and accept a responsibility to be a voice of change against a wide range of human rights and environmental issues that includes human trafficking, forced labor, child labor, unsafe working conditions, product and consumer safety, and blatant disregard for sustainability and environmental protection. I am terribly concerned about the tragic impacts of human-accelerated climate change.
I have committed myself, both in my personal life, and through my influence as a supply chain professional to making a positive impact across all environmental management areas to reduce carbon emissions, increase sustainability, and protect natural resources. As a woman, I am an advocate for gender equality, wage parity, workplace and supplier diversity, and professional development through mentoring and job coaching.
I believe more diversity in an organization leads to better ideas and more inclusive and positive workplace cultures. Women have historically had very good representation and upward mobility in the supply chain industry in client support, account management, and procurement roles. I am pleased to see gender changing more in operations and IT to include women in higher responsibility positions. Women bring passion, emotion, and creativity.
Currently, the supply chain and manufacturing industries are facing a serious talent shortage. I am convinced that attracting and developing the skills of women in these industries is the answer for long-term success and global competitive advantage for U.S brands.
What is the role of Business, Supply Chain, and Change Leadership in addressing these challenges?
All the areas I address as challenges that are important to me fall under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility. For business management teams to make measurable and positive changes in any of these areas it must be a top priority in the C-Suite – supported by investment in staff and resources. It pleases me to see more and more companies publishing corporate social responsibility reports to their shareholders. But action is key.
When I started at ALOM I was blown away to see all the programs and initiatives already in place that address diversity, inclusion, environmental protection, gender equality, and wage parity. The list goes on. Since I have been at the company, now going on three years, the number of new programs and initiative has increased dramatically to include ISO 14001 and ISO 14064-1 certification, a commitment to a zero-carbon footprint across all operations by 2030, and an audit of all suppliers to ensure compliance of worker safety and human rights protections.
This requires a significant investment of resources by the company, which I am proud to say has never been questioned as anything but necessary and important for the success of the company and its clients.
What are you working on these days?
Staying ahead of challenges from a COVID perspective – as seen from both an operational and procurement standpoint. Demand planning in this environment is practically impossible. But we still have to make it happen to acquire materials, fill orders, and ship on time. It is challenging to come up with solutions on the fly where no two days are the same.
I don’t see this environment changing in near future. Supply chain transforms so quickly and the landscape changes on an ongoing basis. Keeping my teams focused on implementing solutions to solve new challenges is invigorating and exhausting at the same time. Fortunately, I work with highly talented and experienced teams that inspire and impress me each day.
What advice would you give to people who have a career in, or who are considering joining, Business and/or Supply Chain?
Once supply chain gets in your blood, you are hooked. That’s how it is for me. My job and being a part of this industry is so rewarding. Supply chain combines all possible dynamics bringing success to clients and their customers. What I do affects the well-being and quality of life for millions of people on a daily basis. The sky is the limit to what you can achieve if you have passion for what you do.
There is no way there is not a path forward for you if you are committed to learning and have the integrity to deliver on your promises. Go after it and get what you want. It is hard to find really good people. Look for an organization that will be committed to investing in your success through training and mentorship. This is a good indication of a company’s values.
I have never regretted being a part of the industry. Looking at my career serves as an example to others of what they can achieve. But a word of caution: don’t get into this industry if you don’t thrive on finding solutions to overcome challenges. Things move fast and they are only going to get faster.
How can people contact Fiona Lowbridge?
Fiona Lowbridge can be contacted via email at [email protected].