By Mina Fangrari
When I was I child, I found myself thinking I’ll be a doctor, police officer, a teacher when imagining what I would do when I got older. I never once thought I’d be a supply chainer! This is not because I didn’t like the profession. It just wasn’t something I expected to be a part of my life.
After finishing high school, I started looking at available majors I could pursue in my college life and found Supply Chain and Logistics Management. I began a Google search and contacted people to find out more about this area of study. What are the titles of people who work in this field? Why is it unpopular in developing countries?
Now, I’m a senior Supply Chain (SC) Operations and Logistics student. I ended up loving the major and made the decision to pursue a career in it.
During my journey in college, I’ve gained the knowledge necessary to be competitive in the job market through my academic courses and practical experiences like internships, summer training, supply chain simulation models, and various competitions. From my humble perspective, I can recommend six things that should be considered before pursuing the Supply Chain and Logistics field for those that may find as much interest in it as I did.
Be Knowledgeable All-Around
Supply chain management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion and all logistics management activities. It also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners; which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third party service providers, and customers.
In essence, Supply Chain management is the integration and synchronization of many functions and activities, so having a breadth of knowledge and experience in many other fields such as finance, accounting, sales, marketing, E-commerce, and contracting is key to being able to understand and manage the overall processes.
As the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) mentions, SC management is an integrating function primarily responsible with linking major business functions and business processes within and across companies into a cohesive business model. To grasp this knowledge, the best way is to use college resources that are readily available to students to get a head start. You can choose additional elective courses or take part in a related minor. You can also take courses online or read academic books.
Pass Exams and Become Certified
Whether you are majoring in Supply Chain or any other major, you can develop your knowledge in this field by taking some preparatory courses or international exams in SC and Logistics. These exams are not required for recent graduates, but they can be a plus for your resume. A survey conducted by the Association for Supply Chain Management (APICS) showed that respondents who hold only one Supply Chain certification get paid 19 percent more than their work peers without. Furthermore, those with two or three certifications get paid salaries of 39%-50% more than those who don’t.
Here are just a few example international exams:
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)
- Certified Industrial Engineer(CIE)
- Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)
- Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM)
- Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD)
- Certified Professional Logistician (CPL)
- Certified Professional Contract Manager (CPCM)
- Higher FIATA Diploma in Supply Chain Management (HFDSCM)
Before taking any of these, it’s important to have basic knowledge of the field and to have some practical experience.
Math is Important
Some colleges do not provide enough math and statistics classes for the Supply Chain major, but this is a mistake. In the workforce, most supply chain positions deal with numbers in terms of quantities, spaces, heights, time, distances, prices, weight, etc. I remember in the first class of my major, the professor told me, “We only make decisions based on mathematical and statistical solutions and proof.” Any other decisions are naïve. That’s why you should strengthen your math and statistics skills to be able to make the right decision while working in supply chain. According to Susan Bogle, Associate Vice President of Product Marketing at Southern New Hampshire University; to work effectively in Supply Chain, you must have mathematic skills, especially in linear algebra, differential calculus and statistics.
To work in supply chain, you must know how to use certain software. In small firms and manufacturers, you must be advanced in using Microsoft Excel, SPSS (Statistical Product and Service Solutions), and Microsoft Project. In global and multinational firms and manufacturers, you must be able to use ERP systems such as SAP software or Oracle. To be a supply chain expert, you will need to know how to use enterprise software applications like WMS (Warehousing Management Systems), TMS (Transportation Management System), and ERP. You can learn Excel, SPSS software, and Microsoft Project through online courses or on YouTube. In contrast, it can be very difficult to learn SAP or Oracle through the internet. It’s highly recommended to take a simulation course or learn it in real life through internships and training to grasp a full comprehension of these programs.
Supply Chain is, according to Melissa Patel– CPSM, sourcing & account manager team leader at Field Fastener—in a Rasmussen College blog, “all about relationships” between all parties involved: suppliers, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributers, retailers, and the end-user. While working in some positions, look for new relationships or strengthen current ones so they can become strategic alliances. The act of building a relationship with an organization is often reliant on how well you can develop a good rapport with their representative. Start to develop your networking skills now – don’t wait until you work in Supply Chain. Make it a habit and incorporate this practice into your life to ensure you can easily use it in your day-to-day routine.
Soft Skills Pay the Bills
There are several essential soft skills you must understand to work inSupply Chain:
- Communication skills and the ability to effectively deal with diverse cultures, classes, lifestyles, and backgrounds are the most important skills you can have. It is well-known that supply chainers must deal with different people in procurement, suppliers management, customer service and customer relationship management, marketing, sales, distributors, wholesalers, carriers, and freight forwarders. Oxford College of Procurement and Supply mentions in an article that “Communication is crucial to supply chain success, and yet it is surprisingly one of the biggest areas in need of improvement.” They also say that “with proper communication between stakeholders and external suppliers, more creative ideas can be brought to the table.”
- Negotiation and debating skills are crucial to help reach a deal with your supply chain partners. An article from North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management, Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, states that “Excellent negotiation skills not only influence the outcome of individual transactions, but also relationships with suppliers and overall success.”
- Problem-solving skills are necessary because supply chain is always full of problems, bottlenecks, and uncertainties. Due to the field’s changing nature, supply chainers must have the ability to think critically and solve problems in the right timeframes at the lowest cost possible.
- Project management and leadership: Supply chain managementis full of projects that need a true leader to direct and motivate the team to achieve its objectives. Supply Chainers must understand the basics, risks, and challenges that might happen in project management.
Mina Fangrari is a Senior at the Arab Academy for Science Technology & Maritime Transport (AASTMT), majors in Supply Chain and Logistics Management and is the recipient of two fully funded scholarships from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Mina was previously director of the AAST Entrepreneurship Society and was awarded the Dean’s List (Fall 2018) at the University of the Incarnate Word, Texas, for his academic achievement; and by the Institute of International Education for his academic performance and community service. Mina had many internship experiences at multinational companies in the fields of Supply Chain, logistics, and marketing. He is an amateur soft-skills, entrepreneurship, and critical thinking trainer. He is also the founder of the Prodigy Videosprogram. He studied 720 hours of the English language and the Professional Skills Training Program at The American University in Cairo.