I interviewed Michael Goldman who discussed Planning and Pursuing a Dynamic Career Track in Supply Chain.







This is a very important topic on supply chain career planning and pursuing a career in supply chain. Before we start, can you provide a brief background of yourself?


Sure. I'm president and founder of Strategic Associate, an executive recruitment firm based here, actually in Austin, Texas in the United States. And we specialize on a nationwide basis in talent and opportunity in supply chain, manufacturing operations, procurement and quality.


I founded the firm back in 1988, so we've been around for quite some time. I've actually personally been in the business for over 35 years, since 1980 actually, since back in the days. At the by beginnings of what they used to call MRP, which is ERP now, of course. But when supply chain was primarily done on a manual basis. So, I've seen a lot of changes then as the decades have piled up. And so, I have a lot of experience in dealing with professionals in organizations in helping to advise them and how to pursue the most successful career and how to identify talent to bring it to their organizations in a multiple different number of industries—from consumer products to high tech to medical device to industrial to aerospace defense. You name the larger and smaller companies;we've probably dealt with just about all of them in over three decades.


Thanks. And what perspectives can you share that would help supply chain professionals with planning and pursuing a supply chain career?


Sure. Let's start... I always advise people, as we say as a quote, "Being with the end in mind." One of the things that I've seen... Probably about eight or nine out of ten people don't do, is they don't have career goals. They don't have a vision for their careers, where they want to get to in about five or ten years. That's about the time frame. And they wake up one day with them realizing that they weren't happy or being let go, or having some career difficulties. And a lot of that is because people just don't have careers, and it's ultimately ironic that the people who are professional at planning company supply chains and industry supply chains, are among the worst in actually planning their own careers.


So, what I suggest is emphasizing the kinds of activities and talents that they've developed in supply chain, to actually fulfill the ultimate end goal, which would be a successful career.


So, the first point that I would make is, begin with the end in mind. Think about what you can envision for yourself in five to ten years. Where do you want to get to? Otherwise, you're just lost in the wilderness, just looking for career steps, and you're not going to be very successful. And by doing that, I don't mean using round words and phrases. "I want to be in project management," or "I want to help a company become successful."


Dive into the weeds. Get specific. Do you see yourself someday as a director of global supply chain? Do you see yourself as a VP? What part of supply chain? Front-endsupply chain, of course, being planning, SNLP, inventory management, being closer to where the customers are. Or back end supply chain—logistics, distribution, that type of thing, customer service.So, that's the first step.


Now, there are layers of experience that I always suggest people look at. If you ultimately want to get to become a supply chain leader, the place to point yourself toward is probably front-end supply chain. There aren't... You could be the VP of logistics someday, but quite frankly, logistics, the back end of supply chain is generally used by many successful professionals as a beginning stages of their career.


So, what I've seen in people's careers is they've either started on the logistic side, the backend supply chain, or in procurement. Procurement helps to demonstrate that they can actually provide some successful cost savings; they can add to the bottom line with revenue issues. And then, eventually, moving from procurement over the logistics into front-end supply chain. Production planning, inventory management, SNLP, whatever it might be.


Because if you actually looked at LinkedIn, and you look at the profiles of VPs of global supply chain, you'll see that most to them have come from front end supply chain with a background in potentially could be back end supply chain and logistics or in procurement.


What you can't do, though, is in most cases you can't spend 10, 15 years in logistics and suddenly think that you're going to be a global VP of supply chain or a global director. Because most firms see the back end of the supply chain as being valuable but in a limited way.It's basically the physical movement of goods rather than the planning and the impacting of budgets and dollars and sense.


Front-end supply chain is seen where the rubber meets the road, where you actually impact the success of the product going out the door to the customer.


So, that's what I mean by various layers of career track in supply chain. As far as education is concerned, it's great to have an engineering degree. It's great to have a degree in supply chain, and I'm talking about an undergraduate degree. It's better to have either a technical or a supply chain degree of some kind, as opposed to a business degree, because then what you do is you add the MBA on top of that. If you have a general business undergrad degree, then if you can, you want to get a technical postgraduate degree. That's the most attractive kind of academic experience you could have on your resume.


Then on top of that, you want to become certified. APICS certification, ISM certification, whatever it might be. Certification, while it's not necessarily stressed by the company that someone might be with, it shouldn't be taken lightly. Because what that actually does is it sends a message to the marketplace that you go to the outside to constantly educate yourself, the latest trends within supply chain.


So, just because you have an MBA doesn't mean you shouldn't have a certification. By all means, the best resume I could see would be an undergrad degree in a technical field, an MBA, an APICS certification, and then one more step, some kind of LEAN certification or a Six Sigma black belt, if you will.


I know Villanova has a terrific program in Six Sigma. It's a Master's certificate in Six Sigma. If you can do something like that, you can do it online and relate it to supply chain. So, that's the kind of profile that is the most competitive out in the marketplace.


Now, with that in mind, understand that there are two markets that you are really playing to. Two audiences that you have. Of course, with whatever firm you're with, you want to be able to build your career successfully within the firm. But sometimes, that doesn't necessarily match what the marketplace is looking for. For instance, some people go back and forth between line management and process improvement. Process improvement doesn't necessarily bring the credentials necessary to interest the marketplace in making somebody an executive leader in charge of a head count, which is another thing that you need to do.


As soon as you can, you want to have a headcount responsibility and a budget responsibility. You want to add that to your portfolio.


So, what you want to do is you want to be able to build that supply chain experience through back end and front end or procurement and front end. You want to be able to acquire the academics that you need to be competitive in the marketplace. And the certifications. And you want to be able to make sure that you're pursuing successes within your career, within the company, that also make sense to the external marketplace.


External marketplace looks for people who are impacting the bottom line in dollars and sense and having line management responsibility at some point. So, making sure that you have an eye toward appealing to the marketplace, including your current company.


Now, what I've also found is when you're looking at opportunities, whether they be internal, external, the two most effective filters that you could possibly use in judging those opportunities are very important. And believe it or not, they has nothing to do with compensation. As a matter of fact, on the list of 10 reasons why people make moves, compensation is usually somewhere in the bottom five. It's not unimportant but it is still important.


The two top filters that you should use in order to judge opportunity internally and externally are number one, does that opportunity bring you closer to your ultimate goals rather than further away. And number, two, does it give you more options rather than fewer. So, again, does it give you more options rather than fewer options? Does it bring you closer to some of your ultimate goals? Or further away?


Now, what I mean by that is, when you're looking at opportunities, how many options? If you go to your next step whether internally or externally, how will it give you more options? How will it give you more opportunities to be able to think about what you want to do? More options, more different directions to be able to take your career. And as far as getting closer to your some of your ultimate goals, that goes hand in hand with what I mentioned before about establishing your five to ten year career goal, what your vision is, your career vision.


How does it get you closer to that vision? It has to be quantifiable, actionable elements about the opportunity that will get you closer to your goals. I've talked to many people over the years who have suddenly woken up in their careers and realized that they really felt unfulfilled. Or they had just pursued a myriad of different kinds of roles within a company, but they really never led to anything. They never led to a career vision. And as a result, they were unhappy for a whole host of reasons. Or they stopped providing value to their firms, and they found themselves out on the street.


So, if you're doing something in a very organized why, and ironically, what I'm talking about here is implementing the same instance, the same tactics, the same strategies, that a supply chain professional brings to fulfilling a successful supply chain, putting together and executing a successful supply chain. You bring that to your own career, those particular principles, the strategies and tactics, and that's what will lead you to the same success, personally in your career, that you would lead your company to in executing and driving successful supply chain strategies and tactics for your company.


So, those are some tips I would give people. I know that's a lot in a nutshell here. But I think right there, those are some very valuable, in-the-career-weeds kind of guidance that I can give to supply chain professionals out there.


Do you have any particular questions about anything I've shared so far?


Have you seen any common career planning points that supply chain professional struggle with during this process?


Yeah. I'd say getting too wedded to logistics, to back end supply chain and realizing they want to get to the next step but they don't have anything to bridge to the next step. So, as soon as someone can plant the seeds of a career in logistics or procurement, getting into front-end supply chain.I'd say one of the things they probably don't want to do is go back the forth between the various areas. So, if someone is in procurement and they get into front end supply chain, they don't necessarily want to get back into procurement unless they're going to be pursuing leadership in procurement. Same thing with logistics.I've seen some people go from logistics to back end supply chain to front end, and then back to back end. In the latter two thirds of your career, you go back in the supply chain and logistics, then you become stereotyped by the marketplace by that role. And it's the same thing in procurement.


So, you're latest role into your career by, let's say, eight, nine, ten years, what you do after that, the market will stereotype that. So, once you get to that point, you want to make sure you get into front end supply chain if you can.


The other thing is, people don't leverage their tools, their resume and their LinkedIn profile. They think they only have to have a resume and a successful LinkedIn profile when they are actively looking, when that's not the case. Those are great tools to keep track of what you'redoing. Ever go up to your attic and find all these boxes of all these old things in them and say, "Oh my god. Everything backed up here. I've got to unpack things. I've got to figure what they are. I've got to organize them."


It's the same approach that people take with their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. They suddenly go up to the attic, and they find all this stuff with all this dust in it that they haven't thought about it in a long time, and they have to organize everything. One of the things about organizing your resume and your LinkedIn profile is it puts you through executing a preparation and organization of your thoughts about the value that you've brought to your organizations and your career, and it's amazing how so few people are able to clearly articulate the value that they've brought to their firms as a result of not having this organization and thought.It's a very valuable exercise to go through.


And then I'd say the other thing too is having a counsel, having someone, for instance, in the recruitment business, in my industry, who understands what they do for a living, who they can go to for advice any time they need, whether it be internal or external opportunity.


I have relationships with people over many years who come to me from time to them just to ask me for advice on opportunities they see in the marketplace or internally they have an opportunity to fill.


I have actually placed people back in the '80s who have sent their children to me, once they've graduated from college and put in a couple of years in the marketplace, to seek advice. And I always tell my friends I don't have to make a buck every time you call. I just feel as if it's incumbent upon me, having been in this marketplace for so long, to give back, to pay it forward in some way. Because I think it's important for people to have some guidance. They can't bury you in the bottom of the pyramid with all the gold and jewels. To me, it's a legacy issue.


If I can provide input to someone that they find value in and that helps them pursue a successful career at some point in their lives, or at least helps to put them in touch with the reality of the marketplace as it relates to what they've done so far, then I see that as being a valuable contribution to the supply chain and the manufacturing marketplace.


So, that was a long answer to your short question, but did that give you an answer?


Yes. And thank you for sharing today. This is very good insight for supply chain professionals.


Absolutely.I'm very glad to help, spend a little time with you, Dustin. I hope it's been helpful to you.


Thank you.




About Michael Goldman





Michael Goldman


President and Founder of Strategic Associates, Inc.


LinkedIn Profile