For the past several years, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' (CSCMP) Young Professionals Committee has recognized two or three supply chain professionals under the age of 32 who are already making a mark on the profession. The 2019 Emerging Leader Award winners were: Anahi Arza, logistics operations lead at consumer goods company Unilever, and Parker Holcomb, founder and chief executive officer of freight broker CoLane.
Originally from Paraguay, Arza has worked in supply chain management for the past four years in Barcelona, Spain. Prior to working at Unilever, Arza was involved in supply chain planning projects at Schneider Electric and served as an area manager leading a team of more than 100 people that launched a new Amazon fulfillment center in Barcelona.
Holcomb is the founder of CoLane, a Chicago, Illinois-based company operating as a traditional freight broker, which uses its internal artificial intelligence virtual assistant, Archie, to streamline regular shipments of truckloads of goods. Archie was designed to free up time for Colane employees so they can focus on their customers' needs. Holcomb is passionate about outsourcing routine tasks to technology so the humans can focus on creativity and relationships.
The award winners were honored at CSCMP's 2019 Annual Conference in Anaheim, California. After the conference, Arza discussed her career path with Supply Chain Quarterly Managing Editor Diane Rand and shared her goals for the future. (Holcomb was unable to participate by press time.)
How to nominate an Emerging Leader
Although the nomination period has ended for the 2020 Emerging Leader Award, CSCMP asks the supply chain community every year to recommend young leaders who are making a difference in the supply chain community. Be on the lookout for the call for nominations for the 2021 Award at the end of the year.
CSCMP's Emerging Leader Award was created to acknowledge up-and-coming leaders in the supply chain management field for their meaningful contributions to—and future influence on—the profession.
Selected emerging leaders will represent their peers and be awarded for their achievements with:
To qualify for the Emerging Leader Award, a nominee must be:
Nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:
For the 2021 Emerging Leaders, the nominations will open in the Fall, after the 2020 EDGE Conference in Orlando, Florida, September 20-23, and run through mid-February 2021. More information can be found at cscmp.org.
What attracted you to supply chain management as a profession?
I studied industrial engineering in Paraguay, and I think that gave me lots of possibilities to specialize in several areas. Then, looking for a master's degree abroad, I found one in "supply chain and operations management," and it just felt like the right fit for me.
I really like the idea that supply chain can add value to the business rather than serving just as a "support function." I know that sometimes it is a challenge to get other departments inside the company to see it that way, but it's been proven that a best-in-class supply chain can bring a competitive advantage.
Can you describe some of your key take aways from the work you did launching a new Amazon fulfillment center in Barcelona?
Starting [a fulfillment center] from scratch gave me the unique opportunity to define, along with the team, what kind of work culture we wanted at our center.
For me the most important learning I got was to connect and communicate with the people from the very first minute. I remember that our senior team encouraged us to close our laptops and just walk the floor and talk to our teams. They said that we would be able to explain all the data at the end of the day if we were around to see what was going on rather than being behind a desk checking emails. That really sets a culture!
And I found out that is 100% true. Not only do you know what happens in every shift, but it is the best way to earn the trust of your team.
Are there any additional projects you have worked on that you have found particularly interesting?
During my time at Schneider Electric, I worked on the implementation of a new software for planning that impacted the whole organization, meaning countries in all continents. This was very interesting for me because it was my first experience working with such different cultures, and I learnt to adapt to each one. After this, I knew that meetings with people from India are not the same as meeting with people from South America. Culture, language, and ways of working are all different; the diversity is amazing.
Now, at Unilever the challenges are different but as exciting. I'm responsible for the logistics of the ice cream business for all Spain. That means that I need to make sure that everyone finds their favorite ice cream at the store or on the street when they want it. This, during the summer, can be really challenging because of course the resources are limited and the demands increase during a few weeks. But I work with a great team, and I'm a huge fan of our brands and products myself, which makes it just more fun at the end of the day.
If you were to speak to a class of supply chain management students, what advice would you give them?
I would say don't underestimate the value of the soft skills you learn from "walking the floor" while managing a team. We get a lot of technical skills from the university and master's degrees, we are really, really good at analyzing the data, putting together great presentations, and making pivot tables, etc. But being close to the people (even if you are not their manager), building relationships, that makes all the difference. We are a generation that feels more comfortable texting than talking on the phone (or face to face!), that's a fact. But not everything can be solved through an email, and for sure you can't lead a team from your laptop.
What goals do you have for yourself for the next 10 years?
Right now I'm focused on broadening my knowledge and experience in different supply chain areas. I've been in operations and now in logistics, but I would like to learn more about, for example, planning, procurement, and customer service. However, in today's environment that's not enough. I'm also learning and getting involved in digitization projects, because technology is changing the game, and it's doing it very fast.
In the future, I would like to lead the supply chain function of a company, knowing that behind all the technology there will always be people. The leadership skills will be more important than ever, and I believe that this will be my real value.