The world has presented unique challenges for young supply chain professionals this year, yet they continue to seize opportunities and reach milestones as they contribute to the companies they join or the businesses they create.
Each year, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' (CSCMP’s) Young Professionals Committee receives nominations for supply chain professionals under the age of 35 who are already making a mark on the profession. They select individuals who go above and beyond—providing leadership needed to not only weather current challenges, but thrive in the face of adversity. This year's Emerging Leader Award winners are Courtney Cook of Hallmark Cards and Orlando Gillespie of SC4 (Supply Chain Collaborative Consulting Consortium). Both were chosen because of their career accomplishments and their record of achievement in the supply chain profession, as evidenced by awards, peer recognition, and recommendations.
The award winners were honored at CSCMP's 2020 Live! EDGE Virtual Conference in September. Here they reflect on their careers so far and offer advice to those up-and-coming professionals looking to join the world of supply chain management.
Courtney Cook is the e-commerce operations manager at Hallmark Cards, the largest manufacturer of greeting cards in the U.S. There, she leads the team responsible for planning, operational reporting, and execution tactics to ensure product availability across all e-commerce retailers, including Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and other grocery platforms. During the past four years at Hallmark, she has spent the majority of her time immersed in the e-commerce world. She thrives on diving into data, solving problems, and keeping up-to-date with the ever-evolving digital world.
Cook currently serves as the vice president of programs for the Kansas City CSCMP Heartland Roundtable. She holds degrees in supply chain management and finance from the University of Kansas.
What attracted you to supply chain management as a profession?
I worked part time for a startup company in college as an internet marketing intern where I wrote ad copy and took tons of product photos. I quickly learned this was not an area of expertise of mine, but I had the opportunity to work on the operations and purchasing side of the business as well. Through this experience, I realized I was born to work in the supply chain management field. I ultimately got degrees in supply chain management and finance because of my love for math.
How long have you been working for Hallmark Cards Inc., and what do you do for them as an e-commerce operations manager?
I’ve been at Hallmark for just over four years and have spent the entire time in inventory management. For the last three years, I’ve worked on our e-commerce businesses, managing our retail inventory and execution for customers like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and grocery click-and-collect programs. My team also manages the greeting card inventory on Hallmark.com.
Are there any projects or initiatives that you have worked on that you have found to be particularly interesting or beneficial?
We can all agree that COVID greatly impacted the world of supply chain, especially those working in e-commerce. It is incredible to witness the shifts in demand over to online platforms due to the pandemic. I’ve learned so much when it comes to supply chain preparedness and finding creative solutions to minimize negative impacts due to inventory and capacity constraints.
If you were to speak to a class of supply chain management students, what advice would you give them?
I would tell students to not be afraid to ask questions and to figure out ways to be incredibly resourceful in your career. Building relationships is so important, so network within your company and across different departments. This type of networking has really opened my mind to the bigger picture of what is happening outside my world. It also provides perspective on how the decisions I make affect others across the supply chain. Finally, network with others outside your organization. Make sure to connect with a wide variety of people who have your back in and outside of where you work!
What goals do you have for yourself for the next 10 years?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart and would love to start my own company at some point. Who knows when that will happen, but it is something I’m constantly thinking about! Outside of being an entrepreneur, I’m really interested in getting distribution experience as I’ve spent most of my career in inventory management. I really want to experience the other areas that supply chain has to offer.
Orlando Gillespie is the founder of Supply Chain Collaborative Consulting Consortium (SC4), an organization that offers supply chain consulting recommendations and implementable solutions that help organizations improved their operational visibility and efficiency. Gillespie has consulted for Total Security Solutions, Magellan Aerospace, Barnes Aerospace, and Honeywell Aerospace.
He also has been honored with several accolades, including a directorship on the Rotary Club Foundation board. He’s due to receive a project management professional (PMP) certification in early 2021. Gillespie is a graduate of Michigan State University’s Supply Chain Management program.
What is the origin story behind the creation of SC4 Consulting?
I am a graduate of the supply chain management program at Michigan State University, which ignited my passion for the industry. After working in corporate supply chain, I saw an opportunity to make an impact back in my home state of Michigan, and in 2018, I founded Supply Chain Collaborative Consulting Consortium (SC4). The purpose of this collaborative is to provide materials planning expertise, supply chain solutions and automation, and process improvement and management. At SC4, we make high-level solutions accessible to large and small businesses.
What do you think are some of the next big trends in supply chain?
Dynamic value stream mapping (VSM)—which provides companies with an opportunity to visualize successive steps needed to provide customers with value—is making a resurgence. As supply chains evolve, value stream maps act as the living documents that visually reveal “low hanging fruit” opportunities. Additionally, I see automation as a powerful solution for companies that must compensate for the decline in vocational workers.
Are there any projects or initiatives that you have worked on, or are currently working on, that you have found to be particularly interesting?
In recent projects, I have noticed a need for VSM. Through a kaizen [business improvement] event focused on VSM, we are able to identify opportunities to unite processes and create efficiencies. By leveraging dynamic value stream maps, we quickly find ways to better procure, produce, and/or provide products and services. At SC4, we focus on collaboration and communication to drive successful business outcomes.
Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs who might be interested in entering the supply chain space?
Find your passion! The field of supply chain is constantly evolving. There are infinite opportunities to make an impact at all levels of the organization. Supply chain extends further than contributing efficient solutions, it creates opportunities for all businesses to develop and grow.
What goals do you have for yourself?
Over the next 10 years, I plan to continue expanding my supply chain knowledge base. I would like to help businesses impacted by the current pandemic and explore collaboration opportunities with other supply chain professionals. I plan to support my fellow Michigan State alumni and find opportunities to collaborate with new and seasoned supply chain professionals.
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