6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Supply Chain Management Career

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Like any industry, SCM can be a mystery for those on the outside looking in. And though no two industries are identical, there are some common links that connect most SCM careers. Understanding these insights will give you a behind-the-scenes look at what a career in this field is all about.

We enlisted a handful of SCM professionals to help shed some light on the topic. So if you’re interested in earning money by helping organizations save money, read on to learn some important things our experts wish they knew before starting a supply chain management career.  

6 things you should know about supply chain management careers

1. You need to be familiar with your industry

At its basic-level, SCM professionals oversee materials, information and finances as they are transferred from supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. But the responsibilities can vary depending on the industry and organization in which you’re working. Before pursuing any SCM career it’s important you understand exactly what it entails. 

“A supply chain career can run the gamut from a basic purchasing function, to operating the end to end supply stream for a large corporation,” says Steve Lykken, senior vice president of supply chain management for Jennie-O Turkey Store. He explains that every company defines it differently, meaning the day-to-day functions can be very different.

2. SCM is data-driven…

One of the common threads found throughout all supply chain management careers is that it’s largely focused on facts and figures. The job is a very data and process-driven, according to Kathleen Ivanca, strategic account executive for VHA, a health care organization.

Systems tracking supply and demand have become increasingly complex to meet the increasingly complex demands of customers, says Brad Barry of St. Onge Company, which specializes in supply chain strategy. He goes on to say that an SCM professional with the ability to use the available tools to interpret the data is invaluable to his or her organization. 

3. … but it’s also dynamic

While data and systems are a stable element found in all SCM careers, that doesn’t mean you go through the same routines each and every day. “I have been doing this for 23 years and every day is different,” says Randy Collack, chief operating officer of BlueGrace Logistics.  “Technology is changing almost daily, regulations come and go and geo-political changes are constant.”

Like any job, there will be dull parts of your day and it may take time before you’re able to take on more dynamic challenges available to SMC professionals. No matter how mundane some tasks may seem, completing them with vigor and enthusiasm will help you move up the ranks quickly, according to Chuck Franzetta, CEO of Franzetta & Associates, Inc.

4. SCM professionals are not isolated

The supply chain management department is not an island by any means. A company’s SCM efforts are interwoven throughout the entire organization. This means a stellar SCM professional needs to be detail oriented while also focusing on the big picture. Why? Because one small change across a large chain can have major unintended consequences, whether positive or negative, explains Collack.   

“Make it a point to meet and seek the insights of people outside your immediate realm of activity,” Franzetta advises. “What they tell you will help you to understand where and how your activity might better serve the ultimate corporate objective of growing profitable revenues.” He says achieving a more holistic view of your organization will equip you to make sound suggestions, earning the support of others along the way.

5. Networking should be a priority

“Connecting with a variety of people from various job functions and industries can be vital,” Barry says. He explains that networking can help find new employment opportunities, keep up with industry info and share ideas and insight.

You’ll want to keep a keen eye out for networking opportunities even after landing a job. Ivanca recommends continuing to attend industry-related conferences and even shadowing your customers to better understand their needs.

“Not only will it build relationships and trust, but it will also give you an idea of how supply chain can be a part of their success,” she says.

6. SCM success comes in many forms

Median earnings for supply chain managers, sometimes referred to as logisticians, is $72,780, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.* You’d probably consider a salary of that proportion a personal success, but you’ll also be working to help your company reach organizational success. You may assume that the latter is all about the bottom-line, but according to Ivanca, success is defined differently in every industry.

“Healthcare supply chain management has critical factors that impact the lives of patients, such as providing quality care through best product and service delivery, while keeping the cost of care in mind,” she says.  “Other industries may measure their success through a product-based focus of sales and revenue.” Either way, you can feel proud knowing you are playing a significant role in helping your company reach its goals.

Take the next step

Now that you’ve had a sneak peek into a supply chain management career, you can probably guess what the next step is—you need the proper training. Learn how a Supply Chain Management Degree can help you acquire the knowledge and experience you need to succeed!


*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.


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Megan is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She hopes to engage and intrigue current and potential students.

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