How to accomplish career success within the supply chain industry


There are very few aspects of a business that supply chain management doesn’t touch, therefore it is safe to say that a career within the industry is full to the brim of opportunities. Whilst this can be overwhelming to some, many agree that the sheer volume of career paths this industry provides, makes it an exciting career venture for any individual.

Whether you are at a crossroads in your supply chain management career or just starting out. Debbies Lentz, President of Global Supply Chain at RS Components and Electrocomponents plc below shares the experiences she has had that have helped her achieve career success at a FTSE 25o company.

From studying the number one course for supply chain at Pennsylvania State University in the USA to undertaking her first professional job role at a food and beverage company working in a customer-facing role – Debbie’s journey to her role has not been straightforward.

Gaining more experience presents more opportunities 

To progress in any industry, hands-on experience is vital; it’s not just about knowing the theory, it’s also about doing it in practice. The discussion of whether experience or a degree is more important has been ongoing for a number of years. These days we’re seeing experience coming out on top in terms of what employers are looking for more and more often.

Debbie places emphasis on networking in order to gain more experience. She says:

Not only does networking with other people in the industry open your eyes to other opportunities that are out there, but it also helps you meet people who may currently – or soon will be – hiring for a new role and if they’re not – they could even introduce you to another employer that is.”

Keep an up to date calendar of upcoming conferences and events in the industry to attend and look for opportunities to speak at these events too. Not only will you be able to deepen your knowledge by hearing from other people, but people will also start to recognise you. By showing what you bring to the industry, you’ll become someone who businesses and employers want on their team.

Debbie continues:

“The power of online networking should not be ignored. The internet is full of opportunities to deepen your experience without leaving your laptop; whether that’s creating a blog, interacting with other people in the supply chain sector on LinkedIn or contributing tips-led articles to industry publications. Better yet, if you know the area you want to hone in on in your career, keep this the focus of your online networking activity.”

Seek more responsibility 

In order to move up through the ranks, employees in every industry need to seek and gain more responsibility in their role – and the same goes for the supply chain sector.

Debbie explains:

“As we all know, the supply chain is broad. From supply chain design and planning to inventory management and control, what does the ‘top’ look like for you in the position you aspire to be in? Once you know this, and you’ve decided what your ‘dream role’ is, you can start to move towards translating this directly to your personal career path in order to get there.” 

Debbie also encourages being vocal about what you want from a business, and using this to your advantage when seeking higher levels of responsibility within your role:

“To get to the next step of my career, I knew I needed project management skills, so I worked out the next position I needed to be in so that I could get these skills under my belt – and I was open with my leadership team about my ambitions to get there. Whilst it’s not about causing a commotion, if the leaders within your company aren’t aware of your ambitions or where you want to grow your skills set, you can’t expect these responsibilities and opportunities to be handed to you.” 

Make your career movements purposeful 

Not every individual sees ‘success’ and ‘a career peak’ in the same way. Therefore, a career step is unique to each person; for example, a step up in a career could start with a sideways move. Debbie explains:

“A sideways move could look like moving to a different position within the same company, or moving to a new company but keeping a similar job title, salary or even responsibilities. What makes it a lateral move is that the new position could give you an array of new skills you need to make that step up, or the new organisation could be far more profitable or in line with your career aspirations.”

By looking at the bigger picture and removing the need for instant satisfaction or gratification, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits further down the line. Your path to the top could actually be a lot faster than if you keep your career moves linear.

Within the supply chain sector, there’s no doubt that the more education and experience you have, as well as how up to date with industry changes and progression you are, the more you’ll be able to reap the rewards in the long run. Debbie advises:

“Keep up with the latest technologies whilst continually seeking to expand your knowledge. Whether that’s working to get an advanced degree or professional certifications – such as an APICS, CSCMP or Six Sigma Black Belt – keep your personal career aspirations in your mind whenever you seek to make a lateral career move.”

A great starting point to achieve the career you’ve always wanted is to map out a clear career plan – seek the support of mentors and line managers and don’t rule out lateral career moves. In doing so your career steps and the path to the top could be a lot closer than they appear.