Attracting Supply Chain’s Next Leaders: Filling in the Gaps with Millennials

By Guest Editor

April 24, 2015 at 5:15 AM

By M.L. Peck, Senior Vice President, Program & Product Development, Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) and Linda Rigano, Executive Director, Media Relations, ThomasNet® 

Ten years ago, Katy Conrad Maynor never could have imagined that one day she’d be honored by ThomasNet® and ISM® as a “30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Star”. In fact, supply chain was not even an industry on her radar. A business major at Ohio State, Katy planned on a marketing career until she heard a presentation by a logistics professional at Limited Brands. That presentation led to a three month internship in the supply chain group at Shell Oil – and forever changed her aspirations. 

Today, Katy is Category Manager, Finished Lubricants/B2B at Shell, and she loves making a direct impact on her company’s bottom line. Her passion has led to so many achievements that she’s not only a Rising Star; she was named the “megawatt professional” among this group of outstanding young leaders.

The supply chain industry needs to attract more professionals like Katy—and fast. Organizations’ health and vitality—indeed, the strength of our economy—depend on having outstanding people in supply chain positions. Their work affects their companies’ brands, competitive positioning, sales and overall financial performance. We need new talent to carry the profession forward.

Increasingly, that talent must come from the Millennial (age 18-32) generation. A “perfect storm” is approaching as the Baby Boomers who dominate supply chain management get ready to retire. This is happening just as Millennials become the largest living generation in the US. By 2025, they’ll also make up about 75% of the workforce. By getting onboard now, they have time to be trained and mentored by their more experienced co-workers before the Boomer flight takes hold.

But attracting this generation is more easily said than done, despite the fact that supply chain management careers dovetail with Millennials’ value systems. These young professionals are socially conscious and want to make a difference to their organizations and communities. Our Rising Stars love that they’re improving access to vital products and services like medicine and clean energy, and contributing to sustainability goals. They’re making a big financial impact too—collectively saving their organizations hundreds of millions of dollars. 

It all comes down to awareness. Supply chain management courses at colleges and universities are increasing, but not universally so. 

Millennials either do not know about the field or do not realize how strategic and exciting it has become. Wesley Whitney, a sourcing specialist with Enterprise Products, moved into supply chain management after serving as a case manager in a law firm. Years ago, his grandmother held a supply chain job, and the requirements were so different from today that he never considered it. A friend in a related role at Hess Corporation opened his eyes to how the industry has changed.

Amplifying Awareness

Addressing the awareness issue is the first step in bringing more bright young professionals into supply chain management. It’s the reason that ThomasNet and ISM created the “30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars” Recognition Program last year. We want to celebrate professionals who are 30 or younger, and whose leadership and innovation are helping their companies and associations. We hope that they will serve as role models, showing their peers how exciting supply chain careers are.

Our first group of winners love their jobs and are making the most of them. They are demonstrating leadership and achievements that are well beyond their years of experience. These Rising Stars are introducing their organizations to new sourcing strategies and technologies, gaining consensus from multiple stakeholders on difficult issues, and completing comprehensive data analyses to support a course of action. Matt Bauer, the procurement administrator for the City of Mesa, AZ, initiated and helped launch the first use of reverse auctions at two different agencies he has worked for and as a result, he’s saved millions of dollars on everything from bulk flour to employee benefits services.

Ask these Rising Stars if they want to stay in supply chain management, and the answer is a resounding yes. Their experiences shed a light on what other supply chain professionals can do to attract and keep bright young professionals. You can help by:

  • Telling friends and family members what you love about your position and why it’s satisfying to you.
  • Looking for opportunities to mentor new supply chain professionals. Many of our Rising Stars have at least one mentor who offers advice in a non-judgmental way.
  • Offering what Sarah Klemsz calls tough love. Sarah, formerly from Boeing and now in a graduate supply chain management program at the University of Michigan, appreciates the chance to strengthen her skills based on honest feedback from more experienced colleagues.
  • Avoiding a rush to judgement. Hands down, the “30 Under 30” say a big misperception about their generation is that they lack a work ethic. They are dedicating themselves to their jobs and to professional associations like ISM. Some are paying it forward, mentoring students in hopes that they, too, will someday join their ranks.

ThomasNet and ISM will soon announce details of their next “30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars” Recognition Program. Nominate a deserving young star, and help ensure the continued vitality of the supply chain profession. For more information, please go to

MLPECK.jpgM.L. Peck is Senior Vice President, Program and Product Development for Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®). Founded in 1915 as the first supply management institute in the world, ISM is committed to advancing the practice of supply chain management to drive value and competitive advantage for its members, contributing to a prosperous and sustainable world. This year, ISM celebrates 100 years of leading, innovating and guiding the profession through the renowned ISM Report On Business®, highly regarded certification programs, and the newly launched ISM Mastery Model™. Please contact her at (800) 888-6276 or +1 (480) 752-6276, ext. 3133 or

Linda Rigano.JPGLinda Rigano is Executive Director, Media Relations with ThomasNet®, which provides solutions that make it easier for buyers and engineers to partner with the right industrial suppliers. For nearly a century the Company’s “big green books” – the Thomas Register -- were considered indispensable to B2B buyers and manufacturers alike. Today, ThomasNet offers tools to facilitate every step of the buying process. This includes industry’s leading supplier discovery platform, free online at Please contact Ms. Rigano at 212-629-1522 or







Tags: purchasing Supply chain management Careers Procurement sourcing training talent awards
Category: News Article

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