By Ivan Kelly
In January 2018, HP Inc. closed the facility at which I had spent the bulk of my professional career. It was not a surprise. We all knew it was coming and had worked hard in the months prior to assure the transition of business to other HP Inc. facilities went as smoothly as possible. There was a determination within our facility to close out as a professional and focused team, we were a highly skilled group and we intended that to be our legacy. As difficult as it was, I must say that the local HP Inc. leadership handled the closure process with a great deal of professionalism and compassion, it was best in class.
Once the final day came and went, the only task that remained was deciding what I wanted to do next. No problem. However, it occurred to me that it had been quite a while since I had really thought about where my career was headed. I suspect this is something that many of my supply chain management peers can relate to. We get so mired in the weeds of day-to-day expectations, it can be difficult to slow the roll and take a personal inventory to determine how we can grow.
With time to really contemplate the opportunities that might lie ahead, I found myself thinking not just about getting my next “job,” but finding a path that would allow me to maximize my value to myself. I know that I want the next step in my career to be enjoyable, challenging and rewarding. But, should I play it safe and stay within my comfort zone, or do I take a risk and seek a strategic challenge in a new direction?
“We get so mired in the weeds of day-to-day expectations, it can be difficult to slow the roll and take a personal inventory to determine how we can grow.”
I suppose in this way, I am fortunate. HP Inc. Ireland’s closure has granted me the opportunity to more purposefully map out the next phase of my career journey, knowing what I now know through my experience. As I consider this turning point in my career, I recognize that the supply chain profession is also reaching an inflection point.
On the one hand, we have the supply chain management of the future, in which supply chain is considered an equal stakeholder in the business, with the proverbial seat at the innovation, operations, and other decision-making tables. On the other, the remnants of yesterday’s supply chain persist, positioning supply chain as a reactionary resource squeezed between the demands of external suppliers and internal customers. With the exception of the Gartner Top 25-type organizations, my guess is many companies are living somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. While some may feel quite at home in this middling position, for those of us with more adventurous spirits, sailing down the middle of the road is like a slow, painful death. No thank you.
Personally, I am a proponent of “doing the right thing, rather than the easy thing.” For myself and the supply chain profession as a whole, I have no doubt that the “right thing” is to pursue, with vigor, those opportunities within the changing dynamics of the global business environment to embrace the crescendo of change and invest in bringing game-changing innovations into our organizations.
Today, paradigm shifters are emerging in areas like 5PL, bimodal supply chains, blockchain, IoT and additive manufacturing. As these technologies and processes mature, it is conceivable, in my opinion, that in the not-too-distant future, organizations may not just embrace supply chain, but revolve around it. I see the technology sector heading down a path where technology, agility, application of diverse data streams and knowledge of relationship management are converging to create a condition where supply chain is widely established as a core driver of organizational growth.
“If you aren’t being given the opportunity to innovate and grow, think about moving on. Trust me, it’s not as scary as you might think.”
For some readers, I imagine my “insights” may not be terribly Earth shattering. For all the rest, I hope that sharing my experience and, the opportunity of searching out new challenges, will spur some thought, encourage a little of your own introspection. Step back from the daily firefighting, take a deep breath and remember you are working in one of the most exciting, opportunity-filled professions around. Celebrate your successes and keep pushing the boundaries. The more fulfilled you are in your job, the more successful you will be. And, if you aren’t being given the opportunity to innovate and grow, think about moving on. Trust me, it’s not as scary as you might think and you just might find the perfect job you didn’t even know you were looking for. Best of luck.