Mickey North Rizza — An Interview: Looking Back, Accelerating Forward (Part 2)

Please click here for Part 1 of this series.

Spend Matters: What was your next step after learning about how best to treat suppliers working on 120-160 day terms?

Mickey North Rizza: I moved to Boston to work for another radio manufacturer. This company was much more advanced from an inventory, manufacturing, and distribution standpoint. It was great exposure and an excellent supply chain experience as our supply chain team (including the procurement team I managed) worked closely together to meet a unique set of fast-moving market challenges. At some point I was recruited into a Materials Manager role within the Aerospace and Defense team for M/A-COM, a high-performance semiconductor and wireless device manufacturer.

The role and the expanded role were awesome; as was the experienced I gained. We moved the machine shop production facility back into our main facility and structured a materials management organization including sourcing, planning, and warehouse integrated into our manufacturing world. As you can imagine, these skill sets were exceptional when I moved to Modus Media, where I was primarily focused on sourcing and supply chain fulfillment. I really thought the future was here at the time -- the intersection of the supply and demand, and product areas where procurement and sourcing were in the critical middle.

Spend Matters: And then you got the call that would cause you to change tracks, right?

Mickey North Rizza: Out of clear blue, I received a call from a recruiter looking to hire a supply chain analyst for a Boston-based research firm (AMR Research). I asked myself: what does a supply chain analyst do? I didn't know at the time, but I had figured out some of it. And I did know of Tim Minahan (at Aberdeen at the time) because he was the guy that sent out study after study to us to participate in and then digest. I also remember that when we participated in the research and then downloaded the written reports vendors started calling to sell you their products.

Still, the role intrigued me. I had significant public speaking experience from all the non-profit sorority volunteer work I had done and this would augment my speaking abilities as well as give me some great exposure to writing. The move to an analyst would be an entirely new career step and required some thought. Upon reflection, I believed it would be exciting. Most important, the practitioner world had led me down a path that started with tactical direct materials buying and had exploded into a broader role and skill-set encompassing sourcing, supplier management, materials management, inventory, supplier development, new product introduction, supply chain and a range of now integrated capabilities. I was excited to transfer all of this learning and experience into the analyst role. It seemed like a natural progression from "doing it" to analyzing, writing and speaking "about it."

Spend Matters: Throughout your career, what was it like being a woman in procurement and supply chain -- and what was it like growing while the function transformed itself?

Mickey North Rizza: I don't often think about it that way. I was a member of the profession first and foremost and saw myself as a practitioner, not a female practitioner. Yet women were the minority in the early days. However, as my career grew, the profession did too. One of my classmates from Michigan State recently remarked that no one would have forecast that procurement and operations would become so big. The roots of the procurement profession were so much more basic.

When I grew up in the Detroit area, I remember my friend's families who worked in factories and lost their jobs in the initial waves of plant closures. I recall going into procurement as an intern in high school and seeing firsthand what it meant to work there during this climate. One of my most humorous memories of the time is that right after I started the internship, someone had taken a bunch of purchase requisitions and would stamp "approved PR" on them. I never read them at the time -- my role was to manually move them around the office and drop them off. I quickly asked someone I worked with: why do we need three copies of "press releases"?? Good thing I was a quick study!

I also had the distinction of filling out inventory cards, working with physical inventory stocks, etc. This was the time before ERP systems and ironically, my first job was really a "Girl Friday" role. It's funny if you look back on it. Now, if I consider what it meant to be a woman in the profession, yes, it did come with some challenges. But I've always had great mentors -- both men and women, as well as a fantastic family life with my parents focusing my sister and I on the fact that we can do anything. One thing I have noted is that many men I had the privilege to work with during my career had their own daughters later on.

Their regard for woman in the work place increased because of their daughters. This may be a combination of many factors today, but it was very apparent to me that it became easier for men to work with women once they had a daughter to relate to. These days women are very common in the profession and within the workforce in general. Fortunately, the profession and workplace in general is very different. In many cases, women are running the show and are an integral collaborative necessity for business success.

Stay tuned as the conversation continues and we look at Mickey's AMR years -- and what, in her words, made AMR Research so unique in the market.

- Jason Busch

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