ISM/ThomasNet “30 Under 30” Winner Michaela Romanias on the Importance of Resilience and Taking Initiative

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This month, we are running Q&As with a few of the winners of this year’s ISM/Thomasnet.com 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program, which puts the spotlight on the some of the most talented young people working in supply chain. Today’s Q&A is with Michaela Romanias, an asset scheduler at DuPont who graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2012 with a degree in supply chain and information systems.

In her previous role as a buyer at DuPont, Romanias managed $45 million in annual spend and delivered more than $3 million in year-over-year savings, among other accomplishments. In between juggling big responsibilities at work and planning for her early April wedding, Romanias managed to find time to talk to us about how a school assignment led her to study supply chain, what she wishes she knew at the beginning of her career, and the millennial question.

Spend Matters: What sparked your decision to major in supply chain at Penn State?

Michaela Romanias: I was in a freshman business seminar class and tasked with presenting about the supply chain major to the class. I was able to research and get a much better understanding of the depth and opportunities of supply chain. I found myself really selling the major to my class and at that point knew I had convinced myself that this was the best future for me.

SM: What do you enjoy the most about your job? What is the biggest challenge?

MR: I recently started a new role as an asset scheduler for DuPont’s nutrition and health business. I am tasked with scheduling production for several different plant sites and two different product lines. I love the planning aspect and the direct impact you have on making customers happy. If I do not tell the sites to produce, then we don’t have product. At the same time the biggest challenge is finding a balance to make everyone internally and externally happy with the capacity and time that you have.

SM: You started out as a supply chain project management intern at HJ Heinz. Six years later, what do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?

MR: I wish I realized from the get go that there is no one right way to do your job. I came into supply chain not realizing the full freedom and opportunity that lies within the nature of this job. My advice would be take initiative and be resilient. There is always room for improvement. Do not be afraid to do something differently and challenge the status quo.

SM: One of ISM/Thomasnet.com’s goals with the “30 Under 30” competition is to promote supply chain careers to young people. What qualities do millennials have that lend well to supply chain work? What can companies do to retain this generation?

MR: I would say millennials’ best characteristics are their tendencies to challenge traditions and be different. I think this can go far in the field of supply chain. Millennials are flexible but also value flexibility. Companies can retain talent by being supporting a flexible working environment, fostering continuous learning and valuing fresh ideas.

SM: We love writing about disruptive tech on Spend Matters, though we also realize that the term is often loosely used at best. What technologies do you think truly has the potential to be disruptive for supply chain?

MR: There are so many new technologies out there, and I wish that budgets were endless so we could learn more about them all! I think any technology that allows visibility into your entire supply chain is fascinating. Not just your piece of the supply chain, but upstream, downstream and beyond, all the way to the end consumer. Too often, we get stuck in our own bubbles.

SM: Let’s talk long-term career goals. Any specific plans for the future?

MR: Unlike many, I do not have specific long-term career goals. I am open to where a supply chain career takes me and the unknown excites me. My ultimate goal is to make sure I am continuously learning and putting myself outside of my comfort zone. By staying true to this, I hope to have a very well-rounded view of supply chains in many different industries.

SM: On a totally different note, you are getting married this coming weekend — congratulations! When Spend Matters’ director of client services Sheena Smith got married a few years ago, she wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek series of articles about how to procure a wedding and cut costs without compromising on quality. Were you able to use your supply chain knowledge in planning your wedding?

MR: Absolutely! Being a raw materials buyer for four years definitely served me well. After the chaos of wedding planning dies down, I may just have to calculate my overall savings due to negotiations and proper planning.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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