“30 Under 30” Supply Chain Star Abhishek Dahiya on the Power of Predictive Analytics

We’re wrapping up our series of interviews with the winners of this year’s ISM/Thomasnet.com 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program. The final Q&A in this series is with Abhishek Dahiya, a supply chain program manager and chief of staff for global materials at Dell.

Dahiya studied computer science as an undergraduate, before pursuing an MBA with a concentration in supply chain management. He started out at Dell as a procurement intern and has two pieces of advice for interns who want to impress. Read on for what those are, as well as for Dahiya’s thoughts on the disruptive potential of predictive analytics and what supply chain professionals can learn from the popular Netflix show “Game of Thrones.”

Spend Matters: What initially piqued your interest in supply chain?

Abhishek Dahiya: The striking similarities between my background as an engineer and supply chain made me interested in it. At the core of both supply chain and engineering rest the very concept of optimization: remove redundancies, improve performance and save time. Both fields require a similar propensity towards systematic problem-solving. The mere difference lies in the scope, scale and systems used. Supply chain has a reasonably larger scope and scale with the prerogative of learning about business and management.

SM: What do you enjoy the most about supply chain work?

AD: Supply chain is a dynamic and demanding career choice. There is no one way of doing things and no help manuals. Yet, it is the most rewarding career because it teaches you so much — not just about business but about life. Supply chain has taught me patience, humility and respect. Patience to accept that you do not always have the right answer. Humility to learn something from everyone. And respect for the difference in cultures and people around the world. I love it.

SM: While studying for an MBA, you had a procurement internship at Dell, where you were hired shortly after. What can interns do to stand out?

AD: There are two things. First, build relationships that last beyond your internship, and second, learn to manage your time.

People undermine the value of building relationships — and more importantly — building relationships that last more than the internship tenure. During my internship, I met and talked with close to 50 people. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that’s all one should do or do it just for the sake of it. But it is the ideal time to learn from the best minds in the business. Reach out, have an agenda and listen! And to give in on a little secret, I ended up working for a different manager when I returned to a full-time position. A manager I had met during my internship.

The notion and reality of time management were a big surprise to me. I always considered myself to be good at it until I started working in supply chain. As a concept, I believe, it is underrated and is requisite during one’s internship. Plan your day ahead and build a routine. And most importantly manage your time so that you can get to know people in addition to finishing your project on time.

SM: We at Spend Matters love to write about disruptive technology, though we also realize that the word “disruptive” is often overused. What technology do you think truly has the potential to change the supply chain profession?

AD: Predictive analytics has the power to transform the supply chain that we know as of today. If we can invest more in both — the implementation and education of its core concepts — predictive analytics can help minimize costs, make processes more efficient and mitigate disruptions.

SM: And speaking of technology, many people say that it has upended the traditional work-life balance. But you’ve credited efficiency with helping you maintain that balance. Can you explain that a bit more?

AD: I do not disagree that technology is both a boon and a bane for work-life balance, but I try to make the most of the situation. I use my coding skills to automate most of my redundant work and give myself time for strategic initiatives. I let the machines do the day-to-day work for me and spend most of my time brainstorming innovative ideas that can help improve our supply chain and help our customers.

SM: Now for a very serious question. You’re a self-professed huge “Game of Thrones” fan, so we have a challenge for you. What is one lesson from the Netflix show that can be applied to supply chain?

AD: In the domain (read: realm) of supply chain (read: Westeros), both production and demand planning is of utmost importance. For example, Daenerys [Targaryen] is not deciding on attacking King’s Landing without any planning. She is persistent on getting her army, ships, men and dragons ready before she claims her right to the throne. The same logic applies in supply chain. Plan ahead, and you most likely will satisfy your customers’ needs.

SM: In conclusion, what are your long-term career goals?

AD: Supply chain is not only my career but also my passion. My long-term goal is to be recognized as an international thought leader. The very first step is to learn about all facets of supply chain within a region, then move on to learn about its implementation globally. Having had a great learning experience within commodity and material management, chief of staff responsibilities, and supply continuity, I would love to explore logistics and planning over the next few years.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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