Thomas/ISM’s Newest “30 Under 30” Rising Supply Chain Stars Value the Greater Good

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For four years now, Thomas and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) have partnered in holding the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program and showcasing the most talented young supply chain professionals out there. Earlier this month, they announced the results of the 2017 competition.

To learn more about this year’s rising supply chain stars, Spend Matters spoke with Deb Stanton, executive director at ISM; Tony Uphoff, president and CEO of Thomas; and Rita Lieberman, director of marketing communications at Thomas. We came away truly impressed by the talented young professionals in supply chain today.

An Eye on the Greater Good

In a way, the “30 Under 30” program is both a good indicator for where supply chain talent is headed and a reflection of the profession’s most in-demand skills. The program began with the intentions of recognizing talented young supply chain professionals and encouraging more young people to pursue supply chain careers, where there is a well-reported talent gap.

Four years later, there are clear trends in what these young supply chain professionals value, what drives them, what they hope to accomplish and what makes them successful.

Volunteer work continues to be a common thread among “30 under 30” stars, who seek to do good through their professions, as well. Uphoff notes that when this year’s 30 young professionals were asked about the most rewarding part of their jobs, many of their answers had to do with how their work affects people’s lives.

And when the professionals were asked about which skills they view as most essential, many cited communication skills and humility.

“I was just really impressed by that, and I think these are young professionals who are very in touch with people and the impact of the work that they do,” Uphoff says. “[They want] to do good work while they’re all so ambitious about a career.”

The emphasis on communication reflects the evolution of supply chain and procurement from a back office function to a front office strategic imperative. Beyond finance and technology skills, supply chain professionals today need to be able to work with diverse teams across borders and time zones.

Unsurprisingly, the resumes of the 30 rising stars reflect the increasingly international nature of the supply chain profession. Like their peers from last year, this year’s winners continue to be globally minded, with plenty of international experience under their belts. Nearly half have worked, if not currently work, outside the U.S., and many of those who do work in the U.S. are part of international teams.

As for the “30 Under 30” program itself, as it grew in popularity over the past few years, the bar has also become higher. Stanton noted that the program received hundreds of nominations this year, making it more difficult to select the 30 rising stars.

Uphoff agrees. “I feel a little bit like we’re the admissions counselors at a very elite university,” he says. “I’m looking at these ridiculous SAT scores and resumes.”

But being named as a rising supply chain star is as much an award as it is a potential leap up the career ladder. Stanton cites a previous winner who joined a new company, moved through the director level and is now the head of procurement. Other winners have gone on to join the ISM Conference Leadership Committee and lead ISM affiliates. Still others have moved on from mid-level roles to much bigger opportunities.

“I think we pick pretty well,” Uphoff says. “These people are indeed rising stars. They’re not just in there to sit in the same job for a long period of time. They really want to have an impact.”

Megawatt Spotlight

Charlotte de Brabandt, this year’s Megawatt Star, is certainly one for making an impact.

Currently a category associate at Johnson & Johnson, de Brabandt manages spend for all Johnson & Johnson companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa across the categories of medical devices, consumer goods and pharmaceuticals.

One of de Brabandt’s first challenges on the job was to carry out a market engagement program (MEP) to find a global service provider to help with global energy procurement for 920 sites. De Brabandt completed the MEP in under four months, less than half of the time it usually takes.

“We were trying to narrow down the group of well-qualified nominees, [and de Brabandt] certainly had the credentials that we felt exceeded some of the others,” Lieberman says.

“At this stage of her career, what she’s done is extraordinary,” Uphoff adds. “I think a lot of her accomplishments just made her stand out among a very heavy crowd of talented young professionals.”

De Brabandt’s international background undoubtedly gave her a step up in successfully managing a global team. Well traveled and multilingual, de Brabandt attended boarding school in Switzerland before receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in London.

Like many of her fellow “30 Under 30” stars, de Brabandt is active in her community. Last year, she hosted the largest TEDx in Switzerland, on professions of the future.

Spend Matters will be running Q&As with de Brabandt and other “30 Under 30” stars in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!

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