30 Under 30 Star Leah Williams on How Supply Chain Organizations Benefit from Diversity

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of Q&As with a few winners of this year’s Thomas/ISM 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program. Check out previously published interviews with Charlotte de Brabandt, Rhiana Gallen, Tanner Ryan and Jordan Haller. 

Leah Williams, supply chain planning analyst at Northrop Grumman, has a knack for juggling multiple responsibilities and roles.

Aside from her day job, the valedictorian of the 2015 undergraduate class at Delaware State University plays on three Northrop Grumman sports teams, holds leadership roles in six professional organizations and plays nine instruments. And this isn’t even getting into her extensive volunteer work.

In today’s 30 Under 30 Q&A, Spend Matters chats with Williams about the importance of supplier relationship management, what supply chain organizations should know about diversity, and more.

Spend Matters: You graduated with a bachelor’s in management and then immediately afterward got your MBA in business administration. You also have a background in education and economics. How did you end up in your current position at Northrop Grumman?

Leah Williams: As a recent graduate, I was looking for opportunities. I found Northrop Grumman’s Professional Development Program, and I believed it would be a great fit for me. One of the aspects that interested me in this specific program was that I am able to gain exposure to different areas of the company.

SM: As the program gave you the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects, what do you find most interesting and most challenging about supply chain?

LW: The most interesting part of supply chain, which I also find to be the most challenging, is all the various processes of supply chain, how they all interact internally and how they also interact with other business areas. Supply chains must use a systems thinking approach. Every piece plays an important role and each role affects the other.

SM: You have experience working on diversity initiatives. What should supply chain organizations that want to increase diversity know?

LW: I believe that supply chain organizations should encompass people of all backgrounds in order to provide opportunities for more diversity of thought as well as diminish groupthink. Organizations should partner with universities of all types to expose students to the opportunities in the corporate world.

SM: If you could pick one practice that is key to successful supply chain management, what would it be?

LW: One system that I believe is truly valuable to a supply chain is a supplier relationship management system. I believe this is crucial to a supply chain’s success because the better relationship a supply chain has with its suppliers, the more efficiently and effectively a supply chain can function. Supplier relationship management can lead to a more quality, profitable and accurate supply chain.

SM: Like many of your fellow 30 Under 30 supply chain stars, you’re highly involved in volunteer work. Can you tell us a bit about what you’re most involved in and passionate about?

LW: After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2015, I have been actively involved in the Crohn’s & Colitis foundation and promote the awareness of Crohn’s disease and other invisible illnesses. I serve as an advocate for HBCUs, and as a proud two-time graduate of Delaware State University, I am a member of the DSU Alumni Association.

SM: What are your ambitions for the future?

LW: One of my ambitions for the future is to become the CEO of a major corporation. I would also like to one day open my own non-profit organization and a community center. In addition, I would like to return to school and pursue my doctorate degree.

This Q&A has been edited and condensed.

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