Spend Matters Talks to “30 Under 30” Megastar

Late last month, ThomasNet and Institute for Supply Management (ISM) announced the winners of the first “30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars” recognition program. They partnered up last year to begin taking nominations for exceptional supply chain professionals in the millennial age group. By the time the nomination period closed in July of 2014, the program had received some 225 names of those making an impact in the supply chain field.

Spend Matters had a chance to talk to some of the 30 winners chosen, including the one “megastar.”. Spend Matters is also giving a one-year free PRO subscription to the winners. You can also find out more about the “30 under 30” program at ThomasNet, and catch up on previous Spend Matters coverage on the competition here.

Today, we share a Q&A with the program’s “megastar” winner: Katy Conrad Maynor, Category Manager, Finished Lubricants/B2B with Shell Oil. Katy, 29, was nominated for the program by her colleague and informal mentor David Allen, who works in Shell’s Operational Excellence team. When she heard the news she was named the program’s megastar, she said she felt extremely honored and humbled to be part of a strong group of procurement professionals.

Spend Matters: Tell us a bit about your background and how you started working for Shell Oil.

Katy Conrad Maynor: I attended The Ohio State University, majoring in Business Administration with focuses on marketing and logistics. I was aiming for a career in marketing when an on-campus talk by a member of the Limited Brands’ logistics team piqued my interests for the supply side. This led to an internship in contracting and procurement at Shell. I really enjoyed my experience there with the company and the field. After university, I moved to Houston, Texas, to work for Shell where I rotated through 3 roles as a part of their Graduate Program, working in different businesses and locations around the city. This experience gave me a solid base for my current role, which has taken me from Houston to London on a short-term international assignment.

SM: What exactly does your job at Shell entail?

KCM: I work within Shell’s Global Commercial businesses, which include Shell Lubricants, Aviation, Bitumen, and Sulphur. I negotiate contracts, run bids and manage the performance for the suppliers that help deliver products and services to our end customers. Additionally, I work with these businesses to find areas where we can optimize our supply chain for more efficient operations. In a typical day, I can negotiate a quarterly price move with a supplier, host a project team call focused on changing a process that that will optimize our supply chain and write up part of a category management strategy.

SM: What is it about the procurement field/supply chain that interests you?

KCM: I’m really attracted to the opportunity to make an impact on the bottom line. Procurement offers a unique opportunity to interact with different groups in the organization – marketing and sales, finance, health and safety, engineering, etc. – while still being in a position to maintain an external focus with third parties to bring innovative solutions to complex problems. I also really enjoy being in a place to understand the end-to-end operations of a business and see the impact of the short-term decisions/changes I make while also working to develop long-term strategies.

SM: ISM and ThomasNet previously told Spend Matters that there are not many millennials in the procurement industry compared to baby boomers. Would you agree? If so, why do you think this is?

KCM: I see several generations represented in supply chain, and there is opportunity to attract more millennials by ensuring those new professionals who are in the field are stretched with growth assignments and bottom-line accountabilities. Supply chain as an established discipline is a bit newer, and as more universities offer specific programs, I think we’ll see more new professionals in this discipline. 

SM: How do you see the procurement and supply chain career field changing or adapting in the future?

KCM:  I see supply chain management becoming a stronger focus across industries as companies pull on this lever to gain competitive advantage. For the evolution of supply chain itself, I think it could vary by industry, but I see more companies pulling together a comprehensive approach to “supply chain management” as opposed to maintaining discrete operations between “logistics,” “procurement,” etc., integrating/imbedding the activities deeper with the businesses they support.

SM: What do you feel is your strongest attribute? And how does it apply to the supply chain and procurement world?

KCM: Delivering on my commitments, being open to new ideas and being willing to ask for advice when needed has served me well.  I don’t think these are specific to the supply chain field but they have helped me to learn the businesses I work with and ultimately bring the results required.

Katy also offers this advice to new procurement professionals:

  1. Understand the value chain. Gain credibility through learning the business and delivering on your commitments. In any job you do, ask yourself: how does this business make money and how do I help them keep more of it?
  2. Learn the importance of working hard and working smart. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. However, there are only so many hours in a day so it’s critical to “work smart” too – focusing on projects that will deliver the most value, eliminating unnecessary steps and leveraging work that has already been completed.
  3. Take risks. Being willing to move to a new city or country, or take on a challenge I’ve never faced before, has led to some of the most valuable and rewarding experiences of my life.

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