Attention Supply Chain Interns: 3 Pieces of Career Advice from “30 Under 30” Winner Kiara Conde

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of interviews with a few winners of this year’s ISM/ 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program. Check out previously published interviews with Dan Kaskinen and Michaela Romanias.

Today’s spotlight is on Kiara Conde, a transformation analyst at Shell who started as an intern at the company in 2012. Five years later, Conde is a campus ambassador to her alma mater, the University of Houston, and the co-founder of an internship program.

What helped her nomination stand out in this year’s “30 Under 30” competition, however, was when she took advantage of historically low oil prices to deliver millions of dollars in bottom-line savings for Shell. Conde shared her thoughts with Spend Matters on having a work-life balance, millennials in the workforce and — attention, interns — three pieces of work advice for young professionals who want to stand out from the crowd.

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Spend Matters: You started out as an accounting major before happening to take a class in supply chain management. What initially interested you the most about supply chain management, and what led you to change your major?

Kiara Conde: As I think back to my time in college, I remember how confused I felt. The career path I chose would be what I would be doing for the rest of my life. Junior year, I was lucky to take an intro to supply chain class. The professor was so passionate about the subject and really sold me on the major.

I took a leap of faith by choosing supply chain and have been grateful for all the opportunities that I have been presented with thus far. It is a career that I continue to enjoy, and I have the opportunity to work closely with business stakeholders and influence decisions, not only in cost, but across specifications and demand value levers, as well. My career gives me great joy and feeling of achievement knowing that I am able to make an impact for my organization.

SM: Before you joined Shell as a contracting and procurement analyst, you were an intern. What advice do you have for supply chain interns who want to excel (and maximize their chances of getting a job after graduation)?

KC: My advice for interns would be to find a mentor they can trust and truly learn from. Learning from others will help you avoid making mistakes typical of new professionals. Another piece of advice is to keep a binder tracking weekly progress. At the end of each week you should summarize what you have completed and print out important documents. Typically at the end of every internship you will have to demonstrate what you have accomplished, and it will be so much easier if it is all handy for you to reference. This is also a time for interns to interview the company and assess if this is where they would like to work after college. Our core values and beliefs should be aligned with our work place.

SM: That is an interesting point, that interns should also be assessing their companies. So on the flipside, what can companies do to attract and retain young talent?

KC: Young talent is entering the workforce energized and ready to learn. Companies should work to develop young talent by assigning them challenging assignments, with the appropriate guidance, of course. There is nothing worse than being assigned tough work and having very little guidance! Young talent also likes to see excellent leadership — we want to look up to leadership and aspire to be like them.

SM: Some say that the digital-native millennial generation are used to checking their email at all hours, while others say that millennials still value the traditional work-life balance. What is your take on this?

KC: I would say that millennials are big on work-life balance! They appreciate companies that provide flexible schedules or the ability to work remotely. Technology has provided us the ability to check emails on mobile phones at all times of the day, but I don’t think millennials really let that take over their work-life balance. I personally receive work emails on my mobile device and may check them from time to time outside of working hours, but I generally do not action the items until I am in the office. I also like the option of deleting junk email from my phone so I do not feel overwhelmed logging in every morning.

SM: Speaking of work-life balance, you unplug by leading exercise classes. What classes do you teach?

KC: I truly believe that to be successful in the workplace you need to be mentally and physically healthy. If you are not sleeping or eating well, you will feel the effects on your body and it could ultimately begin to hinder your performance. Being active outside of work has really helped me manage stress and maintain work life balance.

I spend a couple of hours every weekend teaching at HIP Fitness, a high-intensity Pilates studio. It is an extremely challenging workout! When you are doing the workout you are only thinking about the present moment and you forget about what emails you have or any upcoming meetings. I love to challenge myself by signing up for half marathons or trying out new difficult workouts. It’s such a great sense of accomplishment when you beat your personal records.

SM: I’ve been asking all of the “30 Under 30” winners what we can expect to see from them in the future. What are your long-term career goals?

KC: Long term, I hope to have managed multiple teams and driven them to success. I am huge on development and being there for people. I live for a sense of accomplishment, so I hope to make a difference in every organization I work for in my career.

I am the first one in my family to attend college and my career is very important to me. I hope that in 10–20 years I will be a leader of a large organization, where I can build a great environment for my people and where the culture allows for authenticity and fearless people who can make impactful decisions.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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