30 Under 30 Megawatt Star Charlotte de Brabandt on Leading International Teams at Multinationals

Last month, Thomas and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) announced the winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program, which showcases the most talented young professionals working in supply chain. Like in previous years, the accomplishments of these 30 young professionals are thoroughly impressive, and this perhaps describes no one better than Charlotte de Brabandt, the Megawatt Star.

Currently a category associate at Johnson and Johnson, de Brabandt attended boarding school in Switzerland before moving to London to further pursue her studies in technology entrepreneurship. We spoke with de Brabandt to find out more about her favorite career experiences, tips on leading international teams, and why she thinks that the internet of things (IoT) will be a game-changer for procurement and supply chain.

Spend Matters: From Zurich to Dubai to London, you’ve worked in many different places, at different companies and in different capacities. What are the highlights of your career thus far?

CB: This is a hard question, but I would say four [experiences] stand out.

[The first is] making long lasting impact and working in an intercultural dynamic environment as a woman in technology automotive and procurement. After graduating, I started my career at the Volkswagen Group/Germany in 2009 undertaking the International Procurement Management Program. That also incorporated an assignment to work at the Volkswagen Group China in Beijing. It was my task to negotiate the automotive apps back in 2009 for implementation in 2018. It made me very proud having created an impact not only for the future but also with something meaningful globally.

[The second is] working on big-scale projects. In 2013, I became the marketing procurement manager of indirect procurement at Porsche AG at the head office in Germany, covering multiple categories, including PR, marketing services, [and] travel and events. I was in charge of Motorsport procurement, undertaking 600 negotiations for the Le Mans car race.

[The third is] building a startup. In January 2015, I set up the whole purchasing department in Switzerland for Porsche Design Timepieces. I built and led my own procurement team, setting up an ERP system, leading cross-functional projects, establishing a new supplier portfolio with supplier quality audits and international strategic negotiations, defining 11 supply chain processes, and setting up the supplier contracts.

[The fourth is] managing a virtual global complex team. I joined Johnson & Johnson in 2017, and shortly after changing industries, I was given a project to lead the MEP [Market Engagement Program], an innovative and disruptive tendering process — especially for this field — to find a global energy service provider. I was leading this initiative on a global level, working out from Switzerland and aligning with the stakeholders from Asia and the U.S. across different time zones.

A normal MEP process would usually take six to nine months, and I completed it in less than four months. The stakeholders were so impressed by the results that my work got recognized as a special achievement.

SM: What advice do you have for young professionals working on or leading international teams?

CB: My advice [is to be] be passionate about [one’s] work and be proactive and ambitious in solving problems. Continuous learning and adapting to new technologies is very important. We live in a world where we cannot only just study this topic and assume that it will be enough for the next 20 years. [It is important to be] an early adopter, recognizing trends and being open towards new technologies that may play an important role in the future. Surround yourself with people who push you to do and be better.

SM: What technologies are you most excited about and/or think will prove truly disruptive for supply chain?

CB: Supply chain is still an untouched territory of future developments. Everyone is talking about blockchain, digital technologies, artificial intelligence, machine learning, humanoid robots and autonomous intelligent systems.

There is a great future in the field of supply management and how we will interact with new technologies and innovations ahead of us. I strongly believe IoT [internet of things] will change the future of supply chain drastically. Gartner predicts that by 2020 more than 50% of major business processes will incorporate some form of IoT. This will take the supply chain industry to a whole new level.

SM: You have so many interests — trekking, soccer, travel, music — and you’re a public speaker who organized the largest TEDx in Switzerland, TEDxLugano. Do you have any time management advice for fellow busy young procurement professionals?

CB: I set aside time and do tasks one step at a time. It’s important to always remember the big picture and to follow through a project from beginning to end. Always know your goals, prioritize wisely, plan ahead and make sure to delegate. It’s okay to distribute the work equally within the team and use each other’s strengths.

SM: What are your long-term career goals?

CB: By 2050, 60% of global jobs won’t exist anymore. Looking to the future, I see myself growing in the supply chain industry. I would like to stay in the corporate field and become a director or VP. I will also expand in the field of keynote and public speaking for supply chain.

This Q&A has been edited and condensed.

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