30 Under 30 Supply Chain Star Rhiana Gallen on Taking Part in High-Level Initiatives at Age 23

Since 2015, Thomas and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) have introduced us to the most talented young supply chain professionals through their 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program. This year is no different, and we continue to be impressed by the caliber of ambitious 20-somethings making a splash in the supply chain world.

At 23, Rhiana Gallen is the youngest 30 Under 30 star this year. She graduated from Colorado State University in 2016, and in the two years that she has spent so far as a contract specialist at Denver Water, she has managed to save the organization more than $400,000 and participated in several high-level initiatives. She served as the team leader of Denver Water’s Lean Six Sigma procurement value stream analysis, which reduced competitive selection cycle times by 45%.

Spend Matters spoke with Gallen about how she got the chance to work on important projects so early in her career, time management strategies, and what she finds most challenging and rewarding about supply chain.

Spend Matters: How did you become interested in supply chain management?

Rhiana Gallen: I entered college with a finance and marketing major. My sophomore year, I took my first marketing core class at the same time as my first supply chain management core class. I realized very quickly that I wasn't passionate about marketing, and that I loved what I was learning in the supply chain class. I changed my concentration that semester.

SM: In college, you were also a cheerleader and worked 20 to 30 hours a week. What helped you manage your time?

RG: I've always been better at being busy than being idle. In college, I would just stay on top of my schedule and plan in advance. I was very lucky, and my employer in college was flexible with my schedule, knowing that I would always give them my schedule as far in advance as possible.

I would — and still do — sit down at the beginning of each week to plan the week and start each day by prioritizing what needs to get done. I also made sure that I took advantage of any free time I did have, to avoid burnout.

SM: You’ve been working full-time at Denver Water for only two years, yet you’ve been able to work on a number of high-level projects. What advice do you have for young procurement professionals starting their careers who want to hit the ground running and be trusted to work on big initiatives?

RG: I would advise that they know their strengths and weaknesses. I make sure that I capitalize on my strengths, so that I can be seen as an asset in those areas. I also make sure that I'm aware of my weaknesses, so that I can work on getting better in those areas. By being confident about your assets and verbal about areas for improvement, you can instill confidence in your supervisors and peers in your abilities.

SM: What is the biggest challenge you’ve tackled in your career thus far?

RG: The biggest challenge that I've tackled is learning to work with many different kinds of people. After a while, you start to get a good understanding of how best to work with the different personality types, but figuring that out comes with a lot of trial and error and being open to constructive feedback about yourself.

SM: What about the professional achievement that you’re most proud of (aside from being named as a “30 Under 30” rising star)?

RG: I'm very proud of being able to lead, develop and implement our procurement cost savings program. The project started as just developing a means to track cost savings within our section, and [it] quickly evolved into an analysis of industry best practices and the development of the standard operating procedure (SOP) for reporting on those savings.

It's really awesome to see the value procurement provides to our organization and really great to be recognized by our leadership as a profit center, [as well as for the fact that] our efforts can pay for the service we provide tenfold.

SM: Lastly, what do you find most exciting about procurement?

RG: I love that I get to learn about so many different things and meet so many interesting people. I get to work with a wide variety of functions within our organization, and also externally. I love that procurement is universal, and that the options for careers are endless.

This Q&A has been edited and condensed.

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