Women in Procurement Wednesday: Joanna Martinez on seizing the day and becoming a disruptor

Joanna Martinez is a speaker and educator on digitization, innovation and managing change.

As the world continues to deal with the tumultuous environment of today’s COVID-19 pandemic, it can be useful to understand that while a pandemic itself is unique, disruption is not. A lot of the tools people have used to successfully deal with and thrive in disruptive environments in the past can also be put into place now.

For many, the pandemic can represent an opportunity to seize the day and the circumstances. If your world of work changed, you probably learned to go virtual with Zoom meetings or remote speaking events. You may have taught yourself to build a website for your brand. At the end of the day, though, you may find that you got the opportunity to try different things and make your own positive disruption in your life.

“I wake up every day so excited about what the day’s going to bring. … Carpe the heck out of that diem,” said Joanna Martinez. What a way to approach each day!

Joanna Martinez is a speaker and educator on digitization, innovation and managing change. She’s the author of “A Guide to Positive Disruption” and the founder of Supply Chain Advisors. She’s also the woman I had the honor of interviewing for this week’s installment of the “Women in Procurement Wednesday” series.

In the first two and a half months of 2020, Martinez said she was having the best year she’s had professionally since she started out on her own. In January, she had a phenomenal month within the travel space. In February, she had a great month with a well-known company in the food business. She even had a verbal agreement lined up for work in financial services in March.

Then, the pandemic hit. All the events were canceled, the financial services series was geared back, and everything seemed to stop. Martinez, like many others, asked herself: “How am I going to spend all this time?”

From pivoting to virtual speaking engagements to learning to build her own website, Martinez did in fact “carpe that diem.” She now has a whole new set of content that she can use in her repertoire along with the events that are starting back up and keeping her busy. And she wasn’t the only one.

Martinez told the story of a young family friend who was in grad school when the pandemic hit. He held a part-time job that was taken away at the start of the pandemic. Then classes moved online, and he found himself stuck at home. When he wasn’t in virtual class or working on projects for school, he was still “always working,” Martinez said.

While Martinez and many of our readers know that “supply chains are embedded everywhere,” her journey to the procurement and supply chain industry — and now into her current roles as author, speaker and educator — is unique. She spent time as Senior VP and CPO of AllianceBernstein, in addition to her years as Chief Procurement Officer and Executive Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield. Looking back, Martinez splits her career to date into three segments.

As an engineering grad, her major focused on manufacturing, so she originally went to work in a factory. She was not very familiar with the term “supply chain,” and it wasn’t a specific major at the time. However, as Martinez said, if you are helping people make things and get them out the door, you are “right smack in the middle of the supply chain.” After working in various manufacturing supply chain roles, procurement was sort of a last step in her first segment.

From there, her second segment involved going from company to company and fixing things. Instead of only being a consultant, Martinez became an employee at each company so she could actually put solutions into place — not just recommend them and hope they came to fruition.

Her third segment brought Martinez to where she is today. Her last corporate role ended when the company was bought out in a hostile takeover, so she started going on job interviews. With a moment of pause to ask herself “Why am I doing this?” Martinez knew that while she had her formula and knew how to use it to be successful, perhaps it was time to shake things up a little and look to do them a little bit differently.

When she was first starting out after grad school, though, it looked a little different for Martinez as a woman in procurement and supply chain — in an industry where she was hired for her first job simply because she was a woman.

Luckily, Martinez was not at this first job long and ended up in a new position at a company for which she had previously interned. This new role was much more nurturing, largely in part because her boss was also a woman. While other women may feel more prepared to dive into a role where being a female is an obstacle or challenge in the company culture, Martinez admitted she was not equipped to do so. So thankfully, her new role under a female boss represented a great mentor relationship that allowed her to grow and find her way as a young woman in the professional world.

Now as a leader and mentor herself, Martinez encourages others to “embrace the churn” — and so often, the answer to doing that is motivation.

“You either have to love what you do or be motivated by something else to make things happen,” she said. “Seizing the day — it all has to do with the way you approach things.”

The ability to try is a real motivating factor for her, including how she can make things better, how she can be a disruptor and make a difference.

As we started to wrap up our conversation, I posed the question to Martinez that I’ve asked in previous interviews — a broad request, but important nonetheless: What advice would you give to others in the industry, whether it be a female, male or someone just starting out?

She explained that she wants young procurement and supply chain professionals to know that, even if you are someone who is right out of school or with limited experience, you can still make a great impact.

As a young engineer new to one of her manufacturing jobs, Martinez observed that while machines were producing thousands of adhesive bandages every minute, issues with inventory and inefficient practices meant that it took way longer than that before the product got out the door. Ninety days, to be exact. When Martinez identified this and the changes that needed to be made — “and people stopped telling me I was wrong” — she started a sort of revolution at the company, and ultimately saw the impact she could make. Indeed, an impact that she continues to make for many today.

Read about other professionals featured in our "Women in Procurement Wednesdays" series.

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