This is what it takes to excel in supply chain management

This is what it takes to excel in supply chain management

Maryanne Karanja is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS-UK).

Maryanne has vast experience in supply chain management. She seeks to harness technology, and in particular artificial intelligence, data analytics, and robotics, to transform businesses and ensure the growth of companies. She has held leadership roles at Vivo Energy and Shell. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in commerce from Kenyatta University and Master’s in Business Administration from Henley Management College. She is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS-UK).

What does your job entail?

Delivery of goods and services to the customer at the right time, right format and right cost. We do this by partnering with suppliers on planning, quality assurance, production, and delivery. We adopt the right technology in every step of the process to increase efficiency.

What would you say are the key highlights of the sector?

The first is the transition of the role. Supply chain management is now a standalone department responsible for managing end-to-end processes. I am glad that we now have many organisations with the heads of the supply chain at the C-suite. It is also important to note that Covid-19 brought to the fore the critical role the supply chain plays in our lives, as people pondered over the sourcing and transportation of goods and services and worked to mitigate risks during the partial lockdown.
The other highlight is the adoption of technology such as blockchain, AI, robotics, and Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID). These have enabled end-to-end integration in the processes and created greater visibility of product movement and traceability.

What would you tell a recent graduate seeking to build a career in this industry?

The field of supply chain is fast-paced and constantly evolving. It is very dynamic. One should seek out seasoned professionals and engage them on what their jobs entail. If the career is in line with their personality and career aspirations, then they should go for it. They should also seek out opportunities to gain relevant work experience. Reach out to professional bodies such as The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) or Kenya Institute of Supplies Management (KISM) and enquire whether there exist opportunities for volunteering, internship, or contract work. This way, they’ll start working and interacting with people in the sector who can guide them further. If it so happens that they get a job that is not in the field, they should still take it and then seek opportunities to gain the relevant experience through job shadowing.

What lessons do you wish you learned earlier in your career?

First, is the art of stakeholder management, influencing decision-making and steering conversations towards the desired outcome. Second, is the need to have a career and personal development plan right from the beginning. A career plan helps one gain clarity on the competencies and experiences required to advance. This clarity helps one structure progressive conversations with their line managers and mentors regarding appropriate training and job experiences. Thirdly, secure a mentor as early as possible in your career. Mentors help you understand organisational nuances and help you step up in your output. They provide a sounding board for conversations regarding how you show up and help fast-track your career progression. Finally, embrace technology. Tech is not just about social media. Plan your time well and use tech for productivity. Also, read widely, attend conferences and webinars, and apply the lessons you learn from events and from your networks.

What are the three things you struggled with the most as a young professional?

Ensuring visibility of my work. One must be visible in order to stand out. Standing out at work means that you not only deliver consistently good results, but your line manager is aware of your performance.
Managing my peers, leading the team, and building alignment towards an objective or a goal was another challenge. There was the natural competitiveness that arises in a team. But then, by focusing on delivery and building good working relationships, I overcame the challenge. Finally, managing staff. I once was assigned staff who was older than my dad. I learned to steer the conversations around delivery rather than focus on the age gap.

If you were to address young professionals, what would be your three key talking points?

My first point would be on the importance of continuous professional development. It is important to continuously upskill beyond the initial certification. Second, is a reminder of the need to remain an active member of a relevant professional body since this affords you updates in matters of regulation, ethics, technology, and risks. You also continue to network within your community of practice and hence expand your knowledge beyond your field. You owe it to yourself to continuously polish your rough edges.

Do you mentor younger professionals in your field?

Yes. Before Covid-19, I ran monthly mentorship sessions. I also participated in career conversations in local universities and remain open to such opportunities. To receive mentorship, you only need to ask.

What have been the three most significant books in your leadership journey?

Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, So Good They Can't Ignore You and Jesus CEO by Laurie Beth Jones. These three books changed my life.