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My Career in Supply Chain Consulting

supply chain consulting

Charles Sim – Kelley School of Business, Supply Chain, May 2014, Project Manager in Strategy at enVista

Looking back at graduation, is your career in supply chain consulting what you thought it would be?

Yes, overall it is what I expected when I decided to start my career. I had a general sense of the type of work I’d be doing; I even find myself referencing back to class material occasionally to help me on some projects.

What are key “surprises” you have experienced?

There are several key “surprises” so far. Firstly, I am surprised by how talented and capable my colleagues are. Given that all my work is project-based, I’ve been lucky to work with such highly capable teammates on every project, who are great listeners, fun to work with, and full of valuable nuggets of knowledge. I can safely say that even after three years, I have yet to learn a lot more from my mentors and teammates.

My second surprise is the type of work I am doing. When I began my career at enVista, I expected to be solving more tactical supply chain issues, such as optimizing transportation or reducing waste in a process, but to my surprise, I am helping companies make high-level, strategic decisions. Most of my projects are supply chain strategy and network design projects, which seek to design the best five to ten year supply network for a client given their current capabilities, challenges, and corporate goals. This type of work has such a broad scope and impact to a business that it requires strengths in innovative and creative thinking, as well as the ability to “see the bigger picture” when making trade-offs.

My last surprise is how much C-Level exposure I have been fortunate enough to have. I’ve worked directly with the CEO and CFO of many of my clients, from small to large, Fortune 500 companies – some roll up their sleeves and get involved, while others are given presentations at key milestones of the project. I believe it is the nature of the projects mentioned above that our project sponsor decides to get the C-Level executives involved, and that this will continue as more and more leaders realize how supply chain management can help them gain a competitive advantage. I feel very lucky to have this exposure this early in my career as I’m able to see how leaders make decisions.

What do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the people I work with. We all share in the satisfaction of solving supply chain challenges and like to have fun while we’re doing it. I also appreciate the diversity of different supply chains and learning how a grocery retailer looks at supply chain as opposed to how a footwear company looks at supply chain.

Any downsides to your current career?

Because of a deadline based work schedule, there are occasionally times when long hours are called for. Also, the type of work we do is difficult and therefore stressful sometimes. This makes the risk of burnout real at times, but enVista does a great job of countering this by putting policies in place to emphasize work-life balance.

What is your travel schedule like? Any global travel or just U.S.?

My travel schedule is roughly 50%, but it depends on the phase of the project (upcoming deadlines) and the preferences of the client (some prefer to see you onsite, while others are more needs-based). Mostly U.S. but I have traveled outside the country.

Can you define “consulting” for us?

I believe a consultant is a third-party expert who inspires action among the client’s organization. A consultant educates the client through data-driven insights and provides advice to help the client move forward in the best manner possible.

How has Kelley prepared you for this career?

Kelley is a very important part of my journey so far. Firstly, I would not have found this opportunity if it weren’t for my network at Kelley. Secondly, Kelley taught me how to break down a problem and analyze it effectively – essentially how to solve a problem and learn from it. Lastly, Kelley did an excellent job of training me on Excel and how to leverage quantitative modeling software.

What key knowledge and strengths should students have who are seeking a career in supply chain consulting?

To be a great consultant, I believe the four most important things are being able to: 

  • Add value – a great consultant should be adding value to every project for the client, the project team, and to the company they work for.
  • Collaborate effectively on a team – consulting is dead-line driven, project-based work that requires great team coordination. A consultant must know his or her strengths and weaknesses to leverage the team.
  • Communicate well to soft-sell yourself and your ideas and ability to gain trust and build rapport with others.
  • Be comfortable working with large amounts of data and drawing conclusions from it. This requires proficiency with programs like Excel and SQL Server/Developer. Supply chain concepts like cross-docking and vendor drop-shipping can be picked up relatively quickly so are less of a priority.

How important is knowledge in SAP / ERP / Oracle / Lean Six Sigma (each respectively)?

As a supply chain strategy consultant, I do not work with ERP’s unless it is to pull client data or understand the systems implications of a potential solution. However, for those interested in the systems/IT side, there are career paths at enVista that focus on implementation consulting, such as helping a client implement and support ERP systems like Microsoft Dynamics AX. I believe Lean Six Sigma is the most important one for me as it is a mindset that can be applied to everything I do. Our primary focus is to help clients cut waste and become more efficient and effective in how they service their customers.

What advice do you have for Kelley students pursuing this career?

Sharpen your Excel and SQL skills, read a couple supply chain books (e.g. The Goal by Eli) or case studies of successful supply chains (e.g. Zara, Wal-Mart, etc.), and keep networking!

How do you stay connected with Kelley today?

I help to develop and facilitate the annual IU SCOMA/enVista case competition. I really enjoy coming down to campus and listening to what the students come up with to the same types of problems that we are helping our clients with. If you have any questions or would like to chat, feel free to reach out at: csim@envistacorp.com.

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