Alumni supply chain panelists from left: Junior Jabbie ’06, ’07 MBA, President and CEO, Banneker Supply Chain Solutions, Inc.; Alexandra Cohen ’15, Senior Manager, Global Trade and Customs Compliance, Hasbro; Kelly Coutu ’11 MBA, Vice President, Supply Chain, Teknor Apex Company; Thomas Nelan ’11, Program Representative Specialist, Electric Boat (a division of General Dynamics). Moderating is Director of the Global Supply Chain Management Program, Christopher Roethlein, Ph.D.
The growth and success of the Global Supply Chain Management (GSCM) program at Bryant was on full display October 23 at a day-long event featuring several successful alumni in the field.
Lori (Matellian) Hall ’85, P’20 kicked off the day as the keynote speaker, addressing students, alumni, and industry representatives in the Grand Hall at the Bello Center on campus.
Hall has worked at BJ’s Wholesale Club for 29 years, serving various roles in replenishment, merchandising, and logistics. Today, as Senior Vice President, Assortment Planning and Allocation, she leads a team of professionals supporting BJ’s supply chain services across 217 clubs in 16 states, 143 gas stations, and 5.5 million paid members.
Hall spoke about her own background, and the role she and her team play in BJ’s success. They serve the “smart-saving family,” with an emphasis on fresh food (which drives weekly shopping) and value when compared to the competition.
“If you’re a retailer in America today and somebody’s paying to shop in your store, you’d better get it right every day,” Hall said of the demands her team faces. BJ’s is expanding its footprint into new markets, both brick and mortar and online experiences.
Hall, whose daughter Kathryn Hall ’20 is majoring in Global Supply Chain Management, offered career advice to students in the program, stressing a mindset of continuous improvement needed for supply chain success.
“I encourage you to think about how you can be self-reflective, and have self-awareness, and constantly look at what it is you can do better,” she said. “There’s always room for improvement.”
“I always say to people who work for me, ‘your job will not be the same in five years. Take ownership of that. Get interested, get curious, keep asking questions, because it’s changing, and you need to make sure you’re part of that change.’” – Kelly Coutu ’11 MBA
After every event, Hall said, BJ’s does an evaluation of what went well, and what could have gone better. “And I would encourage you to do that with your career,” she advised.
Global supply chain impact
Emphasizing the growth and impact of the Supply Chain Program at Bryant, Program Director and Professor of Management Christopher Roethlein, Ph.D., pointed out the very real impact of the program’s Practicum Capstone. These projects focus on solutions for demanding and complicated real-world problems of partner businesses such as Hasbro, Teknor Apex, CVS, and many more.
In the last four years, Roethlein pointed out, students in the Practicum have generated more than $109 million in projected annual savings/earnings for partner companies – remarkable results that keep these major corporations returning to work with Bryant year after year.
University Provost Glenn Sulmasy, J.D., LL.M., P’22, P’23 predicted that, based on successes like these, the Global Supply Chain Management program will soon achieve high national rankings and recognition for its quality, just as Bryant’s International Business program has done.
Panelists offer advice and predictions
Following the keynote session, an all-alumni panel took questions from the moderator and from the floor. Several themes emerged from the discussion, including the complexity of the industry, the need for continuous learning, the importance of data and technology, talent recruitment and retention, and ethics.
Swimming in a sea of complex international legal, regulatory, and compliance issues, supply chain professionals must also be expert at solving operational challenges, driving smart strategy, and managing risk, the panelists agreed.
Managing all that complexity means that practitioners must be dedicated to keeping up with an ever-changing landscape by continuing to learn and develop their expertise throughout their careers.
They encouraged students to be assertive in seeking out as many different experiences within the field as they can, and to pursue a variety of professional development opportunities even as they establish their careers after graduation.
“I always say to people who work for me, ‘your job will not be the same in five years. Take ownership of that. Get interested, get curious, keep asking questions, because it’s changing, and you need to make sure you’re part of that change.’” said Kelly Coutu ’11 MBA, Vice President, Supply Chain at Teknor Apex Company.
Data and analytics are a critical area for supply chain professionals to embrace, the panelists agreed, and the field is relying more and more on technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to more accurately analyze and forecast to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of change.
With so many factors influencing the field of supply chain management, “there’s always an opportunity for things to go a little unethical,” said Coutu, in answer to a student’s question. She encouraged aspiring professionals to thoroughly vet the culture of any company they’re thinking of joining.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships,” added Thomas Nelan ’11, Program Representative Specialist at Electric Boat. You want to be able to look someone in the eye… and it’s contagious – when you see others in your organization do the right thing, that catches on.”
Danielle Caci ’21 recently declared a Global Supply Chain Management major, with a concentration in Analytics. She said she found the keynote speech and the panel discussion inspiring because they echoed the themes she frequently hears about.
“I enjoyed hearing from people who work at different companies, who all have different perspectives on similar issues, she said. “It reinforced the concepts and challenges we’re learning about in class.”
Personalized career advice
Following the panel discussion, alumni and other supply chain industry professionals sat with students to offer career advice, coaching them about how to plot the right career path and make themselves attractive to prospective employers. They encouraged them to be proactive in their searches, and urged students to take advantage of all that Bryant has to offer in the way of career fairs, networking events, social media groups, and experiential learning opportunities such as mentorships, job shadows, internships, and coops.