One of the big challenges in the supply chain today is attracting and retaining really good talent. We will be talking with someone who’s very passionate about this topic, Sophia Rivas Herrera!

Over the last few years, Sofia has spoken at numerous seminars and conferences and has hosted a podcast on supply chain management.

So, why is a supply chain career a great one?

Here’s an insightful conversation between Rob and Sofia about her journey, the importance of supply chain, and her passion for attracting and retaining talent in this field.



The Journey into Supply Chain


Rob: I know one of your passions is around attracting and retaining talent in supply chain. Maybe we could kick off with what drew you to supply chain? You know, why supply chain out of all the careers?

Sofia: Yeah, sure. So I think, well, a little bit of background, I studied industrial engineering here in Mexico and that career is a bit more focused on manufacturing or that’s how they teach it in this part of the world. And at the end, I found that I didn’t want to spend my life in manufacturing or in production line and that I needed something more.

One day a professor mentioned the word supply chain, and for me it was like OK, I need to go find out more about it. And I hunted it down all over the world until I finally dedicated all my elective courses to that, and then I specialized on the topic and I really enjoy it. The reason why… it’s more holistic, right? It also accounts for manufacturing, but it goes from the idea of a product to the delivery of it, and now even to the return of that product into a new life cycle. So I think for me, the type of challenges that I faced in this field are not limited and are not the same. I think that’s one of the things why I like it so much.


Attracting and Retaining Talent


Rob: It’s interesting, isn’t it? I think supply chain attracts people who are kind of part engineer in their minds. I mean it can be quite analytical, but it also has that very practical aspect and you know, it’s a very people focused industry as well, I think. So yeah, I think it’s great that you’re promoting it out there. So, what’s your interest in, you know, talent acquisition and retention? Are you kind of wanting more people to get into supply chain? What’s behind that?

Sofia: I think like from what I’ve seen in my career is that whenever we get a lot of people in entry-level jobs for supply chain but not all of them move on to the next phase, which, I would say like mid-level management. Or I don’t know, from that, even higher levels and see those kind of following that hierarchical path, right?

So I think part of my motivation is how can we bring more people to get interested in supply chain, but also how can we make them stay? And understanding what’s making them go to other areas. And yeah, I think that’s something I preach and speak to every day and especially because I know that for example, the new generations coming have special skills and special focuses and expertise that I know that will bring a lot of value to the industry as well. I know that going to marketing sounds more exciting than supply chain, but that’s why I feel like we definitely need a rebrand for the industry. I think that there are a lot of things we don’t show that happen here apart from being the muscles of the decision making and also, yeah, I mean, we are the ones impacting the world and people and everything around us. So, yeah, I think we should definitely share more of those experiences with others.


The Changing Landscape of Supply Chain


Rob: Yeah, I admire your efforts with your podcasts and all that kind of stuff. I think it’s tremendous. It’s interesting, isn’t it? If you talk to people three or four years ago about supply chain, it’s gonna, hmmm, yeah, that’s not what I want to get into. But over the last two or three years, I think everybody now knows what supply chain is about, which, you know, one of the plus sides, if there is one of COVID is probably that everybody now knows how important supply chains are and what they do. They keep the world moving. Do you think that’s had an impact and that people are more interested now in joining the supply chain field?

Sofia: I think definitely it has put us under the radar. And if I try to do like an analogy tool to the spectacle industry or theater industry, we now have the spotlight, but we need to perform, right?

Rob: Yeah

Sofia: So not only performing in terms of excellence and operation but also showcase what we do, right? I think that’s the part we’re missing, we’re getting there, for example, I know Penny who will see this interview knows you and follows you because you do that. But I feel like even there are a lot of other people around the world that do this but do not share. So I think this is like that part of when you see it, you can be it.

Rob: Yeah, I like that. When you see it, you can be it. You know it’s interesting. I’m very lucky that my day job is running a management consulting company. So I get to work with lots of different companies and lots of great people. One of the things that I find inspiring all the time is some of the clients that we’re working with. And I think, I’ve never really thought about this, but I think there’s been a big change, maybe over the last 10 years. You know, 10 years ago, if you were a supply chain manager, it was all about trucks and warehouses and stuff like that. The supply chain managers I’m dealing with now are really quite dynamic leaders and they’ve got, you know, a much broader range of responsibilities in an organization. They’re dealing at much higher levels in the organization and I think, you know, anyone who’s watching this and thinking about getting into supply chain, follow Sofia’s path. You know, jump on in there and there’s some great opportunities. I mean, I have friends who are CEOs who started out in supply chain. You know, so it really is the path to the top now.


Tips for Aspiring Supply Chain Professionals


Sofia: Just a bit of a reflection of what I’ve been thinking in some interns or young professionals graduating. I feel like there is this sense that success is linear.

And maybe with all the social media access that we have, we think that we have this feeling that everything is instantaneous, but it isn’t. And I think like if you are someone that likes a dynamic environment that do have these pressures of thinking that things happen intensely. I think that this industry is not that you grow very fast. I like that speed of learning but you do! Right, you grow your mindset, your knowledge and in some industries such as I would say e-commerce for example you do have a more actually accelerated career path. So that will satisfy the type of anxiety in case you have it.

But also I would say that getting into supply chain, you have this easiness to move from very upstream to very downstream. I can assure you that there will be a role that you will really enjoy and find a really good match with you. And I think like understanding this, this flow of supply chain gives you a lot of perspective and holistic view of what decisions and the impact of those decisions have. And I think if you’re a very curious person, if you like to have a dynamic life, if you don’t like to deal with the same thing over again, this industry can give you that.


Watch the full video for more tips and insights!


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Rob O’Byrne
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