Lee Beng Hooi on Creating Momentum for Your Career and Other Women Leaders in Supply Chain

As an always-on, digital age and a disruptive marketplace continues blurring lines and changing the way we think about supply chain,  women leaders are building every mile and node of the chain back—smarter. Pioneering new business approaches and concepts, these thought leaders are forging new paths forward. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we understand the value of women using our collective power to build a more diverse and inclusive logistics community and landscape. 

We understand that when women empower each other they make progress—shattering barriers, stereotypes, and dated gender roles. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain we’re dedicated to empowering the voices of women leaders. We’re proud to highlight these supply chain executives and their leaps in innovation to modernize the supply chain while empowering a more vibrant and inclusive industry landscape.

Each month our Women in Supply Chain series introduces the trailblazers making moves and shaking up the supply chain as we know it. We explore who and what inspires them and how they are driving meaningful progress inside their organizations, industry, and community. Let’s Talk Supply Chain examines challenges women supply chain leaders face that all too often go unnoticed. We celebrate their jumps forward, and the starting points that brought them where they are today, leading change and businesses across the global supply chain. 

In our Women in Supply Chain series, pioneers across the industry from different backgrounds share their experience, career advice, and keys to advancement in supply chain careers. Keep reading for powerful leadership insights and expert guidance on becoming a supply chain leader.

This month, we’re proud to highlight an international supply chain leader with more than two decades of experience leading diverse teams across multi-national supply chain organizations, Lee Beng Hooi. Known for empowering endless business process innovation in the Asia Pacific, China, and Japan, Lee is a recognized supply chain thought leader at Dell Malaysia. Lee is currently the Senior Director, Global Demand Supply Planning, overseeing planning, operations, and end-to-end services. She has a Fellow Diploma from the UK Society of Business Practitioners in Leadership and Strategy, a master’s degree from the National University of Singapore, and a bachelor’s degree from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

1. How did your supply chain journey start?

I launched my career in Regional Product Marketing (APJ). From my client interactions, I learned they struggled with long lead times and inconsistent supply—I was determined to find solutions. After two years of intensive travel with the urge for greater stability, I moved into Production Planning. Still young, fearless, and seemingly invincible, I knew I could make a difference in reducing lead times and improving supply by acting as the voice of production clients.

I approached my manager, asking for a transfer to Production Planning. I learned on-the-job that Production Planning supported but could not significantly reduce lead times, so I asked for a transfer to Material Management to make a more significant impact. 

That is my modus operandi as I move along the supply chain—learning new areas and moving on to find more meaningful solutions—always looking forward to the new challenges ahead to help resolve the very real and abundant supply issues impacting clients every day.

Every two to three years, I extended my job scope to cover more, first Material Management, then Finished Goods (FG) Logistics Warehouse Operations and Freight, and onto Sales & Operating Planning, Customer Care, and finally, Order Processing. Over my supply chain career, I have worked across Manufacturing and Regional Sales organizations to land at Dell, a technology giant renowned for its supply chain leadership. So, when the opportunity came, I embraced it and never looked back. Thrilled and ready to venture into the Dell Services Parts organization—a brand new field for me.

I have spent more than half of my supply chain career here at Dell. Over the past 15 years here, I’ve managed APJ Services, Logistics, Reverse Logistics, Repair Operations, and Services Parts Planning. In November, I started my latest role in supply chain leadership at Dell as the Global Demand-Supply Planning Director for Client Services.

2. How have mentors supported your career growth in the supply chain?

I have been privileged to have a few mentors throughout the different stages of my career in supply chain—suited to unique areas, and situations as my own supply chain journey has rapidly evolved and advanced into the new areas. As I broke into a new field or section across the supply chain every few years, my mentors helped me to get started in assessing and learning the new areas so I could innovate in each space. Every mentor had tips on how to grow my career while identifying solutions to resolve business issues across the chain. Every mentor has made an impact on my development in supply chain.

3. When you think back on the mentors you’ve had in supply chain, is there one you admire whose teaching has stuck with you the most?

Simon WK Wong, the now-retired but then Vice President of Asia Operations at Dell. Simon and a few other supply chain leaders from other multi-national corporations, including Motorola, Intel, and AMD, set up a recurring monthly supply chain forum in Penang, Malaysia, for supply chain practitioners. As a young supply chain professional, I learned a tremendous amount from these leaders across different forums, and Simon stood out.

Simon was humble even while showing his apparent command of complex supply chain initiatives at Dell and sharing industry best practices and robust solutions. He was instrumental in building the Dell Factory in Penang and repeating the same growth and results in Xiamen, China. Simon successfully launched the U.S. Direct Ship initiative from Penang—shipping up to 1M units daily.

Back then, Simon didn’t have a big name in the industry. He was an unknown. He would answer our questions and patiently break down and explain some of the most complicated supply obstacles and approaches.

When I first joined Dell, Simon was the Managing Director for Dell Malaysia. He drove the Talent Development Program for a more robust and diverse senior leadership team. He always had time for one-on-one meetings and was ready to share his ideas and insights. Simon was a powerful force in helping me maneuver my supply chain career progression at Dell when I was at a professional crossroads—he is a talented supply chain thought leader and a man of great integrity.

4.  What unique obstacles have you faced as a woman in supply chain?

I’ve faced the most challenging moments in my career in Logistics and Production. In both areas, you need to keep your calm and stand firm in negotiation to push for action and drive real results. Even as women in supply chain, we don’t always need to be loud and aggressive to be heard in a male-dominated industry. I constantly harness relevant data and information in communication with clear deliverables to build transparency and trust in my approach. Going onsite to the grounds for an all-hands-on-deck approach in person has been hugely instrumental as well. I love walking around the warehouse and production floors and getting one-on-one feedback from the operators. As Sarah Barnes says, collaboration really is the future of supply chain.

5. What have you learned about yourself so far on your supply chain journey?

I’ve learned that I can thrive in supply chain leadership roles because I embrace change and uncertainty—I enjoy fresh challenges. Finding new solutions is rewarding. I am able to see that process improvement in customer satisfaction scores and company performance and financials, and that’s incredibly rewarding. With my education and foundation in research, I’m analytical and ready, and able to connect the dots with coherence and agility. 

6. How have you found your voice as a leader in supply chain?

After six years taking on various supply chain roles in manufacturing, I was hired by a new Regional Sales organization to improve Order Processing, Logistics, and Inventory Management. The business had just implemented its new CRM order processing inventory management system and the team was facing a myriad of issues. In most of my one-on-ones with new team members, they opened up that they were ready to leave the organization. I was brand new to managing a regional sales organization supply chain from order intake to inventory planning ad delivering closing sales orders.

But in three months, as a team, we were able to turn the situation around, recovering lost sales invoicing, enabling invoicing in multiple currencies, and reducing the order and supply lead times. I found my voice by listening, and we made an impact on the organization and our clients. We because it was a collaborative team effort.

In those first few months, I learned that my manufacturing skillset could make a difference across the sales supply chain. However, the most critical piece of the puzzle? The people, my team, who brought and held everything together. Everything I read and absorbed from the Eliyahu M. Goldratt book, The Goal, recommended by mentor Simon Wong stuck with me those first three months, and I applied it every day in my work and team interactions. Knowledge and experience are instrumental in any role in supply chain, but it’s the ability to empower and unify your team that matters most. Without that alignment across your team, you can’t accelerate meaningful results across your supply chain. Your supply chain is only as agile as every one of your team members.

The supply chain industry was overwhelmingly male-dominated when I started my career two decades ago. Most of the back-end office work was handled by women in areas like material management. Women have the skills to be successful in supply chain and drive meaningful results with an openness to new ideas and collaborative planning. I hope that my experience and feature in Women In Supply Chain will encourage more young women to take the leap and help us build a more innovative and inclusive industry landscape.

8. What advice do you have for women looking to make a start in the supply chain industry?

Just go for it. Don’t let your inhibitions hold you back just because you’re a woman in a male-dominated industry. You are more than a skirt. Volunteer for the projects you feel strongly about and take risks. I volunteered to move to Production Planning because I was determined to reduce supply lead times.

When you have a higher purpose, or a professional mission, that comes across in your actions and results. Having that purpose as a driver is instrumental in standing out in roles and leadership in supply chain. Don’t worry about failure, be more concerned about letting your fears hold you back. The minute you take a step forward, you’re already winning. Even as you learn, you can only move forward.

9. What’s next for you in your supply chain journey?

In the next two years, I aim to build a capable, global, and world-class demand-supply planning team here at Dell. I’d also like to support young up-and-coming supply chain practitioners as Simon Wong did for me when I was starting. I am ready to pay it forward.

This Women in Supply Chain feature was made possible by our sponsor, Emerge. As a company focused on empowering and growing meaningful supply chain relationships, Emerge is proud to sponsor Women in Supply Chain. Through its freight procurement platform, Emerge offers solutions that enhance the spot and contract procurement process, enabling shippers and carriers to make more strategic decisions. Learn more about Emerge here.

About the Author

Let's Talk Supply Chain Lee Beng Hooi on Creating Momentum for Your Career and Other Women Leaders in Supply Chain 1

Naomi Garnice is the Director of Marketing for MicroAge where she leads the marketing team and creative strategy. Naomi has been a content marketer for 14 years and is passionate about creating engaging content that matters. Throughout her career in marketing for technology, healthcare and supply chain organizations, Naomi has advocated to highlight female thought leaders in male-dominated industries.

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