Memory Mathema on Breaking Barriers in Supply Chain and Her Greatest Inspiration – Her Daughter

Through the supply chain disruption, women leaders are pressing forward—making bold moves to shake up the supply chain and build it back—stronger.  At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we think that anything is possible when women empower each other. And every month we’re proud to feature the fearless women leaders who are adding momentum to supply chain and changing the face of the industry forever.

Our Women In Supply Chain™ series highlights the female thought leaders you want to know about now. We share their challenges, and achievements, and what brought them here. They share what they want you to know about shattering glass ceilings throughout their careers and across the supply chain.

Keep reading for best practices and career advice to keep you inspired and on point.

This month, we’re proud to highlight Memory Mathema, a supply chain and procurement professional with almost a decade of experience. With certifications from the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, she is currently studying to achieve her Level-5 CIPS diploma. Memory is a buyer for Compressor Aid Services—a SMME-based in Johannesburg South Africa.

How did your supply chain journey start?

My supply chain journey was accidental but well-seasoned. I started working for Compressor Aid Services in an administrative role as an office clerk. The more experience I gained with customers and addressing their concerns, the more I realized I had to put myself out of my comfort zone to learn the technical aspects of customer support. In my previous job, I was an elementary school teacher. So, this was like being thrown overboard. I had to learn quickly right in the deep waters.

I got my hands wet learning compressors as an assistant working with the technicians and getting into the heavy work of stripping a unit and watching them rebuild the compressors to standard. I learned exactly where all the spares go and the function they serve. This experience proved priceless.  It also helped me learn to troubleshoot compressors with my ability to ask technicians about the why’s and how’s of fault solving practically.

It’s tough because you have men watching you work, ready for you to fail. That’s the exact motivation I needed to prove them wrong. The knowledge I gained from watching the fitters and technicians service units is exactly what helped me to push unit sales and make our clients’ experience with our service invaluable. Customers value consistency.

Did you have a mentor?

Yes, my progress within the industry can be attributed to the support and encouragement of both my male manager and colleagues, specifically our distributor manager and a special woman, Terry Compaan. Terry patiently helped me learn from her experience. She was always willing to lend a hand when I needed one. People can sense when you’re genuine—that makes them root for your success. And you know you aren’t alone.

Just last year we managed to win the award for Gardner Denver African Distributor of the Year for 2019. There were only three women at the awards ceremony, out of a room filled with over forty men. It was validation that it isn’t just a man’s world. There’s enough room for more women in the manufacturing industry.

What and who inspires you?

I am fortunate enough to have an opportunity to drive the cause to pull down the social constructs in a male-dominated industry and take a stand—showing I’m just as capable of doing “a man’s job” as my male counterparts.

And the who, whenever people ask me who am l, I tell them I am Chloe’s mum first. I’m inspired by her passion for life maybe because she is a six-year-old and lets nothing hold her down or dampen her spirits for too long. Her place in the world is ultimately defined by the example I set for her, and the path I pave for her as a little, young lady growing up in a world filled with disparities and patriarchal boundaries intended to limit the full potential of who she is meant to be.

How can other women stand out in a male-dominated industry?

You need a radar to keep innovating and being adaptable to industry shifts and changes both in your immediate and extended environments. Keep stock of how the environment is evolving and how you are contributing to changes. If you keep that on your radar, you won’t be caught off-guard. How we differentiate ourselves depends on how willing we are to question traditional processes, customs, and values to learn something completely new.

What keeps you motivated?

My why is simple. To leave the world better than how I found it. Someone helped me see the potential in my life, regardless of where I started. I hope I can pass that on and make things happen for someone else who needs it. That’s why I love supply chain because nothing about it is predictable or certain. No two days are alike. There is no room to stop growing or grow complacent. Like Eckhart Tolle said, “When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. Fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do, and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change.”

There’s no place with more potential than in a broad field like supply chain management.

What’s your vision for the role of diversity in the supply chain in the future?

We are not where we started, and the reach of how far we can go is infinite. The voices of the minority and previously marginalized continue being amplified because even those who wouldn’t boldly give us the platform can’t ignore the noise and difference we are contributing anymore. Even the most undermined in society are a source of innovation.

We are only just tapping into the benefits of diversity and inclusion. There has been a lot of talk and gradually action will become more universal as other marginalized groups join the cause.

What’s next for you?

I’m excited about the future. It can only get better. I’m currently studying to get  CPIM certified and also studying for my advanced diploma in CIPS. I look forward to expanding my network of like-minded professionals. The future always has a curveball for me. That’s exactly what gets me excited. I am always being surprised.

Meet Our Sponsor

This Women In Supply Chain™ feature was made possible by our sponsor, Apex Logistics. Apex Logistics International Inc is deeply rooted in diversity and culture, led by our own “Woman in Supply Chain” CEO, Elsie Qian; these values are why we partnered with Let’s Talk Supply Chain for the Women In Supply Chain™ series. Apex is recognized as one of the fastest-growing Top 25 airfreight forwarders in the world, with a network of over 2500 global employees in more than 70 countries.

About The Author:

Naomi GarniceNaomi 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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