Paola Núñez is on a Mission to Bring More Women into Supply Chain

Even through the disruption, women leaders are making bold moves to shake up the supply chain and build it back—stronger. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we know that anything is possible when women empower each other. That’s why every month we’re proud to feature the female trailblazers who are changing the face of supply chain.

Our Women In Supply Chain™ series introduces you to the women thought leaders who you need to know about now. We share their stories and achievements, and what they want you to know about shattering glass ceilings across supply chain. Keep reading for best practices and career advice to keep you inspired and powering through your workweek and your new normal.

This month, we’re proud to highlight Paola Núñez, a senior supply chain executive and consultant with over two decades of industry experience, leading supply chain strategy for fast-moving brands like Driscoll’s and L’Oréal. Paola received the National Logistics Award in 2018—the highest recognition of Mexico’s logistics industry, awarded by the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Communications and Transport, and other industry associations.

She graduated business school with honors, attending Insituto of Tecnológico de Monterrey and Universidad de Valle de Mexico.

How did your supply chain journey start?

Accidentally. I was studying Administration to focus on marketing or media communications when I had the opportunity to work at CEMEX. The organization’s logistics area was gaining speed and structure, but women were still rare in operations positions.

From an entry-level role as a logistics admin, I worked to become the first woman in leadership at CEMEX Mexico—developing four strategic management roles to support the organization’s growth.

Since then I’ve built my career in Supply Chain across several industries at multi-national organizations like APL Logistics, Driscoll’s, L´ORÉAL, and DANNON Group. From Purchasing to manufacturing, demand planning, warehousing, transportation, inventory management, and customer service—I’ve redefined and developed different roles at every point of the supply chain.

Why do supply chain leaders have to be risk-takers?

Change is inevitable in modern supply chain management, and risk management is mission-critical to success no matter what you do. Risks evolve and become more prevalent with time. Traditional risk management approaches aren’t as effective in the fast-changing supply chain landscape. Risks exist in land, air, and ocean. They’re inevitable and unavoidable.

Ironically, the biggest risk you can take is not taking any. In an evolving industry that’s constantly changing and responding to outside disruptions, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is being overly cautious. Because it’s only when you take risks that you can achieve something really remarkable.

I’ve always been competitive, challenging myself to achieve more. Making bigger wins means taking bigger risks. Managing complex operations when women weren’t accepted in the industry was the first of many risks I’d take in my career. I moved from warehouse management to transportation management—leading high-performance teams—every step of the way. I take risks to balance my professional life with my personal goals as a wife and mother of three and an Ironman athlete.

I work and live the fail-fast mentality, knowing that taking risks is a win-win, every time. How? If you have a positive outcome you’ve won, but even if the outcome is less than ideal, you’ve amassed more knowledge and learned for the future.

Ultimately, you are more likely to regret the risks you didn’t take and the things you didn’t do, than the ones you did. Even challenges and obstacles eventually translate into efficiencies and increased transparency to build trust and consistency.

What personal mantras help you power through the constant shifts in supply chain?

Choose progress over perfection—every day. Women breaking into male-dominated industries feel like we need to prove ourselves. We want to be perfect and we don’t want to fail ourselves. But if you don’t put yourself out there and try you can’t move forward.

Perfectionism can be paralyzing anytime you try something new. The first time you take a giant leap of faith and it works it’s an incredible boost to your confidence. That empowerment gives you the confidence to go do it again.

Build community—no matter what you do—and it’s is crucial to keep in mind when evaluating, strategizing, and taking risks. I’ve found myself in two communities—one with my peers who are passionate about supply chain—the other a community built around the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t get stuck in your head, be ready to ask others for support, and see every challenge as an opportunity to learn more.

That starts with your personal life. I have a supportive partner with the same interests who works in the same industry. My husband encourages me to be the best version of myself every day.

What skillsets should up-and-comers develop to break into supply chain?

Supply chain professionals must maintain a confluence of skills in these areas to keep up with industry changes and face everyday challenges:

  • Data and analytics are a must for guiding business intelligence—an area in high demand. Being ready to extract, process, and analyze data can help you make fast gains that get noticed.
  • Technology advancements are constant. Making data-driven decisions and automating more processes demands supply chain professionals who know how to harness new capabilities to innovate and effectuate change in supply chain operations and business processes.
  • Domain knowledge—understanding the roles of logistics, transportation, forecasting, warehousing, distribution, production, quality, and risk within fulfillment processes is key to building your foundations for a launchpad.
  • Enterprise Systems are deeply tied to business operations and decisions. Understand how they work and the information shared between the systems.
  • Leadership skills are a must, even if you aren’t in management. Be ready to collaborate with a diverse set of stakeholders, to solve problems and cultivate thought leadership to meet the next big moment in supply chain. Being a team player and having those soft skills is the most important, managers can train for processes, not attitude.

The bottom line is that supply chain professionals cannot keep relying on the same traditional skillsets. We must move forward and take a bold, quantum leap into the future to define and shape the future of the digital supply chain.

Who inspires you?

My family. My husband, my daughters, and son are my engine to get up every day and give the best I can in everything I do. They motivate me to become a “better me” every day because I want to empower them the same way. I am driven by helping others forward—my family, friends, teams—helping them break through their unique boundaries.

Endurance is also a big motivator for me (in Ironman, marathons, golf tournaments, etc.). I love finding new boundaries and those breakthrough moments when you discover you’re stronger than you thought. Pushing my physical limits and taking risks teaches me to be comfortable being uncomfortable—in all areas of life.

And I’m inspired by the next big challenge. For me, the greatest part of working in supply chain is that every day is different from the next. The value I’m bringing energizes me to get up and tackle the next day. I am always learning something new—supply chain is so dynamic—it’s hard to get bored.

What do you want women to know about working in supply chain?

A tradition of a male-dominated supply chain sector has made it difficult for women to be well represented, or at least considered, as competitive equals for supply chain jobs. In the past few years, there have been subtle signs of change, but not enough.

The supply chain is full of opportunities and can be a rewarding path forward for women in their careers. Be resilient. You can manifest your desires and make them real. No matter how positive you are, there are going to be challenges. Embracing them rather than just bracing for impact makes a difference.

Having a growth mindset and thriving in disruption means you are constantly finding more opportunities to learn and grow. Embracing challenges even during the best times will make you more strategic and resilient. Because supply chain is all about embracing change with resilience.

What do supply chain organizations need to do to build resilience and stay relevant?

Hire more women. The supply chain needs to look for more ways to attract women to roles that are more traditional operations positions. Our industry needs more advanced “soft skills,” beyond subject matter expertise. Women are uniquely positioned to bring these skills to your organization.

Organizations should be looking at:

  • Equal pay for women in the industry.
  • Bringing in more diverse and inclusive talent within the younger generations through university programs and visits to campuses and schools promoting visibility for logistics and supply chain organizations and why they matter.
  • Strong female leadership and success stories to inspire, motivate, and propel the next generation of Women In Supply Chain™ forward with strong mentors and role models.
  • More women in leadership positions.
  • Identify and develop high-performing women who aspire to lead.
  • Provide the kind of individual feedback that reinforces and builds confidence and outcomes.
  • Build empowered and effective networks with the express role of generating leadership opportunities for women.
  • Implement challenging and aspirational career paths for women at work.

What’s your next goalpost or challenge?

I am currently a supply chain consultant and actively participate as a speaker for national and international educational events, conferences, and webinars. My articles on supply chain regularly appear on industry publications and I just started my blog.

I see my long-term future right here in the supply chain arena as an industry expert supporting others in pursuing their ideas and building out a strategy. I’ve had amazing mentors and managers and I’d like to provide similar guidance, maybe taking on a leadership role at a global organization where I can be a supply chain ambassador.

I want to continue reaching further through industry events and conferences as a motivational speaker and coach to support the next generations—they are the future of supply chain.

And, of course, I want to keep writing, researching, sharing, and learning from the supply chain community. That goal never stops.

Meet Our Sponsor

This Women In Supply Chain™ feature was made possible by our sponsor, Apex Logistics. Apex Logistics International Inc is deep 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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