As an always-on, digital age and a disruptive marketplace continues blurring the lines and changing the way we think about supply chain, women leaders are building the chain back—smarter. Championing new business approaches and ideas, these thought leaders are finding new paths forward. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we understand the value of women using our collective power to create a more diverse and inclusive logistics industry and professional community.
We know that when women empower each other they make progress—breaking through barriers, stereotypes, and dated gender roles. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain we’re dedicated to elevating the voices of women leaders. We’re proud to highlight these supply chain executives and their bold moves to modernize the supply chain while empowering a more accepting industry landscape.
Each month our Women in Supply Chain series introduces the trailblazers who are making bold moves in the supply chain. We explore who and what motivates them and how they are driving positive change in their organizations, industry, and community. Let’s Talk Supply Chain explores hurdles women supply chain leaders face that often go unnoticed, their big jumps forward, and the beginnings that brought them where they are today, leading organizations across the global supply chain.
In our Women in Supply Chain series, trailblazers across the industry from different backgrounds share their unique experiences as women supply chain leaders. They share career advice and keys to getting ahead in supply chain careers. Keep reading for deep leadership insights and expert guidance on how to become a supply chain leader.
This month, we’re honored to feature SCM educator and Ph.D. candidate, Sehrish Huma, a supply chain thought leader with a master’s in logistics and supply chain management. Sehrish is a faculty member at the University of Karachi and a youth representative at VCARE, helping others make their start in supply chain. Her articles have appeared across global industry journals and blogs with a focus on applying practical supply chain experience to her SCM industry knowledge.
1. What led you to a career educating others in supply chain?
I have come full circle. I started my career studying as an MBA in specialized supply chain management at the University of Karachi KUBS department. My options were limited. Achieving an MBA in supply chain management wasn’t my first choice. I settled on the discipline, for the time being, and then I started learning about SCM and its importance. Learning that we can’t source, make, or even buy a product without a supply chain changed my mindset about SCM. I realized that every dollar businesses earn is fueled by each organization’s supply chain. Understanding the gravity and dire importance of a resilient supply chain, I fell in love with SCM and wanted to build my career in it. But breaking into the supply chain industry was challenging. It took a lot of effort to be recognized both nationally and at a global level.
I started my career interning at a purchasing department from a renowned multinational pharmaceutical company. During my internship, I gained critical, practical experience on the ground. For the first time, I was able to see Purchase Requisitions (PR), Purchase Orders (PO), Goods Receiving Notes (GRN), and how to follow up for timely payment. It was an amazing learning experience, and my performance and contributions were recognized—my internship was extended. I recognized the need to assess other options and gain visibility in the industry and started SCM, logistics, and risk management research while applying my practical experience. I published my academic research in different international journals.
I love writing, so while I started gaining global industry recognition, I decided to share my knowledge with the world. I started writing blogs for different international institutes to broaden my reach and exposure. I had been writing for a leading supply chain institute magazine for over a year. In 2019, I was awarded for “contribution to the institute”.
That year I was busy working in many disciplines across supply chain and started gaining greater traction and visibility among supply chain professionals. I had growing opportunities to lecture at renowned universities. That’s when I stepped into my role as an academic lecturer in supply chain working with different universities. Currently, I have tenure as a full-time faculty member at the University of Karachi Business School.
2. What have you learned as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
While I have advocates in many of my male supervisors, there are very few women actively recognized for their work in supply chain. I experienced some of that discrimination early in my career when I had the opportunity to interview at a leading 3PL logistics company. I was excited to hear that I was shortlisted as a candidate for an operations role at the organization. But when I appeared for the interview, the recruiting manager and operations manager just looked at me and asked how I—as a young woman—could do an operations job that is 24/7. They made these assumptions based on my gender and age. I told them I’d do my best if they gave me one chance, they didn’t. They assumed that being a young woman, I couldn’t manage the company’s 24/7 operations.
Even though I didn’t get the job there, I didn’t give up. I wasn’t going to let their dated mindset hold me back. I continued looking for opportunities while sharing my SCM philosophies and knowledge via academic research papers and blogs for different international institutes. Building my visibility as a thought leader opened more doors for me with universities, other institutes, and influencers. As a woman in a male-dominated industry like supply chain, it’s important to keep going and to get comfortable advocating for yourself. Because often women leaders in supply chain must go above and beyond expectations for their male counterparts in the same roles.
Supply chain is a male-dominated industry, (when I interned there were only two other women in the entire department). Even in many universities, there are still very few female instructors teaching supply chain management. Regardless, I know I’m making a difference for future supply chain leaders when I enlighten my students on the importance of SCM. They learn that supply chain management isn’t just about buying and selling, it’s about every aspect of your business operations. A business can’t survive without a resilient supply chain. Students appreciate my new approach, passion, and energy around SCM. I know I’m spreading that enthusiasm and knowledge around, and in that way I know I’ve succeeded.
3. How have your mentors supported your career growth in supply chain?
I’ve always had male mentors guiding me on gaining confidence in my abilities. Talking to someone who has shared experience in your field of interest before you build a career there—in this case, supply chain—is critical. In fact, when I meet students and young professionals, I always encourage them to reach out to me. I make it very clear upfront that I am always open to having a supply chain discussion with them.
4. Who in supply chain inspires you and why?
There are so many remarkable women in supply chain to be inspired by because they are doing important work in the industry. When I started my career, I came across one wonderful supply chain lady—the one and only Sarah Barnes-Humphrey. I started my career witnessing her dedication and the ongoing obstacles she faced on her journey in supply chain. I learned a lot from Sarah.
She taught me not to give up, to stay motivated, and how to be consistent. Sarah taught me how to stay connected to others in the supply chain community, keeping everyone current on news and best practices. Most importantly, she taught me how to celebrate every achievement—big and small. It’s easy to overlook the small achievements. But they’re important. If you publicly share and celebrate even your smallest achievements, others will join in the celebration. I appreciate the way Sarah celebrates and supports women in supply chain. She’s supported me a lot and I admire her humble, courageous, and practical nature.
5. When did you first find your voice as a supply chain leader?
As everyone else has probably also experienced, I realized that the world has changed now. Initially, even after I amassed the knowledge and expertise, there was no visibility of me or my work. I was advised to expand my social media presence and personal brand by networking on LinkedIn. Back then it was challenging to make valuable and relatable connections. I remember at the start of my career I had just 20 connections in my professional network. Gradually I started making connections, commenting, and interacting with supply chain professionals.
I started sharing my ideas on supply chain management and then one day I received an offer from an international institute to write for its blog. That day was the happiest one. I felt like I did it, it was an amazing feeling. Recently, I’ve also been associated as a youth supply chain representative at VCARE Academy in Canada. These opportunities assure me that yes, I’m on the right track.
6. What other advice do you have for women entering the supply chain?
My journey is not different from any other women who have some spark in themselves—those women who have the courage to do something big that excites them. And yes, face rejection, misunderstandings, and discouragement along the way. I’ve faced them all, but the one thing that keeps me going is my constant eagerness to learn new things. I never let a setback hurt my momentum. In fact, hearing “no” from any organization motivates me to find a better organization that values me, my knowledge, and my passion for SCM.
Just don’t give up, always keep trying. One day those connections fall into place. It’s started happening for me. The firms that rejected me early in my career as a young woman in supply chain are now looking for consultation on their operations. They want my expert tips and insights via guest sessions for their employees on how to handle uncertainties in operations. Because supply chain operations are so unpredictable, and you can’t forecast everything with 100% accuracy.
The future is all about supply chain. As this industry has been brutally impacted by the pandemic. The economy and the industry need supply chainers whether they are men or women. Being a supply chain professional, we are on a test to keep our operations robust and try to make the supply chain industry more resilient together. Right now, I’m fully invested in leading in the supply chain domain. I will keep making a difference by sharing knowledge as a researcher, lecturer, blogger, and supply chain representative.
7. What advice do you have for other women looking to break into supply chain?
The most important thing that I’d recommend to all young women is, if you think you and your ideas aren’t appreciated where you work then change your workplace. You aren’t a tree that can only grow in one place. Move around till you find the place where you can be appreciated for being you. As a young generation, we have the right mix of knowledge and skills. Just be confident and be you because the world needs the real and passionate you.
8. What does it mean to you to be featured in our Women in Supply Chain Series?
It seems like a dream come true. What else could a passionate supply chain enthusiast want? I’ve read several supply chain leaders’ interesting and inspiring stories from the Women in Supply Chain series. It’s helped me and given me the courage to be consistent and never give up. The supply chain industry desperately needs these platforms to share women leaders’ achievements and challenges. They are proof that you can be you in supply chain.
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 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.