So, today, I am excited to highlight Audrey Ross in my Woman in Supply Chain blog series. Audrey is one of the most knowledgeable, fun, loyal, and most generous Women in Supply Chain™ that I know, plus she is my #tradebestie, and has agreed to join me along with Leah in my upcoming Trade Squad Show on my YouTube channel called The SC. I cannot wait for you to meet her so let us get started.
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Let’s get started!
Thank you for joining me on the blog today, Audrey.
Awesome! So, let’s get started. What does success mean to you?
Success means to me, just feeling confident and good about what you are doing, what your purpose is in what’s going on in your life. It’s not necessarily the same thing for every person, but whatever you have chosen in your career, in your life is what is making you happy and what is giving meaning and service back into the world.
I love that you co-relate success and meaning because I think success and meaning go hand-in-hand, but we don’t really talk about it enough. Would you agree with that?
Yeah, I would agree with that for sure. I think success often gets caught up in – we get caught up in material things and in the day-to-day grind of life like bills and thinking that we are in the place of lacking, but really finding meaning in what you are doing, finding meaning in the relationships that you have, having gratitude for that, really appreciating the kind of people who are in and around your life in all the areas of it. I think for me, that is what I try to focus on the most instead of comparing my life to other people’s ideas of what success is where possible. It is a challenge.
Beautiful, and you know what, if I saw that as a post, I would hashtag that truth.
All right, so let’s get into the journey. Tell us about your journey to success. Where did you start and what have you done along the way?
Okay, well – gosh, where do I start? I was definitely lucky I have a really, really loving and supportive family, so I think I was lucky to start – to start there, and they have been and still are my kind of cheerleaders along the way, but yeah, I started, I did the usual, I went through school. I was lucky I went to an art school and really got to experience a variety of programs and educational experience, met some great people. I went on to university, I did not finish due to some family issues that I was having, but that was what lead to getting my first job as a summer student here at Orchard International, and once I got into Orchard, I just try to be open and try to be curious, and so I moved around here quite a bit doing different roles, helping the salesperson with meeting notes and with packing and pulling samples, all the way to doing global product development, local sourcing, purchasing and procurement, and really just along the way, just saying yes and being open to try new things. It’s been my journey and it has made for some great relationships and it has made for some really fun experiences along the way.
I think it combined your art and creative side with supply chain.
Yeah, for sure. I am the person who – I understand I have experience with kind of the technical and process orientation of supply-chain, right? It is process-driven, there is steps that you have to follow, and I think I have been given the opportunity to present it to people who are not necessarily familiar with it in a creative way, so I’ve had the opportunity to do some training’s internally which means I can explain the technical but while making it creative and while getting people, like our product development team – very creative and innovative people, it will paint a picture for them of this technical and somewhat tedious environments and just help get them to feel motivated and participate in those.
Yeah, and that is super important, so kudos to you because that is not necessarily easy, but it comes with the sort of collaboration and communication side we have as females, I think, right?
For sure, for sure, like I can just pick up on when people are not quite getting it and there’s just another way to re-frame it and communicate it just a little bit differently, and I really like, for fun, I like to laugh and have fun. I will send out emails about upcoming issues or something like a Chinese New Year, and I try to make it fun, like I try to put in cultural references and little jokes because I know for most people, it can get a bit dry, but I try to put a laugh into it, and I think my colleagues appreciate that. I usually get a little like, comment back like, “LOL, that was funny,” or “I actually read to the end of this email because I was waiting to see what little joke you put in there.” I think that just gets them to have some ownership over, like I said, what can be kind of a tedious or even boring process-oriented thing, but you kind of make it fun, and then it sinks in a little bit too, I think.
Amazing, and I know your Twitter followers love it because you’re super witty on Twitter…here is where you can find Audrey on Twitter. So, let’s talk a little bit about diversity inclusion. You work for a company that’s female-led, you have been there for a while. So, what are your thoughts about diversity and inclusion in supply chain today?
I think for Orchard, we started out and we are in the personal care and cosmetics industry which I mean, it may be is a natural fit for it to be women-led, but I think the company as a whole really recognizes the talent and the different leadership qualities that women can bring to the table. Another thing that I’m really kind of proud of at Orchard is that we are a very kind of multicultural and diverse employer. We have a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds and it is a celebration here. I mean, we have these epic potluck lunches because we are all foodies here at Orchard, so it’s like, you get this kind of environment that is sharing each other’s cultures, that is learning from each other. languages, that is huge in supply chain, that is huge for helping us reach and interact, not just with our vendors and supply partners, but also our customers, and there is an active learning experience here, so that has been big for us, and I think it has really contributed to us growing as a company. I mean, we have pretty much always had a growth year, maybe it has been a smaller incremental growth in other years, but to be at a company that is consistently growing and doing better, I mean, that just speaks to how talented the people are here, and yeah, how committed we are to different viewpoints, different ideas and being innovative and not just technically innovative but kind of innovative as a culture and a company.
Interesting, and I think that’s great, especially in Canada, I think we are a little bit further ahead than most in the diversity and the inclusion space, not only just in supply chain but in business in general.
So, in your role at Orchard, you deal with all sorts of providers – Trucking companies, freight forwarders, carriers, and so much more. Have you come up against any challenges being a female in that space and how did you find your voice in amongst some of the male-dominated, mail-driven companies?
That is such a good question. In transportation, it can certainly feel like you are the only woman in the room sometimes and I have come up against it a lot when it comes to decision-making. When I first started, I was fairly young as well and I definitely got push back or questioned, Some times asked are you sure you are the decision-maker? Is there someone else I can talk to? And at first, you kind of like, oh, wait, am I the decision-maker? And I would run to my boss and be like, well, I think this is what should happen, but they are asking for someone higher up, and I’m lucky I have such a great manager that he really pushed it. He said, do you think we should work with them because it’s you, you are making the decision. You are deciding based on your assessment, and I have to remember to trust in my experience and knowledge.
right, I love that you have that support, that championing.
The confidence to go ahead and make the decisions and be okay if you do fail, right? You have to learn from mistakes and I say failure not as a really big huge deal; I talk about it being a learning experience. It’s maybe a little blip on the radar but they are allowing you to learn from and never do it again because they know that you are the type that is going to learn from it and move on.
Yeah, like I might make a mistake but I’d never make the same mistake twice.Sometimes the mistake you make can be very, very elaborate, but I think it has been nice because – and you all see this in other industries and across the board, having the chance to fail helps you if you can cope with it in a healthy way. I struggled because, I would definitely dwell on things and I really was like, I would have people around me and it’s like that happens, it sucks. You’ve got to move on from it, okay? So, that was yesterday and now, we are on today and we are not going to do that again and this is how we are going to fix it, then you’ve got to move on from it, and I’m lucky to have examples of that through the connections I’ve made through social media, here at Orchard, but yeah, being able to make it, realize how it happened, be able to fix it and come away from it, but ultimately, to leave it behind you, that is where my growth is right now, is to leave it behind me and keep going.
Yeah, and you had the chance to grow, right?
Yeah, for sure, for sure, and because if I had not had that experience at all, if I had not been able to learn through small mistakes or little issues, then what if my mistake was big? – you could create this whole situation, a big huge issue that you just can’t recover from and that is detrimental to the company, but it’s also detrimental personally because then it’s like you don’t have any coping skills on what to do when that happens. So, yeah, I’m lucky I had that leeway and it helped me assess risk, that is how you gain that force, that experience that people talk of when things always moves smoothly for that person. It’s like yeah, because they’ve had years of little mistakes that help them prepare and plan for mitigating those risks.
Absolutely, and I love the way you put that. So, what is your hope for the industry? Where do you see the future of supply chain either from my diversity standpoint, from maybe a shipper standpoint? What do you want to see?
I think people, it can be such a – what’s a way to put this? It can be such a clunky kind of industry in a lot of ways, considering it’s transportation and considering you’re trying to get things to move quickly. I found kind of it’s still lagging in terms of being able to innovate and really take things to the next level, and think of what is going to happen 10 years from now. I really think it’s an industry that’s like, oh, we have trucks and they have wheels and big on these roads, and that’s how it is and that is how it’s done, but you can see that there’s lots of new transportation methods out there – I mean, drones which obviously, they might not be the best thing, but I find it sometimes the industry can be very like, “This is what we have done and this is how we have always done at,” so for me, especially working at a company like Orchard where we are very innovative, it’s like, what is after the wheel? What comes next? What’s going to happen in 10 years? How will we live in 15 years? And you know it’s going to be different because you can see that from history that life changes constantly, so for the industry to be a bit more open to the change and not even just be open, but being leaders on it, there’s been great ideas and there are some really great groups and organizations involved in and around shipping and supply chain, and if they could work together a little bit more and collaborate, they really could be leaders in infrastructure and innovation that may be I find there a bit lagging right now.
Yeah, there is still too much separation, too much silo –
Yeah, silo, that’s such a good word.
We talk about us making progress, so it’s kind of funny hearing it from your perspective as a shipper who is in it every single day and talking to providers every single day saying, “Wait a second, we are nowhere close. You may think that you are making progress, but from where I sit, we are not. We got a long way to go, we got a lot of work to do.”
Right? And you brought up a really good point about innovation. As innovative as you are internally,if the people around you or in your supply chain are not innovating as fast as you are, that is going to create a problem. It is going to create a challenge and an issue, and how do we collaborate and work together instead of the blame game?
Oh, for sure. Yeah, and when you look around the industry just as general consumers, like if you look at your cell phones have come, the mass changes in 10 years and it’s like you just see other industries like, hanging on like, “Well, we had this really good idea. It was a really good idea 20 years ago and congratulations, and here’s your award,” but like, okay, now, what’s next? When you are living, like humans change, humans evolve, and you watch people hunker down into these positions, you are like, you know what, there’s a place for tradition, but in the transportation industry, you really want to help your customers be successful to create a really integrated and smooth supply chain. You really want to be thinking of what is the next best solution, what is next, what can we do, how can we do it?
Yeah, and it should come from the top down, not the bottom up. Well, ideally
But I mean, or be collaborative, have the space, so that – I’m sure there’s lots of people in the bottom for getting started who are like, “Gosh, I have this really great idea,” and it’s like, “Oh, well, that’s not how we do it.” Well, then what’s going to change, right? Because they are the new consumer too, like when you look – the change has to come from the top, but like, if you’re not getting any feedback or a collaboration with the people who are on the front line or really the next wave of kind of consumers, or the next wave of people who are going to use your service, especially in – I think a lot of people talk about this in this Internet age, in the social media age, there’s really no excuse for not having feedback. I mean, it’s as easy as a free Internet poll, comment on my post, like there’s no way you are not getting or you don’t have access to a variety of feedback.
Absolutely, I completely agree with that.
So, now, let’s get into some advice. You’ve been in this industry for a while now.
I’m ancient now in supply chain years.
More like both of us, okay? Let’s just put it this way: both of us have been in the industry for a while, so I’m not just ageing you – I’m ageing both of us, but I think you have a lot of advice to give. I mean, you talked about being in different departments, just got CITP designation, so congratulations on that, and so I think you’ve got a well-rounded knowledge of international trade and supply chain. So, what is some advice that you would give to the next generation of supply chain professionals?
Ooh. Definitely make connections and don’t think of it super strategically, like don’t think, oh, I need to meet all the people in supply chain. You need to meet all the people everywhere. I have spent a lot of time building relationships with people in just various areas – I’ve met people – my cousin is in HR and I went to her HR conference them up (change “them up” to “met up with”) a bunch of HR people, and they are really fun and fascinating. I do a nonprofit fashion group, so I meet a bunch of fashion – and like, I have my friends, I have my work, but I think having a variety of people because most industries are starting to kind of breakdown their silos and because a lot of success is happening through collaboration and not just oh, and collaborating with this very like-minded similar/same person, it’s like, no, collaborations, you see all these fun collaborations happening which you are like, oh, I didn’t think I could pair this product with this product. It’s like, we are not very coffee with cream anymore. We are very coffee with pomegranates. The concept of the complementary collab is just completely turned on its head, so forgetting experience and knowledge for learning, having a variety of connections really has, I think helped me to stand out and helped me to have some really interesting and unique opportunities.
Yeah, and it’s how you learn too, right? And you never know where your next opportunity is.
Oh my gosh, you never know. You have no idea. Five years from now, the person I met at something like fashion, like that could be my new job, that could be my new customer, that could be my new best friend, you just have no idea, and it also means that the more variety of people that you know, I mean, the more unique and innovative your ideas will be because I myself have come from this kind of cultural background, I went to that kind of high school or this kind of university, or I worked in this kind of – but when you’re talking and interacting with other people, you’re like, “Oh, wait, that product works this way, but then it also works that way,” because I’ve had conversation and sharing with people with varieties of backgrounds and experiences, and I think that’s the new marketplace too, especially when you want to go global, you can’t think of like, oh, well, in Canada, we do these Canadian things, and that I’m going to sell this product to Mexico or to South Africa, like it might not work there. So, it’s building kind of contacts and ability and experience that has different stories and has a diversity and yeah, creativity to it. That’s kind of where the market is going, right? And especially global, just can’t come at it from one perspective, you’ve got to think of different demographics, different lived experience, different lifestyle – everything.
Absolutely. So, in saying that in giving that advice which I think is really amazing advice and not necessarily something that everybody talks about, but what would be the one single thing that you would urge them to get started on today in their journey to success?
Yeah. Ooh, one thing. If they haven’t done –
Well, just to get started with, just like an actionable step for them to do – put in action today that’s going to make a difference in their journey
Definitely have a solid social media or a social presence. I mean, I like LinkedIn for business and it’s really gone global, but yeah, finding a network, like a LinkedIn and it really being fairly consistent. It doesn’t have to take up – it’s not like hours and hours of time every day but just being really – creating a good profile, and then kind of interacting with people, it’s a really good way to meet new people from the comfort of your like, your cell phone. Really, you can do it on your phone, so that is an easy one.
Well – and the one thing that I want to point out that it’s not just about finding your voice – it’s about having a voice. When you are posting, make sure you are commenting on people’s posts and showing that you are a thought leader and that you have your own ideas, and that you want to bring – you want to be collaborative and you want to be able to help move this industry forward, and people will start noticing, but like everything else, it will take time as well. So, don’t get discouraged, keep going, but that is a really, really great point and something that is actionable that people can start doing right away. You don’t have to write articles, like all the time. Just engaging, talking to people, connecting with them, especially on LinkedIn and putting your comments is I think just as good as writing articles.
I would agree with that.
Last question: what’s next for Audrey?
Ooh… Ooh, what is next? Coffee, probably, let’s do that. No, I think definitely, Orchard’s been working hard on expanding into Europe, so for me, that means kind of learning as much about some of our new customers and the different regions as possible, definitely we are hurtling toward Brexit, so staying on top of that is a challenge for me, and then I recently joined the board on the OWIT which is Organization for Women in International Trade, and so I had a great meeting with them in Washington last week – it was an amazing trip and just seeing how I can be supportive in the industry and certainly specifically to women in trade, women getting started. I like to as much as possible kind of give back to the community and answer questions and help people avoid some of the pitfalls or mistakes that I have made. If other people can avoid those, that would be great. what’s next for me.
And, you forgot one important thing – Well, no, your blog is coming out the end of April, and so I don’t think the TV show will be up by then, so we can say we’ve got the TV show The Trade Squad coming out after this blog and I think your podcast might be coming out around the same time as well, so we are doing so many collaborative things together and I cannot wait to see where this goes. I think it’s going to be so much fun and people are going to love it. Are you excited?
Yes. I’m so excited! What kind of trouble can we get into?
Well, thank you, Audrey for coming on the blog and being part of my Woman in Supply Chain series.
So excited. Thank you so much.