Interview with Marcia Williams

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Meet Marcia Williams, Supply Chain Manager at Keyo and an integral part of our team. She’s strategic, adaptive, and thinks creatively about supply chain management. We got to sit down with Marcia and pick her brain about her journey, achievements, personal development, and insights into being a leader.

Scroll down to read the interview below.

What drew you to supply chain management?

My Bachelor’s degree is in accounting. Although I like preparing the financial statements and measuring the value created, I enjoy taking more action and having a direct impact on the creation of such a value. I think the best field to accomplish this is supply chain.

Supply chain covers the entire spectrum and it is fascinating to see how all the participants need to collaborate. It extends to customers and suppliers all around the world. This is why the term end-to-end supply chain is used. It starts with the customer's demand until the fulfillment of that demand.

In a nutshell, finance measures the value that the supply chain creates. I love being where the action is and measuring the results. That’s the reason I got into supply chain management over 15 years ago.

What keeps you interested and inspired?

The supply chain challenges. They are everywhere in small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as large corporations. It is challenging and at the same time exciting how complex they can be, given the high number of participants that possess different interests, objectives, locations, and time zones.

These challenges are also dynamic; they may change in a blink of an eye. What inspires me is addressing these challenges through helping people, improving processes, and implementing technology.

In my book Transforming Supply Chains with Marcia, I write about supply chain transformations. I emphasize that change management and the soft aspects are critical in addition to the technical skills, including the six sigma methodology. I mention that transformations are like rollercoasters with ups and downs. This makes you value the accomplishments you get. It is not easy, but it’s worth it!

Earlier this year you started a new podcast series called “Coronavirus and Supply Chain”. What are some of the COVID-related challenges that supply chain has faced, and how have you solved them?

COVID has shown how critical the supply chain function is. Shortages of toilet paper and disinfecting wipes indicate this. Coronavirus has exposed risks and vulnerabilities of supply chains in obtaining raw materials, continuing production, and shipping products.

I am very familiar with disinfecting wipes. As demand increased substantially, prices for raw materials – nonwovens – soared. A similar situation happened to the plastic canisters used to hold our disinfecting wipes at the stores. Not only did prices increase, but also lead times became very long.

Solutions to these issues are qualifying new suppliers and adapting to the changing conditions. For example, changing from canisters to flatpacks as the supply of flatpacks is larger than that for canisters.

Most business leaders indicate that this is a time for a thorough assessment and that speed and communication are critical. We need to think of how we want to emerge from this pandemic and take action now.

Do you have mentors or people you look towards for new ideas and encouragement?

Yes, I do have mentors by area of expertise. They don’t have to be one-on-one mentors, but mentors who have walked the way before me. I think it is important that they had the same struggles and found a way to overcome them and grow.

I love reading books in different fields that don’t just pertain to supply chain because I can learn how people with other perspectives solved similar challenges that I face. For example, I have applied marketing tools to negotiations with suppliers and to communication with stakeholders.

If you could give advice to those who are just starting out, what would it be?

I volunteer every year in The Wisdom Project at Michigan State University and they ask me a very similar question.

I answer, “Enjoy the journey. Don’t focus on the results. Focus on the progress towards your goals and this will lead to the results. Plan considering the best information available at the moment, and then adjust and make a new plan.”

It is not wrong to change a plan because during your journey you can discover bigger dreams that you didn’t even think of at the beginning. Supply chain is such a great and vast field. You can be a practitioner, a content creator in media, working in IT, or all of them. What matters is that you enjoy what you do and work hard. The rest will fall into place.

There will be tough times. During those moments, think about Meryl Streep, a famous actress. She was rejected in the audition of King Kong for being “too ugly”. If she had decided to follow that opinion, she wouldn’t have won 18 Academy Awards. Believe in yourself, work hard, and in doing so, don’t forget to enjoy the journey...Great accomplishments are on your way!

What do you like about working at Keyo?

Keyo is a fantastic company where you can feel the entrepreneurial and teamwork spirit unleashed. I don’t have enough positive words to describe the culture. It is global, encouraging, positive, and inclusive. We work and we have fun. We support each other to make every day a new adventure. Keyo’s culture is an example to follow. I am proud to be part of the Keyo team!

A big thank you to Marcia for this excellent conversation and for sharing her story. We look forward to her continued success.

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