Webinar notes: Taking Charge of Your Career

Webinar notes: Taking Charge of Your Career

These event notes are based on a webinar presented by Supply Chain Insights on June 25, 2015. The webinar can be viewed on demand without any registration requirements here. I advocate seeing it for a look into some of Supply Chain Insights’ research on trends in supply chain talent development as well as to hear the stories shared by the panelists.

Along with moderator (Supply Chain Insights founder and CEO) Lora Cecere, the event panelists were Andrew Byer, P&G’s Associate Director of Supply Network, and Fran O’Sullivan, IBM’s General Manager of Systems, Strategy, and Operations.

The idea expressed in the event’s title – that each of us should take control of our own career – was prevalent throughout the webinar. This included the idea that the best way to break down functional silos is through individual cross-functional development. So rather than attacking the silo itself, or its walls, provide opportunities for managers and leaders to expand their own range of understanding and experience and the silo will dissolve on its own.

So what are we supposed to do if we want to take charge and advance our career?


Be open to possibilities you haven’t considered before.

Many of us are working jobs today that hadn’t been invented or defined when we were in college and setting an early career path. Rather than focusing on the progression of job titles you want to hold, aspire to something more goal oriented and prepare your skills for that. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, even if (or especially if?) it isn’t on your ‘plan.’

In a competitive environment, where promotions are given based on results rather than seniority or entitlement, the advantage goes to those who prove their merit regularly. No longer is it necessary to stay around for a prerequisite period of time to advance. It would seem that organizations have finally figured out that by rewarding success and not succession they get to keep their (understandably impatient) top performers.

Understand that the relevance of certifications is in what they allow you to accomplish.

If seniority is no longer the primary factor determining who gets a job, checking a box that a certification has been earned or a course completed won’t either. Then again, it is completely up to each of us to secure the training or knowledge we need to deliver the results the organization is looking for. If that path takes you through a certification program, great. Books and conferences and old-fashioned networking are also good. Just keep in mind that it is your accomplishments and not the completion of any program that will be rewarded.

Embrace change, but pursue it with purpose.

New initiatives such as the digital supply chain (as discussed by Supply Chain Insights) require digital natives (Millennials) to partner well with those who have business context (more experienced professionals). A good model for making this work is a project sponsorship model. Those enthusiastic about working with data and analytics should seek executive sponsors who can provide guidance and context. Starting small with clear objectives can easily lead to bigger opportunities.

Final advice?

Byer suggested keeping an open mind. The future is changing: new capabilities are building and new options are opening up all the time. We are also increasingly aware of what other companies are doing, which changes our perspective on our own abilities. Don’t try to lay a path for yourself – at least not a long distance one. Focus on your aspirations and build the skills you’ll need to make them a reality.

O’Sullivan offered up the expression ‘Treasure Wild Ducks’ which, in the context of corporate talent development, roughly translates to the need for leaders to create habitats in which the rarest and most prized creatures will flourish. If you happen to be a ‘duck’ yourself, take responsibility for your own professional journey. Be active in your pursuit of goals. Do good work and you will be pulled into interesting opportunities – which will likely lead to more of the same.

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