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  April 6th, 2016 | Written by


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  • What learning supply-chain management can do for advancing a career
  • Supply chain management educations
  • Becoming an expert in supply chain management

If you want to know what going back to college and taking a degree (or certificate) program in supply-chain management can do for advancing a career, just ask Andre C. Winters, vice president of Business Development with Magno International, a third-party logistics company headquartered in Doral, Florida.

When Winters started out in the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business’ Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management program in August 2014, he was with a different company and hoping to boost his career prospects. He hadn’t even finished the program when Magno approached him about a job. The company’s interest was cinched by learning he was getting his master’s in supply chain.

“I was being recruited through a referral, and my future boss looked at my LinkedIn profile,” Winters says. “One of his first questions was about the USC program. I walked him through it, some of the things I’ve learned, how it changed my perspective. It drove a lot of conversation around what Magno wants to do as a company, how I could be positioned to help transition the business.”

Why did a guy living and working full-time in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area choose a degree program in far-off Los Angeles?

“I was looking for school branding and reputation,” he says. “I was looking at cost, which was a variable because I wanted to make sure I got to the right program. Flexibility, meaning it was an online program with limited on-campus requirements. I also considered the alumni base and its activity, as well as connectivity. The last thing, which was really a key decision maker, was that I’m originally from Northern California. I grew up a USC fan. I said, ‘Hold on there. I get to check the box on one, two, three and four. And I always wanted to be a Trojan!”

Winters says he thinks back often to how impactful his pursuit of higher education was on his future boss during the recruitment process. “In August of 2014, I was probably more of a transportation-driven solutions seller, if you want to call it that, as opposed to now,” he says. “I’ve got a bigger holistic approach to the supply chain. I can talk intelligently now about manufacturing process versus where I was when I started the program.”

Finding examples of supply-chain executives and managers who have seen immediate benefits from going to back to school for degrees or certificates is pretty easy; they’re all around us.

In the past decade, particularly as schools have been able to offer programs online, these executive-degree and certificate programs have become very important for colleges and universities because they offer an opportunity for students to expand their horizons without giving up their careers and home lives.

“The companies can use these as retention opportunities,” says Joel Dupuis, executive education key account director for the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “Or they can be a recruitment tool to say, ‘We’re investing in you, we want you in this program, we see you as a future leader. Please be in this program.’”

Dupuis says ASU sees two types of supply chain executives and managers sign up for its programs. “We have those who are newer to a supply chain role,” he says. “Maybe they’ve been out of school for a couple of years, but they now need to start expanding their knowledge. Maybe they have a degree in engineering or finance, but they need to understand the function. What we’ve also seen over the last couple of years are individuals who have been in industry for 10, 15 years and need to refresh their perspective.”

Tom Moyer, 29, has already spent 11 years working for Tyndale USA, a clothing manufacturer based in Pipersville, Pennsylvania. The company makes OSHA-compliant, fire-resistant clothing for electrical utilities, and oil and gas workers. To date, Moyer—Tyndale’s transportation manager—has taken operations-oriented supply chain management certificate sessions at the Penn State University World Campus’ Smeal College of Business, including forecasting and inventory management, fulfillment operations management, transportation and operations, and supply chain analytics.

His pathway has been a little unusual. He was the company’s shipping manager before being promoted to overseeing transportation, which corresponded with the company opening a distribution center far from Pipersville—in Houston. His boss suggested he could go further with a better understanding of operations.

“Both my boss and my boss’ boss went to Penn State,” Moyer says. “They knew there was an executive program there. And since I’m from Pennsylvania and I root for the Nittany Lions, I thought it was a great idea, too.”

It didn’t hurt, he says, that the company paid for his education.

Eric Carlson, who describes himself as “a budding supply chain professional,” realized five years ago that the one thing that most of his jobs always had in common was the supply chain.

“Whether it was advertising, marketing or just driving trucks in college, I really enjoyed supply chain,” says the Greater Boston resident. “I chose the Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business’ program for a couple of reasons. One is that Northeastern has a big push to keep—or to bring in—people from the professional world. It’s not just students who’ve completed their bachelor degree and go on to get a master’s in Supply Chain, or certificate. They see value in having people with a few years under their belts coming into the classroom and being able to offer real world examples as to what the professor is speaking about.”

When he began taking courses, Carlson saw an opportunity to move from the advertising department at Stop & Shop to the sourcing department as an analyst for the supermarket chain’s private label brands. After several years in that position he is now seeking “a true supply chain job—analyst, coordinator or leader,” he says. “I’m finding this certificate is doing a lot to open doors for me that normally would be closed because it shows initiative on my part.”

Carlson says that he worked on a semester-long group project that was focused on Stop & Shop’s own supply chain.

“Not only did I learn more about the grocery supply chain, I learned about my own company,” he says, “and we provided a few suggestions for recruitment to the director.”

Unlike a lot of classes, the ones Carlson took in supply chain at Northeastern were more than practical. “I can remember a time the professor asked, ‘What percentage of safety stock should you maintain in order to protect your business?’ And somebody who was clearly very young raised their hand, ‘Well the book says it’s “X” percent.’ And the older folks, including myself, had a chuckle. The answer is, ‘It’s whatever you need to make sure you’re never out of stock. Because the first time you’re out of stock, you can explain why you are. And the second time, you’re looking for a job.’”

He says that the school has been supportive of him post-certificate as well, making introductions and guiding his current job search. “It’s a good extended community to be a part of,” according to Carlson.