Have we made a step in the right direction? Is the world of supply chain empowering females to challenge, step up and lead? As part of our Women in Supply Chain series, we spoke to Natalie Russell, Supply Chain Manager at Moa Brewing about her experience as a women in the world of Supply Chain.
Natalie, you have been in the Supply Chain industry for over 12 years now, tell us about your journey into Supply Chain to where you are today, at Moa Brewing?
"I entered supply chain indirectly. I did the Fonterra graduate technical programme which is focused on manufacturing but after completing it, I decided that I wanted to move back to Auckland, and I took a role as an Analyst in the Sales and Operations Planning team. I held several roles at Fonterra, then moved from dairy into FMCG with a Planning Manager role at Lion Dairy & Drinks. I did a short OE in London working for two years in the UK as a Supply Chain Manager for a potato chip company. When I returned I tried out Management Consulting at KPMG, and then moved back to Supply Chain when a role opened up at Moa Brewing. I felt well supported (through my Supply Chain career) – I was surrounded by a lot of other females and I didn’t really see the gender barrier as too much of a challenge.
It has been a little bit different moving more into production sites that are more male-dominated. Moa is a pretty small team, so my role is broad. My team and I look after the end-to-end supply chain from purchasing the ingredients right through to customer service."
Stepping up into more leadership roles within supply chain, how has this been for you as a female leader?
"It’s been good, it’s interesting, I think as a woman you often have a different style to men, so I would say I am more softly spoken, not super aggressive, but I can be assertive when I need to be! That’s quite a different style to most men, but I really just have to play on who I am as a person and work to that.
I would say that there are quite a lot of females at my level of role, and you see a few more at GM level but not heaps, which is probably just more reflective of businesses in general."
What do you think the future of supply chain looks like?
"The future of Supply Chain will involve more technology transformation and data analytics, which is often hard to invest in as a small company. There will continue to be the same focus on improving delivery performance and reducing costs and inventory. With the supply chain issues around Covid-19 this has highlighted the need for resilience in supply chain and contingency planning.
We are sourcing everything from New Zealand for Moa, but many other companies are having problems with covid and shipping delays, so we are quite lucky.
In terms of support mechanisms for women in supply chain, there is the Women in Supply Chain group, run out of the Auckland University executive education centre. I found that really valuable in terms of the events, to hear senior women speak openly about their experiences, and to network with other people."
"I mean, there are always problems, that’s what you’re there for."
As a career that you might not have planned to be in, have you loved the journey?
"Yeah, I think it’s not something that I planned to do but I found that supply chain really suited my skills around being very organised, being a planning person, enjoying numbers and spreadsheets. I think it is quite an exciting career but it’s also quite transferable. Industries such as beer are really similar to milk powder and would also be very similar to other import and export companies. Your skills are transferable across a range of companies, which gives you options."
You’re the problem solver in the industry, aren’t you?
"Yeah, and especially with our company being really small, I think the main challenge is probably taking on too much. Because you are the problem solver of the company you can end up with quite a lot of problems to solve. One of my biggest challenges is prioritising what I really need to fix and what we can leave for a little while, and also empowering and training my team so that they can solve some more problems and take that on."
What would you say to candidates out there joining the supply chain world, especially females? Is there some advice you could pass from your experience in the industry?
"I think supply chain is often a career that people don’t directly go into. When I was at university you couldn’t do a Bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain, so I think you really need to look at your skills in terms of problem-solving, being proactive, looking at the bigger picture and analysis, and using that to help make decisions. I think always question things, you’re there to make things happen and to do it properly so you need to be challenging a lot of things."
If you are thinking of switching your career or you are 100% set on a career in Supply Chain, Operations or Procurement, get in touch with the team at Tribe, here.