Debbie Lentz, President of Global Supply Chain at RS Components

To achieve success it's no secret that you need to work hard. Everyone's career goals are personal to them; some pursue a specific career to benefit financially, whilst others are passionate about certain areas - for example, ensuring a customer’s needs are always met - and those people will work their hardest to get there.

Whether you're at a crossroads in your career or just starting out, having a career path with a mapped out plan will put you in good stead.

Speak to mentors or those with experience and don’t rule out lateral career moves. Your route to the top shouldn’t feel like it’s miles away.

Debbie Lentz, President of Global Supply Chain at RS Components and Electrocomponents plc has a wealth of experience in the logistics and supply chain field.

From studying the number one course for supply chain at Pennsylvania State University in the USA, to undertaking her first professional job role at a food and beverage company working in a customer-facing role - Debbie’s journey to her role at a FTSE 250 company hasn’t followed a direct path.

Debbie below shares the experiences she’s encountered and learned from, that have helped her to get to where she is now.

Aim high for more duties and responsibilities

In order to move up through the ranks, employees need more responsibilities in their roles.

Debbie explains:

“The supply chain is broad, from supply chain design and planning to inventory management and control. What does the ‘top’ look like for you in the position you aspire to be in? Once you know this, and you’ve decided what your ‘dream role’ is, you can start to move towards translating this directly to your personal career path in order to get there.”

Debbie also encourages being vocal about what you want from a business, and using this to your advantage when seeking higher levels of responsibility within your role:

“In order to get to the next step of my career, I knew I needed project management skills, so I worked out the next position I needed to achieve, so that I could get these skills. I made sure my leadership team were aware of my ambitions so they could support me in achieving them. I also followed this open approach on a personal level - I was vocal within the company about wanting to work internationally; I wanted that for myself and my children, so that they could experience diverse cultures. Whilst it’s not about causing a commotion, if the leaders within your company aren’t aware of your ambitions or where you want to grow your skills set, you can’t expect these responsibilities and opportunities to be handed to you.”

Establishing opportunities

Hands-on experience is vital to progress in any industry; it’s not just about knowing the theory, it’s also about getting the practice. Over the years, the discussion of whether experience or a degree is most important has become more prevalent. More recently, we are seeing experience coming out on top in terms of what employers are looking for,

Debbie places emphasis on the benefits of networking throughout her career. She says:

Looking at the bigger picture is vital in order to keep on moving through the ranks. Not only does networking with other people in the industry open your eyes to new opportunities, but it also helps you meet people who could be hiring, and if they’re not, they could put you in contact with someone who is.”

Keep a look out for upcoming conferences and events in the industry to attend and, taking it one step further, look for opportunities to speak at these events too. Not only will you be able to deepen your knowledge by hearing from other people, people will also start to recognise you. By showing what you bring to the industry, you’ll become someone who businesses and employers want on their team.

Debbie continues:

“Don’t underestimate the power of networking online. The internet is full of opportunities that can deepen your experience without having to leave your laptop; whether .that’s creating a blog, interacting with other people in the supply chain sector on LinkedIn or contributing tips-led articles to industry publications. Better yet, if you know the area you want to hone in on in your career, keep this the focus of your online networking activity.”

Non-linear career movements are the new norm

Often, a step up in a career starts with a sideways move. Debbie explains:

“A sideways move could look like moving to a different position but staying in your current company, or moving to a new company but keeping a similar job title, salary or even responsibilities. What makes it a lateral move is that the new position could give you an array of new skills you need to make that step up, or the new organisation could be far more profitable or in line with your career aspirations.”

Always look at the bigger picture and remove the need for instant satisfaction, and then you’ll find more enjoyment of the benefits further down the line. Your path to the top could actually be a lot faster than if you keep your career moves linear.

Within the supply chain sector, there’s no doubt that the more education and experience you have, as well as how up to date with industry changes and progression you are, the more you’ll be able to reap the rewards in the long run. Debbie advises:

“A top tip is to always keep up to date with the latest technologies and aim to continually expand your knowledge. Whether that’s working to get an advanced degree or professional certifications - such as APICS CSCMP, or Six Sigma Black Belt - keep your personal career aspirations in your mind whenever you seek to make a lateral career move.”

Some say the beauty of supply chain management is that there are very few aspects of an organisation that it doesn’t touch - this is correct, the supply chain is full to the brim of career opportunities.

While this may be overwhelming to some, the sheer amount of career paths in this field makes it an exciting and prosperous career venture.

For millennials, the sector can be especially appealing; being able to physically see the results of your work and learn skill sets that are invaluable for career advancements later in life.

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