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Senior Vice President of supply chain management climbs corporate ladder

Considered pursuing a career in manufacturing upper-management? This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to DiversityJobs.

I have been in the manufactured housing industry for about 35 years. I am currently serving as Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Management and have been trained to be strategically tough minded.

As a Hispanic male, I have found my heredity to be both a benefit and a hindrance. Being bi-lingual has simplified transacting business on the international front and communicating with line employees. However, early in my career, it was necessary to spend an inordinate amount of time learning to enunciate words correctly and enlarging my vocabulary. Although I was well educated, words that were part of everyday speech for other businessmen were foreign to me.

The basic supply chain function is to negotiate for and purchase all labor and materials needed for the construction of manufactured houses, apartments, and motels. The task entails purchasing every component and maintaining required inventories. The job requires participating in numerous meetings. There are sessions with principals to discuss design options, cabinetry, wall coverings, flooring selections and color schemes. Sessions are held with roof component and production line managers to establish a material schedule. Designers have to be consulted on motel/hotel décor. Culinary experts provide their input on restaurant furnishings, commercial cooking equipment in addition to dishes and silverware. The current state of the economy has temporarily placed component manufacturing, shipping and receiving along with security under the auspices of the supply chain department.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d have to say that my job satisfaction is a 10. As a member of the senior management team, company leaders respect my recommendations. I am given free rein to take whatever action necessary to accomplish the given tasks. There are numerous standardized reports that flow through the system. Weekly overviews are presented at Monday morning breakfast meetings with the President. Life is good and the only thing I’d like to change is to get rid of temporary functions that were placed under the supply chain during the downturn in 2007. Shipping/Receiving and security do not flow well in the department using the reduced staff with which we have had to operate.

I have been doing this job for such a long time that I am not interested in doing anything else. There is a tremendous amount of pressure involved with meeting schedules and keeping products flowing. However, every problem has surfaced often enough that finding a resolution becomes second nature. A wise man once said that you’re experienced if you’ve screwed everything up once but you’re great if you know how fix all your screw ups. You achieve a comfort level with work you do and the environment in which you operate. As long I enjoy the challenge of continually striving to reduce costs, increasing productivity and providing better quality, I’ll be happy in this job.

There isn’t anything unique about me except that from the day I started as a trainee, I have worked long hours. I took an immediate liking to the business and I had difficulty understanding how all the pieces stayed on schedule and came together. It was like a big puzzle, a brain teaser. I use to stay after my shift to see other production departments to gain an understanding of the complete manufacturing process.

After graduating from college, I worked as a traveling salesman for six years for two consumer products companies. After my third child was born I decided that I didn’t want to be gone three weeks out of a month. I responded to an ad for a purchasing agent trainee. I had two interviews, an intelligence test and a personality test. A trip to a psychiatrist for evaluation and a final interview were necessary before I was hired to work for $9,000.00 a year. Today the starting pay is $45,000.00 a year.

Part of my job as a trainee was to perform quality inspections on completed product. It was stressed that a purchasing agent trainee was also a management trainee. Managers were expected to get the job done through other people. While punching out or inspecting a unit, I noticed that a screw had not been installed on a light switch. Since everything else passed on the unit, I jumped out, located a screw and a screw driver. I went back into the unit and as I was tightening the screw, the President walked into the unit and asked what I was doing. I proudly stated that I was fixing a defect knowing that he would be pleased with my initiative. What followed was a lengthy and stern lecture about my job. I learned that a manager can accomplish more through other people than he can do by himself. The importance of letting employees know of their errors would allow them to learn and become better employees. I still enjoyed doing things myself but I forced myself to delegate. The lesson made me a much better manager later in my career when I knew I could do things better than a subordinate but I no longer had the time to tend to details.

Schools can teach about business but can’t teach business. Schools do not teach you how to walk into a bank to finalize the purchase of another company, sitting down at the table and telling everyone concerned that instead of paying the agreed upon $1.00, you are only going to pay 50 cents on the dollar. Large financial deals are never final until all the signatures are on the contract. Businesses continue to be taught this lesson every time the economy sours.

Considering what I do for a living and the amount of money involved in large bids, interesting things happen quite often. Walking out of the house one morning and seeing a fully loaded Cadillac in the driveway was strange. There is a large amount of paperwork involved to make sure your integrity is not questioned. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to keep the vehicle.

I enjoy going to work for numerous reasons. My job allows me to provide my family with an enjoyable life. I am comfortable at work. I feel important and I feel special. I know that I have to continue to improve my performance year in and year out, but that doesn’t bother me. I know there is someone that can do the job better than I can but the company would have a very difficult time finding him. I guess I’ve felt that way from the time I was no longer a trainee.

There are tremendous scheduling pressures knowing that the failure to get one item on time can shut the manufacturing line down and every project that follows. A missed spec or price change isn’t a disaster when it affects one house but it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars on a large motel job. At this stage of my career, there isn’t anything that makes me want to quit. While climbing the ladder, inactions by lazy bosses would infuriate me.

There was considerable stress on the job before I learned how to resolve problems. I haven’t encountered an issue I couldn’t handle quickly in many years.

I live well and am very happy with my station in life. The salary range varies dramatically depending on the company. I am aware of companies that pay in the low six figure range and there are companies that pay in the seven figure range. I would like to be in the seven figure range even though I am not anywhere near that number. My family and I have everything we need and a decent nest egg built. I am satisfied with my income.
I’m given four weeks a vacation per year but I have never taken four weeks. The company starts employees with two weeks’ vacation, increases it to three after five years and it goes to four weeks after 10 years.

Most companies require a college degree. My degree is in government and has nothing to do with the work I perform. Today, companies are looking for individuals that have construction degrees or any degree coupled with industry experience. Certifications in the supply chain or purchasing field are also pre-requisites to employment with some organizations.

I would strongly encourage anyone to enter the world of supply chain management. The supply chain field has grown from a “gopher department” to acceptance as a senior level management position. The field is becoming more complex, more challenging and more enjoyable.

I have found the work that I want to be doing as long as they’ll have me but I would like to learn all the financial intricacies of major hotel deals.

LatPro Admin

5 comments

  • I am currently a third year supply chain management and economics major and have just accepted a supply chain internship at Alcoa. I found this article to be very inspiring as the corporate ladder seems very intimidating at this point. I would love to discuss the topic more in detail and heed any advice you may have at this point in my life.

  • I have never even heard of a career like this before. It just goes to show that my search for a career that I love is not going to be as easy as searching in a career search engine. More of a journey to see what I work best in as well as what I find the most interesting. This article was very informative about how supply chain management is.

  • This type of stuff is what keeps me motivated (thank you), I worked for a hotel company for two years and although i was far from being the vice president of the company, I completely understand the complexity of the job. It’s surprising but admiring how he didn’t even study for this and he was really successful, it just shows me that anyone can do it. i will definitely keep this career in mind. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  • As someone who works retail part-time, this story was very intriguing. It is my goal in my life to tell my mother that I worked my way up from being a simple cashier to hopefully president of the company. Who doesn’t love a success story?

  • WoW! This is so true, schools cannot teach you business. I am taking a supply chain management class this semester, and my teacher also said that this field has been growing lately. Now supply chain managers need a better understanding of information technology. Supply chain is a crucial part of an organization all businesses have a product or service that they provide to the customers.
    I have been a class president many times throughout High School, and I can tell you it is not easy to work on even a simple project. I can imagine how hard it can be for supply chain managers to work on a projects and get everything ready on time. However, as the author said, it is challenging but enjoyable. There’s no such things as a free lunch! One has to work to be rewarded.
    Consquently, at the end the hard work pay off for a supply chain manager as well for a student.