This Women’s History Month, my team and I have had a wonderful time spotlighting some amazing women in supply chain through the ASCM Insights blog, our social channels a Women in Supply Chain panel discussion and — my personal favorite — by honoring female winners of the ASCM Awards of Excellence. (By the way, this year’s Call for Entries just opened!)
Through each of these initiatives, one thing has been made crystal-clear: Women play an essential role in supply chain, offering creative perspectives, diverse life and work experiences, and valuable skills and strategies. Lisa Veneziano, chair of our board of directors, is the perfect example.
She started her career at General Motors (GM) as an industrial engineer, which she describes as being the operations manager of the time. From there, she says she quickly learned the business, which secured her opportunities to make connections and serve in a variety of roles.
“One of the stories I like to tell is that I literally only interviewed twice in my career,” she says. This is because, during her 35-year tenure at GM, Veneziano effectively transitioned through supply chain, warehousing and packaging operations, logistics, and aftermarket sales. She managed more than 95 warehouses and facilities in 22 countries around the globe as executive director of global supply chain, warehousing and logistics for General Motors Customer Care and Aftersales, a role she held during her last five years with the company. She eventually retired from GM in 2020 but didn’t stop working. In 2021, she and her husband opened a used-vehicle dealership, which also leverages the MBA she earned from the University of Michigan.
“We obviously love the auto industry, and that was a good project for me to pivot into,” Veneziano says. “It was a flexible career option and on my terms. Being a business owner is awesome. I’m able to leverage the learnings and experiences from my corporate career while quickly implementing changes to improve the customer experience and bottom line for our company.”
Better business environments for women
Looking at the supply chain landscape now, Veneziano says she wishes there were more female representation, particularly in manufacturing and warehousing. However, she says it is difficult to attract women to these areas because of the lack of flexibility.
“As women, and especially as moms, we tend to take on a lot more of those domestic types of roles, by choice,” Veneziano says. “I know I did, and I love to do it, but what I ended up setting up was something that worked for me both at home and at work so that I could go out and do those operations types of roles moving back and forth between the office and warehouses. In my case, I had two children, and my mother-in-law moved in with us to help.
“But that’s a challenge because not everyone can do that. So if you’re going to go into these types of roles, you need a strong support system at home because you likely don’t have the job flexibility. It’s not the same as an office environment,” she explains. “You can’t just work from home. You can’t bring your kids to work.”
Prior to her retirement from GM, Veneziano explored ways to make roles more flexible for individuals in the manufacturing and warehouse facilities. In particular, she worked with the human resources team to pilot job sharing, part-time roles and child-care options. She hoped these initiatives would bring more women into these roles.
In addition, Veneziano intentionally sets a strong example for other women working in supply chain or aspiring to join the field. In 2017, she was honored with the Women of Excellence Community Service Award from the National Association for Female Executives. She also completed the General Motors Stanford Transformational Leadership Program in 2019. In addition to being our second female board chair, she has given back to the supply chain community by serving as chair of ASCM’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.
Words of wisdom
Veneziano is passionate about sharing her career success stories so others may learn from her experiences. She offers the following tips for up-and-coming supply chain professionals:
Be a high performer. “If you’re going to be the best supply chain professional you can be, you need to know the business,” she advises. “I’m a big proponent of going beyond the office environment and gaining experience in plant operations — whether manufacturing or warehousing, know the business.”
Be willing to branch out. Take advantage of as many cross-functional opportunities as you can early in your career because it’s more difficult to get true hands-on learning experiences later on. Supply chain is very much about connecting the dots,” she explains. “If you know the business and you have cross-functional experiences, you’ll be that much more effective and a more likely candidate for future opportunities.”
Be a problem-solver. Veneziano says she’s a problem-solver at the core, which is why supply chain is such a great fit for her. “My philosophy has always been ‘your problem is my problem,’” she says, adding that taking this approach enables you to address very challenging issues and make a much greater impact for your organization. Furthermore, you’ll expand your network, creating a track record of teamwork and performance results along the way.
Be certified and credentialed. “I love what we’re offering now with not only ASCM’s APICS certifications, but also the certificates,” she says. “The microlearnings are a great place to start. Then, depending on each individual’s situation, pursuing certificates and certifications is an excellent option. This kind of education helps you stand out and can take your career to all-new levels.”