In honor of Women’s History Month, I recently interviewed four of the women on ASCM’s board of directors: Lisa Veneziano, chair-elect; Pamela Dow, vice president of global supply chain planning, analytics and technology, Tenneco; Katherine Szabo Fowler, head of integrated business planning, Signify; and Nisa McCarter Moore, business area vice president, diplomacy, General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT). We explored leadership philosophies, the strategies they used to accelerate their careers, and what they do to inspire other women in supply chain to achieve similar career success.
Rennie: When you look back, is there a pivotal moment that got you where you are today?
Dow: My pivotal moments were choosing supply chain management as my major and spending the first 10 years of my career in an automotive supplier manufacturing operation. We had great leadership, and they gave me so many opportunities to develop. I was never in the same position longer than two years. I launched the computer network, led an enterprise resources planning transformation, became materials manager at 28 years old, and served as manufacturing operations manager and program manager. It taught me how important standard processes are, where the money is made, teamwork, managing performance and leadership.
Fowler: One day I went to speak with a colleague who was in a more senior role to brainstorm. At this time, there was an executive leader describing a supply chain problem and at a loss for a strategy to resolve it. My friend waved me in to speak up with a tactical and strategic plan in a short elevator pitch. This interaction led to my next role at the corporate HQ to resolve the issue and bring it to long term stability. This gave me the confidence to speak up whenever I see a path forward.
Moore: The moment I made the intentional decision to be bold and take control of my career and remove the stigma that I didn’t belong in the board room was the most pivotal moment. I leaned in on executive coaching, professional board training, championing women in STEM and giving back to my community. Coupling these actions with my technical background opened many doors for me.
Veneziano: Early on in my career at General Motors (GM), I was working as an industrial engineer. My leader approached me about taking an assignment in one of our packaging centers rather than working out of HQ. His feedback was that it was time to expand my experiences and gain exposure to the operations end of the business — in other words, get out of my comfort zone. Gaining experience in our union environment and having a direct role in fulfilling customer orders turned out to be key to being considered for executive positions later in my career. As I moved into higher leadership roles and ultimately part of the senior leadership team, I saw the value and importance of this and other “zig-zagging” moves for opening doors. Get as many experiences as possible early in your career. And when someone you respect gives you solid advice, take it!
Rennie: Why is having women in leadership positions so essential?
Dow: Diversity of thought and experience is incredibly important. When you cut out half of the population, half of the ideas are missed. Additionally, when looking at leadership, if a female isn’t in a leadership position, it can be perceived that women can’t be leaders. Having women in leadership provides other women with the confidence that they can achieve whatever they set their mind to.
Fowler: As women, we bring different perspectives and points of view. Having these diverse perspectives helps ensure we tackle problems from all angles.
Moore: Although we have made progress in corporate America, women — specifically women of color — are underrepresented in positions of leadership. Women bring to the table unique ideas and diverse perspectives. They lead differently through heightened self-awareness, mentorship, empathy and authenticity. Throughout the pandemic, it was women who took on a disproportionate burden. As a result, it is women who have set a new standard in leadership, making these qualities a necessity of the future workplace.
Veneziano: Having women in leadership positions drives more innovation and diversity of thought and approach — especially in ways specific to women. It also enables other women to see the potential of what’s possible for them to achieve and that the company has an environment that supports women in leadership. “If you can see it, you can be it” is so powerful — in business, athletics, your personal life, and the like. I make a point of promoting this mindset in my work environment by acting as a role model show other women what’s possible.
Rennie: What strategies did you use to achieve a prominent role in your organization?
Dow: Not so much a strategy, but a focus on executing fundamentals. I’m known for holding people accountable, delivering results, building a solid network, never giving up and treating everyone I work with as a customer.
Fowler: A mentor once told me that good managers create even better managers. It is important to surround yourself with a team of people who not only make you better, but who have the potential to be better than you. Your team is your power, and you have a responsibility to empower and develop them. You succeed or fail together. Also, you must have the courage to take ownership of your successes and, more importantly, your failures. By being transparent and taking accountability, you inspire trust.
Moore: Innovation is moving at lighting speed, making policies and processes outdated in the blink of an eye. I have been bold and curious about change, and through this, I have found partnership and collaboration through the disruptions. I have leveraged these skills to shape the next generation of leaders through innovative approaches to provide mentorship and empowerment, along with actionable tools and networking to grow their careers. I continue to be laser-focused on educating, certifying, and providing a career path and growth opportunities.
Veneziano: One of the key strategies that helped me advance throughout my career is a “your problem is my problem” philosophy. I made a point of focusing on the success of the whole organization [and] taking the initiative to support others before being asked. This enabled me to show that I was willing to go the extra mile and contribute much more to the overall bottom line. In this way, I built my reputation for being a team player and generating positive outcomes across the enterprise. As a result, I only formally interviewed twice in my 35-year career with GM for the 20-plus positions I held (one of which was to get hired in the first place after graduating college)! All other moves and promotions were obtained through the positive reputation I built and others advocating for me.
Rennie: How has your ASCM affiliation helped to support and enhance your experiences in supply chain?
Dow: The largest struggle during my entire career was trying to explain what I do as a supply chain professional and the importance of information flow and accuracy. But ASCM has elevated and transformed the profession by providing an avenue for training and certification, developing networks through chapters, and sharing methods to resolve issues.
Fowler: ASCM is my mental recharge. It has helped me broaden my perspective and continue growing my knowledge as key trends in the supply chain domain evolve.
Moore: ASCM has provided me with unique perspectives, collaboration with other supply chain executives and the power to think differently. It has enhanced my ability to provide strategic vision and set direction to drive supply chain organizational performance. As leaders, our instinct is to provide “the how” to our teams to move the organization. Through a mindset shift, it has enhanced my ability to strategically provide vision and set direction to drive supply chain organizational performance at GDIT and beyond.
Veneziano: My ASCM affiliation has been eye-opening! I have access and exposure to a broad range of companies for collaboration and best-practice sharing. Exposure to supply chain principles and fundamental training across all key disciplines brings the organization together as an informed unit, enhancing collaboration and decision-making. ASCM’s comprehensive body of supply chain knowledge and resources enabled me to identify opportunities for improvement across several supply chain areas. Being part of ASCM also highlighted the importance of developing specific supply chain training plans for professionals at all levels in order to stay up-to-date and relevant with their knowledge base.