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ASCM Insights

Learning to Lead Around the World

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Editor’s Note: Sheila Birungi, CPIM, CSCP, earned the 2020 ASCM Award of Excellence — Emerging Supply Chain Leader, which recognized her efforts in driving innovations, enhancing master data processes, creating meaningful product efficiencies, and building and developing a high-performing supply chain planning team. The 2021 Call for Entries is now open! Learn more at ascm.org/awardsofexcellence.

What events led you to a career in supply chain?
My bachelor’s degree actually was in quantitative economics, which I enjoyed a lot. After graduation, I got a job as a graduate trainee with Diageo PLC, an alcoholic beverages producer, in Uganda. In this role, I served as a demand planning analyst and was exposed to supply chain planning, which I also enjoyed. I decided to embark upon a supply chain career path.

Two years later, I was transferred to Diageo’s Guinness team in Ireland as a supply chain planner. A year later, I returned to Uganda and then progressed within Diageo to the roles of logistics manager and later planning manager. In 2016, I joined Coca-Cola Beverages Africa as a central planning manager, which is my current role.

What are your primary responsibilities?
My main responsibility is spearheading the planning processes, including demand planning, supply planning, raw material planning and innovations planning. My responsibilities are critical to my workplace in order to ensure supply continuity and optimized planning so that the right stock levels are always in place. My team ensures that the right working capital is held by the business and that the business plan is met through correct supply and raw material plans.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve encountered on your career path so far, and how did you overcome it? 
The greatest challenge I faced happened back in 2013 when I was transferred to the Guinness team in Dublin. This was a complete change in work environment and culture for me. It was hard to adapt at first because the work was fast-paced and the cultural differences made it difficult to blend in. It took me about six months to slowly integrate and find my way around the work environment. The guidance of my coworkers as well as my positive mentality pushed me over these hurdles. 

What has been your most fulfilling accomplishment so far?

Professionally, I am proud to have been recognized as the 2020 ASCM Award of Excellence — Emerging Supply Chain Leader honoree, a recipient of the 2018 Individual Bottler Contributor Award for Coca-Cola Saharan Africa, and a part of earning the Overall 2018 Innovation Speed and Agility to Market Award for Uganda.  

On a personal note, I’m proud of welcoming two new daughters to my family throughout the past few years. My oldest daughter is now 2 years old, and, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I welcomed my second daughter on August 30, 2020.

What is your top career goal moving forward?
My top career goal is to lead global supply chain operations. I would love to use my experience as a supply chain consultant to support organizations worldwide.  

What advice do you have for young professionals?
Have the right attitude. Be hungry to learn, and ask questions. Be bold to approach the right mentors, as they will help you as you progress in your career. Then, give back by helping those below you to grow. When you support those who need your help, they can also move up their own career ladders.

A Day with Sheila Birungi, CPIM, CSCP

7:30 a.m. Now that I’m working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I do not have to wake up early to beat traffic. Instead, I can sleep in a bit and then prepare for my workday. I also wake up my older daughter. We eat breakfast together and chat a little bit before I start my work.

8:30 a.m. I grab a cup of coffee and head to my study room to check emails. I quickly follow up on the most urgent ones.  

9:30 a.m. I join my daily supply meeting with the procurement team so that we can follow up on outstanding actions regarding raw material availability. We have had a lot of supply disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we now need to meet daily to stay on top of these issues.

10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. I participate in a variety of meetings about new product development, supply chain planning or other important topics.  

1:00 p.m. I eat lunch with my toddler and catch up on her morning.

2:00 p.m. I join the working capital meeting to discuss my company’s working capital and any related initiatives and opportunities.

5:00 p.m. During the last hour of my workday, I follow up on any remaining urgent actions to make sure they do not have to wait until tomorrow.

6:00 p.m. I kick off my evening with my virtual boxing classes to release some steam and unwind.

About the Author

Jennifer Storelli

Jennifer Storelli is a freelance writer. She may be contacted through editorial@apics.org.

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