Editor’s Note: Jalayna Bolden, CPM, earned the 2020 ASCM Award of Excellence — Diversity and Inclusion Champion, which honors a professional who displays exceptional commitment to diversity and inclusion, fosters professional environments that value equality and individual differences, and inspires people of all profiles and backgrounds to succeed in supply chain careers. To learn more about the ASCM Awards of Excellence, visit ascm.org/awardsofexcellence.
What events led you to a career in supply chain?
After graduating from college with my accounting degree, I started working for the U.S. Department of Defense as a federal government contracting officer. Several years later, I joined AT&T as a senior contract manager in global supply chain (GSC). In my tenure at AT&T, I’ve worked my way through rotations in logistics, corporate real estate, then back to GSC as a sourcing director and now my current role in supplier diversity.
What are your primary responsibilities in your current role? And how to they enable you to make a difference?
I lead a team of GSC professionals who work to ensure that AT&T maintains a diverse supplier base of minority-, women-, LGBT-, services-disabled and veteran-owned businesses. Our program’s goal is to provide the maximum practicable opportunity for diverse businesses to ensure competitiveness within the industry.
How do you achieve the goal of “maximum practicable opportunity”?
Advocacy is key. Our team changed its focus a couple years ago to provide more advocacy for our diverse suppliers. We do this through tier-one and tier-two relationships, supplier education, and business fostering. If diverse suppliers cannot scale for a tier-one opportunity, we introduce them to a tier-two opportunity. The goal is to grow suppliers’ businesses so they’re able to one day fulfill a tier-one opportunity.
We also promote partnerships through supplier education for diverse companies. It’s important for a supplier to have an executive-level education about running a business because it helps them scale and grow and make better decisions for the company.
I also work through various minority supplier development councils in different cities, chambers of commerce, and other ethnic- and segment-based organizations to meet certified diverse companies that are qualified to do business with AT&T. Connecting with the diverse business community keeps me informed of new and innovative companies and helps me get to know business leaders. Together, we can advocate for policies that help diverse businesses thrive.
What is the greatest challenge you’ve encountered on your career path so far?
My greatest challenge was accepting a new role as a leader without knowing anything about how my team members do their jobs. I was able to overcome this by reading business books and connecting with a good mentor who reminded me that I was hired to lead and that my hiring manager was aware that I did not know my team’s subject matter. I was chosen because of my leadership skills. This righted my wrong thinking, and I was able to pivot back to being the leader I was hired to be.
What has been your most fulfilling accomplishment or experience so far?
I’m proud to lead a program that achieved more than $15 billion in spend with diverse suppliers in a single year. All of that was because of our change in focus on how we do supplier diversity so that it’s not just about spend. It’s so fulfilling to lead a program that’s about making a meaningful impact in the communities we live and work in and measuring that effort through the number of diverse jobs created. I had never had a job that aligns with my personal values, and this one hits the spot.
What is your top career goal moving forward?
I love this job so much that I would do it forever. However, I’m at the highest level in this job and do not have many career growth opportunities. My ultimate goal would be to work with advancing diversity and inclusion for people and suppliers at a higher level, such as a vice president. I’ve been a change agent at a director level, so I can only imagine the positive changes and effects I could make at a higher level.
A Day with Jalayna Bolden, CPM
5:30 a.m. I wake up and start my quiet time of meditation and prayer. I then begin my virtual workout session wearing my new sneakers that were finally delivered. The manufacturer had temporarily stopped producing them because of a raw materials shortage early in the pandemic.
8:30 a.m. I have a day full of meetings with our supply chain team, suppliers and internal stakeholders. We have some big projects coming up, and I’m hoping to add several new suppliers — some diverse-owned — to work on them.
11:00 a.m. I meet with my direct reports to brainstorm ways to revamp our supplier scorecard for strategic suppliers so we are better prepared to make decisions about contract extensions, new request for proposal opportunities and feedback for suppliers.
2:00 p.m. I finally take a lunch break. I check on the contractors working outside on my patio extension. They too have been dealing with material shortages, which has lengthened the project timeline. But that’s okay because, once the patio is completed, I can sit back, relax and forget the long time it took to make the project happen.
3:00 p.m. I strategize with our sourcing and logistics teams about how to quickly send personal protective equipment to employees in our international locations. Fortunately, we have a robust number of suppliers who can make this happen.
5:30 p.m. As I’m logging off, I wish I could relax on my patio, but it’s not finished yet. I guess I’ll have to pivot to the living room and order some food. I hope the restaurant’s supply chain is intact and that it has my favorites in stock.