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Stages of Transition & Transformation

Proceedings — Session: W-1
2011 ISM Diversity Summits
February 9-11, 2011
Boca Raton, Florida

Presenter: Jill Bossi, C.P.M., CPO, American Red Cross

"I spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of legacy I'll leave in my career."

This sentiment, which Jill Bossi shared with attendees at the beginning of her WESMS session, served as the foundation for the next 90 minutes.

It is also the reason she was attracted to the CPO position at American Red Cross in the first place. The organization supplies blood for 42 percent of all transfusions, responds to more than 70,000 disasters per year (with an average response time of less than one hour), and, in the event of an at-home emergency, acts as the information services provider to the United States military.

For Bossi — and, she contended, for every other woman — her career path began during "the wonder years" of childhood.

The 7 Stages

Stage 1: The Wonder Years. Quoting novelist, playwright and travel writer Graham Greene, Bossi believes there is, without fail, a moment during childhood "when the door opens and lets the future in."

Of course, she added, when a woman grows up shapes how she views the world. Some women in the audience grew up during the first wave of feminism ('50s and '60s), which was marked by Helen Ready ("I am woman; hear me roar!"), Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem.

Others attendees are products of the second wave (late '60s to '70s) of feminism, an era distinguished by a wide range of issues and inequalities in the workplace, academia, sexuality and family.

Third-wave feminism ('80s to present) is predominantly characterized by an ingrained feminism. Quoting from Feminism and the Future, Bossi asserted that for the generation of women raised during this third wave, "feminism is like fluoride; we scarcely notice we have it. It's simply in the water."

She then posed a question to WESMS attendees: What are we teaching future generations of women? To this end, she has visited second-grade classrooms to talk to young girls not only about their future in the workplace, but how females before them evolved in the work force throughout the three waves of feminism.

Stage 2: Career Choices. Stage 2 begins as college students graduate and revolves around the question, "Now what?" How do you decide which company/role is right for you? How do you learn? How do you grow?

It is also during this stage when women seek out professional mentors. Bossi was a mentor to a Richter Scholarship winner, who now also mentors. "I can hear some of my own thoughts echoed in hers," she told attendees. "Younger professionals like her are really learning to pay it forward versus competing for the same job. We should all feel obligated, not threatened, to help our female peers progress in their careers."

Bossi offered women in this second stage of their career another key piece of advice: "Learn to play, like the guys, not just to be good at your job. A lot of business happens on the golf course."

Stage 3: Climbing the Ladder. This third stage is for "getting in and getting going," Bossi explained. This is when women question where they want their careers to take them, what they're willing to do to get there and what's most important: salary, title or responsibilities. "Deciding where you want your career to take you is different than getting on it like a bus," she said. "Many women have chosen to let their careers happen to them instead of planning them themselves."

Attendees had a lot of experiences to share regarding this stage of their careers. Many offered their own pieces of advice for the up-and-coming female professionals in the audience, including:

  • "It's difficult to look too far out if you're not even sure you're in the right industry. Do you even want to be where you are?"
  • "Flexibility and adaptability are huge. I'm ex-military, but I'm transitioning back into the corporate world."
  • "Be courageous enough to move on if your career isn't working."
  • "Continually learning and growing is major. Always take opportunities for training."
  • Ask yourself, "Am I adding value? Am I being recognized for the value I'm adding?" And, just as important, "Am I having fun?"

Stage 4: Becoming a Pro. According to Bossi, this is when women "find their rhythm and their pace," beginning with the establishment of a personal brand. "You've got to have one now," she told attendees. "It needs to be one people can recognize and remember you by."

Building on that brand, networking, learning, growing, changing and staying flexible are all parts of this stage, too. "These are how you manage your career as it expands," she advised, adding: "Do not assume your company will notice the good work you're doing. Take your brand on the road."

Stage 5: Reaching the Top. At this point in a woman's career, she evaluates what kind of a leader she is, who she's leading, where she's leading them to, why she's leading, what she's focusing on and who she's bringing along.

"In general, women make great managers, but what about as leaders?" Bossi asked. "People actually follow other people into life-threatening danger — but they'll only follow people who lead by example."

Stage 6: Giving Back. When women reach the point in their careers when they focus on giving back, they are asking themselves a handful of questions, Bossi said: Is this all there is? What have I learned? How can I share that? How can my success feed the future? Who do I help? How do I help? Why do I help?

This naturally lends itself to the next stage: leaving a legacy.

Stage 7: Leaving a Legacy. Bossi believes the supply management profession is "on the brink of something huge." In the next decade, she predicts a huge shift will occur in where supply chain is seated in the executive suite.

At the Red Cross, for example, a seemingly small sourcing decision — opting to buy blankets made in America — was part of turning around the U.S. economy. "I bet at least two people kept their jobs as a result," she explained. "That means they won't lose those two houses. They'll continue to consume at employed levels. It has a domino effect.

"The entire economy of corporate America runs on the supply chain," she added. "And when [executives] look at supply chain like they look at sales, we will have succeeded."

— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh

About ISM Diversity Summits

Every year since 2009, ISM's Black Executive Supply Management Summit (BESMS), Hispanic Supply Management Summit (HSMS) and Women Executive Supply Management Summit (WESMS) have been co-located. Collectively, these events represent the annual ISM Diversity Summits experience hosted by Tempe, Arizona-based Institute for Supply Management™.

All three summits were developed as forums for diverse executives in supply management to come together and share their unique perspectives. Summit attendees learn from thought-leaders and change agents within their fields and representing leading organizations.