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Career ROI

Career ROI: Advice From Senior Leaders


Taro Matsumoto

May/June 2013, eSide Supply Management Vol. 6, No. 3

It's not enough to plan your career one step at a time. Aspiring supply management practitioners should think ahead two steps at a time in order to keep up with the changing profession.

My mentor once told me that when it comes to career planning, you should always be thinking two steps ahead. If you only are thinking about your next step, he explained, you may not know if that step is the right one until you have already taken it. Another important piece of career advice I received was to look at my career plan as a pyramid. I was advised to place my long-term career goal (to become a procurement director) at the top and map out the layers below to show options and help me recognize the different paths to reaching my goal.

I have taken that advice to heart throughout my career and suggest other supply management practitioners working their way up the career ladder do the same. As the supply management profession transforms and evolves, there are more opportunities than ever. And those opportunities can be found in the company you work for today or at a new company.

For supply chain practitioners planning their next career steps, I offer these suggestions.

Build your foundation. No matter where you start your career in supply management, you must first establish yourself in the profession. This involves:

  • Understanding the basics of supply management and how it functions in your company
  • Becoming familiar with the different systems and tools available
  • Gaining confidence in supplier negotiation
  • Excelling in managing suppliers.

Starting out deep and narrow is fine at this early stage as you develop your supply management expertise.

Look around your company. Once you have built your supply management credentials, you now have options to branch out within your company to further enhance your marketability and value. Notice how supply management interacts with other business units or departments within the company, such as finance, quality, manufacturing, sales and so forth. Cross-functional sourcing is a key component in supply chain organizations today, offering supply management practitioners a variety of opportunities to learn about different aspects of the overall business. Once you have attained a level of expertise in supply management, look for opportunities within the business units that interact with supply management.

Think globally. If possible, expand your sphere of influence to a regional and global scope. As you advance in your supply management skills, you may have an opportunity to operate on a global platform. Doing business in a different country builds new skill sets and most certainly will enrich your professional career. If you extend your expertise globally, it will add value to the supply management organization and your career.

Become a sole source. With an expanded supply management skill set and global experience, you now have made yourself highly marketable in the profession. As a well-rounded practitioner with in-depth supply management knowledge, think of how to differentiate yourself and focus on the values you can deliver to the corporation.

Know your limitations. As your career progresses, you may be presented with a job that is quite different from what you have been doing. This may seem attractive because it is a new, exciting line of work and a learning experience. However, you need to be cautious that the job is not too far outside your sphere of work knowledge. You do not want to be so far from your specialty area that you find yourself struggling to produce results for the company.

Don't punt. Game-changing career opportunities in your field don't come by often. For example, you may be asked to be part of a highly visible project where the outcome may have a large impact on the company. If you are chosen, don't punt — run with it. The task may be daunting, but it will reap rewards as you display your knowledge, skills and ability to manage and deliver on a high-profile project.

Expand your sphere of influence. Your role and responsibilities will expand as you grow professionally, but you can't do it alone. You need to be scalable — able to adjust and step up to a challenge — and you have to be able to lead. Leadership does not always imply having a staff reporting to you, but simply the chance to showcase your ability to influence people and produce results as part of a team.

My mentor also told me that "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Throughout my career, I have always tried to prepare myself and be ready for the next opportunity. It will come in different shapes and sizes. Some may seem quite obvious, but others may be small steps that could take you to something bigger. It's important for any aspiring supply management practitioner to be aware of opportunities so that you can make the most of them.

Taro Matsumoto, C.P.M., CPIM, CQM/CQA, CPCM, PMP, is director, global procurement for Flextronics Travel in Austin, Texas. For more information, send an email to

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