Q&A: HP’S Jessica Vania and a New Generation of Supply Chain Talent

Jessica VaniaA rising star just launching her supply chain career, Jessica Vania believes that for the industry to attract and retain future talent, it needs to start speaking the language of young professionals who aren’t interested in just “jobs,”, but opportunities to build socially responsible organizations.

Armed with a degree in logistics and supply chain management, Jessica is currently a business operations analyst in Singapore for global IT giant HP. We’re pleased she agreed to be featured as part of our Women in Supply Chain series, hosted by Sarah Barnes Humphrey.

What made you pursue a degree in supply chain management?

I’ve always been a dreamer. I’ve always wanted to be creative—whether through illustration, as an architect, or a film editor. However, I did what my parents wanted me to do and got a degree in accounting, but I wasn’t doing it for me and I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do.

So I decided to flip through the book of all the majors my university offered and happened upon logistics and supply chain and figured it might be a subject I could enjoy. It was a big decision for me to actually sign up and go to the classes. Fortunately the more I learned, the more interesting and exciting it became. I felt so at home, like I made the right decision.

What made supply chain feel right for you as a career choice?

I like that supply chain isn’t just the business side but includes a bit of a technical side as well. It combines my love of business, tech and creativity. In one of my modules, we designed a warehouse based on a real company that we had to research. We made some assumptions, but it was a mix of real world and being creative.

Speaking of being a dreamer, where do you see supply chain taking you?

For the short-term, I want to be an awesome planner (my current position).  For the long term, I’m looking to go into sustainability. I want to bring value in supply chains by looking at sustainable options that might not be considered.

Being environmentally and socially responsible doesn’t mean a company needs to give up on economic profit. Being a creative person, I can incorporate sustainability by design. Whether that’s through the supply chain design or product design like seeking new sustainable materials options.

What factors were you looking for in an organization?

Because I am a foreigner in Singapore, there are a lot of quotas and regulations that make the job search difficult and because of that, the size of the company is a default factor for me—leaving me open to multinational companies. When I was job searching I looked into company culture, career progression and the possibility of transfer or relocation. I’m fortunate that I’m at HP where learning new things and taking new steps in your career is embraced. I can even move departments every two years if there is any opening. I’m lucky that the organization I work for ticks all the boxes above.

How can more supply chain companies attract your generation and appeal to their values and cultural differences?

There’s a saying in Indonesia: “Tak kenal maka tak saying,” or “you can’t love what you don’t know”.

We really need to expose more people to logistics and supply chain, so they can know more about it and see where they could add value. There are a lot of preconceived ideas and the industry is misunderstood. For me, it’s more of like a backbone of the company’s operations. Once you invest and support the supply chain department, you get a return on investment very quickly. Even though it’s a back-end role, younger generations should know that you have influence and you can contribute a lot, even if you might not be seen doing it.

What needs to change in supply chain?

We need more female role models in the industry, especially in Asia. What Sarah Barnes has done with Let’s Talk Supply Chain has really opened up access to the industry.

I would also love to see more ethical and sustainable supply chains focused on the circular economy. For example, H&M recently opening their first Garment recycling facility—they basically take used clothing, sanitize it, re-use the cotton and create new garments all inside one container-sized facility inside the H&M store itself.

Lastly, I’d love to see companies focus more on utility than on profit. It might be a little far-fetched, but one of my favorite quotes from Esther Ndichu, the Humanitarian Supply Chain director at UPS is “Hunger is not a food issue. It’s a logistics issue”.

What advice can you give to others wanting to study supply chain?

Ask yourself two questions: First, is this really the industry or job you want? And second, what’s your passion that will keep you going when you don’t want to do it anymore?

Do a lot research and some soul searching. Find somewhere in the supply chain where you can incorporate your vision and passion. Then try to link the two and pursue it, that can be your niche.

Women in Supply Chain:

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