Blackbook Executive

Industry Expert Q&A with Tracey Wagner – Supply Chain Director at Swisse

How did you start your career in Supply Chain?

I started by studying a Bachelor of Transport & Distribution which came about through a careers counsellor. She said you can study accounting, marketing, or perhaps something different like transport, and I thought really, that’s something you can study? There were also some people in my local community who had done something similar and I liked the thought of combining different areas because logistics touched accounting, marketing, I.T. I just loved it and that’s where it all started for me.

What is your role now?

I’m currently the Supply Chain Director for H&H group which stands for health & happiness. H&H includes the brands Swisse, Biostime, Dodi and HealthyTimes. I look after Australia, New Zealand and North America which includes all sourcing globally and the distribution of products into those regions.

What are the biggest changes you are seeing as supply chains become more sophisticated?

What I’ve seen over years is that the complexity and the breadth has grown a huge amount. When I started it was quite narrow and wasn’t really seen as a specific field but now it’s evolved into a whole area of expertise where people can develop a great career. It’s such an important part of a business and really does form the backbone. A lot of new businesses we are seeing are actually supply chain businesses, just have a look at Amazon, there’s a huge amount of potential and nothing’s ever dull. Organisations have certainly changed their perception and their supply chains have been identified as a cost centre and no longer a back office function. Manufacturing used to be in the back office and then supply chain even further behind them! Companies are now  are seeing it as a point of difference and an area they just have to get right; if you can’t get the basics of supply chain right these days you don’t really have a business. As consumers there are now standards we expect which has changed rapidly in the last 5 years, I expect that when I order groceries online they will be delivered tomorrow morning into my kitchen. That’s where our expectation is, and that’s what has changed; supply chain has moved much closer to the customer.

What are the current gaps you see in supply chain talent?

The first point is the ability to think holistically and take in all aspect of a business to understand what the flow-on effect of our decisions are. The second point is how do we do this well while being fast, flexible and agile and really understanding the consumer to pull it all together. The gap is that we have lots of specialists in certain areas but the ability to see across that entire business is a real challenge because there are so many complexities when it comes to supply chain. There just isn’t a huge amount of talent that understands it end-to-end.

What do you look for when recruiting supply chain talent?

Most importantly you have to get the cultural fit right. For instance the culture at Swisse doesn’t suit everybody and if you’re not into movement, being challenged around nutrition, thinking about how you can be mindful and grateful and have a positive attitude all the time, it can be a really challenging environment. Regardless of anything else the cultural fit is number one, the behavioural piece is so critical. Then its about desire and passion, and finally technical skills. You can train and develop a lot of those technical skills.

Do you think women are under represented in supply chain teams? Why?

Great question and yes women are absolutely under represented. We’ve been talking about this for a long time but it’s not changing fast enough. When you go through school its not a career that is often spoken about and I still think it was unique that I had that initial conversation with my careers advisor. First of all we have to really look at how we bring women through university and organisations and promote careers in supply chain, we have to think about how we get women engaged and how we can make it an attractive career. That means the way we market and brand ourselves is really important because we rarely attract women at the starting point. That’s the first point, the second is that when you work in supply chain you deal with huge variety of people and you have to navigate and develop your own style and approach because it’s a role where you will deal with production, a board member and a truck driver all in the one day so you need to be really agile. I think women can be great at that but we’re not getting them through the system. When I go to market to recruit I still get 10 men to 1 woman. We have a real challenge ahead of us and need to engage more women.

What advice do you give young women who are wanting to build a strong supply chain career?

Just give it a go and really back yourself! There are so many women I speak to who will say I don’t think I can do it, but I tell them of course you can! You have great strategy skills, communication skills, you’re very analytical so you can adapt those attributes. Just give it a go and whats the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work you can go and find something else. Some people get nervous and uncomfortable and fear the unknown so we need to stick together and be supportive of one another. I found it a challenge leaving my last role for this position as we were doing some amazing things and there is so much risk on the other side but you don’t know whats there until you give it a go. There are some associations such as NAWO that do some great things and push the message but it’s a really slow burn. They’re doing some great work in developing networks to bring women together to talk about the world they operate in and the challenges they have. The most important message is that we need to support one another.

Interview conducted by Oliver Braithwaite, Supply Chain & Procurement Consultant at Blackbook Executive

To hear more about Supply Chain & Procurement opportunities and market updates contact Oliver on 03 9823 7408

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