The APQC Blog

When Millennials Rule Supply Chain

As supply chain organizations prepare for impending retirements, there is a growing interest in looking at new ways to attract talent to the supply chain profession. As part of APQC’s Attracting Talent to the Supply Chain research, APQC has been speaking to supply chain professionals about their experiences in the supply chain field as well as what they are looking for in employers. APQC recently spoke with Christopher Berry, a supply chain professional working as a transportation coordinator, about Millennials in the supply chain.

How did you come to work in the supply chain field?

From my undergraduate studies at Louisiana Tech University in sustainable supply chain management. I was interested in the program because I realized that it focused on how to connect all the disciplines of a business and how to make it flow efficiently. Supply chain managers just seemed like the “behind the scenes” worker that focused on problem solving details that most did not. The thought of solving problems that weren’t specifically labeled to any one part of a business intrigued me.

My first job was in the field of healthcare. The company was a startup and the business needed new and exciting ideas to bring to the team. It was an enormous learning process initially, but ultimately I had the self- belief that I could bring help to the table. I parted ways with the organization after deciding I wanted to work more in the area of my degree concentration. Once I parted ways with my first job, I decided I needed to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. I decided to pick up everything and move to Denver. Denver has always been a place of interest to me because it incorporates both my outdoor and city interests. The city is also a major supply chain hub in United States. I have resided in Denver for several months now and have been employed as a transportation coordinator. My current role has been a great learning opportunity, and it has helped me get my foot in the door for a logistics career.

Ultimately, I want to be a consultant for hire and provide supply chain solutions to organizations. To reach this goal involves years of experience and connections that most likely will form over time within the field.

As a Millennial in the supply chain, what type of development opportunities do you look for an organization to provide?

I look for learning opportunities. I believe in the saying “knowledge is key.” For organizations to fully benefit from supply chain professionals’ capabilities, these individuals need to learn as much as they can. Supply Chain is a combination of all aspects within a business, from marketing to accounting to operations, etc. I need the opportunity to learn everything within the business. If I cannot fully comprehend how the business operates, I cannot understand what would result from ideas I would like to implement. I look for an organization to provide training seminars, certification courses, and paid tuition programs for continuing education. I need to be challenged intellectually or I grow uninterested. 

What is the biggest bias you think people have about Millennials working in the supply chain?

I believe there will always be bias opinions between generations. I just think age is always a factor. The mentality of “I am older, so I am more capable” is always going to be around. The main bias I believe is our priorities and values. The generations before us “work to live” and I believe millennials “live to work.” We are more career focused before anything else. We want to leave our mark on society and the workplace. We are also progressive-minded; we do not discriminate and are willing to accept change.

Did you experience any challenges when you first started working in the supply chain field?

Of course I did. Same as any recent graduate in this day and age. Jobs considered “entry level” list qualifications like “5 years of experience in procurement, or logistics, or manufacturing scheduling, etc.” How are we supposed to get hired when we do not have the ability to even qualify for entry level? I also believe supply chain focused degrees are still a new concept to many employers. My first job wasn’t even supply chain focused but I was hired because my employer thought it was interesting to see a supply chain management degree on my résumé.

What is one area in supply chain in which you see Millennials excelling the most?

I see Millennials excelling by coordinating the flow of information. With the ability to email and use online databases, it gives instant access to information throughout an organization. Our generation grew up the era of technology use in everyday tasks. We have the natural ability to maneuver through software programs. We accept the necessity and implementation of new software platforms. The better the platform, the easier it is to be more efficient. We want to eliminate the human error. We know how to access information instantly if we do not know the answer to a problem. This ability to access information gives us the capability to easily duplicate knowledge and share it with others. If I were an employer, I would find it refreshing to not be codependent on one person’s knowledge. From a supply chain point of view, you don’t want to just rely on one supplier or one transportation organization to fulfill your needs. You need to diversify in case that link in the supply chain folds or goes under.

When Millennials rule supply chain will it be better and more productive than it is now?

Most definitely! With the combination of our desire to change, our career focused values, and our goals to find efficiencies through computer software and applications, we will be more productive.

What has been one of the big “aha” moments you have had since entering into the supply chain field?

The understanding of organizations willing to focus on sustainability and efficiencies through development of their own technologies will survive. An organization I used to work for was a startup organization that grew rapidly in its market. They focused on developing their own software and computer applications and it gave a competitive edge. The organization I work for now doesn’t necessarily create its own software, but has developed a tool that integrates multiple software programs into one working process. It saves personnel many hours of work, and gives the organization the ability to focus on growth and expansion.

What are three key pieces of advice you would give a supply chain professional just entering the workforce?

  1. Be proactive and focus on how to learn as much as you can.
  2. Don’t settle or focus on “supply chain” branded careers. Supply chain can be applied to any type of business, you just need to find your niche.
  3. Network! Think of people as resources. What makes people so amazing is our ability to interact with each other. You never know what you can come across by associating with someone.


See more from APQC on Attracting Supply Chain Talent:

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