In honor of International Women’s Day, Blue Yonder hosted a special Blue Yonder Live “Fearless Females of Supply Chain” with our customer BrassCraft Manufacturing Company. Ann Jones, Director, Supply Chain, spoke with Susan Beal, Chief Customer Office at Blue Yonder, to share her story and how she embraces equity in the supply chain. You can watch their conversation here.

Susan: Tell us a little bit about who you are and about BrassCraft.

Ann: I am the Director of Supply Chain at BrassCraft Manufacturing. I have been at the company for six years. We make plumbing products, including water stops, supply lines, gas connectors, etc. All the things that keep your faucets and toilets running in your house, which is very important.

Susan: I’d like to go back to the beginning. Did you grow up dreaming of a career in supply chain?

Ann: Absolutely not; I had no idea what supply chain even was. I went to the University of Detroit, Mercy and majored in Accounting. I had an opportunity to do an internship in a purchasing role, which is where I received my first exposure to supply chain as a discipline – and I fell in love with it! I decided to pursue it as a career path and have spent my entire career moving through different areas of supply chain. This includes purchasing, both direct and indirect; distribution; and logistics. As the Director of Supply Chain, I am responsible for all the scheduling and planning, as well as distribution and logistic.

Susan: What are the big lessons learned for you, and what would your guidance be to the next generation of women coming into the field?

Ann: One thing I learned is to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way – and also seek them out. Really understanding that if someone is willing to take a chance on you, this is your opportunity to learn as you go. That’s how you find out what you’re interested in and what really makes you excited about work.

The other thing I learned is to really be curious and learn from the folks that you work with. And if you don’t understand what someone does, ask! People love to talk about what they do. Use your curiosity to really gain knowledge and help yourself understand what’s going on around you and really taking advantage of people who want to help you. As women, sometimes we might hesitate to jump in and really ask questions because we think we’re bothering that person. But that’s how you learn. And I think most people are willing to help.

So now in my role, I really try and seek out those who are interested in learning about supply chain or are interested in learning about what my department does or what other departments I’ve worked in do and helping them understand functions across the board.

Susan: Be curious and be bold. That’s what I heard you say. If you are young in your career, please reach out and take advantage of the resources in your company or outside of your company. You’d be surprised at how willing others are to help you get further along.

Ann: Absolutely. And I think too often, especially when you’re early in your career, you can feel like you’re taking and not giving. But as someone who’s been doing this for 20 years now, I learned so much from people who join my team because maybe they are more up to speed on certain new trends and ways of doing things. So, there’s a give and take; there’s a lot that you can offer to the people that you’re asking for help.

Susan: Looking back on your career and is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Ann: The biggest thing that I did not do enough of early in my career is fostering relationships with colleagues and those above me. Perhaps we had started to work together and then maybe I moved on to a new role or they moved on to a new role. Instead of reaching out, I was nervous about it or felt like I was bothering them. But now I realize that I should reach out. When I see people’s career progression on LinkedIn or other social media, I always try to reach out to congratulate then on the new role. I always share why I enjoyed working with them. This always makes me realize I probably should have spent more time building those relationships and just maintaining those connections a little bit deeper than I had. It’s easier to do today with LinkedIn and other social media.

Susan: Since it is International Women’s Day, let’s turn our focus to two topics along that front. What does diversity and inclusion mean to you both personally and professionally?

Ann: That’s a heavy question because it can be a lot of things for different people, and it changes over time. What I thought diversity and inclusion meant, even three years ago, is very different than what it might mean now for me personally. While it’s quite a few things, it’s really a focus on individuals and making sure that we are a team made up of individuals. How are we making sure that each individual is brought into the team, that their voices are heard, and that they feel included?

Creating psychological safety is top of mind. I really do believe that if your team feels like they work in an environment where it is safe to challenge and ask questions, you’re going to be more successful as a team, both personally and professionally. People succeed more when they feel like it is safe to make those kind of bold statements or question what decisions are being made.

The other thing for me that is the theme of International Women’s Day – embrace equity – is also about individuality and really working hard as leaders to meet people where they are and understanding what they need to make them successful. And that’s a hard job because what Person A on your team might need to be successful could be very different than what Person B might need. And as a leader, it’s our job to understand those differences and people.

Susan: Based on that theme, how are you embracing equity on this International Women’s Day?

Ann: For me, it’s very important that I spend time with not just my direct reports, but with all of the individuals on my team. Doing skip level meetings and talking to them about how they feel about work, how they feel about their life, and if there is anything that we could be doing to support them more.

Checking out the International Women’s Day website. There’s some amazing information on there about understanding equity because the conversation has shifted from equality to equity. There’s some great content on that website that helps you explain it to your team and helps you understand it yourself in really simple terms. And then taking those ideas and understanding how am I going to put that into action every day in my interactions with my team members?