Fearless Females of Supply Chain: Supply Chain Offers Limitless Potential
Deloitte Digital, part of Deloitte, brings together strategists, data scientists, creatives, designers, architects, and engineers to solve its clients’ biggest challenges and transform their customer journeys. As part of our “Fearless Females of Supply Chain” Blue Yonder Live series, Blue Yonder’s Chief Customer Officer Susan Beal spoke to Marie Hamblin, Director at Deloitte Digital. You can watch their conversation here.
Susan Beal: Marie, tell us a little bit about yourself and Deloitte Digital.
Marie Hamlin: When people hear Deloitte, they think a large consultancy firm full of accountants. Deloitte’s Consulting arm ‘“Deloitte digital” is made up of creative technologists and it has a global focus. We help our clients with everything from strategy design to actually implementing the technology solutions.
I’ve been there for more than four years and sit in the retail sector and had the fortune to work with big brands to drive change and efficiency across their omni-channel logistics and fulfillment. Most recently, I’ve also been working with the public sector service, bringing the idea of how retailers achieve things into the public sector, like healthcare. We call it “retailization.” I’ve thrived on the variety of challenges that consulting gives me, and I love helping our clients often achieve groundbreaking things. What especially gets me excited is the variety of change and the rapidness of change that’s occurring in the market right now. There’s a real shift for retail. There are the changes that are coming through from Gen Z and there’s a globalization of the supply chain. Helping our clients on this journey is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Susan: Did you dream of this career as a young girl growing up, or how did you find yourself in supply chain?
Marie: I sometimes wonder that myself because I certainly didn’t even know the supply chain industry existed throughout my professional training. I actually started in the fashion design space, and I was always interested more on the business side of fashion rather than the creation of the fashion product. If I think back to my studies, the only way to keep up with trends (back then!) was to look at traditional media, like print and scheduled television. As I kept aware of what was happening in the market and what the industry was doing, it became apparent that technology was going to change the world in my future. So halfway through this fashion design course, I decided to make a radical pivot towards computer studies. It was a real shock for me at the time because I went from doing pattern cutting and learning about the social history of costume through to having to study TCP IP packets, WANs, VLANs and network protocols. I was probably the first-ever graduate that received a hybrid degree of fashion and computing studies from my university in New Zealand.
When I look back, I was fortunate I made that change because my university supported me to do that. It made me stretch my brain, learn new things and form completely new relationships. At the time, I was the only female in the class of men studying computer studies. But that primed me for my career since I was often the only woman in the room in logistics organizations.
One of my very first roles after college was at ASOS, which at the time was one of the world’s largest pureplay fashion online stores. It was a real pivotal moment when I was there as I joined when the business made a strategic decision to go from being a UK-based firm to a global organization. Part of that was achieved through the localization of websites with translated content, but really what drove it was the supply chain. ASOS was one of the first retailers to offer free delivery and free returns – and enabling the rapid reality from ordering to wearing clothing transformed an industry.
Working in technology, I worked with the supply chain team to support them on this growth ambition. We worked very, very collaboratively with our suppliers, as well as forming new relationships with parcel carriers, freight forwarders, 3PLs, and custom brokers, we challenged them to bring new delivery and commerce solutions to market. Even the whole concept of picking and packing for e-commerce was quite a new thing back at the time, and the variety of shipping parcels versus pallets just wasn’t common. Software, operational and organizational changes were required. Supply chain was fast moving, and I realized it had limitless potential which opened up a whole new world for me.
Susan: You mentioned that you were the only woman in your in your tech class when you switched focus. While it’s not as bad today in the technology and supply chain space, there is still a gender gap. Why do you think there is such a big gender gap and what do you think we need to do to change that?
Marie: There’s definitely a gender gap in technology and supply chain, but I think the gap is closing in technology specifically. In the UK, we’ve got access to government-backed data through the Office for National Statistics, and we can see that gender pay divide is starting to close. It is a slow movement, but it’s a positive shift. However, it’s not quite as prevalent at the senior level to see women and I think that’s where I’d like to see a change. I’m really fortunate at Deloitte in the UK because we have a real top-down leadership directive to balance out that gender divide and ensure through reporting that we’re very transparent about our leadership split and gender. I think making things public is certainly one robust approach.
Advocating is another great approach. As an example, here we are today talking about it, making it more visible; that’s really beneficial because young people in particular or somebody looking for a career change need to hear it and find information on it. The more people that are speaking and raising awareness, certainly the more interest it generates. Another example is in the UK, the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, a professional industry group around logistics and transport, has a forum set up called the Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT). The group aims to elevate the status of women in logistics and transport, bring together those who aid the career development of women, and provide a support network for women in the sector. We’re certainly by no means exclusive to women, but what we do is we create the space that’s open for all people to come and ask questions about our industry. Because of the variety and breadth of people in the industry and our network, we are able to answer so many questions and support people when they’re trying to find their way because supply chain, logistics, and transport is a big industry.
Susan: Clearly, you’ve taken the lead in your career and decided to learn more in key areas. Are there any recommendations you would make around how to approach personal development?
Marie: I do love a good podcast and an audiobook. I find that that’s the best learning style for me. Most recently I’ve been listening to “Leaders in Supply Chain and Logistics” podcast. What I like about it is it’s a real casual conversation, so I can listen even when I’m out on a walk around the neighborhood. Podcasts are one aspect that really helped me personally transform. They keep my brain active and keep me aware of trends. I often listen to different podcasts just for visibility. I’ll listen to ones about neurodiversity as well to help me make sure that I’m keeping my mind open to the way that other people learn. Because obviously I work in a big organization with a lot of people. I need to always be cognizant of that. While not a podcast, I recently listened to the audio book of Bill Gates’ “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.”
Another action that I took for myself was a professional development course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). In this course, they take you onto the stage and bring the secrets of stage life and theatre production into professional settings. And I have to say, it was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever done. I did not like being on stage at all, but it really forced me to out of my comfort and to expand yourself. They teach you such a variety of skills, including putting you one-on-one with a trained actor so you can walk through challenging scenarios, enabling you for future such scenarios.
One of my favorite exercises I learned – and I’ve demonstrated many a time to my children – is the dead fly. The idea is that to release the tension and stress in your body, you lay on the floor, arms and legs up in the air and you just shake. You shake like you’re a fly that has been sprayed and you’re dying. It’s similar to how some people do the Superman pose where you stand and take up as much space as you can, you physically do a star shape and you stretch out and you think, I am powerful. There is a lot of science behind it because it’s not just the way that you hold yourself, but fundamentally it’s down to how much oxygen you get into your body and stretching yourself. So, it certainly does provide you with that level of confidence when you’re going into unfamiliar situations.
Susan: Thank you for joining us today, Marie. Any final words for the audience?
Marie: It’s an absolute pleasure to work on Blue Yonder engagement with the client and we certainly find that the results are phenomenal as well. Your team and your colleagues are so inclusive. I’d love to come back and share more about client success in the near future.