Sonia Hernandez is the vice president of retail planning at Blue Yonder. She joined the company earlier this year and has more than 25 years’ experience in retail leadership, consulting and software. Her career has been varied, including time at a software startup where she was one of a small group of initial employees helping to build the company. She believes that women shouldn’t be afraid to speak up for themselves and should learn to defend their position/opinion. She volunteers and donates to programs like Together We Rise, an organization helping to improve the lives of foster children – which was inspired by her daughter, whom she adopted as a teenager.

Tell us about yourself

I grew up in Southern California with three sisters. My mom was a single parent who worked two, sometimes three, jobs at a time. I always admired my mom; she was a hard worker raising four kids and trying to keep us safe. She was fantastic about getting us everything we needed and making sure we were provided for. In school, my favorite subject was math. I was always interested in numbers, which probably drove me into my retail career. In college, I focused on fashion merchandising and retail. I earned my degree in business and marketing.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

  • Adaptable. It’s my self-described word. Most people that I’ve worked with and for have said that about me. I think it was because of the way I grew up. We moved around a lot, and it was a core way to survive. In my adult life, it provides me strength.
  • Accountable. It’s an important trait for myself as I am big on doing what I say – and being accountable for it.
  • Curious. It’s probably got me into trouble at times. Anything from doing a skydiving class to traveling around the world and meeting new people to eating foods I perhaps would never try.

Why did you choose a career in supply chain/tech?

When I began my career in retail, I started in allocation and then became a planner. I was always curious about computers and systems, so every time there was a project to implement an allocation or planning system, I always wanted to be part of it. Retail tech found me because of my curiosity. I always went back and forth between the IT side and the business side so I’m kind of a unicorn. I can be a planner/leader on merchandising, and then I can lead on the IT side. I have always looked for jobs that are a blend of both. Retail has so much flexibility and so many facets that you can do just about anything.

How did you end up at Blue Yonder?

I started my career at Miller’s Outpost, and (then) JDA (now Blue Yonder) MMS allocation solution was the first software product I ever used. I still have a certificate showing I passed “Big Al,” which is what Miller’s Outpost called its allocation system. When I worked for PetSmart, I again became a Blue Yonder customer with the space planning products, as well as the EIA product, which was SKU rationalization. Throughout my career, I have gotten to know Blue Yonder and I’ve watched its growth and maturity. I moved back to Scottsdale in December (2019) so I reached out to a friend who worked at Blue Yonder to catch up. He told me about a job posting that was perfect for me – and it feels like home!

Can you point to a critical moment in your career that really made a difference in your path?

My time at the Disney Stores was the moment when I truly knew how much I wanted to be part of retail and retail technology. It was a time in my life when I was trying to figure out where in retail would I fit; would I be a technology person, a planner, an analyst? That was a very high growth time for Disney and I was doing a little bit of everything, including working on different technology projects. I loved being able to experience the IT side of retail. So that’s what drove me into a career in retail technology.  

What is your proudest achievement?

In my 40’s I was introduced to a young lady, who was a family friend, who shared her story of growing up in foster care most of her life. I was compelled to become her mother, so I adopted her. It was one of those key moments when you can do something to help somebody else’s life turn out differently. She is 27 now and just finished her dental technician program. She’s an amazing young person who needed a mentor and someone to care about her. She changed my life and I hope I changed hers.

How do you stay inspired professionally?

I love what I do! I find it fun. Being around smart people who love what they do really inspires me. At Blue Yonder, I enjoy the variety of people and teams I get to be around.

What is one mistake you see leaders making more frequently than others?

They are not transparent. I find that some people think it’s too hard to be open but that’s a mistake. I appreciate it when I work with people who tell me like it is so I can prepare and become part of the solution. When people are more transparent, it helps everyone prepare and plan.

What is your leadership style?

I have a macro leadership style where I trust and empower people to do their job. I have always appreciated leaders who trusted me and allowed me to do my job. I truly believe if you hire people because of their talent and expertise, then get out of their way and let them do what you hired them to do, we will all be more successful.

What book(s)/podcast(s) are you reading/listening to right now?

I just read some biographies, including Sonia Sotomayor’s and Michelle Obama’s, to name a couple. I love reading about female professionals to learn what their life is like and how they get through their struggles. It helps me be a better leader and mentor to young women in their careers.