If the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that business leaders must be able to navigate a rapidly changing landscape. Nowhere is that more true than in supply chain management — and a specialized master’s degree may be the answer to the question of where emerging leaders can acquire the skill set to help companies thrive in times of unprecedented chaos. It is a field that has been central to the mega-success of both Amazon and Apple whose supply chains are as core an element of their business models as technology.
Poets&Quants spoke with 13 master’s of supply chain management grads from top schools across the country who chose this path to hone in on a core part of business. For the alumni of this specialized master’s degree, going the lesser-traveled supply chain management B-school route has helped them take their careers to the next level — even during Covid-19, which continues to cause chaos in business generally, and supply chains particularly, across the globe.
Kyle Meagher, a 2019 University of Michigan Ross School of Business grad, is proud of her career development post-graduation. As a master’s student, she strengthened her leadership skills as part of the Ross Leaders Academy, an intensive program that builds and challenges students’ leadership skills. Now, she’s helping people recover from Covid-19 in her role as an inventory planner at Williams-Sonoma Inc.
THE REWARDS OF A CAREER IN SUPPLY CHAIN
“Some of our vendors are small, family-owned operations that were severely impacted,” she says, “and being able to collaborate with them throughout all of the uncertainty was extremely rewarding.”
Supply chain management grads are doing more than helping clients deal with the financial burden of the past year. Purdue University Krannert School of Management’s Shruti Singhal became the youngest and newest member of MedStar Family Choice. Penn State Smeal College of Business’ David Avasthi led Johnson & Johnson’s first gene therapy launch. Michigan State University Eli Broad College of Business’ Meaghan Smith rebranded her family business, grew it by 5,000%, and increased revenue to $90 million annually. All three of their alma maters are highly ranked in the only credible ranking of the top graduate programs in supply chain management.
The traditional MBA route gives students a well-rounded business education. But those who have a clear career trajectory and seek specialized knowledge and experience may benefit more from a focused master’s program. With many programs offering flexible curriculum delivery and real-world applications, supply chain management can provide business enthusiasts a competitive edge for a rewarding, exciting career.
WHY SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT?
In the right circumstances, online learning has many advantages. Niccole Marcial, a 2019 graduate from Rutgers Business School, had a full-time job while seeking her supply chain management master’s degree.
“I had no strong urge for an MBA. I placed more value on efficiency and quality learning as priorities,” she says. “I felt that this master’s program would still give me the business insight I wanted, and would be less of a time commitment while working full-time.”
After seeing an opportunity to be a pioneer in the supply chain industry with further education in the field, Maryland University’s Megan Smith also decided to go the supply chain route over an MBA. Drawn to explore her passion amongst peers who were equally motivated to be the “first movers in this industry,” she felt that the supply chain route fit her vision for an academic experience.
‘A KNOWLEDGE BASE THAT WILL CONTINUE TO GROW IN IMPORTANCE’
Similarly, Angela J. Muca of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business went the supply chain route to gain specialized knowledge in an area she was passionate about.
“I chose to pursue a specialty master’s degree as I wanted a more specific focus on supply chain rather than a broad study in multiple disciplines,” she says.
Realizing how essential the supply chain is in business processes, Penn State Smeal College of Business’ grad David Avasthi felt drawn to a specialized master degree in this realm. “I believe that the supply chain is a knowledge base that will continue to grow in importance in the coming years, and expertise in it will be highly valued,” he says.
SUPPLY CHAIN LEARNING DURING A PANDEMIC
Rudi Leuschner, program director of the Master of Supply Chain Management at Rutgers Business School, stresses that passion is equally as important as academic ability when studying supply chain management.
“The two most important factors for a potential candidate of a Master of Supply Chain Management are motivation and proof that they can academically handle the program,” he says.
Leuschner says that the supply chain management discipline has developed quickly and continues to do so — especially since the onset of Covid-19. “It’s important to stay engaged with the supply chain community, whether it’s through professional organizations or seeking educational opportunities. Learning just never stops, especially in the supply chain field.”
Operating since 2015, Rutgers Business School enrolls approximately 150-200 students in its supply chain management program with small, 20-person classes. While the Master of Supply Chain Management teaches timeless principles, such as procurement, operations, logistics, and forecasting, the school created an optional pop-up class to teach students how the supply chain is currently being affected during the pandemic, and how companies can face challenges during this difficult time. So far, the pop-up class has been the highest attended class yet.
“We actually had to remove caps from the enrollment system to let more people in. On average, between prospective students and alumni, there were around 70 students showing up live,” says Leuschner.
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