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Herb's passion for supporting women in Supply Chain
"When I was growing up my mother was the breadwinner in our family and her career story is a formative lens on how I see the world"
Herb Smith - Sr Manager, Supply Chain Strategy US
Thursday, May 04, 2023
You have been with Mondelēz for almost 8 years now. Can you share your career journey with MDLZ so far?
I think of my career development at Mondelēz so far as three phases exploring my interests in a fluid environment. I joined the company in 2015 with a background in corporate finance but my first role was in manufacturing strategy. This gave me the opportunity to work onsite in our Mexico Hub, as well as the Chicago Bakery for 18 months which are two of the transformative experiences in my career.
Following my time in the plants, I transitioned to the procurement function where I managed cocoa and then logistics sourcing for North America. These roles gave me a chance to take responsibility for interesting categories and really engage with our company’s processes for innovation. They also gave me exposure to our sustainability commitments, such as Cocoa Life and Renewable Energy.
Finally in 2022 I moved into our Customer Supply Chain organization looking after customer strategy and programs. This was a very conscious choice to step out of my comfort zone and gain experience working directly with our customers and sales partners. This role has served to support my long-term goal of being a well-rounded leader who has experience with the End-to-End nature of our business.
In your career, you have transitioned from Finance to Manufacturing to Procurement to Customer Service & Logistics. What advice would you give to someone looking to try a different function and how to manage the change?
The first thing I would say is that our careers give an opportunity to really dive into our intellectual curiosities. If there is a topic you are interested in, from sustainability to hard science to consumer behavior, there is very likely a way for you to be engaged in those spaces here at Mondelēz. This gives you the chance to make sure everyday in your career you are learning something new and in the long run give you the experiences to become a more effective professional.
That being said, these cross-functional experiences will present you with new challenges, so it is important set yourself up for success as you prepare. As you explore new experiences, I have found it is helpful to leverage areas of strength within these new roles. For example, my finance background was very helpful transitioning to a commodities procurement position even though I did not have a procurement background.
Next, it is important to build a support network in your new space that you can turn to for questions, feedback, and perspective. These networks provide you a chance to learn the informal ways of working in your new function, but they also allow you a chance to add value with your outside perspective.
Finally, if you are going to pursue any cross functional experience it is helpful to have a growth mindset. You need to enter a role with the humility to see the gaps in your own knowledge but also the confidence to know that you can learn and deliver.
You have been involved in the Mondelēz Supply Chain Women’s Employee Resource Group for over 5 years. What motivated you to join and stay involved?
The impetus for me to join supply chain women was a mentor of mine getting me involved after we were on a service trip together in West Africa. She introduced me to the organization and over the years it has become one of the most cherished parts of my career journey. At a deeper level I think the reason I have continued stay involved is that the Supply Chain Women culture and mission are very close to my personal world view.
When I was growing up my mother was the breadwinner in our family and her career story is a formative lens on how I see the world. She was one of two girls out of 11 children in rural Kentucky and was the first in her family to go to college. She would come home with stories about the inequalities in her industry, but she also spoke often about the men and women who supported her along the way. Change is made at both the macro and micro levels and if at the end of the day I can play a small role supporting someone’s journey, I take deep pride in that.
In January, you took on the Co-Lead role for Supply Chain Women. Do you have a vision on what you want to accomplish in this role?
Becoming a Co-lead for Supply Chain Women has given me the opportunity to build on the years of great work that the team has already accomplished while driving our strategic vision for the future. As my Co-Lead Christina Scaglione and I prepare for the future we want to define Supply Chain Women as an organization that listens to its members and acts as a microphone for our stakeholders to be heard.
This means being servant leaders to ensure that we are the voice of our core stakeholders across all parts of our supply chain; from headquarters, to manufacturing plants to CS&L branches we want to support our members as inclusively as possible. We want to work with colleagues in each of these spaces to highlight what they are doing and give them resources to meet their career aspirations.
As a part of being an organization that listens, we are also working to grow our impact in a measurable way. It is critical that we improve the way we reach our stakeholders but also that we know and understand what adds value for them. Our team is overflowing with passion and ideas for how we build this future and I hope as a leader in this team I can support the continued growth of this great organization.