From Assembly Line to Senior Supply Chain Planner

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“I come from pretty humble beginnings,” said MSCM student Justin Gillebo. Justin is an impressive self-starter who joined our program to speed his trajectory to the top of the supply chain management industry. But his road to success has been long and fraught with obstacles.

Justin grew up in a blue-collar family in Washington. He was raised by his mom until he was seven and his dad was always working at least two jobs to make ends meet. No one in his family had time to think about college. He joined the workforce out of high school, “working Joe-jobs,” like landscaping and working on the box line at UPS. In time, he worked his way up to operations supervisor, where he oversaw 30 people packing boxes and trucks while optimizing line and truck transit times. “That was my first time leading a big team,” Justin said. “There was a lot to learn about operations and leadership, but I was good at it.”

Secure in his new position, Justin got married and started a family. But one week after finding out his wife was pregnant with their second son, they received devastating news. He was being laid off. “We both only had high school degrees, didn’t really have a plan, we thought we’d just work in the types of spaces we’d always worked in and that would be that,” Justin said. “But in that moment of devastation and fear, my wife asked if I’d ever thought about going to college.”

He hadn’t. No one in his family had a college degree. But Justin realized what it could mean for his kids. “This was an opportunity to build a legacy and do something that no one in my family has done,” he explained. That fall, he decided to pursue a bachelors degree in business operations, manufacturing and supply chain management.

“I was so nervous,” Justin admitted. With three kids, a full time job, lots of coffee and very little sleep, he got through it in five years. Buoyed by his new skills, Justin applied to an internship at Starbucks that resulted in a job offer. Just 2 years later, he became a senior supply chain planner. His career was on a roll. But he wanted to go deeper. That’s when he decided to pursue UW Foster School’s Master of Supply Chain Management program.

“There was so much to my position that I felt like I needed a firmer grasp on. Especially the financial side and the inner-workings of the planning algorithms. I wanted to own and deeply understand those supply chain management concepts. Not just plug numbers into a machine and obey what comes out. I saw this degree as a way to get the tools and theory that I needed so that I wouldn’t just be part of the system, but one of the people working actively to improve it.”

Justin started using the insights gained from the program immediately. “I like to say it has been a ‘learn on Saturday apply on Monday’ kind of model for me,” he said. He is finding the financial and accounting coursework particularly useful. “Not to nerd out on cost-accounting, but there were several occasions where I was in meetings with director level stakeholders at Starbucks and I was able to speak their language. I could not only understand what they were saying, I was able to think critically about it and respond. There were a lot of people in the room who had worked for the company for 10+ years but I was able to be a part of that conversation as a newcomer directly because of the learning gained from this program.”

Justin will graduate this spring and sees leadership in his future. To be honest, so do we. I’ll let Justin close it out in his own words: “Being able to say UW, Foster and MSCM all in the same sentence when you’re describing your self carries some serious weight at work. I’m a phenomenal fan of this program. It’s given me the skills and techniques I need to get ahead and would highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested.” We didn’t pay him to say that. Promise.

Ready to jump in to a career in supply chain management? Check out the UW Foster School of Business Master of Supply Chain Management Program.

Written by Victoria Pinheiro, MSc.
MSCM Content Strategy Writer
[email protected]