“Our cohort was a really fun group to be with. We worked hard, studied hard, and played hard. It was a great balance,” recalls Iris Yao, MSCM ’18, about her time at the Master of Supply Chain Management (MSCM) program at UW Foster School of Business.
Joining MSCM Class of 2018
Iris joined MSCM as part of the second cohort of students in the summer of 2017, first as a full-time student, but soon thereafter as a working professional. “The very first quarter, I wanted to get the pace of the program,” recalls Iris. Prior to starting the program, Iris was an Amazon Sales Support Associate, a role in which she answered questions for customers using her bilingual skills. “Once I did, I went back to work at Amazon during the second quarter,” she recalls. Iris went back to Amazon as a contractor, but this time for the Logistics Support Coordinators team.
Originally from China, Iris first arrived in Seattle in 2012, for her undergraduate studies in Economics and Psychology at UW. “After I studied here, I fell in love with Seattle and decided to stay and pursue a career in the city,” she said. Iris was happy to have landed in one of Seattle’s biggest companies, but felt she needed more. “I felt limited at work,” she said. “Given what I studied in the past, it was not enough, so I decided to pursue a master’s program. At that time, Amazon was growing as the biggest logistics pioneer in the world, so my interest in the field grew.” While researching programs, she came across MSCM, and after talking to Program Director, Sara Jones, she decided it was the perfect fit. “I remember researching other programs, but I was just so attached to Seattle and UW,” shared Iris. “I had an excellent experience at UW for my bachelors. I felt included in the community and I really admired the reputation of the school. That experience prompted me to look at UW first. Then, when I dove deep and found this relatively new-ish program I was very excited. It was aligned with my career goals and personal development.”
Program Experience that Adds Value
Since the program, Iris has moved into a few different roles within Amazon, but most notable is her recent move to Supply Chain Manager for the Prime Air team. “When I joined this team, my responsibility was to ensure our homegrown tools, which are our versions of systems, could function the way that we wanted them to. I was doing a lot of process improvement to the tool, to make sure our demands loaded correctly and our communication to procurement went smoothly, and all the while, coordinating changes with multiple teams to help each adapt well,” she shared. “That was my top priority then. Once that tool was fully developed, my focus shifted to metrics. Currently, Iris generates metrics to track order procurement, supplier quality, and other key data that impacts their supply chain. “I am focused on how to better represent data and how to automate data reporting on the supply chain metrics.”
Iris notes that her program experience has added value to her career in many ways. “We had this class where the teacher demonstrated how to use the SAP system and that was extremely valuable, especially for my current role,” she explains. Amazon has a culture of creating homegrown tools instead of using existing tools for all of their work. “In our current team, we are not adapting the existing ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, but we are trying to mimic what the SAP system can do. And in creating this tool, there are some challenges, like how are we going to define the tool, the net loading for forecasting, etc. I feel like what I learned in the SAP class gave me a general idea of the logic of the SAP system, which in turn helped me when creating this tool at Amazon.” Other classes that she credits with helping her career include the techniques from the Spreadsheet Modeling course, the Project Management course for it’s overview of key elements in managing a project, and the courses that had company exercises which taught her to improve the bottlenecks of process.
A Supportive and Encouraging Environment
Apart from these skills, one thing that stands out to Iris about her time at MSCM is the support. “My classmates are a precious memory for me. And, the program staff as well. Sara and the program staff created a supportive and encouraging environment for us. Sometimes during Saturday classes they would treat us to breakfast or coffee so that we could have food and a conversation with our classmates and teachers,” Iris shared. “This helped me connect with my classmates. We became friends, but when the time came to work, we worked hard to achieve our goals.”
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