Lisa Yan, MSCM ‘19, spent over a decade working for Nestle in Beijing, China before making her way to the U.S. with her husband and two children, a change that would come to include applying and attending the Master of Supply Chain Management (MSCM) graduate program at the University of Washington, Foster School of Business.
Navigating Life Changes
Lisa began her career as a system analyst at Nestle China in Beijing before she crossed over to supply chain planning. “I found my passion for supply chain while working within enterprise resource planning (ERP) support in Nestle,” shared Lisa. She went from managing information systems software to being responsible for the planning of over one hundred stock keeping units (SKUs) for Maggi, a Nestle subsidy and international seller of seasonings, instant soups, and noodles. She spent two years in this role, learning and thriving in Nestle’s supply chain, before choosing to move to the U.S. with her family.
Having never lived overseas, Lisa felt that she needed a solid structure to meet the learning curve of living in the U.S. and pursuing a career here. “In my opinion, the University of Washington is the best school in the Seattle area, so that was the first easy choice, but what drew me to the MSCM program was the efficiency of the accelerated format, the combination of technical and business courses, and the prospect of future career opportunities,” she shared.
Lisa reflects fondly on her program experience. “The classes were really well designed and the program staff are great leaders and try to continually improve the program,” she recalls. Core to her program experience was the help of career services. “In Beijing, I was with Nestle for 11 years, I never worried about finding a new job because everyone knew each other and the job would find me. Here, I had to turn to the mindset of selling myself and sharing my capabilities with people, which was new to me,” shared Lisa. Career services helped Lisa improve herself in this regard, playing a critical role in landing a position with Nestle Seattle before graduation. “Despite my background, without the help of career services, I don’t think I would have found a job at Nestle after graduation,” she said.
A New Role at Nestle
Today, Lisa is a Supply Planning Manager at Nestle in Seattle. Whereas before, as a supply chain planner she played solely a technical role, she now has many more responsibilities and her role demands more leadership skills. “As a manager, I manage the team portfolio and look at the strategy. I have to make sure my team is on the same page, act as a facilitator, create a high-function team dynamic, and help my team develop professionally to reach their career interests. It’s my job to think about every person on the team and make sure everyone can do their job and work well together,” she shared.
One thing Lisa hadn’t anticipated was that she would be part of a key industry dealing with the effects of a major worldwide pandemic: COVID-19, the respiratory virus that shut down the country and closed major economies in the U.S. in February. “Given the current [pandemic] situation, I think we are all more aware of the importance and value of the supply chain function,” Lisa shares. “Everyone in the industry should be proud of their contributions in helping society push forward and recover during these stressful times.”
A Change Oriented and Open Mind Approach
Lisa reflects on the MSCM classes that have helped her the most in her career and one particular class stands out. “I still use tools from the negotiations course,” she shares. “I learned how to approach and work with people, and how to create more win-win situations in the workplace because sometimes there are conflicts and you need to be able to understand the opposite side, come to a mutual understanding, and make the best choice for the business and for the whole team.”
One thing that is especially clear as she shares experiences of both her time at MSCM and her career trajectory is that it is important to keep an open mind both as a professional in the field and as a student. “Planners have to be able to deal with a lot of changes. If change frustrates you then you won’t do well in this field. An open mind is also important, especially for graduate students. One thing that I see a lot is students trying to immediately promote themselves when meeting people. They’re worried about finding a job and I understand that anxiety, but there is so much to learn from just being willing to listen first. Listen and learn about roles, about companies, and about yourself. That’s how you find the right position, by learning what you need first. You just need to trust the process and have an open mind.”