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Ask Capacity: Where Should I Start a Supply Chain Management Career?

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It's a big old industry out there, so how do you get started out on the path to a supply chain management career?

When our CSO Thom Campbell first helped to found Capacity around the turn of the century, he had no experience in order fulfillment or the wider supply chain. His background was in technology and finance.

Clearly, this did not deter him when his co-founders came calling.

are you ready sign

His close friend from college was a civil engineer who had been designing storage spaces and wanted to get into warehouse management. It was the late nineties and the infamous "dotcom bubble" was about to burst.

The founders knew very little about starting a company, but thousands of other entrepreneurs were seizing the moment and so Capacity's co-founders, Jeff Kaiden, Arlen Fish, and Campbell, jumped in the deep end to join them.

Read his account of those early days - and advice for those just getting into the industry - below.

Early Impressions of the Industry

One of the first impressions I remember having is thinking that this was more like my teenage job as a stock boy in a liquor store than years of IT or corporate finance. The way items came in, were stored, went out, some records were kept: the basic movement of product from vendors to the warehouse to customers.

It was useful to have a proxy, but I quickly realized that third-party order fulfillment, or any supply chain, is more about information technology, procedures, people, space and the successful management of these components.

How to Start a Supply Chain Management Career

Begin with another question: what area of supply chain management are you interested in, at least initially?

If it is transportation, get a job with UPS. My VP of Logistics, Tony Ruiz, cut his teeth there and the experience still stands him in good stead to this day.

If you are interested in technology, focus on warehouse management systems, radio frequency hardware, networking and order management systems. You will need to start out on the proverbial ground floor. Indeed, the importance of ‘the floor’ in a supply chain management career cannot be overemphasized. At some point, this is a business in which people will want to know if you have and can get your hands dirty, and you best be ready to step right up.

There are of course more lofty goals in the broad field of supply chain, and they can be reached through a number of channels.

If you are a starting associate at an accounting firm, there is a very good chance you will at some point have to conduct an inventory audit. This is a good experience, in spite of what your colleagues might think. If you are fortunate enough to secure an entry-level position at a consulting firm like McKinsey, you will have a chance to delve into the supply chain of any product-oriented company you may work with over time.

managers in warehouse

Experience and Education

Thankfully, there are now many educational opportunities for prospective supply chain managers to draw upon. My partner and CEO Jeff Kaiden was in the Operations Research and Financial Engineering program at Princeton, for example, and he learned quite a lot there during his busy four years.

However, he probably learned more as a child with his father in the basement at the whiteboard. His father Allen runs the consulting firm Sigman Kaiden and has been designing warehouses since he left NASA. He worked on the space program after gaining his undergrad and graduate education at NYU Stern. Jeff also learned a lot by driving a forklift for a local warehouse when he was a teenager.

The point here is that there are many professional and educational opportunities to inform your supply chain management career. Even with this wide range of academic options, however, the best experience in many cases is to find your first job in a warehousing or manufacturing environment.

To learn more about employment opportunities here at Capacity, visit our careers page.