Supply Chain Now Episode 507

TEKTOK host, Karin Bursa speaks with supply chain industry Trailblazer, Lora Cecere, CEO of Supply Chain Insights. Lora is widely recognized as a global supply chain thought leader and recently received the 2020 Women in Supply Chain Influencer Award. Today, Lora has nearly 320,000 Linkedin Followers and is known for her high-value point of view and research to help early adopters seeking first mover advantages through innovative supply chain strategy and market execution. Tune in to hear about Lora’s career path through roles ranging from Chemical Engineer to manufacturing operations, supply chain planning advocate to industry analyst, entrepreneur to author, and so much more.

Intro/Outro (00:01):

Welcome to TEKTOK digital supply chain podcast, where we will help you eliminate the noise and focus on the information and inspiration that you need to transform your business, impact supply chain success and enable you to replace risky inventory with valuable insights. Join your TEKTOK. Host Karin Bursa, the 2020 supply chain pro to know of the year with more than 25 years of supply chain and technology expertise, and the scars to prove it. Karin has the heart of a teacher and has helped nearly 1000 customers transform their businesses and tell their success stories. Join the conversation, share your insights, and learn how to harness technology innovations to drive tangible business results. Buckle up it’s time for TEKTOK powered by Supply Chain Now.

Karin Bursa (01:05):

Well welcome supply chain movers and shakers! I’m Karin Bursa, the host of TEKTOK, the digital supply chain podcast. Thanks for tuning in today. On this episode, I’m excited to be speaking with a real industry trailblazer, the one and only Lora Cecere. She’s the CEO of Supply Chain Insights, a company that she started to close the gap on digital and physical supply chain priorities. Lora is widely recognized as a supply chain industry thought leader and recently received the supply chain influencer of the year award. And I must tell you, it is well deserved. Lora has nearly 320,000 followers on LinkedIn, again, 320,000 followers on LinkedIn. That’s an impressive number, Lora – Congratulations!


Lora Cecere

Oh, Karin it’s humbling. You know, thank you.


Karin Bursa (02:14):

Well, speaking of impressive, Lora a part of what has always impressed me is that you have such a very broad supply chain background. And, that’s one thing we want to talk about today. You have walked the walk and you certainly can talk the talk more. Let me tell our listeners just a little bit about your background before we get started.


Lora Cecere has been a supply chain practitioner. She’s contributed in senior roles for multiple technology and solution providers. And, she’s been an industry analyst, influencer and spokesperson for Gartner, AMR research and now Supply Chain Insights. She even introduced the annual evaluation of Supply Chains to Admire, which gives a deep and objective analysis of the industry’s top performing supply chains. So, talk about having a 360 understanding of supply chain, Lora has seen just about everything. And in a moment, you’re going to get to hear about how Lora earned just a little bit of those supply chain credentials.


A quick programming note before we get started. If you enjoy today’s conversations, please be sure to like, share and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for TEKTOK. That’s T E K T O K. And, it’s brought to you by Supply Chain Now. All right, let’s bring in our featured guest Lora Cecere who is once again, the CEO of Supply Chain Insights, a company that she founded with a goal of helping industry thought leaders and early adopters gain competitive advantage. Lora, how are you doing today?

Lora Cecere (03:52):

Great. It’s you know, beautiful Fall day, and I just finished walking my dogs. Haven’t been on a plane since March, you know, life’s good.

Karin Bursa (04:02):

Yeah. I gotta tell you, I don’t miss the air travel myself, Lora. Hey, before we get started to learn more about you and your personal journey in supply chain, tell us why you started Supply Chain Insights. Some of our listeners may not be familiar with the important role that an industry analyst can play in helping to drive priorities and focus efforts around supply chain transformations. So why Supply Chain Insights?

Lora Cecere (04:35):

Well, it’s not something I wanted to do. You know, running a business is difficult. And, starting a business is even more difficult. I started Supply Chain Insights in 2012. When I really face the fact that, you know, I was an industry analyst and I didn’t want to basically go forward with the options that I had. So let me give you a little background. I worked first in manufacturing for about 15 years, and then I built software for about 12 years for two different companies. And then I went to work for a company called Gartner and I was real excited about that because I had a lot of respect for Gartner. But when I got to Gartner I found that Gartner didn’t care as much about supply chain as I did. And so I’m like, Hmm… I’ve got to go to a place where I believe in what I’m doing.

Lora Cecere (05:26):

And it’s heartfelt because when you get in front of a group and you’re talking about supply chain, you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. And I went to work for a company called AMR research. And in my last job there, I ran the research teams for the industries, which was retail through aerospace and defense. And I really enjoyed that. I worked for AMR for about five and a half years, and I thought I would work there until I retired. You know, the week before the CEO sold the company, I had this, you know, image that I would be working at AMR for a long time and you know, all this stuff that we were going to do. And so, when Tony, the CEO told me he sold AMR to Gartner, I cried because I knew I couldn’t go forward with the acquisition. And he’s like, well, what’s wrong, Lora?

Lora Cecere (06:18):

You know, you’ve got a job. It’s great job. You can lead the research efforts, do great things. And I’m like, I don’t think I could ever do that. Under the Gartner umbrella. I have to be true to myself. So I didn’t have the courage to start my own business initially. So I went to work for a company called Altimeter Group as a partner, which was with Charlene Lee, Jeremiah Wang, and Ray Wang, who people that are in a heavy social circles will understand that those folks really understand social media. And they taught me a lot about open content. I give thanks that they started me on the journey to blogging and building the LinkedIn group. And when I left AMR, I was really scared. So I sent a nice letter to everyone that I’d worked with at AMR saying, this was my journey. I had to follow my heart.

Lora Cecere (07:11):

I would appreciate it if they would continue to follow me. And I built my LinkedIn influencer base from about 120 people, because I was not interested in LinkedIn when I was at AMR to, you know, 319,000 people today. I think it’s because, you know, I’m a direct shooter. I try to speak the truth. As I know it, I am opinionated. And I try to have a little fun with the writing. And I tried to bring unique content to the market. So I write about 9,000 words a week, 3000 on my Boggs by Supply Chain Shaman, a thousand on LinkedIn, which are really kind of fun articles and then Forbes, which is more of the serious business side. So that’s a little bit about my journey. Does that help?

Karin Bursa (08:00):

Absolutely. So, it certainly helps to frame out why you started Supply Chain Insights. What do you hope to do? Who do you hope to serve as you provide insights and direction for practitioners, for people who want to be an early adopter or use their supply chain capabilities to really differentiate their business? What are the one or two takeaways you’d like them to get out of how you’re serving the market?

Lora Cecere (08:29):

When I write, I write for the line of business leader, I write for the innovator and that’s very different audience than when I worked for Gartner, which was very focused on the technology buyer. And I write for those that are naturally curious and love affinity for research and, you know, kind of next generation. Now the industry analyst role is very different than a consulting role. Consultants know the answers and research analysts are trying to formulate the questions that people should ask about the next generation solutions. Very different. The analyst role is very much about research and pattern recognition and market triangulation, and the ability to put voice to what you see in the future, both in a written form and in speaking and podcasts, et cetera.

Karin Bursa (09:24):

That’s helpful. If our listeners want to access some of the great research, commentary and recommendations, you have, I’m going to encourage them to look for you on LinkedIn or to go out to your website, Lora is a prolific writer. And, she does have an opinion. She brings a set of ideas, goals and expectations, and she’s a little provocative in trying to get us to all think a little differently. Lora, you just mentioned that you are targeting those line of business leaders, but you also work closely with a lot of the technology solution providers. So what do they get out of the content that you produce?

Lora Cecere (10:14):

I would like to think they get a different point of view that I’m able to put voice to the business needs. The early adopters, you know, Ford used to say that if I asked companies what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses, not for cars. And so I think what happens is many technology companies get very stuck on building a better mouse trap when the market may not want a mouse trap. And so, what I try to do is help them. Some of them call me a provocateur here. Some of them may call me, you know, a Royal pain in the proverbial, but, you know, I try to bring the voice of the business leader to them and talk about the business pain and contrast what they’re providing to the market versus what the business wants. I also try to give them feedback. You know, I find that many of the marketing companies or the marketing divisions within the software companies get pretty caught up in their own words and, you know, forget that they need to serve customers. So through the research, through the interviews, I try to give them a perspective of how they can help companies.

Karin Bursa (11:34):

Well, that’s certainly valuable and that’s certainly how we met almost 20 years ago (maybe a little more, but I’m not gonna tell anybody that). Before I get a bit of your backstory on how you got to where you are today, I want to congratulate you on publishing the seventh edition of the Shaman Journal. And I’d like to make that available in the show notes. Can you tell everybody what the Shaman Journal represents?

Lora Cecere (12:01):

You know, blogging tends to put what you just wrote front and center, but people don’t go to a bog to see what you’ve written over time. So what I do every year is, I clean up the best read blogs and I put them into chapters and it’s really a way that people have all the blogs together and they can look at it thematically and they can contrast the seven years of this discovery in the blogs. And I hope that it helps, you know, students, academics and business leaders to have a reference point.

Karin Bursa (12:46):

Yeah. You know what I really like is it underscores Lora, I don’t know, kind of your accountability to the market when you bring all of these blog posts together and you see how the market and some of the initiatives and focus have evolved over that course of time, whether it’s one year’s edition or multiple years of edition of the Shamans Journal. I think that it really lends credibility to what gets published in a blogging format. Um, it says, Hey, this is the steak I put in the ground. These are the observations I made. Let’s see how they continue to evolve, get adopted and drive value for businesses. So, Congratulations, once again on publishing the seventh edition of the Shamans Journal!


Lora, I mentioned that we met approximately 20 years ago. At the time you were with Gartner, which is the largest industry analyst firm, but you came to that role with something that was a little unusual. And from my perspective, to be able to work with an industry analyst that had truly been in supply chain and manufacturing roles was a unique opportunity. So, you weren’t just book learned, you kind of have the school of hard knocks. You’d worked in manufacturing environments. You tried to elevate what became supply chain in the industry at the time. And Oh, by the way, you are a woman in a man’s world. So walk us through a little bit about your own professional journey. How did you start out Lora?

Lora Cecere (14:33):

I started out in the mountains of West Virginia. My father was a postal clerk. My mother was a teacher. They taught us to be naturally curious and love nature, and I just always love data and research and science. And so my first degree was in dietetics and I thought I wanted to be a dietician. And I actually did an internship at an mental health institution and quickly found out I didn’t want to be a dietician. I didn’t want to be in the back room of a hospital. And nobody likes talking about low salt, low fat diets and diabetes, horrible disease. I was very, very driven by science and math and I put myself through school. I was a resident assistant. So I interviewed every one of my dorm defined what careers they were moving towards and what degrees they I had. And, I discovered that the people that had chemical engineering degrees were really moving and into the job market in fun ways.

Lora Cecere (15:42):

And I didn’t know what a chemical engineer was and never really thought about being an engineer, but you know, the more I talk, the more I thought, well, you know, I’ve always been good in chemistry. I’ve always been good in math. And this sounds like a great career path to do fun things. So I went to the college of engineering with a home-economics degree in dietetics and told them I didn’t want to be a dietician. I wanted to be a chemical engineer and they laughed. And they said, you know, that’s not for you. You’re, you know, you’re putting yourself through school. I was very, very blessed that I had a scholarship and we can’t say that, you know, your scholarship will continue with this and Oh, by the way, you don’t take any of your credits. So you’re going to have to start again. I said okay, I’ll do it.

Lora Cecere (16:33):

So I hated the first engineering classes. There were two women in my class and nothing was easy. The only bathroom in the building was on the bottom floor and it’s like, you know, nothing in the building was designed for women. My drafting class, I absolutely hated because the drafting board didn’t fit under my arm. And I had to walk to the drafting class two miles in the morning, because it started at 6:30 am before the buses started. And, I was allergic to the graphite on the pencil. So not only did I struggle to get to that class, but I would spend the next hour after the class crying. In fact, I had nightmares after I graduated in chemical engineering, but I didn’t turn in my last drafting assignment. I just hated it.

Lora Cecere (17:26):

Nobody made it easy for us. I remember I got a D one time and, in dynamics and you know, statics and dynamics are tough classes for freshmen engineers. And, you know, I don’t know any engineer that didn’t do badly on a test and that one of those classes, some point in time and, taking them and remember the professor held it up in front of the class and said, “this is why women shouldn’t be engineers.” Right. Anybody that gets a D in this class really shouldn’t be here. Well, you know, I just stuck my feet into the ground and said, that’s why

Karin Bursa (18:05):

I can only imagine you, you thinking, “all right, that’s it you have put a stake in the ground for me.”

Lora Cecere (18:13):

Yeah. So I ended up graduating with high honors and I was very fortunate to land a job as a co-op student with Procter and Gamble. And I give a lot of credit to who I am today for that first job that I had. I had a wonderful mentor by the name of Bob Marston, who took a lot of interest in me and actually wrote me letters as a senior about, you know, letters of encouragement. He was very supportive, you know, at the end of the chemical engineering degree, I’m thinking, what I’m taking has nothing to do with the real world. You know, I really just would like it to be over. And he would coach me that I needed to be patient and look at the long picture and belong view. And anyway, so my co-op experience was just fascinating. I went to work in Pringles manufacturing back when Pringles were just starting to become a product. And you know, my first job, I remember opening the door to the factory and the music of the machinery, you can always tell if manufacturing is having a good day by how the machinery sounds and the high-performance work team environment, it was just so invigorating. Then I give a lot of credit to Proctor and Gamble for helping to move towards the end goal and finish the chemical engineering degree and move forward.

Karin Bursa (19:38):

Absolutely. I totally agree with you, about the sound of manufacturing, it can almost be hypnotic when you get the rhythm of the particular production environment down. So, tell us a little more about manufacturing. Even today, some supply chain organizations don’t incorporate the full picture or manufacturing. Sometimes it is not reporting into the same set of executives, but, we’ll address that later. Tell us how you made the transition from manufacturing, from chemical engineering, into supply chain roles, and how that led you into supply chain technology.

Lora Cecere (20:27):

So I started out working for Proctor and Gamble in manufacturing, and I loved it so much. And they liked me that I entered into R&D and it all went and hell. I actually did some research on base catalyzed, Foley, glycerol, esters, and started up cake mix plants, uh, back when Procter and Gamble, um, manufactured, cake mixes. And I just really loved the Procter and Gamble culture, but I was married at the time and my ex-husband and the operative word there is X said to me, you know, I really hate Cincinnati and I really want you to do something for me. I want you to move and come to Delaware. And I found you a job. Roger Miller, who ran new product launch for General Foods was very interested in my background and wanted to hire me to do new product launch for General Foods in the dessert division, which was a fun job because I got to launch pudding pops and jello pop school go nationally, nationally is better term, uh, cause it was a regional rollout and worked on their product launch and then had children and went and worked in the plant.

Lora Cecere (21:39):

And it was anything but a high-performance team environment. It was a very unionized plant, 24 acres under one roof. I ended up doing second and third stage grievances. And I could tell you lots of stories about that whole world and then Phillip Morris bought General Foods. And, I really didn’t want to work for a cigarette company. So, General Foods had sent me to the Wharton School of Business, which is a whole story in itself because I had no idea when I filled out the entrance forms for the Wharton School of Business because it’s the university of Pennsylvania, that it was such an esteem school. Uh, you know, I went to University of Tennessee and University of Pennsylvania, you know, they sound very similar and so I walked into the Wharton School and there I am the only person that ever wore safety shoes with people wearing coats and ties.

Lora Cecere (22:36):

You know, there were 52 people in the class and 48 people were from Washington who worked in the House or the Senate and me. And, I came from very humble background running manufacturing. And while I thought I had signed up for let’s advance your thinking class, but I signed up for really intense  professional academic career. And it was a great experience, but it was at a difficult time in my life because I had lost a child and I had cancer. And so, you know, moving through that period was kind of tough.

But anyway, so when I decided I was going to leave General Foods, I was lucky that I had just graduated from the Wharton School. So I went to work for Clorox and did vendor managed inventory (VMI). And this is where I got into technology because that was the start of warehouse execution, transportation execution, vendor managed inventory.

Lora Cecere (23:42):

And I was asked to improve Clorox’s response for the Southeast, Walmart distribution. And I didn’t really understand the difference between manufacturing and distribution. And I think that is a big problem in supply chain today. So I felt really comfortable with my manufacturing skills. I had run manufacturing plants for about 15 years, and then I was asked to go run a distribution center at the time that we were doing all this technology upgrade and the technology didn’t work and they had consolidated two warehouses. So I had to ship 120 trucks out of 19 doors, and that is tough. And so I had done a schedule and I tried to get it to work like clockwork. And in the middle of this, I got all these technology projects that just were not working and made a lot worse. So I became pretty aggressive with the it teams about making my projects work.

Lora Cecere (24:44):

In fact, I became so aggressive that they decided I’d be a good program manager for future technology projects, which got me into the technology world when I was recruited by Dryer’s Grand Ice Cream to build warehouses for them for direct store delivery and, uh, LA city commerce in Arizona. That was part of the legacy. And so, you know, we actually started up those plants and I actually got into planning career sort of serendipitously because when I was running the ice cream plants, the team said to me that they never got a weekend off in the summer, and this is LA and I had a heavily Hispanic team and they really wanted to have 4th of July off. I said to them, okay, let’s do a challenge. I think that I can look at the demand patterns, look at the inventory patterns, come up with a production schedule.

Lora Cecere (25:43):

And I built and early cycle stock planning on an Excel spreadsheet and a production schedule. And I really started looking at the demand and the lumpiness of the demand products because we made Ben & Jerry’s, which was very lumpy. And we made novelty products, which was very lumpy. And I built a planning system on an Excel spreadsheet and I won the bet. I got actually three weekends off and they made this big barbecue for me. And about that time, they said we would really like to have people that understand planning for the business leader side. So then I went to work for a planning company and I went there thinking, you know, wow, this could be interesting.

Karin Bursa (26:29):

Let me stop you there for just a moment because you’ve just blown through a number of important inflection points in your career. First of all, the story of the Wharton School of Business. I mean, that is awesome! I have this mental picture of you being the only one in the room and you pull out your safety glasses to do battle with some of the intellectuals that are sitting in the room. So I love that story, but then I like this progression of becoming more of a problem solver in the manufacturing and distribution sector, which I think is such an important skill set for people in the supply chain role. And I love the motivation of helping your team get a weekend off, right, scheduling better to understand what’s needed and being able to free up their own personal schedule. So I can imagine that you were quite appreciated at that barbecue or on those weekends that the families were able to get together with friends and just have a personal life.

Karin Bursa (27:29):

And speaking of personal life, you just breezed over some pretty big personal milestones including a health crisis. You know, family moves, making a decision of where you’re going to live. And I think we all face those decision points in our careers as well. So congratulations on turning each one of those things into an opportunity really, to learn more or to do more and be broader. So Lora, congratulations! I know it wasn’t easy. I know that as a woman, when I was in manufacturing environments, there are a lot of stories that may not be fit for this particular podcast. I might need a glass of wine or two to really go over them. But congratulations, and really coming back value and stepping forward and seeing some opportunities, seeing some capabilities in you that allowed their businesses to make that move. Now, you were just talking about making this move into kind of project management and planning management and running the business on Excel spreadsheets, which even today Excel is probably still the number one planning tool out there. You made a pivot and you got engaged with Manugistics at the time. Tell us a little bit about how they were able to take some of that practical knowledge and use that to guide some of their investments.

Lora Cecere (29:02):

Correct. It wasn’t easy. I remember when the plane landed in Baltimore, feeling a lot of pressure that I really had a lot to learn. And, you know, I was reading the marketing brochures about planning. This would have been 1989 and I’m thinking, wow, I’ve got so much to learn. And so I really dug in to learn and I almost got fired. You know, making the transition from manufacturing to technology is hard. It’s a totally different environment. And Manugistics decided that they didn’t really need to train me that much because I had a business background and I’d worked in manufacturing. So I got sent out because I was working on implementation and consultant and my first project didn’t go so well because I didn’t get to finish the training and I was sort of thrown into sink or swim. And so I had to kind of buckle up and, you know, it was a hard environment because you think, you know, what technology should do, but the detail that’s required to program technology is so deep.

Lora Cecere (30:16):

And I find tedious because I’m much more of a broad thinker, more of a long-term thinker and, you know, translating what needs to happen into product specifications was a very humbling experience for me. And it’s one that I often think back on because I think that many business leaders need that experience. Now, when they talk to technology companies about, you know, I need visibility and I say, well, what does visibility mean? And they roll their eyes. Like aren’t I, the dumbest analyst in the world and maybe I am, but you know, you’ve got to define what these things mean. And I think that we get so caught up in hollow words, that it’s hard for business leaders to translate to technologists. And I learned it the hard way and I wasn’t good at it. I don’t have the patience for writing code or the specifications for writing code, but I have tremendous respect for people that do. And, my passion really became more about high level vision and helping people to understand how to use the software.

Karin Bursa (31:36):

I totally get it, being out in the implementation role and helping the client, the customer adopt the technology around their business practices and then, you know, seeing opportunities or shortcomings, trying to communicate that back as well. Now you were with Manugistics for a number of years, but then you made the transition into your first foray as an industry analyst, tell us what you were hoping to achieve, in taking that next step in your career. Maybe looking at the industry, maybe a little broader or some of your frustrations as being a solution provider, I guess, what was that the aha moment that made you to make that move?

Lora Cecere (32:20):

So Manugistics was an early software planning vendor. Many people listening to this podcast may not even know Manugistics today. Manugistics and i2 at the time were competing against each other. And we were also competing with Logility. And so it became kind of a battle of who could record the greatest revenue who could put down the most logos versus who’s driving the most value. And then what happened was the ERP vendors basically came and did a 180 and said, you know, planning, disconnected, not enough value. You really have to connect planning to ERP and people need a, an integrated system to ERP, which is such a faulty premise, but we’ll leave that for another day. And so I was working at Manugistics and I was doing a lot of competitive analysis and, strategic positioning and Manugistics was going through a lot of turnover because basically Manugistics lost the battle to i2. So when this started happening with the introduction of SAP APO and the ERP market, I’m like, maybe I’m wrong.

Lora Cecere (33:39):

Maybe I need a mega perspective. And that’s when I went to Gartner for a mega perspective. And I had a lot of respect for Gartner. You know, I got to Gartner and it’s a huge organization. And, you know, supply chain is like a couple offices down the hall. I mean, it’s just not the main reason that Gartner exists and Gartner focuses on delivering content for IT professionals and that’s okay, but that’s not what ignites my fire because they tend to be late adopters. I was heavily booked and had 30 minute calls from 7:30 in the morning to 6:00 at night. And you know, when you’re sitting on calls 30 minute increments, it’s very hard to just manage life, you know, anything from getting a sandwich to a bathroom break and it was not rewarding and that’s how I moved through. And so I got recruited by AMR wrote for the blind of business leader and I’m thinking, okay, let’s get it.

Karin Bursa (34:48):

And so a couple of things that you mentioned also that I think are super important even today and remain huge opportunities just in your manufacturing and then your distribution journey. You mentioned new product launches, new product introductions. Those are still a challenge for many, many companies today, or shall I say, maybe an opportunity, an opportunity to get better adoption in the market and plan better. You also mentioned vendor managed inventory. And again, I think the VMI is making a bit of a comeback here in recent years, especially, you know, in some of the consumer goods and food and beverage sectors, our listeners may not appreciate that. You’ve got a pretty strong transportation and distribution background as well. So when it comes understanding and optimizing that actual distribution network or the physical movement of goods to market, you’ve got some pretty deep credentials in that sector as well. Bringing that technology aspect together is really comprehensive view of what we think of today as supply chain. If you think from market demand or anticipated demand in a market right through to quality and delivery in a timely manner, your experience really covers all of those steps in the process.

Lora Cecere (36:12):

I was very fortunate to move through some very rich experiences. They weren’t easy. You know, I was sent to run a distribution warehouse because the warehouse was going out on strike. And so here I am a 27 year old woman, Wharton degree, bringing total quality management (TQM) to a warehouse that is just really struggling because it’s not designed well. We didn’t have warehouse management system. And many of the employees felt very disenfranchised and it was all male, not only all male, but it was 80% people of color. And many of them had been moved from manufacturing to distribution because of literacy issues. I was not sensitive to a lot of those underlying issues and many of my employees could not read or write. And so not having warehouse management system. And they would never tell a young woman, particularly, you know, because this is a very male environment.

Lora Cecere (37:24):

This is fork trucks and slinging engages that they couldn’t read a picklist. And what I started was a lot of high performance team concepts that I learned at Proctor and Gamble, where they got to go visit the customer and they owned a customer and I tracked the number of errors… it was tough because I just wasn’t sensitive to some really important issues. And when I went to Dryer’s Grand Ice Cream and, you know, we moved, 300 trucks of ice cream on a weekend and started up a warehouse. You know, the warehouse management system didn’t work for a week and I slept on the floor of the warehouse and manually shipped all those trucks. And, uh, the warehouse management system stripped the vanilla off the picklist on Thanksgiving weekend and people want vanilla ice cream on Thanksgiving weekend. So I ended up going out with all the trucks to put vanilla ice cream and all the freezers in LA.

Lora Cecere (38:25):

And I feel very fortunate though, that these were hard experiences, right know, movement from manufacturing running. I mean, I had teams that didn’t show up the next morning because they had to work for a woman and, running maintenance at the age of 25. Right? These were hard experiences, but I feel like I have a very rich background and very few people I know have moved from company to company, I understand differences of company cultures or manufacturing to distribution or from business to software. And so I feel very fortunate to have a diverse background.

Karin Bursa (39:09):

I can only imagine what some of those, learning opportunities were in your career and how difficult, they were at the time, but it’s so encouraging to see someone who’s been able to take those challenges and create something pretty impressive out of it. And to look at a career that has been very focused on delivering value in all of those various roles. You know, one of my favorite quotes is “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” And I think that now, as you look back, you can see, how all of those experiences have contributed to your ability to ask tough questions, to meet peer to peer, with a variety of practitioner and executive roles, to work with technology providers who maybe more brainiacs in this area of optimization than having the practical hands-on experience or being that person who’s sleeping on the floor in the distribution center to make sure that customer orders are being shipped out right.

Karin Bursa (40:23):

And, and that’s a pretty powerful connection as you look at your career. You know Lora, our audience has a wide variety of experience as well, and they’re at different stages of their own careers. But as you look back today, what advice would you offer to folks who are pursuing roles in supply chain? You know, when I was in college, we still didn’t call it supply chain. It wasn’t until I was in the workforce for years that it transitioned from logistics to logistics and manufacturing to operations. And then finally into this realm of supply chain management. And now we can look at several universities that have supply chain programs. So, it’s a selected course of study and people expect that their careers are going to be in the supply chain field. Personally, I believe supply chain is a great place to be. It’s a great place to deliver value to any organization that has products. And those products need to either be in the business-to-business realm or the business-to-consumer. It is all about the business, but I’m more impressed with your very broad background. What advice would you give folks just as they look at their own careers or evaluate their next steps in the careers that they’ve established?

Lora Cecere (41:49):

I think Karin, you have to follow your heart and your passion. I look at a lot of people that I worked with in industry and they’ve retired and they have nice retirements and their careers were less tumultuous than mine, but they didn’t really enjoy their job. And, many of them have retired early and they’re not necessarily happy with retirement. I mean, it’s hard to go from an industry where, the job is very much part of you, you know, it shouldn’t be your life, but you know, it’s very part of very much part of you and then to go into retirement. And, if you go into retirement in your fifties, it’s like, what do you do with yourself? You know, I’m 66. I don’t feel 66. You know, I work out every day and I still continue with my career and I think you’ve got to follow your heart and enjoy your job and stay true to what you believe in.

Lora Cecere (42:59):

If you work for a company that you don’t believe in, it’s just really not fun. And I think feeling like you help people working with something that you believe in and following your heart would be my advice. And I think every job has doors that open and every door that opens you should ask yourself, “am I going to enjoy this job?” You know, and by following your heart, or whatever’s important to you. And I advise people to go to a coffee shop and list what’s important to them. And with every job opportunity, ask yourself, does this fit? What is important to me? Be less hung up on, I need to have a “yellow brick road approach” to what I’m going to be when I’m 66 and hanging out my shingle. You know, it’s funny because I’ll tell you a story.

Lora Cecere (43:59):

So, we just finished research on 320 supply chain professionals about if they are satisfied in their job. The people that are more satisfied believe they have a job that’s fulfilling when they have a job that they think is more tangential to the business, or it’s not fulfilling to them. They’re just not satisfied, but it was interesting of the 320 people. Only one person had a clear career path and Gen X and Millennials want a clear career path. They want know what’s going to happen next. And so, I had a conversation with the Gen X the other day, and I said, why is this? You know, you’ll probably have nine jobs before you retire and you don’t know what those jobs are going to look like now. You can’t conceive what these jobs are going to look like. You know, supply chain management was defined in 1982.

Lora Cecere (44:50):

I had no idea I’d been in supply chain. And why is there this pressure that you want a career path, but it is tightly correlated to job satisfaction. And the Gen X gal, really nice gal, said to me, “Lora, you don’t understand. We’re so pressured to come into college, you know, best college prep, you apply to seven to 10 schools, high rejection rate for schools. The cost of education today is so high that, we compete for scholarships and we have to take out loans. We’re so pressured when we get into the workplace, we can’t be open to the outcome. We want to know what those next steps are.” I think that’s really a travesty, right? Because when you pressurize yourself, you shut down the doors that open because you’re so fixated on the thing that you think you want to do, that you’re not open to the outcome for new opportunities.

Lora Cecere (46:03):

And I left that conversation really sad because I didn’t feel that pressure when I was graduating high school. I casually took my SATs. I did well, I got a scholarship. There were lots of openings in schools. I put myself through school, scraping plates and working as a resident assistant co-oping, but kids can’t do that today. Cost of education. We’ve pressurized the system so much, they want career paths. So what I would have as advice for supply chain leaders is spend time with people that are in your organization, mentoring and helping them to see possibilities versus jobs and help them to embrace doors that open and help them to understand what their skill sets are and build capabilities, not just visions around, square pegs in square holes.

Karin Bursa (47:06):

That’s great advice. The only thing I would add to that is something you mentioned at the very beginning, which is stay curious. Stay curious in how you approach not only your career, but problem solving, team building, and helping your company deliver value. And one thing that I feel very strongly about is understanding what the customer needs, understand why you’re in business. And one thing you say quite often Lora is to look at your business from the outside-in understand what the market, what the customer needs, and then leverage your talent, your resources to satisfy those specific needs. Do the same thing with your career as you set out on that journey.

Karin Bursa (48:02):

And, Lora, first of all, congratulations on a very interesting and fascinating career. I appreciate that you’re sharing some of this insight with us here today on TEKTOK. And it’s a rare opportunity.

Lora I’ve known you for more than 20 years. I learned a lot about you today and I admire you that much more for sharing your journey. So thank you so much for doing that. And you are in fact, an industry and supply chain trailblazer. And, I think that our audience got a little feel for that today, in some of the trails that you’ve blazed and the walk that you’ve had and also how you’ve harnessed really interestin opportunities out of each of those career choices and participation in different companies that I think is going to help them raise their supply chain IQ as well.

Lora Cecere (48:42):

Well, you know, thank you Karin and congratulations to you for your new show and your new career. And if I can help anybody, just let me know.

Karin Bursa (48:51):

Well, and on that topic, Lora, you mentioned some research that you’ve just conducted on, on supply chain career satisfaction. When should we look for that information to be available?

Lora Cecere (49:03):

It’s a report that publishes next week in our newsletter, and will be available on our website. It’s really about what drives satisfaction and supply chain careers. And it’s interesting Karin, because you know, there are different reports in the market about where we’re going to be in 2030, whether we’re going to be short 10%, 15% or 5%, you know, employees. But I think we’re in an amazing inflection point right now on talent, particularly in the area of planning, as we try to digest data science, new forms of analytics. We’re not really comfortable with incorporating data scientists into the supply chain profession, but yet R and Python and schema on read, offers such great opportunities. And we haven’t figured this out. And many times the data sciences are pretty tough to manage because they believe that they just put this big database in the sky and they harness it with Python and they’ll get all the answers and they, you know,

Karin Bursa (50:07):

And then everything magically aligns just because it happens, without friction in the marketplace, nothing whatsoever.

Lora Cecere (50:17):

So we want the capabilities, but we haven’t quite figured out how to get there. And we haven’t figured out how do we build capabilities, these new forms of analytics and embraced team diversity. So that’s what the reports about. Hopefully it will help people.

Karin Bursa (50:36):

Absolutely. Now, Lora you also do a lot of primary research as we mentioned. Is there a current survey that’s open that our listeners can participate and share their perspectives in?

Lora Cecere (50:48):

Yeah. I would love your help Karin in getting the survey out about the pandemic response. You know, if you had said to me, when the ball dropped in January that we were going to have a pandemic… I felt very bullish in January 2020 and never would have thought that the gal that traveled 200,000 miles a year would not travel for six months. Well, we’re doing research on what have we learned from the pandemic and how do we build better for the future? And I would appreciate people filling out the survey.

Karin Bursa (51:29):

Terrific. So for our audience, we’re going to include that link. Also in our show notes, I’d also like to include a link to the Shaman’s Journal, which we spoke about, which again is the seventh edition of Lora’s series, which is her blog posts that come together for about a year’s perspective on things in the area of supply chain, opportunities, challenges, market responses. We will make that available as well. And then we’re going to look forward to this new report that’s coming out in the next few days on supply chain job satisfaction, career satisfaction, something that I hope each of you will, take a look at and share your perspectives and see where your satisfaction lies.


I encourage you to connect with Lora. Again, she is available on LinkedIn, be sure to join her community of almost 320,000 LinkedIn subscribers. She publishes her research and makes it available to the marketplace. So be sure to read her blog posts, look at her research and comment in. She welcomes the conversation and really looks forward to feedback from folks who have read her perspective and her recommendations. And, maybe you can put some of those recommendations into practice in your own business. So, Lora thanks again for joining us today.

Lora Cecere (52:52):

My pleasure friend, good luck on your new role.

Karin Bursa (52:55):

Great. Thank you. And on the topic of raising your supply chain IQ, I want to encourage you to check out the wide variety of digital content that is available to you at And while you’re there, please find TEKTOK. That’s T E K T O K and subscribe. You don’t want to miss a single episode. This is Karin Bursa, host of TEKTOK, the digital supply chain podcast. We are here to help you eliminate the noise and focus on the information you need to transform your business, drive supply chain efficiency and enable you to replace risky inventory with valuable insights. We’ll see you next time on TEKTOK powered by Supply Chain Now, the voice of supply chain.

Lora Cecere, Founder and CEO of Supply Chain Insights, is widely recognized as a global supply chain thought leader and recently received the 2020 Women in Supply Chain Influencer Award. Today, Lora has nearly 320,000 Linkedin Followers and is known for her high-value point of view and research geared at helping early adopters seeking first mover advantages through innovative supply chain strategies and market execution.

Karin Bursa is the 2020 Supply Chain Pro to Know of the Year and the Host of the TEKTOK Digital Supply Chain Podcast powered by Supply Chain Now. With more than 25 years of supply chain and technology expertise (and the scars to prove it)Karin has the heart of a teacher and has helped nearly 1,000 customers transform their businesses and share their success stories. Today, she helps B2B technology companies introduce new products, capture customer success and grow global revenue, market share and profitability. In addition to her recognition as the 2020 Supply Chain Pro to Know of the Year, Karin has also been recognized as a 2019 and 2018 Supply Chain Pro to Know, 2009 Technology Marketing Executive of the Year and a 2008 Women in Technology Finalist. 

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