Transcript: Voice of Supply Chain – April 2022

Voice of Supply Chain – Apr. 2022

Featuring: Melissa Drew

Welcome to Voice of Supply Chain, brought to you by ISM New Jersey and SourceDay.

The purpose of our show is to tell stories of people in procurement and supply chain doing extraordinary things. I’m your show host, Sarah Scutter. I oversee marketing at SourceDay. I should be in a green wig today and a green outfit, but we’ve got an off-site company event that I snuck out for, so the wig will have to come for future shows. We automate purchase order changes and enable supplier collaboration for manufacturers, distributors, CPG brands, and retailers. If you ever want to talk more about women in ERP or what’s happening in the manufacturing world, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also follow my two hashtags: #womeninERP and #manufacturingmaven.

Today, our guest is Melissa Drew. Melissa, you and I have known each other for at least 10 years. I think we met at a conference many, many, many years ago, so it’s been awesome to follow your journey.

For those who are joining us live, this show is meant to be interactive, so do not feel shy to put a note in the comments for Melissa. Give us a shout out.

I’d like to start by having you tell us where in the world you are joining us from and maybe a word to describe how your week is going so far.

So, Melissa, we’re going to have a podcast-style show. Let’s jump right into the Q&A. I want to start with your college years. We’re going to flash back, go down memory lane a little bit, and I want to know why you chose to major in management information systems.

You know, it’s funny because that wasn’t my original intent. I wanted to be a computer engineering major. I happened to go into one of those pubs. I was at Auburn University, which I believe you also are. I am not. I’m Sonoma State. Sonoma State, okay. I’m at Auburn University. And I walked into one of the local pubs, and there was this woman there, and she was in computer engineering. It was the only time I had ever talked to a woman who was in computer science and technology, and she was beautiful and tall. For me, I thought she was glamorous. I’m like, wow, I want to do this. I can do this. So I started my degree in computer engineering until I got to the part where we had to program in Fortran and use mainframes, and I couldn’t understand the value of how I was going to be able to use that in the real world, nor could anybody explain it to me. At that point, I was like, this isn’t the right thing for me. So I walked around campus and found the College of Business, and there was this new degree, first year that it came out called management information systems, which was a combination of technology and business, and that was the perfect fit. So I ended up getting a degree in management information systems.

What was the most important thing you learned during college?

The most important thing that I learned during college… College was the first time I realized I was a computer nerd. I remember, and we’re talking a really long time ago, so if you wanted to be in computers or technology, you couldn’t just go buy a computer back then. It was cheaper to buy the components and build yourself a computer, and that’s exactly what I had to do. I built my computer, which, by the way, my mom told me that she still has that original computer in her closet that I built in college. But it was at that point I think I truly understood that this was the right fit because I recall a funny story. I had a date that night, and I went to the computer lab. You had to sign in and wait your turn. I went to the computer lab, did some work, and completely lost track of time. It was the first time that I’d ever gotten so engrossed in something that time just completely slipped away. At 11 o’clock at night, this guy comes and taps me on the shoulder and he’s like, you know, we were supposed to go to dinner tonight. I completely forgot. But it was at that point that I knew that I’d found the right thing, that this was what I was passionate about, and it’s pretty much what I’ve stayed in and evolved over the last 27 years.

What did you think you wanted to do after graduation?

My mom wanted me to be a doctor. She gave me this list and said, “Here are all the things that, as a woman, you can make a lot of money in: lawyer, doctor, so these are all the things that you should do.” But as we just mentioned earlier, I went in a completely different direction. I never did really well in the doctor, medical chemistry classes. I couldn’t get through organic chemistry, so I stayed within that computer field. However, one of the things I never thought I would do was be a programmer. I remember sitting in class, and the teacher was towards the end of our degree, and there were 37 kids in class. The teacher said, “How many of you want to be a programmer when you walk out of here?” 99% of the class raised their hand. I was the only one that did not raise my hand. I didn’t want to be a programmer. I didn’t want to sit behind a computer all day and be a programmer. And sure enough, as soon as I left college, I connected with one of those traveling contractors, and I ended up traveling around and working as a SQL programmer, building SQL triggers and working with data. In fact, that was my first interaction with data, working with a lot of client data, and really bumping into the fact that data really, foundationally, what we thought we knew about data was not how it was working in the real world.

Why do you think you’ve been so attracted to data throughout your career?
When I left my bachelor’s degree and entered the workforce for a year, I quickly realized the immense power of data, which was often underestimated. In my job, I was responsible for collecting data from various clients and different divisions, including global sources. I witnessed how companies were making critical decisions that had a profound impact on their future, such as mergers and acquisitions, based on the data we collected.

This realization led me to pursue a master’s degree focused on data, specifically its future and how we could collect, transform, and use it effectively for informed decision-making. This period solidified my belief that data was more important than we had previously thought, and I believe that society is only beginning to recognize its significance in the last few years.

When you mentioned going back to school to follow your passion for data, was obtaining an MBA worth it?

For me, it was undoubtedly worth it. While this decision might not be the right one for everyone, I have always enjoyed learning and acquiring knowledge. Going back to get my MBA allowed me to delve deeper into the area I was passionate about. I had excellent professors and even received federal grant money to develop the first publicly used electronic database, which was a significant achievement in my career. This experience marked my introduction to procurement and supply chain, and it set the course for my future in data.

Can you share more about your journey into procurement?

After I completed my master’s degree, I returned to the real world and worked with startups and patent-pending companies. Eventually, I decided to establish my own business. Over several years, I built my own practice, working as an entrepreneur, or consultant, while evolving around procurement and supply chain. This path allowed me to experience the excitement and adrenaline of entrepreneurship and shape my career accordingly.

Throughout your career, you’ve managed teams and people. What was the most challenging decision you had to make as a leader, and what did you learn from it?

One of the most challenging decisions as a leader involved an individual on my team who was passionate about the job but struggled with productivity, negatively impacting the team. The HR approach, like many others, suggested various interventions. However, the most important lesson I learned was that, as a leader, my role was to set individuals up for success, not to set them up to fail. It became evident that the person’s passion and skills didn’t align with the consulting role, which wasn’t a good fit for them. The decision was a mutual agreement that “firing” the individual, though unconventional, was the right choice. This experience taught me the value of understanding and fostering the success of my team members.

You’ve had a varied career, including consulting. What do you enjoy most about consulting?

Consulting is my preferred career path because of the constant change and learning it offers. My background is in data, which transitioned into procurement and supply chain, and eventually, I developed expertise in procurement technology. Consulting allows me to adapt and learn continuously. I thrive on new challenges and different cultures, making it an ideal fit for me. Consulting keeps me relevant by offering continuous learning and adaptation to evolving scenarios.

What are the three most important skills you possess as a leader in technology?

In the technology space, I’ve developed skills that make me a successful leader. These skills include adaptability, a commitment to continuous learning, and a knack for problem-solving. The tech industry is constantly evolving, and the ability to adapt to these changes is essential. A commitment to lifelong learning keeps me up-to-date with the latest developments. Problem-solving is a core skill, crucial for addressing complex challenges in technology.

In technology, my career has been quite diverse, encompassing data, procurement, supplier diversity, and more. This breadth of experience has kept me relevant in the field.

So I would, I would use the term “relevant” as one of those words, and then the other side of this is “teams.” You know, working in person with teams and understanding what the individual needs and recognizing that as you shift from in-person teams to virtual teams, that individuals’ needs are different, and so I go back to, you know, in order to set up somebody for success, there’s a whole host of things and variables that come with that. What does that person need to be successful? What do I need from that person for me to be successful? And I think that was the other part of this is just because I’m a manager and I’m managing the teams, they’re also there to support and help me, so I also have to set up myself for success and recognizing that we’re all working together, so collaboration would be that second word, and then the third part of this I would say is self-awareness, specifically because I’ve learned in order to be a good person in today’s world, whether you’re in technology, procurement, supply chain, processes, whatever you’re working in, it’s there’s a lot of things that you hear. “Oh, a good consultant or a good person can, you know, has empathy or a good person has sympathy,” and you have all these different words of all these things that you need to be to be good at X. And if you bring it all down into one component, self-awareness. Self-awareness has allowed me to reflect on what I’m doing, my capabilities, my gaps and capabilities, areas that I need to improve on. So, you know, helping others be successful, collaboration, staying relevant, but then also recognizing self-awareness. I think those are the areas that would probably say that have helped me along in my career.

What advice would you have for somebody wanting to get into data or tech in the supply chain realm?

I think there’s, there’s no, you know, if I’m starting a company, I could probably say, “Hey, in order for me to start that company, there’s a lot of assets that I need. It’s got a high buy-in. I have to have a lot of infrastructure or a lot of capital in order to get into this industry,” but when you look at somebody who wants to get into data and wants to get into technology, there’s no barrier.

Now there’s, there’s, I think that’s the great thing here is there’s no barrier to get into data. There’s no barrier to get into technology. You can go online now and spend nine hours doing self-learning in AWS and get an AWS certificate. You can listen to some of your podcasts, you could listen to reading, just reading articles out there. There’s a lot of these six-week courses now, you know, whether it’s a college or it’s a certification program. There are so many ways that we can get into any, anything you want to do today is much more open. I don’t have a specific like do the x, y, and z, but what I can say is there’s no more barriers to entry that there was maybe even five years ago.

So one of the things I’ve observed about your career, and in particular the last couple years, is a focus and maybe almost even a pivot towards artificial intelligence.

So why the focus on AI? In 2004, after I left Kearney, one of the things that I did was work with a lot of startups. One of the startups I worked for was, in fact, he hired me after I left Kearney. That’s one of the reasons why I got hired. At Kearney, I was manually manipulating data. I would take procurement data and spend data, and I would manually manipulate it and cleanse it and classify it and transform and segment it and label it and all the things that we do today that are, you know, automated. Back then, I’m doing it manually, and it would take me nine weeks at 70 hours a week to get through just one client’s data to help them understand where their spend was, their opportunity, etc.

And there was this French engineer who had come over to California and he created this company based on a patented grammar-based AI spend analytics tool that would do everything that I was doing in several hours.

Which was completely fascinating for me to just have to spend that much time, and then here he’s creating this engine that could take the exact same amount of data I was working on or even more and be able to automate it. And so as a part of taking my expertise and helping develop that system, the technology and, you know, not recognizing at the time but recognizing later, was based on AI technology. You know, deep learning, machine learning, and at that point in 2005, now I’m developing and writing these AI models to help build out the foundation of this database in this, this, you know, patented application. So I had experience and had been exposed to AI for some time, and I recognized AI had a really good voice within the procurement supply chain world. But again, technology just wasn’t there to be able to do more than what this, this application was doing. So it wasn’t until probably three years ago when, now technology has moved forward, more applications are a little bit, you know, AI-driven, and suddenly I’m able to revisit my passion and recognize that AI has pushed new c-suites. We have chief data officers, we have chief analytics officers, we have chief digital officers, chief transformation officers. I mean, it is, we’ve got the biggest c-suite now that we ever have in our lifetime as a result of these AI technologies, and procurement is still there. And what I’ve recognized or what I observed, you know, personally, is that AI is driving all these other areas within the organization, but it’s not giving enough attention to the procurement organization. And so taking, you know, bringing that voice back to, “Hey, I’ve done procurement, I get it. I’ve done the AI in procurement, I get it. We need to really help drive or help procurement go to the next level, you know, help them where can how can the procurement organization evolve into the next modern-day procurement organization? What can we do to strip away what we’ve already done, put on a different thinking cap, think differently about our procurement organization, get them more involved with the other, you know, c-suite officers that can really help them become what procurement should have been 10 years ago, 15 years ago.

So yes, I am. Now that’s my big passion is the impact of AI on procurement organizations and then also the skill sets of the team members, you know, there’s, you know, I gave a presentation a week ago. We have more companies now that had, that they say everybody says they’re doing AI, and I spoke specifically to this one supplier, and I said, “Oh, so you’re doing AI, yeah, absolutely, absolutely.” Okay, where, where in your application are you doing AI? Oh, we’re using computer vision. Really, because I’m not familiar with how computer vision through the camera can make your application work better on the website. Well, it’s not really computer vision. It’s more like, you know, something else. Oh, well, I’m not familiar with that either. Can you explain that to me, like, you know? Oh, well, it’s not really that either. It’s really like more like fuzzy logic. Okay, well now he’s using the term “fuzzy logic,” which is even AI at all. So, you know, me going through that experience, I knew what questions to ask, but if you have a procurement team who’s been very focused in category procurement and the traditional ways that we’ve been talking to suppliers, how are we going to know what are the right questions to ask? And on top of that, how are we going to know we’re getting the right answers from these suppliers? So it’s not just where the procurement organization can go, but it’s really focused on what are the right questions we should be asking as procurement professionals, and even supply chain professionals. You know, neural networks and some of those supply chain applications, and then what should we be expecting from these suppliers, and even then, do we even have the right processes to really process all of this, you know? I’ve, this is just a personal observation, but according to my own numbers and statistics, 40% of the suppliers that we work with, you know, this year in 2022, we’ll never worked with them before because they didn’t exist, and so if you’re out there with these old, you know, you know, procurement traditional, you know, you know, processes, do we have do we have the supply the supplier management processes to support all this all these new suppliers?

Are we even including them because you know, we thought that there was a minimum three bids and a buy that we had to you know, comply with, so, yeah, I got really like passionate about that topic. No, you said there’s a lot, there’s a long way to go for procurement teams to actually be adopting AI, can you share an example of a real-life situation where you have seen a company do it well?

Yeah, there is, there’s a couple different ways we look at it, so for example, there’s a logistics company, Cainao, c-a-i-n-a-o. Cainao uses AI, not because they’re trying to sell it to their client, but they’re using the AI technology and their logistics transportation company to find the best route possible. So this is more than just your GPS, this is taking, yes, it’s taking GPS data, but it’s also taking real-time, you know, real-world data, mapping the route that it could constantly adjusting the route making sure that whatever product they’re doing, if they’re, you know, shipping glass, they certainly don’t want to go this direction, so they’ve used this AI technology and it’s reduced, it’s they’ve been able to reduce their, internal cost by 10 percent, because they’ve had more efficient routes, they’ve, you know, saved money on fuel and as a result they’ve been able to push that savings out to their customers. That’s that’s one one area where, AI has been used not necessarily I’m selling you an AI software, but used internally and I would say that’s majority of what we’re seeing, but then when you get into the procurement supply chain area, you’re starting to see this year a lot more predictive analytics and strategic sourcing, neural networks in supply chain, so for example, you’ve probably got an application out there that may have, you know, AI technology and you didn’t even know it because they’ve been using it for quite some time, but there are some supply chain applications out there and the neural networks are on the supplier side.

So that, not only is it predicting the and providing a confidence of, hey, that supplier you just purchased from them, you’ve used in the past, yes they haven’t been able to get it to you on time, but now this is where you have the AI bringing in real-time data, there’s a hurricane over here, and it just so happens the supplier has materials that need to be shipped overseas, and that hurricane is going to stall them. So, those are things that, yeah, before the predictive analytics and the neural networks, I probably could have said my supplier was going to be 80% on time based on where he was the last five times I bought from him, but now what they’re doing is they’re taking all, and this goes back to data, the ability to take all this data in, all this historical data, retrospective data, and then all of the prospective or the current and future data, that we don’t have the capacity to pull together with the old and the new, stitch it together, and then be able to come up with some sort of decision. And that’s where AI, which is augmenting our human brain, is able to make those computations and calculations so much faster and gives us more of an accuracy in the information, so that’s where we’re seeing, you know, the neural networks being applied in some of those supply chain areas. Is there a company or something that’s being built in AI today that you’re most excited about for procurement in the future?

Depends on the definition of procurement. So, I’ve been really excited about this AI technology and farming, which technically, you know, we are procuring, so we could talk about that one. I’ve been, I’ve been really, it’s been really fascinating that we’re combining AI and drones together. So we’re taking AI technology, we’re putting it into drones, we’re having the drones fly over crops, and what it’s doing is it’s allowing farmers to know when is the most optimal time to harvest, but then it’s also going through and highlighting more quickly. Hey, there’s a disease coming in on this tree, that may impact the rest of the crop, or for some reason, these apples on this tree are ripe now, but nothing else around it. And that also, you know, is taking the computer vision, true computer vision, of the crops that you have, and then also pulling in metrics from the weather, and coming back and then also looking at the crop you have. I think that’s pretty amazing. I don’t know, I just, I could really have a long list. I think there’s just some really cool things in AI. Recycling, carbon footprint, I think we’ve got some things to do. I think we’re not quite there yet in like procurement, like procurement software and procurement software and computer analytics. I think where we’re headed in that area is you’ve got a lot of these large enterprise companies, and they’ve been building these applications out, but they’re not ready to pull in AI and automation. And so what we see now is we see the smaller companies who have been out there solving problems with AI technology, and so as a consumer, I may be working now with a large enterprise, you know, end-to-end kind of company where I can do my source to pay, but because there are gaps in some of the automation, I’m going to start applying RPA, which is the robotics. Where I, instead of having somebody do a tactical, I’m like tapping my finger on the mic on my desk, somebody who’s just literally tapping the same repetitive, you know, keystrokes every day. We’ve got RPA technology or repetitive, you know, robotics, being created by other companies for these applications, and then we’ve also got these other gaps where this particular feature is not available, and the company’s decided that it’s not a priority. So you have another company out there who’s developed an entire solution around that particular challenge and has APIs now that will connect automatically and transparently into that application. So where I’m seeing procurement and AI being applied is really this hybrid of these smaller companies using the AI technologies that are able to grow more quickly without the barriers of bureaucracy and red tape and be able to innovate more, you know, faster and then use APIs to just plug into some of these larger companies and just resolve these gaps that we’re seeing. So speaking of future predictions, what are your observations about procurement in 2022, non-AI related? And I’d love to have you highlight some notable trends. Non-AI related, non-AI related, I probably emphasize what I just mentioned before is we’re not shifting back and forth between enterprise applications and then what we call best-in-breed or niche players. Where I’m gonna go buy the sourcing tool from this. I’m gonna go buy the supply chain tool from this company. I’m gonna go buy the contracts tool from this company. You know we, we used to call that best-in-breed or a niche player, and historically, we’ve gone from large procurement applications into, in, and then we’ve tossed that away and we’ve come back, and we’ve got the niche players, and then we had to stitch them together with integrations, and then we kind of tossed that away, and the last five, six years, we’ve gone back to those bigger, you know, bigger players, but what I don’t see is us rotating back to the best-in-breed. What I do see is, I think, what I highlighted before, it’s I don’t need to do best-in-breed because I’ve got now all these APIs that can connect the data from different applications. So I can get a supplier risk module from a company that I really like, and it’s okay if I don’t have all the data there because I can get APIs that can pull in the right, you know, supplier risks data around sustainability, which I’m very, you know, passionate about or I need to pull in financial data from DNB and I can get an API that pulls that in. We’re not going to see, in my opinion, we’re not going to see these best-of-breeds because in order for a company to have a best-in-breed for just supplier risk, they would have to probably go buy five or six other companies just to be best-in-breed for supplier risk that’s really good. So I would say where we’re trending is yeah, we’re still gonna have those enterprise applications, the source to pay, but now we’re just gonna, you know, do APIs to to have other companies come in and fill a gap or have an API that pulls in you know sustainability information around suppliers and materials. That’s I think something that’s not directly AI related, but I see that as a trend going forward. One of the things that I know people struggle with is deciding should I hire more people and build out my team internally to work on some of these new initiatives that you just talked about or should I leverage and work with consultants. You’ve been in both roles; you’ve been in procurement; you’ve run procurement teams, you’ve also have extensive consulting experience. What advice do you give for people debating or trying to figure out this strategy? Where I have found consulting works really well is I have a so I let’s say I’m I’m in procurement. I have a really great team. I need to get their expertise to a certain place, and I’m going to do that cost-benefit analysis. So let’s, you know, put our procurement hat on. I’m going to do that cost bit of analysis, and I recognize in order to get them there, it would cost me x amount of money, or it would take x amount of time. and time is money, and time is, is really the factor that that I tend to look at the most. so if I need to get my team ramped up, yes. let me answer this one first before I go back to hiring more people. I would bring a consultant in to help build the foundational components of what I need, but then I would turn that over and use that as an opportunity to educate my team. So in other words, I don’t need my team to build it, I just need my team to understand it, be able to learn from it, maintain it, innovate on it, build upon it, make it better. so a consulting company, whoever it is, small or big, they’re really good to come in and help build the foundation, so that my team, because my team’s got tons of other things to do, like they’ve got to go take some AI you know, classes, you know, they got, they got to go, you know, they got to go have that that other consultant I have coming in, doing like a four-day workshop on what exactly is AI and what kind of things do you need to learn, but but if I’m looking to build something, I’ll have that consulting group come in and build it. now with regard to you know, hire people, yes, I’m still gonna have to hire and expand. I hope I’m going to have to expand because even even with technology, we recognize that we still need a diverse set of thought and and and diversity of thought means I want a variety of individuals that I have in my team, and then I need to balance that with okay, am I just hiring people because I have a lot of manual work that’s being done? I, and it’s funny, you, you’re laughing and nodding, but there’s actually a real world story here. last year I spoke to somebody and I said hey, do you have like a supplier management, you know, group? You have a supplier management process. and the reply was oh, you know, we are thinking about building one. We haven’t had a formal program yet. so we’re gonna go hire 30, people put them in in Latin America and then just have them do supplier data entry. okay that’s not a supplier management program, nor should it be, and nor would I hope that anybody would come back with an answer and say I’m going to hire 30 people to do that. so when I think about hiring people I want to balance, am I what am I hiring them for, if I’m hiring them to do a lot of manual data work then I need to step back first and fix the automation issue, before I go back and hire those individuals so that’s how I balance, when’s the right time to have the consultant come in, either build the foundation or come in and educate, you know, based on what’s going on the market, and then also balancing the, in my height what am I hiring because I just need more people to do manual work, or I need to fix that and then hire for the right reasons. yeah, so you launched a podcast, I did, would like to know what inspired, what was the inspiration behind the launch, and then would like to have you share, what is the podcast about, so I, I and I think you can relate to this, earlier last year I was wanting, I found this really great LinkedIn panel based on a topic that I was really interested in, it was around blockchain and procurement, and I like, great this is fabulous and I you know, they seem to be having a conversation and I put a question out there and said, look I recognize that blockchain and contracts has been a topic that we’ve all discussed, where is the next thing, in procurement related to blockchain, like what’s blockchain going to do next for procurement, and this was four guys, and they spent 22 minutes because I counted answering the question, blockchain and contracts, that wasn’t my question, I wanted to know they were being, they were being led as having expertise in blockchain so I wanted to know what’s next and what I found very frustrating by this was, they all, I felt like I was listening to four guys drinking a beer and talking about blockchaining contracts, and I apologize for that but this is probably just the one LinkedIn event I happen to go to, and I was very frustrated with that and I said, where are the women, where, where’s the rest of the women in these topics, you know, and I said, you know this is I’m gonna fix this, so I went out and I interviewed and became associate editor for AI time journal with the sole purpose of writing articles about women in in technology, and they approached me and said, would you be willing to host a podcast, oh my gosh, like I know Sarah does podcast, I’ve never done a podcast, I don’t even know like I’m gonna have to come up with questions, like how does she do it, you know how does yada Sarah do this and I came back and said, I’ll only do it if I could interview 99 women, and I didn’t think that they would accept that and no hesitation, absolutely 99 women so the podcast is impact of AI, and I for the past year and a half I’ve interviewed 99 women, and it’s all about how AI is impacting us on a daily basis, whether it’s professionally or personally, so sometimes I’m out there interviewing chief data officers, CEOs who’ve now have data and AI that roll up into them, I’ve been fortunate enough to to talk to some startups like the farming startup and this recycling startup.
I’ve just been very fortunate, and the majority of the women that I interview are women that I find on LinkedIn. They rarely come and raise their hand and say, “Interview me.” It’s really me going out there and, one, in particular, I found a woman on LinkedIn who I’m going to interview in a week from now. She’s an advocate for the Supreme Court of India, and she just got a certification for AI auditing in the country of India. That just, I mean, first of all, she’s a lawyer, but she went and got certified as an AI auditor, and in the U.S., we don’t even have AI auditors. The concept hasn’t even been talked about yet.

So, not only am I fortunate to have this experience with these wonderful women, but because it’s global, you know, because of COVID and the globality has opened up and everything’s virtual, I’m meeting women that are doing some fascinating things with AI. A woman in Uruguay, she should be published just recently; she combined neuroscience with AI. You put a cap on your head, and it takes your brainwaves and creates a unique piece of art, both sound and light. So if I put the hat on, my brainwaves would create a completely unique individual art installation that’s different from Sarah’s and different from Martha’s and different from somebody else. That’s just awesome, and I never would have known about any of this stuff if I hadn’t had the fortunate opportunity of being this podcast host. Which I’m sure you feel when you talk to people too.

Yeah, if people want to get more info on the podcast, what website or where should they go?

So it’s under AI Time Journal. There’s AI Time Journal, similar to you; they do audio, video, so they have a YouTube channel, AI Time Journal, and then they push their podcast, audio podcast out to everything. You know, the most common ones, like Spotify and Apple. But then they push it to all the other podcasts that are out there globally.

So we’ve talked a lot about your career in our last 10 minutes. I want to get a little more personal and give some advice that I think can be relatable to most people that listen to the show. How do you manage being a wife, a mom, and a businesswoman?

I don’t. I used to think that I was balancing it; I used to really think that I had it done really well, that I was juggling and keeping all the balls in the air. I’ve just recently realized that I’ve never been able to do it at all. I think about it differently now; it’s not about keeping all the balls in the air, and sometimes they drop. It’s about a series of scales. You know, I have my personal scale and my work scale and my family scale, and I have pebbles on each of these scales. Sometimes I have to say no and take things off my personal scale or my work scale. Sometimes priorities shift; there could be health or family health issues that suddenly need a shift in priority, so the scales change and rotate based on where I’m needed. I’ve also recognized that everybody in my family needs a different type of attention, and I need different personal time. So, yeah, I wish I could say there’s this great technique that I’ve done that works, but I think realistically, if I’m honest with myself, I’ve never truly been able to balance it. Ultimately, I think that’s probably the right thing to say. It’s more about shifting, prioritizing, saying no, saying yes, and really focusing on what’s important.

Any other tips you have, you mentioned a couple, for those struggling with time management?

Yeah, I think everybody struggles with that. You know, I actually took one of those Fred Pryor seminars about 15 years ago, you go on a Saturday, it’s like an all-day Saturday thing, and it talks about time management, gives you techniques and things that you learn, and that works when you have a finite set of activities and tasks. But what time management doesn’t address is all the new things that come in. You know this individual, your chief procurement officer, he needs something but he needs it in his particular way. Your husband’s sister-in-law may have had a family health emergency, and now you’ve got to watch the dog for a week. That wasn’t in the plan.

I think what I’ve learned over time is you have to be a sturdy tree but you have to be able to bend. I think the willow, I try to figure out which tree it is, but I think the willow is the one that’s really sturdy and doesn’t blow over when it rains, but it bends in the rain. So that’s like my…


But for me, it’s making a list of what needs to be done, and sometimes I’m making a list for that day. It’s recognizing how long each one of those things is going to take. I do like to start with some quick wins at the very beginning because I love having a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes I’ll purposely put a really simple task at the front just to make me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something for that day, which makes me feel good. So that’s another variable: I need to feel good about my day. And I think the most important thing is sometimes you just have to push back and say no. As long as you understand that and you’re managing and setting that expectation with others. I’ve learned through my career that if I say something like, “I can’t do that today, but I can get to it on Tuesday or I can get to it next week,” most often nobody has an issue with that. And I think that was one of the valuable lessons I learned.

In our last five minutes, I do a spitfire round. I’m going to ask you a question, and then answer with the first word or phrase that comes to mind.

Oh, these were supposed to be one-word answers, weren’t they? Oops, sorry about that. Yeah.

I love this; this is great; it’s the most fun I’ve had, so it’s like the most fun. Thank you, Sarah.

Sneak previews: the book will be out this summer. I have a publisher, it’s Ross Publications. And it’s really the first step in a series on what we’ve talked about earlier, how procurement can move into the modern-day procurement organization, what do you need to do to get all that clutter and stuff out of the way so that you can grow into what we need you to be when you grow up.

Well, Melissa, I want to thank you very much for coming on the show today. For those who would like to connect with you and maybe continue the conversation, where would you like to direct them?


And I am a hundred percent advocate in sharing knowledge; that’s the whole point of what we’re doing here is sharing knowledge. Nobody out there should feel like they have to do this from scratch. There are too many people out there that have done this before, and we can get lessons learned from them. So LinkedIn, open book.

All right, so thanks again, Melissa, for coming on the show. Join me again next month; we’re changing up our schedule a bit, so actually, our next show is going to be on May 11th at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.