#CareerConversationsWithLLA: Be confident! Don’t be afraid to let people within or outside your place of work know about your achievements” – Oluwatayo Okorie, Supply Chain Professional, Head of Planning & Logistics, Electricals Division, PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc.

Oluwatayo Okorie is an astute Supply Chain Professional currently working within the Electricals Division of PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc where she heads the Planning & Logistics Department, with the main objective of balancing supply and demand in a manner than achieves the financial and sales objectives of the Business.  

She has an extensive background in Supply Chain Planning and has worked for reputable companies, including Procter & Gamble UK and SABMiller (now ABInBev) prior to joining PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc to further her career. 

Tayo is a Professional Member of the Association for Supply Chain Management (formerly APICS). She holds a 1st Class Degree in Chemical & Bio-Systems Engineering and an MSc Distinction Degree in Process Systems Engineering from the University of Surrey UK and is a Certified SCOR® Professional – hence, you can expect 100% commitment towards measuring, managing and improving supply chain performance when working with her. 

Tayo believes that education is a right, and not a privilege, hence she has dedicated a lot of her time towards STEM volunteering with young people, and supporting NGOs to provide quality education for children in need.

 

Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do?

I would refer to myself as what experts will call the “Industry 4.0” professional, because I am all about doing things differently! I thrive on challenge and I am constantly motivated to set new outcome goals for myself – outcome goals because I don’t necessarily know all the time how I will reach the goal [laughs] – I have accepted that results cannot always be under my control.

I have a career in Supply Chain (SC); this is a heavily male-dominated career path in Nigeria, probably even globally.

I’m currently the Head of Planning & Logistics within the Electricals Division of PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc. The majority of people are familiar with Haier-Thermocool, a trusted Electrical Appliances brand in Nigeria for over 40 years.

To put it in simple terms, I always say my job is to balance supply and demand. Sounds easy, right? Being a SC Professional, I am involved in almost every aspect of the Business – Supply Chain really is only an “umbrella” term. Somehow, I manage to touch everything and this is what makes my job very exciting.

In my current job, I have to determine everyday how to fulfil the requirements created from the commercial sales forecast considering resources, manufacturing capacity, inventory and of course, cash flow. I have an extended role which includes managing a 11,000 square meter warehouse and a team of twenty permanent & non-permanent staff.

Whilst my core role is Head of Planning & Logistics, I am also double-hatting as a Project Manager & Continuous Improvement Facilitator.

 

How did you start out your career and how long have you been in the corporate world?

What most people don’t know about me is that my first job right out of University in 2009 was with William Hill – the world’s biggest bookmakers. This was my first entry into the corporate world. I worked there for a few months in Customer Service Retail prior to starting out my supply chain career with Procter & Gamble UK in 2010 as a Supply Network Operations Planner. I was initially hired through a recruitment agency and in no time, they were pleased with my performance and hired me as a permanent staff.

My first glimpse into Supply Chain Management (SCM) was whilst I was studying for my postgraduate degree at the University. I was taking a compulsory module on SCM and we had this project on Supply Network Optimisation – I chose to look at the Sony PlayStation® supply chain. I remember being amazed when I came across an article about a major Supply crisis they had in 2001 where it was recorded that Sony spent 18 months investigating 6,000 factories to identify the source of the issue!

It was at this point I knew I wanted a career in SCM. I looked up Supply Chain Optimisation as a job description and the rest as they say, is history. I could not understand then why they had such a large supply base so, I started digging further and the more I dug, the more complex and web-like the network became.

 

Tips for diversity and inclusion in the workplace (esp. for women)?

A very HOT topic!

But first, organisations need to understand that this agenda is not for the Human Resources Department only – it is a business strategy. Research has already shown that diverse teams in the workplace can improve the organisation’s ability to innovate. Hence, we can argue that these sort of practices are obviously desired by the business as a whole, not just the employees.

If we look at the more male-dominated industries or career paths (like Supply Chain Management), attracting female talent has continued to be an issue. One thing we need to do more of (at least in Nigeria), is to start the recruitment process from source i.e. working with universities and even secondary schools to encourage women to pursue these sort of careers.

However, in my opinion, the actual issue is inclusivity in the workplace. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this and this is why a lot of companies are not getting this part of the strategy right. We can hire and attract diverse talent, but are we really being inclusive? It’s in the little things and not just reward or recognition – for example, having a Crèche on site for new mums would not be such a bad idea! ☺

If you could have a lunch date with one woman you admire – who would that be and what would you ask her?

I admire a lot of women, but I will really love to have a lunch date with Folorunso Alakija.

I will like to ask her how she has managed to balance being a mother to four boys, and a professional involved with diverse businesses. I don’t believe a woman can have it all (personally and professionally) without making a sacrifice at some stage in her career.

I have attended a number of events and read articles which have tried to address this particular issue, but I am still not convinced. The millennial woman like I, has not fully understood the challenges associated with balancing these two. It will be great to hear from wiser [older] women from previous generations.

What’s your take on cliques or “you can’t sit with us groups” at work? How does one navigate such?

I wonder, do these things really exist in the workplace?

I guess some people might join a clique in the workplace to have some form of identity. In particular, when you are new to an organisation it becomes important to have a group of friends to hang out with. I see this trend majorly with Recent Graduate hires. The disadvantage here is you could end up being in someone’s shadows and missing out on what some other colleagues might have to offer. More often than not, some people within the clique have stronger personalities so you just stop noticing the other people with weaker personalities.

To be honest, I tell anyone who cares to listen that I did not come to work to make friends. Hence, I generally do not have time for cliques or groups. My colleagues will tell you that I am very friendly but also very demanding in the workplace – when it comes to getting the job done, I don’t play!

One of my bosses always spoke about the need for “healthy arguments” and I am all for that.

 

A mini 101 course on how to become a Supply Chain Professional?

I am of the opinion that anyone can pursue a career in Supply Chain Management. The only requirement is to be resilient. Supply Chain involves taking a lot of risks. If you are not emotionally or mentally flexible, then a career in SC is not for you.

Most young professionals will start out their SC career in manufacturing because you get to see the full life-cycle of the product. Though, what is most important is having a solid understanding of the company, its operating regions, its information and material flows.

Once you’ve narrowed down your career choices and you are sure this is for you, there is a lot of data available online (ASCM, APICS SCC, CIPS) as well as networking forums/groups where you can connect with experienced professionals to provide a full picture of the sort of work involved, and also help you find your niche – honestly, this can be tricky but knowing the kind of problems you enjoy solving is a good starting point.

The next big step is getting hired: as with all other strategy-driven industries, you must be able to demonstrate that you have what it takes to get things done fast!  

When you’re creatively stuck, you…?

I feel very unproductive in such situations.

Due to the kind of role I have, I spend a lot of my time working with Excel Worksheets, hence, there is a tendency to get creatively stuck when I have to work without my good friend, Excel.

What I tend to do when this happens is to pick up a notebook & pen and then I start writing whatever comes to mind – I learnt this from my boss. I don’t know how it happens, but the minute I start jotting things down the dots just seem to connect!

What’s your take on mentorship? Important or nah?

Very important and it also does not cost you anything!

I will encourage everyone to have a mentor – even if your organisation does not assign one to you please find one that aligns with your longer term career and developmental plans.

Sometimes you might have a thousand and one ideas and bouncing them off your boss might not necessarily be a good idea if he/she does not have an open mind. This is where a mentor comes in, a mentor will see potential and provide the necessary encouragement and guidance.

Three strategies you’ve used that other career women should implement? 

  • “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty” – Henry Ford said this, and he was very correct.
  • Be confident! Don’t be afraid to let people within or outside your place of work know about your achievements.
  • Forget about gender barriers or bias, acquire as much education and training as you can, whilst you still can.

 

The Leading Ladies Africa weekly Career Conversation series focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

 

 

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