how to make a career change

Leadership Podcast Ep 1: Start with a Self-assessment to Avoid Regrettable Career Moves

By Published On: July 19, 2022

Host: Chris Gaffney

Co-Hosts: Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple

What is the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series?

The Supply Chain Careers Leadership series expands its previous content format into a more in-depth focus on leadership development. This program is a series of 10+ episodes that are hosted by our very own supply chain executive, Chris Gaffney. These episodes explore subject matter and topics that relate to excelling as a leader in the business world, much of which Chris has gleaned as VP of Supply Chain at Coca-Cola. Familiar faces and fellow supply chain leaders, Rodney Apple and Mike Ogle chime in with their experience and knowledge, all of which can be used by supply chain leaders to develop and advance their careers.

In this Episode:

Chris Gaffney is introduced to the SCM Talent podcast team. He touches on his passion for coaching, mentoring, development, and his belief that students and professionals need a resource to help advance their own careers. Chris dives into the current reality in the market including the percentage of people actively looking to move positions.

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Rodney Apple: [00:00:42] We’d like to welcome Chris Gaffney to the Supply Chain Careers Podcast. Chris is launching a new series on leadership, and we’re very excited to have him on board. He’s got many years of experience working as a supply chain executive. We go back to the Coca-Cola days where I led their supply chain recruitment. Chris is known as a very solid coach, mentor and developer of talent. So again, very excited to have you on board, Chris. Welcome.

Chris Gaffney: [00:01:12] Rodney. Thanks so much. And I, I really am excited to join the team at Supply Chain Careers. Obviously, I have been associated with the work and been aware of the work over the last couple of years and I was hoping and looking for an opportunity to say, how can I do more? And this will feed my passion for coaching and mentoring and development and supporting the careers of students and professionals in a more structured way. And obviously I’m excited to do it a alongside you and Mike and the team.

Mike Ogle: [00:01:49] And Chris I’ll second that welcome to the team. We’re very happy to have you with us and especially getting started on the leadership series. In addition to that, how else are you planning to dive in as part of Supply Chain Careers?

Chris Gaffney: [00:02:04] Well, Mike, I do hope to be able to write on what we agree are hot topics for the team. And we’ve got an article out there. We can probably put a link to that in the description. And we’ve got a number of other things on the docket. And I definitely think as a team we want Supply Chain Careers to provide even more content to help people guide themselves through a very unique environment for supply chain professionals.

So, I hope articles that potentially could turn into blogs and webinars. So multimedia content to help people kind of navigate what’s going on. I think I’m also gonna contribute to some of the larger work of the team as we build kind of an overall architecture for key jobs in the supply chain field with job descriptions, again, that help hiring managers and professionals as they navigate opportunities in their organization and others.

Rodney Apple: [00:03:07] That all sounds great. Chris, could you tell us a little bit about the first topic that we’re gonna be covering today as far as the leadership series goes?

Chris Gaffney: [00:03:17] When we first start started talking about it, the good news is we think there’s a lot of topics that we can get to, but the reality is right now, there is a lot of movement in the market. It’s been intense for the last year plus, and there seems to be no letting up. So you have a lot of people who are actively looking to move and frankly, another chunk of people who hear and see this and say, you know, should I be thinking about moving? But what the data tells us, and my own experience says, is a significant percentage of people who make a move, regret their decision. You know, it’s a knee jerk. They’re running from something, but they’re not thoughtful about where they move too. So, the hope is that we can talk a little bit about how to offer a methodical process when you are considering making a move, whether it’s inside your own company or probably even more importantly outside your current company.

Mike Ogle: [00:04:29] So Chris, as part of this methodical process that somebody would follow. Do you have some personal experiences that you could share in how to get started on this path?

Chris Gaffney: [00:04:39] My own personal experience in 30 plus years in supply chain with four or five companies, I’ve made those moves and in some cases, I was probably lucky. In some cases, there wasn’t much thought to it, but I had a particular move that I made that really didn’t work well. And it was emotional in making the decision, but it was really emotional when I realized it was not the right decision. And that was a difficult time for me and my family. And in retrospect it was clear that there were things that I could have done, actions I could’ve taken that would’ve helped me make a better, and in that case, potentially a different decision. And I just don’t wanna see people go through that, making a regrettable decision in your career may turn out great in the long run, but it can really cost you. And I I’m hoping we can help people avoid that.

Rodney Apple: [00:05:45] Chris, so we’d love to hear your story that you just referenced, give our audience a flavor of what went wrong and, and how you course corrected.

Chris Gaffney: [00:05:56] I had a situation in my career where I thought I had made the right move and actually moved into what was called a developmental role. And then new leadership came in shortly after that. So it was still in the developmental space and there was a lot of pressure and expectation from the new leadership that why don’t you know all of this, right? This was not early in my career. This was relatively deep in my career. And so immediately a fair amount of stress and not a lot of support from my immediate leader in that, and that created a catalyst for me. I had discussions internally with my manager and he was suggesting moves that I felt like were a step back for me in my career and potentially high risk. And that got me to saying, well, maybe I need to think outside. And I had an opportunity through relationships to get exposed to what was essentially a startup. And it sounded like a really good situation. I did some due diligence on it. Ironically, I’d talked to some other people who’d made similar moves. And I said, what process did you follow? And I said, sounds like this process is similar to me. But I really didn’t look under the hood enough and made the move. And two weeks in, I said this is not gonna work. And that was really tough. And I scrambled over the course of a very short period of time and was able to get to a better place, but it’s not anything I would welcome anybody else to experience.

Rodney Apple: [00:07:43] And Chris, you’ve also coached people through this process, believe you mentioned, one of our former coworkers is going through this exact process right now. Could you elaborate on that conversation and how you set this person on the right path so they can hopefully mitigate the same mistake that you just referenced?

Chris Gaffney: [00:08:04] Yep. This is something I thought about a lot and in all honesty, a guy who used to work for me came to me a couple years ago. And actually had done this extremely proactive approach and in a nice way. And I was able to help him validate. We’ll talk about the role of an external network in validating your thinking, but he got to a great outcome. And I essentially said, I want to be able to borrow this and use this with others because you’ve now got the right process. Current situation is a mutual friend of ours who’s got an opportunity to be at that fork in the road. And so I said, this is a huge time. It doesn’t come very often and it’s a pivotal time. So let me help you, and give you the benefit of something that, that I think would’ve helped me at the time. And so, we sat down and we talked about it and he is now applying the process. So, we’ll see how it plays out. It’s all in flight right now, but I’m encouraged.

Mike Ogle: [00:09:22] So Chris, as part of this process, what is really the first step that someone should follow as they begin the process?

Chris Gaffney: [00:09:30] Yeah, it’s a great question, Mike. And the first thing I would say. And I think it is a reflection of learning is that this has to be a collaborative process when you’re making a large decision like this. It really shouldn’t be in a vacuum. So, if you’re in a situation where you have a partner, whatever the structure of that is, engage your partner in that. If you’re not at a place where you’re in that relationship, then leverage a family member, a parent, or a sibling who you really trust, but you need to have somebody really close to you and then you’re also gonna need external voices. So you wanna be thinking about who those people are and the objective of the overall process is to kind of give you multiple options. It’s always tough if you’ve only got one game to play, but if you could think about multiple options that are informed by your long-term career goals, then you got a better shot at pointing yourself in the right direction. A lot of people I know don’t really have a clear view of what their long-term career goals are. So, the hope is that this process asked you to stop and think about it. And the person that we talked about when he initially said, he’s thinking about something else. I said, are you really clear on what you want to get out of things? What kind of role do you really want? What kind of decision-making accountability? Do you want to run this show? Or do you wanna play a subsidiary role? Are you hoping to learn, is it a particular field that you’re excited about or some type of experience that you you’d like to gain and, and in the long-term standpoint, what kind of impact are you trying to have? Is it all about your impact on a business? Is it your impact on people or it’s something you’re trying to accomplish in, in the overall field of supply chain? So, if you can lay that out, then I think the critical step is to then work backwards from there. Okay. And it’s maybe multiple steps and the whole point of this is, you’re not gonna go from where you are to your end state in most cases, But you may be able to clearly see, I’ve gotta close some gaps from where I sit today to that end state. And that might help you then narrow down to a couple of potential roles that are achievable for you, that you can then target your focus on.

Rodney Apple: [00:12:14] So Chris, once you get to that point, you’ve narrowed it down to a few roles. What’s the next steps from there? Target list of companies, research, things like that?

Chris Gaffney: [00:12:29] Yeah, I think it’s three steps in a process. And I think we’re gonna publish a little bit of a template for this, but if you can identify one to two of those potential next roles, then for each of those, they’re really probably three chunks of work. The first is really ask yourself the questions of saying, you know, I like to spend a large portion of my time doing this type of work. Gaining knowledge in this space. Working in this type of environment, I think those things are gonna start to then target you to get to what is the kind of company that I really want to work for.

And it may be multiple attributes, but examples of things are do you wanna go large? Or do you want to go small? It’s kind of like choosing colleges. There’s a big difference between working at a big mega enterprise and a startup and a midsize and there’s pros and cons to all, but this is a time to really say, am I better suited in a big global company like an Amazon or is it time for me to, am I a right point in my life to go for the experience of a startup. Other things like publicly held, privately held. There’s a big difference between working for a family owned business. And there’s some unique diligence that you have to do whenever you’re going to work for a family or an owner, it’s a big difference than working for a publicly held company or even a big privately held company.

I think a couple of other things are important as you start to get to the kind of company is how important is supply chain to that organization? I think you can be a supply chain professional in an organization that really doesn’t value supply chain and it’s gonna be hard for it to really satisfy your objectives if you are fundamentally a supply chain professional. How prominent supply chain is in the organization. It really is important to look at the culture and what does this company aspire to? And, how do you back check that a little bit, or be prepared to do that.

And then you’re gonna get to fundamental questions around location and geography. Every time we see somebody out and about, there’s always a perfect job, but it may not be in the perfect location and location matters a lot. And so being prepared with where you either want to go or don’t want to go is really huge. My hope is the output of those steps help you start to target a set of companies. And then, and you may have a couple different classes of companies. You may have your true dream or stretch companies. You may have a few companies that are no brainers for you, and those where you may know people and people are successful. So, I think you get two or three different kind of gradients of, of companies, but you should be able to get a list then. So at that point, you’ve got companies in mind, roles in mind, then it’s time to go do some detailed work to say does this company have this role open now or in the future? At the same time you’re doing that, go deep on the research on the company. Look at what’s public, look at what’s online, Glassdoor, pro and con, but there’s data that’s in there. Use your network, people you know or friends of friends who work in there. This is where LinkedIn is really effective. Who in your network works at that company and get some honest views from people deeper in an organization about what does this company really like to work for. With the combination of that, you can identify those target jobs and be on the market to understand when those jobs come available either through publicly visible sites, like Supply Chain Careers, or through word of mouth. And so at that point, then you’ve got potentially a fish on a hook. Then you can say, what are my tactics to get my name in the boat? And yes, you need to follow the formal process, either submitting on a website or working with a recruiter, but as well, think about using your network to help you get access to a hiring manager so you could potentially have preferred access, to at least compete for a role.

Rodney Apple: [00:17:36] Yeah, that’s very good advice, Chris, rock solid. I think the people, especially younger in their careers, they struggle with figuring this stuff out. As you get further along, you have more battle wounds, so to speak. You kind of figure it out as you go, but I think it’d be great to talk about from a supply chain perspective, what are some of those pros and cons that you refer to? I’ve worked in a small company, I’ve worked up to Fortune 15. So, what would you say are some of maybe the top three differentiators?

Chris Gaffney: [00:18:13] If you think of a large company, typically you’re going to have more structured processes and rules that in theory, protect employees, right? Particularly publicly held companies there there’s requirements around honestly, how employees are treated in there is hope that there is more objectivity in terms of how employees are evaluated in advance. And that is theory, it’s not always practice. There’s formality there that exists. The flip side is in a startup, you might have a job title, but you might do five jobs. And it might be what’s required at the time. And it may not be as glamorous as you might have thought about it. The flip side of that is, we know people who’ve made lots of money in startups, but it is a bit like gambling. For every one that makes it big, there are folks who’ve had to watch three or four places fall down around them, which depending on your personal situation can be really stressful.

I think the middle ground is that mid-size enterprise. There’s sometimes a sweet spot there where there is a balance between that formality and maybe some of the less structured view in terms of how talent is developed and how jobs come to pass. But in those environments, the business may be a bit more stable. There may be an opportunity to really understand end to end, even though you’re a supply chain professional, the expertise of working cross-functionally with commercial folks, sales folks, getting in front of customers, same thing with suppliers. So there may be an opportunity to build a bit more breadth and context in your career. So I think those are some things that I think about when you look at various types of end of companies to land in.

Rodney Apple: [00:20:19] Very good. I echo those sentiments. I think you’re right on target. You get into that larger corporation, resource rich, lots of learning, training and development opportunities, and you have a lot more career paths. Con, sometimes if you don’t focus and have that career map and that career plan, it’s easy to get pigeonholed into one area or one function and the longer you stay in any function, the more difficult it is to kind of move horizontally. So I think that’s a good perspective. Whereas in a smaller company or a midsize, you get more exposure to that end to end. So those are definitely some things to think about and making sure supply chain has a seat at the table where it’s valued and it’s not considered a necessary evil so to speak.

Chris Gaffney: [00:21:13] Particularly now there should be a much greater opportunity for that. Right. With the prominence of some of the challenges of the last couple of years, there is greater C level appreciation for that, but you don’t wanna walk into an environment where the supply chain folks have been blamed for all the misery of the last couple of years either. So, the use of your network to say, what do people really say about this company. In all honesty, if a hiring manager’s talking to you and you’ve gotten that far into process, if they want you, they are trying to sell you on their company. That should not be your objective assessment of what’s real at that company for this role, because they’ve got a motive there, but people who work deeper in the organization, people who work with that company will give you that validation of, Hey, this is a great place for you, or there’s some things that you really need to be thoughtful about before you jump into this boat.

Rodney Apple: [00:22:18] Great points. One of the exercises you can go through too, is just looking at, like you mentioned, LinkedIn and looking at people that either are doing the jobs that you’re being considered for, or maybe a rung or two higher. And just look for that stability in terms of tenure. You can run searches all day long in LinkedIn, and you can also figure out what is that turnover. If you see people coming in that only stayed there a year, you see a big pattern, then you might wanna do some double checking, and make sure that it’s a good place to go to and you’re not gonna go into a place that’s a revolving door. Another thing you can do is reach out and conduct peer interviews, where you reach out to people maybe a little bit further down in the organization. Perhaps you have something in common, you went to the same university, perhaps you’re a member of the same supply chain association, like an APICS or CSCMP, and those are great places where you can tap into a network and get a real perspective, as opposed to what you’re being sold in an interview situation.

Chris Gaffney: [00:23:21] Yep. And, and it’s interesting. One more thing, as we have talked as a group about a number of things. Sometimes it’s not always easy to know what you want to do. And I think Mike, one thing I recall from grad school, one of my favorite professors, he said, if, if you’re not sure how to solve the problem, or you think you have a solution, but aren’t sure it’s the right one. Look at the opposite solution. So, in many cases, if you’re not sure what you want to do, at least do the work to be sure what you don’t want to do. So, Mike, I don’t know what your thoughts and experience are on that.

Mike Ogle: [00:23:58] Well, I was actually going to ask a question on perspectives of the, like to do, and don’t like to do side of things, cuz sometimes in life to be able to advance, you gotta take some medicine and you may find that there are things that you’re uncomfortable doing, but you may need to be able to understand how others that are responsible for that would need to do, how they would do it. Or maybe it’s something that you need to be able to try to do to advance to a level that you’re trying to work your way up. So I was gonna try to get a little bit of perspective of what you’ve seen with people taking on things that they say, well, I don’t like to do that, but what can it do to help them advance their career?

Chris Gaffney: [00:24:44] Yeah. This is where I think again, having trusted advisors again, when I make the made the biggest decision I made, I thought it was a big deal. And so, I didn’t talk to people who would’ve given me honest feedback. And I think in that case, Mike, this is another place where people who really care about you, but are willing to give you honest feedback may say, you know what, you’re not ready for that step, or you’re not ever gonna get where you want to go if you’re not willing to get that other experience. So you need to decide if that long term aspiration is real, then three or four years working in a distribution center to gain frontline experience, it might be the action you have to take, then you need to find the right environment that will be supportive of you even if it’s something you didn’t envision yourself doing or don’t necessarily prefer to do. The thing that I would say, this is a huge decision, right? And you could think about it. In business, if you’re gonna go make a big investment for software equipment that may be millions of dollars, you have a process to go through. But if you look at the average supply chain professional and their career earnings, these are million-dollar decisions if they set you on the right path or the wrong path. And in the rush, everybody’s doing it or the market’s hot, or I’m really unhappy where I am. It’s counterintuitive that people may find the first opportunity, jump at it, and then as we’ve seen in the stats close to 50% of the people regret it. If it’s important enough, it’s important to take the time. And it’s important to put things down on paper, because then you separate the emotion from something that’s a bit more quantitative and you got a much better probability of getting to an outcome that really does set you in a, in a good place in terms of a real positive next step for your career. So, I think it’s no regrets and I hope as we do the rest of the steps in the series that this kind of simple recommendation will be kind of what we strive to accomplish in each episode.

Mike Ogle: [00:27:02] And Chris, on that subject, where are you planning to go next in the leadership series?

Chris Gaffney: [00:27:08] A hot topic, coming out of the pandemic. When everybody went home, originally, they, they say, oh, this is gonna be great. I’m not gonna have a commute. I can work in the house. And now so many people I know, say there’s no separation in my day from waking to sleeping. I’ve got bosses who don’t respect personal boundaries anymore. So, I’m on a call super early. I’m on it late. I get no lunch and I haven’t been even been out for a walk in weeks. So we’re gonna try to focus on kind of the, the modern view of work life balance, which ironically, I think, will benefit from some tried and true tactics, but it’s one of those things that I think everyone deserves, frankly, the right to step back and reassess. What does that mean for me? And even if I can’t get to perfection, how do I take some actions that can move me back to a sustainable place. So that’s where we’re gonna go next.

Rodney Apple: [00:28:10] This has been great advice. It is so important to take this methodical approach to evaluating your career, looking at the long term where you want to be at the height, and those important steps to get there.


Who is Chris Gaffney?

  • Principal at ECG providing Supply Chain Services to the CPG Industry
  • 25 Years w/ Coca-Cola holding Supply Chain leadership roles:
    • VP of Global Strategic Supply Chain
    • President of Global Supply
    • SVP of Product Supply Systems
    • VP of Logistics for North America