Choosing a Career in Supply Chain with Megan Yeates

Conversation with Megan Yeates discussing her career path as a young female professional working in the supply chain sector. An inspirational story for all those looking to work in the sector as well as those looking to recruit young talent into the business.

In this episode we talk to Megan Yeates, an inspirational young female professional who has selected supply chain as her career choice and in so doing has become an advocate for the supply chain profession in general and for the role of females within the profession.

Megan was the inaugural Gold medal Winner at WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia in August 2019 for freight forwarding on the logistics stream of that competition which brought together over 1,300 Competitors from more than 60 countries and regions around the world.

At the WorldSkills competition, young people from all corners of the globe gather together for the chance to win a prestigious medal in their chosen skill.

Megan Graduated with First Class Honours in my B.Sc (Hons) Logistics and Supply Chain Management Degree from Technology University Dublin and is finishing her Masters in Strategic Management  also at T.U.D. 

I think you will find this chat inspirational whether you are a experienced professional in supply chai, new to the profession or considering undergraduate studies in the subject area.

Click here to read full transcript

Patrick Daly:                     Hello, this is Patrick Daly, and welcome to Interlinks. Interlinks is a program about connections, international business, supply chains, and globalization, and the effects these developments have had on our life, our work, and our travel over recent times. Today, we will be talking to Megan Yeates. Megan is an inspirational young female professional who has chosen supply chain as her career choice and is an inspirational advocate for the supply chain profession in general, and for the role of females within the profession in particular.

                                           Megan was the inaugural gold medal winner at WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia in 2019 for freight forwarding on the logistic stream of that competition which brought together some 1,300 competitors from more than 60 countries and regions around the world. At the WorldSkills Competition, young people from all corners of the globe gather together for the chance to win a prestigious medal in their chosen skill. Megan has graduated with first class honors in BSC, BSC in logistics and supply chain management from Technology University Dublin, and she’s finishing, I think, she’ll clarify this with us, a master’s in strategic management, also at TUD. So, delighted to have you with us today, Megan. You’re very welcome.

Megan Yeates:                 Thank you so much for the lovely introduction, Patrick, and I can confirm, yes, I am just in the final stages of finishing that master’s in strategic management at the moment.

Patrick Daly:                     Excellent. So, exams at the moment?

Megan Yeates:                 Just finished the exams, so in the middle of writing the consultancy project. So, I’m having a look at an investigation into the skills shortage in the logistics sector. So, very topical piece of research going on there.

Patrick Daly:                     Exactly. We spoke about that recently at the supply chain event where we met recently in Dublin, isn’t that right?

Megan Yeates:                 It was, yes. So, it was a really good opportunity to get to meet some professionals in the industry and have those conversations that has helped to form some parts of the research as well.

Patrick Daly:                     So, could you tell me a little bit in overview about both your educational background, work experience and career to date, and what comes next for you in your career after you complete the master’s?

Megan Yeates:                 Yes. So, in terms of my education to date, so I did the four years honors degree in TU Dublin in logistics and supply chain management. Like a lot of people in the industry, I suppose I didn’t make the conscious choice to go into it. I kind of stumbled into the industry a little bit in the sense of when I went looking for a degree, I kind of just piqued my interest. I don’t have any family connections or any background in the industry. So, I went into it totally fresh and totally open-minded, and it was a huge opportunity to learn and learn so many different aspects of the logistics and supply chain industry, everything from accounting to transport, to warehouse, to supply chains, and forecasting.

                                           So, overall, it was a huge learning journey and to help support that then, I had the opportunity to complete my CPC management exams as well in road haulage which kind of led into then my interest in that sector of the field where I did my work placement with DHL in their road haulage operations, looking at groupage and pharmaceutical loads. So, that was a really good learning opportunity to get to apply my education to the real-world scenario, and that was my first footing into the industry in the beginning.

                                           I then went on to work for Lidl Ireland in their warehouse in the logistics graduate program. So, I successfully concluded that and then stayed on as a logistics project manager. So, again, another totally different part of the industry, but just equally as exciting and were equally as many exciting opportunities and challenges along the way. And then up to now then, I have most recently just, as I say, almost finished that master’s in strategic management which I actually made the decision to come back to education and do the master’s because my next part of my career I’d like to return to the education sector, and actually return as a lecturer and a teacher in logistics and supply chain, and have the opportunity then to share my knowledge and share my experiences, and help to interest and generate interest with the next generation and inspire them into the industry. So, I know it’s only the start of a very long and hopefully very successful career, but I’ve done quite a bit in the few years that I’ve had the chance to.

Patrick Daly:                     You have. You’ve been busy. You mentioned a couple of terms along the way there in your answer that might need a little bit of clarifying for listeners. So, that acronym CPC is one and the term groupage. What are those two terms? What are they?

Megan Yeates:                 So, the CPC exams is the Certificate of Professional Competency in road operations. So, I completed that. It’s an external kind of certificate that you do and enables you then to set up your own haulage business or work within the road haulage industry. So, that was something I completed in my own time external to my college course. It wasn’t a requirement of the course. It was just something I wanted to do for my own professional development. And then the groupage side, so it is when we look at consolidating loads in trucks. So, rather than picking up from one warehouse and bringing a full truckload of items to another, it’s where the truck stops along the way and maybe picks up from five or six different warehouses. It’s all brought back, consolidated, and put on a truck, and then distribution out to either one location or to multiple locations along the way.

Patrick Daly:                     Okay. This is where we get the complexity where I say that’s happening in Britain to come to Ireland and a truck arrives in Ireland with maybe 5, 6, or 20, or 100 different pieces of merchandise on board and the complexity attached to that, isn’t that right?

Megan Yeates:                 Oh, it certainly brings around a whole host of new challenges to help solve, as you say. Each different piece then of the puzzle needs a different piece of customs paperwork. It needs to be declared differently. It has to be handled differently. So, even the way the industry operates in the last number of years has changed drastically from when I first started out. It’s not quite as simple. Well, it was never quite a simple industry to be in, but it’s certainly not simple nowadays with that complexity with Brexit as well.

Patrick Daly:                     I’ve heard you speak often about the lack of women in the supply chain profession in general. So, why do you think that is? And then I was going to ask you how you came into the profession yourself, but you kind of explained that, that it wasn’t so much by design. It was by accident, but you might elaborate on that. And what do you think would need to happen for more females to view it as an attractive career choice from the outset?

Megan Yeates:                 Yeah, I think it’s something anyone who’s spent any time or even newly into the industry will have identified quite quickly as it’s a very male-dominated industry across the board, whether it be from a logistics side, or a supply chain side, or an operations. It’s quite male dominated, and I think that stems back to the whole image perception of the industry. So, even when I tell my friends, my family, or people I meet that I work in the industry, you still get met with the same comments of, “Oh, are you driving a truck, or are you working in a warehouse picking pallets?” There’s that kind of negative connotation that it must be a very manual, a very dirty job that you’re involved in. I don’t think there’s the awareness that there is some very nice positions in the industry. As I say, I’ve worked as a project manager. So, I had the corporate life. I was working Monday to Friday nine to five in a very modern office, doing a whole host of different work from desk work to out on site visits.

                                           So, those opportunities are there for those who want them, but equally, some of my most exciting days in work have been spent in warehouses or down in ports or out visiting sites and getting to see what actually goes on from an operational perspective, but I think it’s something that we don’t often talk about, we don’t often broadcast because if you go into a school and you speak to a group of students, for example, I have a brother who’s five years younger than me and who has only just recently come through the leaving cert, and even when he talks about what they’re shown in school, it’s very easy if you say to someone, “Well, I want to be an accountant,” they know what an accountant does, or you want to be a dentist. Everyone knows what’s involved to a certain extent in those jobs. But if you say to someone, “I want to work in logistics, I want to work in supply chain,” even nowadays, people don’t know what that job involves.

                                           So, if the younger generation don’t understand what the job is, how can we ever expect them to want to go into it? So, I think what I’m trying to do at the moment, and I’m only one person, but I’m sure there’s more like me out there hopefully, or there will be, is to get that image perception across, especially to the younger generation that this is what we do. These are the opportunities that are available. I mean, it’s an industry where during the global pandemic where everything else shut down, we were the one industries that didn’t shut down because the PPE had to be brought in, the food had to be brought to stores, the medical supplies, and I think that was a really good opportunity to highlight the role that logistics and supply chain plays on both a global level and a national level.

                                           I think as well from the women’s perspective, that even emphasized it more because when they do hear what goes on in the industry, they also hear that it’s a mostly male-dominated industry, and that can be quite intimidating to some women, can be quite off-putting if they feel like they’re going to be the only female in an office or an organization. So, it’s just breaking down those barriers and making it a more welcoming and accessible industry, and not only to young people, but also to those who are looking for career change because nowadays, none of us have a job for life. We’re always looking for new career opportunities. So, it’s not a case that you have to be fresh out of school. Anybody at any point in their career can make the change over to supply chains.

Patrick Daly:                     So, for young people thinking of choosing a supply chain management degree as an option, what can they expect to study? What can they expect to learn, and what avenues would be open to them once they enter the workplace?

Megan Yeates:                 Yeah, I think there’s so many avenues, it’s really, we could sit here all day talking about the different jobs and possibilities that come out of it because it’s so hard to narrow it down to such a few. I mean, in terms of what’s studied on a course, it can be everything, as I mentioned in the beginning, from accountancy to HR, to health and safety, to operations, supply chains, analytics. So, whether you’re more business-minded, or you like problem-solving, or you like figures, there’s something for everybody within the logistics and supply chain industry, and then following on from that then, the world really is your oyster in terms of job opportunities because you can work in the traditional transport and freight side, or you can go in and you can work in HR, you can work in supply chains, you can work on business projects as project managers, you can go in as an auditor, as a health and safety consultant. I mean, there’s just an endless, endless list from purchasing to buying because as we know, supply chains are an end to end operation. So, everything from the raw product having to be identified to the finished product that ends up in the consumer’s hand, supply chains are involved in every single step of the way.

                                           So, I think that’s the most exciting part of it is the endless possibilities, and you can try something and decide it’s not for you, and you can find another opportunity that you find then really excites you and really entices you. So, I think that’s the great thing then for people to see is that it’s a never-ending career opportunity, and it’s something that’ll always keep you on your toes, and it’s always very rewarding.

Patrick Daly:                     Yeah, it’s quite a broad discipline in the sense that on one end you have some quite technical roles, people who are engineers working on processes and optimizations in supply chain, and you have people working on business strategy, and then you have people working in operations and project management, as you said. So, it really is a very, very broad church, if you like, as a profession.

Speaker 3:                        93.9, Dublin South FM.

Patrick Daly:                     In the master’s that you’re doing now, I think the title of it is strategic management, albeit perhaps with a supply chain emphasis on it. What have you learned is the key distinction that makes management strategic as opposed to the routine day to day types of management that most people would be more familiar with?

Megan Yeates:                 I think when it boils down to it, I think at the very heart of being strategic in your management is just being open-minded and questioning everything. So, never accepting that just because it’s the way we do it, it’s the way we should always do it. It’s always looking for those new opportunities, new efficiencies, new ways of doing things, whether it be more efficient, more cost-effective, whether it might be just something, as we mentioned, with the global pandemic. I mean, the way a lot of business is done has changed drastically, whether we wanted it to change or not. It was from necessity rather than from our own wants. So, I think, those who lasted were those who were resilient and strategic in their thinking and were able to adapt very quickly to those changes.

                                           I think some of the traditional management style can be very set in its way. It can be very by the book, and I think my biggest learning curve from the time I left school to my time today is nothing ever follows the book. Nothing ever goes to plan from A to B to C. You’ll always need your plans right down to X, Y, and Z, and your contingency plans and your backup plans for those backup plans, and I think that’s what really sets apart then how you can be adaptive and how you can be strategic in your thinking.

Patrick Daly:                     And in the intro, I mentioned that you won the gold medal at the WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia, no less, and I think in Tatarstan in a republic within Russia, I think that is, isn’t it?

Megan Yeates:                 Mm-hmm.

Patrick Daly:                     What did you have to do to win that, and what did winning it mean for your career and opportunities, and how do people enter that or get nominated to that?

Megan Yeates:                 Yeah, I think it’s probably one of the greatest kept secrets in Ireland no Doubt anyway, along with some parts of the world is what the WorldSkills competition is because I mean, before my involvement in it, I’d never even heard of the organization or the competition itself. I was in my final year in university at the time when they were looking for expressions of interest for the national competition, and it’s run exactly like you see the Olympic Games run. So, at an international level, all countries, we stay in a competitor village. We have an opening ceremony with a parade of nations. We have our competitions, and then we have our closing ceremony with our medals. So, it’s a huge affair as I say.

                                           Yes, it was held in Kazan in Russia in 2019, but the host country changes each time. So, the competition runs every two years, and it was to be in Shanghai this year, but unfortunately with COVID, it has had to be postponed. So, the next competition is set for Lyon in France in 2024, and it’s a great opportunity for young people to be able to display their skills, and not only be the best in their own nation, but befriend the best in the world. So, while my skill is logistics and freight forwarding, there was 17 members of Team Ireland who traveled, and we had representatives in hair dressing, bricklaying, restaurant services, graphic design, business information modeling. So, I mean, there’s an endless scale of skills on display.

                                           So, it’s a huge opportunity, and we run our national competition here in the RDS. It’s taking place this September in the RDS from the 13th to the 15th, and it’s open to all, and it’s free to register to attend. It’s a really great opportunity for anybody who’s considering a change of career, or who’d like to see the skills up close. There’s even some Try a Skill stands. So, it’s great to be able to see all those skills demonstrated.

                                           And then in terms of your competition, mine being freight forwarding and logistics, it’s not too exciting to watch like some of the others might be. It’s more exciting maybe to watch the painting and decorator guys do a display, or the hairdressers do a style, but for us, our work is based like a day in a freight forwarding office. So, you’re set up with a laptop, you’re set up with a phone, and you have to work as a professional. Your judges are your customers. And for example, my task in Russia was to transport a plane with no engines from Munich in Germany to Moscow in Russia, and you have to do the hypothetical route planning for it, the finances and costings, the paperwork that’s involved, and then you’re thrown hypothetical scenarios, such as maybe the ferry that you had booked didn’t depart, so what’s your contingency plan or maybe there was damage in transit, how do you react, how do you deal with a customer. So, you’re given all these role-play scenarios, some finance scenarios, and you’re assessed based on that.

                                           So, it’s quite an intense couple of days of competition to do. You’re up against the best in the world. So, you really are playing for everything, and you can only ever take part in WorldSkills once. So, it’s an all-or-nothing game so you really leave your best on the table at the end of the day. But I was very fortunate that I had huge support from all the big players here and smaller players in the logistics freight forwarding and supply chain industry before I left for Russia, who gave me an enormous amount of support and training. So, I think it’s a great accomplishment for us to say, as a small little island, we went up against the best in the world, the big players, such as China, Russia, the Americas, and still came out on top, and I think that’s an absolute credit to those we have here in Ireland.

Patrick Daly:                     It’s a great achievement. Do they raise the flag and play the national Anthem, the whole thing, yeah?

Megan Yeates:                 They do indeed, yeah, and then we brought the medal back and we had a lovely reception here in [inaudible 00:20:22]. So, it was very well recognized. So, it’s a great honor. I’m so privileged to have been able to have that opportunity and to still hold that title now, even with the postponement. So, we will have it as the longest reigning champions considering the postponement. So, an even bigger achievement.

Patrick Daly:                     Yeah. Did you get a chance to do some sighting in Kazan? It’s an interesting place, I think

Megan Yeates:                 So, as part of the WorldSkills program, you actually travel for an extended trip around the competition, and the host country actually put on a lot of entertainment and day trips. So, they do a day trip prior to the competition where every nation is brought out on escorted guided tours. So, we got to see some fabulous sites around the region, and then they also run a program called One Country, One School where every country is paired up with a local school and you’re invited in. So, we attended a local kind of what would be the equivalent of our primary school level, and they welcomed us in for the day and showed us some of their traditional dance, their traditional music, food, schooling. So, it was a huge opportunity to not only have the competition, but also get that cultural exchange, and you get to mingle with the other nations. So, it really is a huge opportunity to make some friends for life, to get to experience other cultures, and to share your own culture as well with them.

Patrick Daly:                     I’m going to change tack a little now, just like to ask people a kind of a higher level question, just get an idea of your kind of worldview as a young person at the beginning at the early stages of your career. So, if we look back over the last number of years, so up until about 2008 and for the 20 years up to that, we kind of enjoyed a period of stability and growth for the best part of 20 years, and since then, and I guess occupying most of your teens and early twenties, we’ve had a succession of kind of disasters one after the other. So, we’ve had the financial crash, we’ve had the IMF intervention, we’ve had Brexit, we’ve had Trump, we’ve had COVID, and now we’ve got Ukraine. It’s like one thing after another. What do you see as the greatest challenges for the future for all of us as a society?, what do you think we really need to get done in the next 10 years, and what makes you optimistic for the future?

Megan Yeates:                 I think, yeah, as you say, when you lay them all out back to back, you don’t realize at the time how many challenges you’re facing, but I think, yeah, certainly from my generation, we’ve had a lot growing up to contend with, and maybe we were lucky in the sense we were shielded from some of it because we were quite young going in, but yeah, I think there’s a lot to be learned from all the challenges that we’ve faced, both as a nation in Ireland and both as a global world economy. I think there’s been a lot that’s been learned, and I think the COVID pandemic, I think brought out the best in some people because it really was an opportunity for everyone to pull together and do their best to support each other and help each other and protect each other.

                                           So, I think that really gave an opportunity for people to put their best foot forward, and I think even everybody’s frame of mind, the way we work, the way business worked has changed. I don’t think we ever can see ourselves going back to what was the old normal. I think we often talk about the new normal, and I think that is the way of the future and not necessarily for the bad, but maybe for the good in certain places. So, I think there’s a lot to learn. I think, as I mentioned before, we learned to be very resilient as both businesses and people because we had no choice, and I think they are skills that we’ll take on with us into the future and any other challenges that come up. I think while we may not be prepared for the specific challenge that we may face, I think we’re more prepared in the sense of uncertainty in how to deal with it and how to come through the other side, and from each of those challenges, we’ve emerged on the other side and we’ve made the best of the situations.

                                           So, I think that’s what keeps me very hopeful and very motivated going into the future is that no matter what we’ve faced, all those challenges before, I’ve no doubt we’ll face many more in the future to come, but it’s always about taking the learnings from each one of those and putting it to the best use.

Patrick Daly:                     And outside of work and career, what kind of things do you like to do in your spare time?

Megan Yeates:                 So, I live out in the Curragh in Kildare so I am surrounded by horse county. So, it’s no surprise to say that I am horse obsessed and I love spending time out with the horses, out in the countryside and the fresh air going for walks, going out riding. And then in the evenings, I quite enjoy curling up with a good book to just unwind from everything and take the detachment from the social media. I spend my whole day in front of laptops and working with electronics and on the phone and everything. So, it’s nice to be able to unplug and unwind then in the evenings, whether it be out in nature or at home, as I say, curled up by the fire with a good book which has been the case in last number of days with the poor weather we’ve been having.

Patrick Daly:                     Yeah, you wouldn’t think it was June, would you, mid-summer almost.

Megan Yeates:                 No.

Patrick Daly:                     Yeah. So, what are you reading or listening to currently in terms of books or audio books or podcasts that are inspiring you and that you might recommend to listeners?

Megan Yeates:                 I’ve actually been quite enjoying listening to TED Talks on Spotify at the moment. It’s not something I had ever got into before, and as I started attending more events, as I say, as the new normal came back around and I was back out at industry events, I kind of quite got into the side of listening to other people’s stories and other people’s experiences and learning from it. So, I found Spotify has an endless amount of TED Talks in all different topics and all different areas, and I think the most that we can learn is from other people and other people’s stories. Everyone’s story and experience is so unique and there’s something to take away from it. And in terms of books, I’m currently on the look out for a good book myself at the moment to bring on my holidays. So, I’ll definitely report back into you when I find something.

Patrick Daly:                     Excellent. So, where can people find out more about you or maybe connect with you online, LinkedIn, and so on? Where can you be found?

Megan Yeates:                 Yeah. So, my LinkedIn is under my full name, so Megan Yates. I also wrote a blog about my time in starting in the industry and my WorldSkills journey, and it’s called My Logistics Life Journey, and it’s on WordPress. So, that’ll give a more detailed breakdown. And also on Facebook as well, Megan Yeates, and I’m happy to connect with any of the listeners or always open to meeting new people as well, and being able to share stories and experiences.

Patrick Daly:                     Excellent. Thank you, Megan. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you today and wish you the very best for the future, both professionally and personally.

Megan Yeates:                 And thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to come on, and thank you, Patrick, for the really thought-provoking questions and for providing me the opportunity to come on and speak today. So. Thank you so much.

Patrick Daly:                     Very welcome, Megan, and thanks also to our listeners for tuning in. For any comments or questions, just drop me a line on pdaly, P-D-A-L-Y, Keep well and stay safe until next time.

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Patrick Daly Interlinks Podcast

Interlinks is a programme about the connections, relationships and supply chains, that underpin the globalisation of our modern world.

In each programme, we interview people from around the world including entrepreneurs, executives, academics, diplomats and politicians to get their unique perspective on globalisation as it has affected them both personally and professionally.

There is a little bit of history, a dash of economics, a sprinkling of business and an overlay of personal experience both from me and from my interviewees from around the world.

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