Name: Ryan Panfil
Job Title: Supply Base Manager
Career Field : Supply Chain Management
Industry: Industrial Manufacturing
Company: John Deere
Military Branch: Marine Corps
Military Occupation: 0351 Assaultman
How did your military background help your career so far? Did it make anything more difficult?
While there aren’t a lot of parallels between the infantry world and Supply Chain Management, it helped me to get where I am today. Hiring managers love to hire veterans. Veterans are known for their “get it done” attitude, and ability to learn very quickly.
I would say the biggest area where being a veteran helped me was during interviews in college. The average college student generally doesn’t have a lot of relevant work experience when they are interviewing for internships and their first job. As a veteran, you have an advantage over your peers (yes, they are your peers) because of your military experience. This gives you a lot more examples to reference in an interview.
What does a typical day consist of in your job role?
A big reason why I love my job is because there is no such thing as a “typical” day. My position requires a lot of travel to work with my various suppliers, and do a lot of various project work.
The major responsibilities in my current role include supplier performance management, negotiations, cost reduction projects, and procurement strategy development.
How did you find and apply for this job role?
I am now in my 3rd position with John Deere, so I applied to an inter-company posting when the position opened.
What kind of education, training or experiences does your job role require?
At a minimum, my job role requires a bachelor’s degree in a relevant business field (Supply Chain, Marketing, Economics, Agri-Business) or in engineering.
Applicants to this position will have 5-7 years with the company, and well-developed negotiation, project management, and analytical skills.
What advice or steps would you recommend for veterans preparing to enter your career field?
First, if you are a veteran and have not considered a career in Supply Chain Management, I would encourage you to do so. While this may not have ever crossed your mind, major players in this industry want to hire new grads. On graduation day, my class had an average of 2.5 job offers per person. You would be hard pressed to find kind of job placement rate in any other field. While it is important to do what you love, many fields typically pursued by veterans can be very difficult to find employment in after graduation. If you are going to invest in yourself and pursue an education, make sure you understand the job market within your chosen field.
If you are planning to enter the Supply Chain Management world, I have 2 pieces of advice:
- Begin building your professional network on your first day. A strong professional network is vital to a successful career in Supply Chain Management.
- Be flexible. This really goes for young professionals in all fields. Flexibility, and a willingness to take on additional responsibility is one of the quickest ways for you to add value to your organization. A good bit of advice here is to never shy away from a new challenge, and never pass up an opportunity because it isn’t convenient or would require you to relocate.
What do you enjoy the most about your career field?
My favorite part about this field is the opportunity have a real impact on a company as large as John Deere. From the time I was an intern, I have had the opportunity to support and lead various projects that have had a significant impact on our bottom line. It gives you a real sense of accomplishment.
What do you like least about your career field?
My least favorite part about this field is the time it can take to drive change. Large organizations like John Deere tend to move slowly. This is by design; it gives internal stakeholders an opportunity to evaluate new proposals, and offer improvements. The importance of getting buy in from your stakeholders is not lost on me, but it can be very frustrating if you are trying to implement a project quickly.
What skills and personal attributes are essential to success in this career field?
Relationship building / negotiation skills, an ability to learn quickly, and a desire to succeed are the 3 biggest enablers to success in this field.
Is there something you wish you’d known or a skill you wish you’d had starting out in this career field?
I wish I would have had a better working knowledge of Microsoft Excel when I started out. You will have to analyze, process very large data sets in this field. Proficiency in Excel will save you hours per day.
How do most people get into this career field? What are common entry-level jobs?
I can’t speak for other companies, but the most common pipeline for new talent at John Deere is through our internship program. Internships are a great opportunity for companies to learn about a candidate, and for a candidate to gain insight into their chosen field. You can think of an internship in Supply Chain Management as a 3 month, paid job interview.
Generally, people will start in this field as an order planner, tactical buyer, or forecast analyst.
What do you like about your industry?
My favorite part of this industry is whenever I get an opportunity to interact with our customers. Most John Deere customers are small farmers and construction companies. When a customer decides to buy a piece of John Deere equipment, they are investing in their business and ultimately their livelihood. Interacting with customers always helps to remind me that what we do really matters.
How do you see your industry changing in the next 10 years?
In the coming years this industry will continue to be challenged with tightening environmental regulations, requiring the use of lighter weight materials and the utilization of breakthrough manufacturing technologies. Supply Chain professionals will need to understand industry trends, and adapt their sourcing strategies to meet these challenges while remaining competitive in the global market.