31st October 2020, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, 6:30 am, seven staff members around customs border and only one passenger — I’m the ‘one’. At that moment, I know it will be my most impressive memory for 2020 in what has been a pretty special year for almost all of us.
I entered into France at the end of October, not the perfect time, since President Macron had just announced confinement 24 hours ago. Even so, I remain thankful and have zero regrets for the decision made by previous me when I look back over the whole of November. Without this movement, I could not have had such a huge transformation and the remarkably fortunate situation, which allowed me to grow so fast.
My current role is Plant Purchasing Manager in MasterTech, which is a leading and well-known Smart Factory in Schneider Electric France. I have an entirely new set of challenges because of my changed position and country.
Where It All Started- Schneider Graduate Program
I joined Schneider Electric China at the beginning of 2018, in the Schneider Graduate Program for Supply Chain. As the acknowledged market leader in the energy management and automation industry, Schneider Electric has been one of my aspirational employers in the field of Procurement, since several years ago from my university days. The ethos and values of this company coupled with its global reach and Gartner recognized Smart Supply Chain (Global No.4 and Europe No.1!) inspired me to aim for this sought-after employer.
With its vision of helping to make the world a better place through its constantly evolving products, solutions, software, and services, Schneider Electric is an attractive company for young generations. In the Supply Chain team I joined, we focus on delivering innovative, smart, and optimized Supply Chain experiences for our customers.
I started at a plant in Beijing, one of the biggest plants in China. What I learned there is not limited to knowledge related to Procurement. I also learned about collaboration, business acumen, and overcoming challenges. To illustrate the depth of the experience I gained, let me give 3 examples:
1/The importance of teamwork: I graduated from school with engineering degrees and an engineering mindset gained from both undergraduate and postgraduate. Working at Schneider offered me multiple inspirations for how to manage projects linked to various stakeholders and how to achieve the desired outcome through a multi-functional team.
2/Know what we buy and sell: Thanks to my location in Beijing, I could enter production facilities and familiarize myself with various components and products. This was tremendously beneficial to me since it enabled me to immediately respond to any crises arising from shortages or other issues on the field. It further enabled me to pro-actively plan to avoid any repetition of such crises because of the extensive knowledge of the entire value chain from raw material to the final product. Also, as the key function was to support our cash flow, knowledge of raw material helped a lot in building up the plan with the technical department and automating processes with our suppliers.
3/Embrace challenges: I cannot count how many times I felt that I crashed and then finally made it. Each challenge I overcame created confidence for the next challenge. Importantly, throughout the challenges experienced, I felt supported by the organization and failure was a learning experience.
Remembering my first Material Productivity Day in China, there was more than one month of preparation with matrix analysis and time rehearsals. All the work was worthwhile when we got signed agreements with the supplier. Challenges make my work tough but interesting. The challenges have definitely made me stronger.
Supply Chain in China and France
Behind these learnings, the Schneider Graduate Program played a key role. It equipped me with the skills to quickly and properly adapt to a new environment and new role. I could meet with top management and understand the company strategy as well as our Digital Supply Chain programs. I could interact with various coaches and other early-career trainees across different functions. Opportunities for us to exchange perspectives, brainstorm together, and share learnings were very valuable.
With my new position in France, I have become more cautious and serious for every aspect of my work, spending more time to refactor decisions and processes for key projects. It is a great pleasure to discuss different patterns and ways of doing business between China and Europe. What is common, though, is that we are in the middle of a big Digital Transformation to better manufacture and deliver for our customers.
If you were to ask me what I learnt from my experiences thus far at Schneider Electric, I would reply that I learned the importance of having courage in the face of new challenges. Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow. Maybe you could not manage every topic perfectly yet, but don’t worry, this means you’re on the way to being better. Be careful though, ability alone won’t see you through these challenges, only your motivation will get you there. The most important part is that you keep learning. Finally, one day, you will be surprised to discover that the once tricky problem is no longer tricky for you. That is how we improve.
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