Embracing change: My career journey from finance to supply chain

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What if everything you thought you wanted in your career suddenly changed in the blink of an eye? 

For me, this meant transitioning from a path in finance to the world of supply chain—a change that brought unexpected opportunities and endless possibilities.

What I thought I knew

My educational journey began with the goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and then taking the CPA exam. The allure of the accounting field, with its emphasis on precision and defined career paths, initially captivated me. I envisioned a traditional career trajectory that would lead to partnership at a prestigious firm in Nashville. But even though I liked accounting, it never felt ‘right’ for me. Nevertheless, I stuck with what I believed was the safe option for me.

During the pandemic, my point of view began to shift. Witnessing the supply chain issues arising during that time sparked a newfound fascination within me. I wondered about finding solutions to these problems and loved the logical thinking that supply chain provoked in my brain. Despite this growing interest, I continued with my accounting degree. I was a junior and began to search for internships in that field.

While exploring internship opportunities in the Nashville area, I discovered a finance internship at Schneider Electric. I had heard positive feedback from my professors about Schneider’s reputation as a great company to work for, and after conducting my own research, I eagerly applied. I was thrilled when I was offered the role, and I began my internship in the summer of 2021.

Welcome to supply chain

My internship is what ultimately launched my career in supply chain. As I engaged in projects with the Global Supply Chain (GSC) team, my curiosity about a career in supply chain intensified. Through networking, I learned about the Schneider Development Program (SDP). The SDP program affords participants the opportunity to work through three 1-year rotations within various parts of the supply chain organization. I met with the manager of the GSC track and expressed my interest in the program. This discovery prompted me to switch my major – even though it meant adding another year to my undergraduate degree – and I began taking upper-level supply chain classes. It was incredibly interesting to me, and I knew then that I had found something that I was passionate about.

An opportunity in the Schneider development program

Embarking on the job application process, I interviewed for diverse positions ranging from logistics to purchasing analysis. I had just finished an interview for another position when Schneider Electric called to offer me a position in the SDP program. I was ecstatic! I could not wait to begin a career in supply chain and adapt to a new role every year. I accepted the role on the contingency that I would be able to stay in a central location in Nashville.

My first rotation

Through the SDP program, I will embark on three 1-year rotations within various parts of the supply chain organization. My first role in the SDP program was a Flow Controller at a central level in our Nashville Hub. I learned the ins and outs of ERP systems and was able to network with a variety of business units. I am appreciative of the invaluable experience I gained in that role. As much as I enjoyed it, I found it difficult to have conversations about the product because I was in a central role. I had never seen the product and felt a bit disconnected.

Initially I had wanted to stay in Nashville for all my rotations and had no plans to leave. However, once I finished my first rotation, I became open to the idea of moving. I wanted something fast-paced and new. When the time came to express my interest for my next rotation, I chose a role in Columbia, SC as my first choice.

My second rotation

When the time arrived for my second rotation, I found out that I’d be going to my first choice: the Columbia, SC plant. Both manufacturing and relocation were not initially on my radar. In fact, the thought of manufacturing had intimidated me for quite some time. It is extremely fast paced, requires failing fast, and is often male dominated. I decided that as much as it intimidated me, I should go for it. I could be intimidated by being a woman in a male-dominated field, or I could choose to focus on my capabilities. Walking into a room and thinking that I am less capable because I was a woman was not an option for me. I knew that I had been chosen to go into this role for a reason!

A role I feel passionate about

I now have a position that I am incredibly passionate about. Serving as an Upstream Flow Controller has been immensely rewarding. The camaraderie within the manufacturing environment has been unmatched, and I am grateful for this opportunity. My team fosters an environment where I can experiment, fail, and persevere. I cherish my work and the community that extends beyond it.

My future at Schneider

In July, I will be transitioning to my third and final rotation. I will be staying in Columbia in a Production Supervisor role. I wanted to get closer to the manufacturing processes and now I will be part of them. I’m very excited to start in July!

Once my three rotations in the program are over, my career trajectory is similar to choosing a next rotation. The full-time roles that I am qualified for will be shared with me, and I can choose which ones to interview for. Once I am finished interviewing, I will list my preferences, and interviewing teams will list their candidate preferences to extend a full-time offer. I would like to stay at a manufacturing facility once I am done with the program. I enjoy the environment and the learning opportunities that it affords me!

A great life outside of work

Moving away from Tennessee scared me, but my community here in South Carolina has made the transition seamless. Outside of work, I love to exercise. The gym that I go to is my second home. It has sparked a love for running in me that I never thought I’d have. Additionally, I enjoy exploring new places, and it has become a favorite hobby of mine to travel with friends. I frequently visit Charleston, and trying restaurants there has been so fun! My favorite spot is Tempest right by the market. It has the most beautiful stained-glass ceiling!

Katelin visiting the Cliffs of Mohr on the western coast of Ireland.

Traveling outside of the country had always been something that I wanted to do, but I never made the time to plan a trip or find a friend to go with. I met my now best friend, Mallory, during my first rotation at Schneider. She is very well travelled and has always pushed me outside of my comfort zone. This March, we took a two-week trip touring both Scotland and Ireland. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I am grateful that Schneider provided me the perfect person to do it with!

Advice for readers

For those that are uncertain about their career or manufacturing specifically, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Nothing is so permanent that you can’t change roles after some time. You can do anything if you have the correct mindset. Look at me – I went from finance to supply chain, and from wanting to stay in Nashville to being open to move anywhere!

To those in the early stages of their careers, much like myself, I encourage you to be willing to give manufacturing a shot. I know that working in an office can be appealing, but you could be missing out on the learning opportunity of a lifetime. Manufacturing can set you up to have wonderful people skills and adaptability if you let it. I went into my career thinking that I’d be an accountant in a high-rise office but am so glad that I get to put some steel toes on and learn the product. Being flexible and willing to take on the roles that scare you is more than worth it! You may discover the most rewarding position and a fantastic community!

Join us!

At Schneider Electric, we’re on a mission to create a brighter, more inclusive future for all. Check out our job opportunities on our careers website.

About the author

Author Profile

Katelin Matthews, Flow Controller – NAM Supply Chain Planning

Katelin graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2022 with a B.S. in Supply Chain Management and an Accounting minor. She joined Schneider as a Finance Intern in 2020 at the Franklin hub and is now on her second rotation of the Global Supply Chain Schneider Development Program in the Columbia, SC plant.

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