Back in 2004, you embarked on a new chapter in your life, enrolling as a student in the 1st class of the MIT Zaragoza Master of Engineering in Logistics and Supply Chain Management (ZLOG). How was the experience? Did you take any fond memories away with you?
I can still remember the first day when I arrived Zaragoza, waiting at the bus station for Diego to pick me up. It was a big step for me to decide study abroad, as it was also my first time to be abroad. You can imagine the culture shocks I had at that time. A lot of people to be appreciated: Rice, who is also from Shanghai, helped me settle my apartment before I arrive; Manuela / Phyllis / Anya, my roommates, helped me on language and culture adjustments; Prashant / Richard, my professors, shaped my mind on supply chain thinking. I could not complete this challenging program without all these people.
Can you outline what aspects of the ZLOG course proved particularly useful and why in your career path?
All courses are great, but I like the modeling one especially. Before ZLOG, I never had any similar courses on modeling, though I was major in engineering. This course gave me a lot of hard times at the beginning. I didn’t even know where to start. Thanks to my professor and classmates, they were very patient and kind to walk me through the whole thinking path. With their help, I gradually catch up the speed. I learned how to read the problem, how to outline the key parameters, and how to identify your objective function. All these are critical to my further career development. I joined Dow Chemical’s APAC supply chain design & modify team as an analyst after graduation, where I participated in all mega projects in APAC. My learning from ZLOG on how to read the problem, how to outline the key parameters, and how to identify your objective function enables me to be an excellent problem solver and designed almost all the supply chain facilities during that period of time. Some has been running for 10 years with great performance.
Once you completed the program you secured an exciting opportunity with Dow Chemical in China, where you’ve been climbing the corporate ladder over the years, currently working as a Trade Compliance Manager. Could you briefly describe your role at one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies for plastics, chemical and agricultural products?
The responsibility of a trade compliance leader in Dow is to ensure Dow moves its materials in compliant with NAA and local regulations at the same time gain Dow financial benefits and supply chain efficiencies via applying compliance techniques. It is a very technical position which requires abundant compliance experiences. I managed to survive in this position with zero background and experience, because I learned how to read the problem, how to outline the key parameters, and how to identify your objective function. I focused on the fundamentals first, built a robust internal process to ensure operation discipline. With that done, the overall compliance cases dropped 1/3 in the past few years.
Understanding the myriad global trade rules and regulations on the horizon is not child’s play…Transportation rules, regulations and security norms can be especially tricky! What are the main challenges facing compliance professionals in today’s world? How do you manage to successfully and consistently address supply chain compliance issues at Dow Chemical?
The international trading environment became highly dynamic in the past few years. It is not an easy job to maintain the resilience of a supply chain. But the fundamental factor does not change. To ensure proper operation discipline is key to compliance performance.
Knowing what you know now, would you still enroll into the program if you had the chance to go back and do it over again?
Definitely I will make the same decision again – to go to ZLOG. ZLOG is a big and warm family. I had a decent job before I came to the program. I pushed myself out from my comfort zone without a direction. I don’t know how to speak Spanish, can’t imagine how I could survive without all the help from my professors, school faculties, and classmates. At the end of the day, I made it, in this big and warm family. The biggest treasure I took from ZLOG program is not supply chain knowledge, but the belief to keep walking with my team members no matter what difficulties we are facing.
Keep walking ZLOGgers!