Alumni Success Story: Chunyan Zhou, ZLOG 2018, Global Sourcing & Supply Chain at Apple

Alumni Success Story: Chunyan (Joris) Zhou, ZLOG 2018, Global Sourcing & Supply Chain at Apple.  See profile on Linkedin


Hello Joris, we are really glad you can share a few minutes with us and explain details related to your career before, during, and after studying in ZLC. We can notice that although you are still relatively young, you have a very global profile, working in different places in Europe, Dubai, or Shanghai.

Back in 2015, you were selected by a management consulting program for working in Dubai. How was working in this dynamic and multicultural hub for global commerce?

It’s no surprise Dubai attracts expats from all corners of the world. 2015 is also a turning point in the oil industry: this is when the crude oil prices started to drastically go down, which, at that time, triggered the oil-dominated area to look for diversification. Dubai was in the position to pilot the promising non-oil industries for an even larger scale of pivot in the middle east region.

Meanwhile, in 2015, I graduated from China at the age of 22, I started a transformative career in Dubai. My job has a lot to do with Dubai Government on trade, infrastructure, logistics deals, and its footage on the global market. Firstly I worked as a consulting associate of the Dubai Business Associate Programme run under the patronage of the Prime Minister of the UAE, later transited to the Free Trade Zone Authority under DP World. I am fascinated by the diversity of people and the opinion in Dubai, which has enabled a collaborative approach and deep mutual respect in the working environment. This experience and the people I met are invaluable to me.


In 2017, you moved to Zaragoza to start ZLOG Master’s Degree. How did you know ZLC, and when did you start thinking about applying to ZLOG Master Program?

Pursuing a Master degree in Engineering of Supply Chain was one of the challenges that I wanted to nail. With the exposure from working in Dubai, I had the opportunity to overlook the strategic role of the infrastructure development for a city or even a country in a long run. Which also enabled me constantly refining, overthrowing, and rebuilding what I have gained from work. This process has led me to pursue a master degree.

After spoke with MIT Scale Network alumni from SpaceX, Amazon, Mckinsey, and comparatively with alumni from other SCM programs. I decided to join this #1 ranking SCM master program.


Your ZLOG Master Thesis brought you Data analysis responsibilities in a Houston-based top-tier energy services company A. It seemed an exciting project tackling the cost-saving structure of international freight rates. Could you highlight any learnings from this project?

The freight rates problem on this project is a statistical problem aimed at logistics cost optimization. In a freight forwarding market, a company like A will outsources the freight services based on either ad-hoc or contractual rates, which, the cost model, has involved multiple layers of variables: logistics routing, seasonality, carrier, incoterms, volume, and so much more. The idea is to quantify those variables and their correlation from the past five years’ data to recommend the best sourcing decision based on projections. We had tremendous support from A’s head of operations; my experience with this company was rewarding.

Some key learnings from this project: A real-time responsive system in the logistics network is needed. For example, the Suez Canal crisis and covid-19 are the disruptions to global supply chain. What this system would do is to locate the trouble and recommend an alternative. This would help transparentize the laying cost of carrying inventory in long pipelines. With some of the shifts already underway to make supply chains more resilient, I think it’s good for managers to take a more holistic view of logistics as a dynamic and evolving link in their supply chains.


In 2018, after graduating from ZLC, you moved to Shanghai to work at Apple. What attracted you to work in Shanghai?

My top preference back in 2018 was Asia. After worked, lived, and studied in 4 different countries. Asia is where I feel at home the most personally as well as professionally. In my view, the APAC region is at a widely upscaling progression on its manufacturing and supply chain capability comparing with other geographies. With the impact of covid and the decreasing demographic dividend, for example, in China, the transformation to automation and an integrated approach is accelerated. China is broadly beginning to restart its operations amid recovering domestic demand. Countries like Vietnam and India are also actively initiating this progression. This dynamic is what attracted me the most to work in Asia. MIT Scale Network also has profound resources in China and Malaysia.

Shanghai is the ideal city to work in China in my opinion, with its excellent “Hardware” and “Software” conditions. Pretty much everything is accessible from an authentic biryani to the Apple Store (Fun fact: Shanghai is one of the cities that has the most Apple Stores: 7, same as New York City)


And which are your current responsibilities as Global Sourcing & Supply Chain Manager. What are the main challenges or focuses as a supply chain manager in a global company? 

Like most supply chain managers, my current role has a lot to do with the involvement of material, information, cash flow to ensure supply can meet the demand so that the final products can arrive at the customer’s hands.

As a global sourcing and supply chain manager, the challenges are a day-to-day routine as the global situations are dynamic. In my experience, the key to excelling in this role is to have good visibility of the holistic chains and, horizontally, can foresee the future issue. Thus, the performances’ differentiation comes from a systematic analysis of great data and a solid management system for risk mitigation. For example, in a consumer electronics industry, knowing how the supply of wafers will impact the integrated circuit, system-on-chip, and eventually how it affects the output of the final product specified in a date and unit level is essential skill set. It all comes from great attention to the data you are managing.


We can guess you have developed soft skills adapting to such different companies in Dubai, Europe, or for an American company as Apple in China. Which are the best practices for European, American, or Asian companies?

I think there are no universal practices that can apply to all. What I find essential in most working environments is being 100% committed to our responsibilities; Second is to appreciate the work done by others and the team’s effort.


What are the main learnings you brought from your year in ZLC?

One thing I’ve learned from the ZLC is that: The overall supply chain performance is often time associated with the level of trust from all parties involved. With that in mind, I often ask myself: Will it help build the human trust with the suppliers?

I remember there was a lecture about disruptive technology in the Supply Chain. The tools were very advanced, but the company owner would be afraid to ring the bell because they don’t know what transparency means to their benefit. Indeed the supply chain could be very data-driven, rocket science in an ideal way, but at the end, people are at the core of our business.

ZLC taught me: To thrive in the supply chain field, organization must take a people approach to orchestrate the transformation. Because of those meaningful learnings, my time at the MIT-ZLOG program was fruitful, and I truly appreciate the dedication of all the faculty members.


Thank you so much Joris, we feel really fortunate that you are part of the ZLC family!