Alumni Success Story: Isaac Mccracken, ZLOG 2019, Transportation Manager at Hungryroot. See profile on Linkedin
Hello Isaac, we appreciate your participation by sharing your “Success Story” with the rest of the graduates of the ZLC masters and with the rest of the followers of the center.
You begin your professional career in the USA Air Force, where you know first-hand the complexity of military operations and logistics in Afghanistan. Was there something at that stage that sparked interest in logistics and supply chain management?
It was very exciting to visit the air terminal operations control center (ATOC) in Bagram Afghanistan, where all air base cargo activity is planned and coordinated. Planes were arriving and departing daily with all the bombs, men, and war machines you can imagine. The fast pace of operations was intoxicating to me as a young man. There was a feeling of importance to the work that was the spark for me. When I deployed to the German base in Mazar-e-Sharif Afghanistan I jumped at the chance to learn ATOC duties myself.
As of 2009, you decide to reinforce your training and enter Colorado State University, combining your military activity with university studies. Do you think that this double effort has hardened you as a professional and has helped you face new challenges?
University was demanding at times, but it was easy compared to deployments. It was very challenging leaving my family and friends behind during deployments. The night before I left for Afghanistan I did not sleep much, and I remember taking a long walk around the quiet city at 3am. I’m very grateful, however, that I took these calculated risks when younger because it increased my risk tolerance. We don’t grow without challenging ourselves.
In 2014, once you graduated from the University, you joined XPO Logistics, a world leader in logistics, specializing in international operations and exports by air transport. What did mean taking this step to the private sector in an international environment?
I believed at an early age that we are shaped by our environments, and the people I most respected and wanted to emulate were businesspeople. Moving into the private sector was my attempt to become more like those people. I am extremely grateful to my mentors at XPO, especially station owner Dan Schachtner. For example, Dan taught me my time was worth a dollar amount and to make decisions with that dollar amount in mind. Before that I didn’t value my time appropriately. I still make decisions in the same way, only with a somewhat higher dollar amount.
At the same time, you decide to take a leap in your professional career and specialize in Logistics, requesting access to the ZLC to take the ZLOG. How did you find out about Zaragoza Logistics Center, and why did you choose this center from the MIT Global SCALE Network?
My wife Lianna found the ZLOG program online. I was accepted into some very good graduate programs in the USA, but the ZLOG program was only one year long with a very reasonable price considering the high quality of education. Tuition costs in the USA are unreasonably high right now. Plus, Lianna and I wanted to experience Spain, which is an incredible country. I didn’t really consider the other SCALE Network sites, which is fine because ZLOG worked out well.
What do you highlight about your time at ZLC? Is ZLOG the perfect program for logistics professionals who want to take a significant leap in their career?
The highlight for me was my peers in the program. My classmates were some of the smartest and hardest working people I have ever met. The MIT-ZLOG program is very challenging, but it was the best professional choice I have made so far. I highly recommend it for logistics professionals.
What would you recommend to other professionals in the logistics sector who are currently considering graduating from ZLOG?
Do it. The MIT-ZLOG program has made me far more marketable, and I now have a fantastic toolset of quantitative techniques. I frequently think about decision tree theory, system dynamics, working capital, regression, stochastic demand modelling, and many other tools that I gained from the program. These mental models are the difference between success and failure. Plus, you can gain these skills while living in Spain! No regrets.
After completing the ZLOG, you returned to the US, where, after a brief stint at USKO Logistics, you moved to a multinational like Nike with the position of International Carrier Compliance Analyst. What ZLOG learning was most helpful to you in a demanding position like the one you held at Nike?
Nike’s inbound ocean and air allocation is one giant ($300M) optimization problem. I sent a note to Professor Gürbüz telling him how useful his optimization class was to me at Nike. Even if you don’t create an explicit optimization model, to be able to think in terms of optimization hugely clarifies the decision-making process. Spyros’ purchasing class was also very helpful for managing vendor relationships and clarifying and communicating our LSP management strategy to other parts of the organization.
You recently moved to Hungryroot where you hold the position of Transportation Manager. What are your main logistical challenges for, as you indicate in your LinkedIn profile, “Deliver health and convenience”? To what extent can AI (Artificial Intelligence) improve our shopping cart, or how can it improve its deliveries?
Managing our regional parcel network is undoubtedly the largest challenge. We currently ship 35K orders every week from three fulfillment centers and next year we expect our orders to double. Leveraging the strengths of our regional parcel partners to make sure these perishable orders are delivered fresh, while seeking economies of scale, is an enormous challenge. There is a newsvendor problem in there somewhere. It is very challenging but also very exciting. We are also aggressively standing up logistics KPIs to improve our visibility and control.
We use AI to help our customers make their meal planning decisions. Planning meals and shopping is a serious weekly time commitment and frequently results in wasted product, wasted effort, or simply eating out or eating unhealthy food. Our business model is built on the idea that AI can make eating better easy, and Hungryroot’s impressive exponential growth is proof that customers appreciate the added value.
Thank you so much for sharing your time with all of us. We wish you the best in your new professional stage, and we hope to continue collaborating on future projects.