How to qualify to become a supply chain management executive? The Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal gives some tips; Michael Higgs of offers some perspective; and researchers offer some data.

Mark Zafra, a Director of Supply Chain Management for Agilent Technologies profiled in CareerJournal’s “How I Got There” series, advices would-be supply chain professionals to prepare for success by picking up solid negotiation, logistics, financial analysis, and people skills; practical experience working with shipping and receiving employees and with all levels of an organization; and a BA in business or an MBA.

But Higgs, having been asked to define the skill set an employer might look for in a global sourcing specialist, offers a sensible approach that would work for pretty much any employer.

“You have to ask yourself what skill set(s) you value the most,” Higgs writes, “and then ask, are the rest of the skill sets trainable? There are only two skills that I see that are really hard to train, so the candidate should possess them upon hire: leadership…and tenacity…. People with these two skills and with the right mentorship have a really high probability to grow into a really valuable employee.”

So what does the research show? Last year, academics from City University and Cass Business School in London and the Anderson School of Management of the University of California, Los Angeles, published “What Employers Demand from Applicants for MBA-Level Supply-Chain Jobs.” The study analyzed 704 online advertisements for supply chain management jobs for MBA graduates. The analysis indicated that employers require these general skills (in decreasing order):

  • communication
  • leadership
  • project management
  • team
  • general analytical

and knowledge in these supply chain topics (also in decreasing order):

  • sourcing and supplier management
  • inventory and forecasting
  • information and electronic mediated environments
  • marketing and channel retructuring
  • transportation and logistics
  • metrics and performance
  • service and after sales support

And how are well are MBA programs succeeding in supplying the education that businesses are demanding? Check out the study.

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William Dorn

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