June Youngs
Executive in Residence June Youngs brings a lifetime of experience to the Global Supply Chain Management classroom.
Supply chain leader June Youngs on her career and having the courage to make change
Feb 15, 2024, by Stephen Kostrzewa
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There’s a good chance June Youngs’ work has played an important role in your life over the last few decades — whether you knew it or not. Over the course of her career, she’s helped solve national and international supply chain issues for Hasbro, Nabisco, Ocean Spray cranberries, and, most recently, CVS Health, where she served as vice president of logistics, ensuring that we have the things we need to lead our day to day lives.

Now, as an Executive in Residence with Bryant University’s Global Supply Chain Management program, Youngs is bringing her decades of experience to the classroom. Through teaching courses such as International Trade Logistics and Transportation, serving as a faculty advisor for the program’s successful practicum course, and mentoring students, she’s preparing the next generation of supply chain professionals to make their own mark on the world and to keep that world running.

Below, Youngs discusses her career, the global supply chain management field, and her new role as an educator.

What makes supply chain management such an exciting field? 
It's always been exciting for me because it's a field that changes every week, every day, and every second. I found it very stimulating as a career.

You never know what's going to come at you — and sometimes there's no immediately clear right or wrong answer. You're operating constantly in the gray space, and that's what makes it so exciting because you're trying to do the right thing for the product, the company, and the people you work with.

How has the supply chain field changed over the years? 
For a long time, supply chain management was something that went on behind the scenes — something that needed to be done, but you were pretty much unknown unless something went really wrong (laughs).

But when the pandemic struck, people began to understand how supply chain issues actually affected them. Suddenly these issues were what everyone was talking about and even the president was using supply chain terminology on television.

Now, supply chain doesn’t just have a seat at the table; they’re a critical part of the C-suite. I think that’s the biggest change I’ve seen.

Your career has taken you across so many industries, from toys to pharmaceuticals to food and beverages. What are the constants? What does a supply chain professional need to excel across fields? 
I have a background in classical music; I studied piano for 18 years and it was my minor in college.  I always say that supply chain has a lot of art in it.

One of the most important skills you need to have in supply chain management is critical thinking, the ability to connect the dots, make decisions, and to improvise when you need to — and that’s one of the skills I found was most missing when I was hiring.

You also, of course, need a strong background in business, and a range of business skill sets, so that you can see things holistically, as well as with an entrepreneurial mindset, where you can take responsibility for your decisions. Critical thinking doesn’t just mean looking for the single right answer; it's about seeing and understanding all of the pieces that that could go wrong. You need to be able to ask: What is the outcome? What's the return? What happens if something should go off? Because things that you never expect happen all the time.

Now you’ve decided to take your career’s worth of experience and use it to help prepare the next generation. You could teach anywhere you’d like; what brings you to Bryant? 
One of the things I love about this university is the holistic way it prepares these incredible talented students. I was a liberal arts major in college before I earned my MBA and I’ve learned that when you take courses such as sociology, psychology, and even literature, you gain experience broader than just looking at data and being an analyst and looking for the right answer. You become more of a whole human being, in my humble opinion.

I’ve also always been impressed by the university’s students. We had a team of Global Supply Chain Practicum students consult with us when I was at CVS, so I’ve seen their work in action and what they’re capable of.

How do you prepare students in the classroom for the real world? 
I think it’s all about providing critical thinking exercises based in real life. I have a lot of experience in a lot of different areas, so why not bring them forward and share them? I find that I have a passion for sharing practical, real world examples with my students, where hopefully I can have them sit in my shoes at key points throughout my career, when I faced a crisis or had a key decision to make, and have them think through, and talk through, what they would do in that situation.

I can tell them what I did as an up-and-coming logistics manager, for instance, but as I mentioned before, there aren’t always clear right or wrong answers for the decisions you’re forced to make. By considering those types of scenarios now, it’ll help prepare them to make those sorts of decisions later — and it will help them become leaders.

Throughout your career, you’ve prided yourself on being a mentor. What does a good mentor do? 
I’ve always loved being part of helping people find their way, and it’s one of the reasons I’m excited to be here. Every single person has strengths and skills and passions — but not everyone immediately knows how to put that all together and toward a career, especially at 18 or 19 years old. When I first went to college, I originally thought I was going to be an engineer, and while I was to able incorporate some of those engineering/operations elements into my career, I took a slightly different path.

I think I’ve always had an ability to help people understand what they’re passionate about and when I can help them figure out their purpose; that’s very fun for me. I’ve found that sometimes the most important thing you can do is to spend time with someone and talk to them and ask, “How can I help you get connected with other people or help inspire you in what you're doing?”

It’s easier here because in many ways the students already have such a strong foundation.

Looking back, what’s something you wish someone had told you as a supply change professional, or the biggest piece of advice you’d share?  
One of the biggest things is to make sure that you have courage. Courage is huge, and I don't say that lightly. Sometimes having courage doesn’t just mean speaking up when it comes to potential changes in the supply chain process but on behalf of others as well.

Having that sort of courage will be hard for you, throughout your entire career, but you have to do it anyway — especially if you want to make a difference. Because courage is what makes change, not status quo.

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