By taking on new roles and responsibilities, Laura Eory has successfully bridged the gap between raising a family and cultivating a long-term career in the industry that she loves.
Who Says Career Advancement has to be Linear?
Laura Eory’s career in supply chain started with a DOT internship building databases for the Michigan Division’s procurement processes. It was 2005, and Eory was a student in Michigan State University’s supply chain program. Upon graduation, she accepted a job offer from Kraft Foods, got married, and moved to Lansing, Mich., all within the same week.
That whirlwind would culminate in a successful, 15-year (and still counting) career in a field that would find Eory working for multiple companies and industries, building her resume, and learning all she could about the field.
Time for a Job Shift
After working for Kraft as a transportation planner for a year-and-a-half, Eory had her first child and decided it was time for a job shift. “I came back from maternity leave ready for a change,” says Eory, who became a plant supervisor, working extremely early morning shifts but always home by 2PM and able to spend quality time with her newborn.
This new position also gave Eory invaluable, hands-on experience that she’d reflect on as her own career progressed. “That experience working on the plant floor opened my eyes and brain to the fact that a college degree isn’t everything,” says Eory, “and that there are many intelligent individuals running our plants and processes. That helps humble me as a leader.”
When Kraft split into two companies, Eory took on a new role as head of Mondelēz's transportation department. She later moved her family (which now included her husband and two children), to New Jersey to become an associate director of IDP. At that point she says she realized the importance of regularly reevaluating your career and moving on if it doesn’t suit you well.
“A career is not linear and it's not a ladder that you're climbing,” says Eory. “Sometimes, you're going to take have to take a step down, knowing that it will help you learn more about yourself and figure out what you really want to do.”
Exceeding Customer Expectations
Ready for a new career outside of the food industry, Eory learned about a warehousing and distribution position with GAF. She held that position for two years, along the way having two more children and effectively balancing motherhood with a successful career. “If you truly want something, you make it work,” she points out. “It’s been an exciting journey so far.”
Today, Eory leads a 3-person team and about 30 indirect reports, all of whom are focused on transportation planning. “We lead the strategy and oversee what we should be doing in the plant,” she says, “all the while making sure transportation is looking forward and not simply reacting.”
Much of Eory’s work day is focused on motivating team members to success and helping them develop their individual skills and prepare for new roles. She also makes strategic decisions and helps determine where technology fits in, both of which help to build a strong foundation for the organization as a whole.
Eory says strong alliances with technology providers also play a key role in helping the company remain agile and future-proof. She sees supply chain visibility and automation as playing critical roles in her company’s logistics operations today and in the future, and values the partnerships that GAF has with its technology providers.
“We work together with companies like IntelliTrans to figure out what we need for the future,” says Eory, “and how we can bring everything together and move down the same path forward, and within the same timeframe.”
These strategies are crucial in an industry where most of the logistics focus was on getting products out the door, and not on gaining high levels of visibility as those goods made their way through transportation networks. Today, Eory sees more focus being placed on loading trucks in a timely manner, setting drivers up for success, and then tracking the goods as they make their way to their destinations.
“Amazon changed our industry pretty quickly and we’re now in a world where consumers can look at their cell phones to find out where their shipments are, when the goods will be delivered, and right down to the level of when the package is sitting on their doorsteps,” says Eory. “Our customers are demanding similar levels of visibility.”
Women in Logistics
Reflecting on her career in supply chain and logistics, Eory says she was fortunate early on to have several women managers who helped her pave her own path in the industry. “I had some strong female role models,” she says. Beyond that, Eory remembers attending many transportation-related meetings where she was the “only woman at the table.” And while she was never uncomfortable in those situations, she did notice the absence of other women in her industry.
Fast-forward to today and Eory is pleased to see more women taking an interest in supply chain, transportation, and logistics. She sees this as a win-win both for the individuals, the companies, and the industry as a whole.
“Women are great negotiators and communicators, both of which are important in supply chain management,” says Eory. “We’re at a point where our numbers are beginning to rise steadily.”
Eliminating Blind Spots
Asked to share her thoughts about the supply chain industry as a whole, Eory expects more automation, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other advanced technology tools to find their way into the sector. As that happens, she says long-time supply chain experts like herself will likely have to update their skillsets and expertise to reflect these changes.
“I have a supply chain degree that’s now 15 years old, so the question is, what do I need to do now to learn new skills and technology and really understand what we can do to unlock their value?” she asks. “There’s a lot of technology coming. What myself and others have to do now at this point in our careers is evaluate our biggest blind spots and work to eliminate them.”