Let’s Talk Supply Chain with Sarah Barnes, Serial Entrepreneur and Diversity Trailblazer – Part One

Today, we bring you a Q&A with an inspiring leader in the logistics space, and founder of the Let’s Talk Supply Chain podcast series, Sarah Barnes. A self-professed serial entrepreneur Sarah has worn many hats in her career. In part one of her two-part blog interview with us, she shares her thoughts on barriers to women’s leadership in supply chain, the leaders she most admires, and how she scored one of her favorite sought-after guests on her podcast (hint: persistence pays off!).

SCN: Tell us a little about yourself.

You could say supply chain is in my blood! I come from entrepreneurial parents. My dad started a logistics company called Icecorp Logistics in 1989 and I have been passionate about supply chain since I started at the company. I started in reception and worked my way through all their departments. I learned a lot about operations, customs and warehousing and ended as director of sales and marketing. It was a true family business – my mom also worked there – so I listened to a lot of business talk around the dinner table.

But it’s not just about supply chain, I am also an athlete. I play indoor and beach volleyball and I’m a catcher in softball which I have played for 33 years. I am also passionate about beauty. Our face is something everyone sees, so skincare routines are important, and I put some focus on that as well.

SCN: Though supply chain is ‘the family business,’ why did you choose it as a career path?

I started right after high school but made sure I kept up my education by gaining certificates and diplomas by correspondence over 10 years. With each course, I dove into the different aspects of supply chain starting with logistics, customs, supply chain management then finally international trade by getting my CITP designation. At each step, I loved the problem-solving, and how every day was different, so I stayed with it and I’m so glad I did because I ended up very passionate about it.

SCN: You recently started a Women in Supply Chain Series. Tell us about that and why you decided to create the series?

Growing up in supply chain, it was always a man’s world. The conferences were ‘boys clubs.’ Over the last few years, I was hearing more about women doing amazing things in supply chain and it inspired me. I really wanted to make sure that they had a platform to be heard more than just in their regular positions or organizations. I wanted to be a part of that and bring more awareness to diversity. It isn’t just about gender.

I also focus on bringing more diversity to the people I have on the show. It is really important to highlight women kicking butt and taking names, especially in a male-dominated industry.

In fact, recently I was organizing a panel discussion at a conference, and it turned into an all-female panel talking about the future of logistics and supply chain. There were a lot of women in the audience and when I mentioned that we had an all-female panel, a lot of them loved it.

SCN: Who has been your most sought-after guest on your Let’s Talk Supply Chain podcast so far?  And, if you could interview anyone on your show, who would it be?

The podcast started as a marketing experiment while I was director of sales and marketing at Icecorp, so we called it 2 babes talk supply chain because we thought it was catchy and there were two of us. Late last year, I took over the show and as I started the women in supply chain series, the name wasn’t resonating anymore, so I changed it to Let’s Talk Supply Chain. Our most popular episode was about demand and supply chain with Simon Eagle of the Demand Driven Institute.

My most sought-after guest is Richard Bistrong – CEO, Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC – and famed compliance expert. He speaks on stages across the world about his story. He was working for a company as a VP and was caught for bribery and went to jail. His mission was to make sure it didn’t happen to anyone else.

It took 18 months to get him on the show.  I am on the board of directors for FITT (Forum for International Trade Training) and am the chair for the FITT Conference. He was a speaker at their 25th anniversary conference. I cornered him to ask him to come on my show. He said yes, but it took four more months, but I got him on the show! (listen here).

And finally, if I could have anyone on the show, it would be Jessica Alba, actress and founder of the Honest Company. I have tried to connect with some people to get her on the show but haven’t heard back. At the end of the day, I really like interviewing everyday supply chain superheroes!

SCN: What are the top three things you’d like those in the supply chain field to know today?

There are three things I want supply chain practitioners to know:

  • Get comfortable with change. Though the industry is very traditional, it is evolving at a fast pace. Things are only going to change faster and we need to get comfortable with it.
  • Incorporate someone with a strong technical background into your supply chain team. With all the innovation in the supply chain field, you need to get a handle on it and what will work and what will not. The only way to do that is to have someone with a technology background that can advise you
  • The supply chain is now at the boardroom table. And if it is not in your company, it should be. It has become a major business function and has implications across the business. It is truly one of the only ways to get in front of what’s coming with consumer demand with delivery times etc.

Stay tuned for part two of Sarah’s interview with us, next week!

Sarah can be reached on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, and you can follow her podcast on LinkedIn here!

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