With the supply chain industry in the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, it might make the idea of choosing it as a career path seem counterintuitive for college students. However, the field still presents excellent opportunities for young professionals and recent graduates. 

One of the primary challenges is that most students are unaware that majoring in supply chain management is even an option. Lori Sisk, automotive supply chain veteran and Assistant Professor at Wayne State University’s Global Supply Chain Management program, is determined to raise awareness and attract young talent. She says it’s essential to “get the word out” to high school and community college students that a program like hers exists — in the Motor City no less.

Show Notes:

hemes discussed in this episode: 

  • The importance of rotational programs to help students understand the many different areas within supply chain
  • The premium that today’s employers put on understanding data analytics and applying that knowledge to decision-making
  • The complementary relationship between industry and academia in professional development programs like the one Lori helped develop at the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG)
  • The increasing desire for flexibility in the workplace among supply chain students and recent graduates
  • How students tend to defy their own expectations when provided with the right learning and work environments

 At the heart of The Prophets’ vision are “The 24 Essential Supply Chain Processes.” What are they? Find out, and see the future yourself. Click here

Featured on This Episode: 

Name: Lori Sisk

Title: Assistant Professor, Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business; Owner, Accelerate to Success, LLC

About: Lori is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business in Detroit. She teaches in its Global Supply Chain Management program.

Connect: LinkedIn 

Episode Highlights

Timestamp inflection points from the show

[1:50] Multiple vantage points: Two and a half decades of experience across the automotive industry, including roles on the OEM and Tier One side and as a consultant, inform Lori’s work at Wayne State University, where she teaches in its Global Supply Chain Management program.    

[3:42] Raising awareness: The biggest challenge Lori and her Wayne State colleagues face is letting students know the school offers a supply chain major and that supply chain is its own distinct career path. Being in Detroit and being passionate industry veterans and educators helps the recruiting effort. 

[5:05] A real-world education: Rotational programs with employers expose Lori’s students to supply chain niches that range from purchasing to logistics to materials management to production planning and give them a practical understanding of each part of the supply chain. 

[6:04] Hot spots: The supply chain areas Lori’s students tend to gravitate towards are purchasing, logistics and consulting.

[7:40] New skills for a changing world: Companies want graduates to have a firm understanding of data analytics and know how to apply them to decision-making. It has become a focus at Wayne State. 

[8:29] Practical experience: As part of a required quality class, students participate in case studies created by industry professionals who are also Wayne State supply chain alumni. These former students come in and answer students’ questions. Top student teams get to present to executives at their companies. 

[11:58] Learning from the pros: Industry mentors (Terry Onica is one) are a key part of Wayne State’s supply chain program. Peer-to-peer mentoring is instrumental as well, especially for younger, newer students. 

[13:03] Key criteria: Industry recruiters want current and future generations of students to have internship experience, communication skills, data analytics understanding and technology skills as well as the ability to communicate across an organization when they graduate.

[14:40] Continuing education: Active in the AIAG, Lori helped it develop a rigorous automotive certificate program that Lori says covers “every facet of supply chain in 23 weeks.”  

[16:25] Advanced studies: Wayne State offers a unique master’s program in automotive supply chain in addition to its undergraduate program. 

[17:20] The one thing: Lori would tell supply chain leaders that students tend to achieve more than they realize they’re capable of, but this requires the opportunity to keep learning. To facilitate this, supply chain leaders need to provide a constantly improving environment that encourages continuous learning.

Top quotes

[2:42] “The students really give me that extra energy every day that I need to be able to keep going and to continue my passion not only of supply chain, but of teaching.”

[5:21] “[Students] also want a lot of flexibility. As the world and the professional world has gotten used to being online, so have the students. They’ve gotten used to online classes, but I do believe that they are mostly interested in a hybrid format, both in classes and in the workforce. I think that will continue.” 

[7:01] “Anytime [students] can get some of these rotational programs is really key so they can understand where they want to land.”

[7:43] “We hear over and over again that companies want the students to understand analytics and [how to] pull that up to an executive format and decision-making processes.” 

[13:33] The industry is looking to this next group to make these processes we have less tedious by incorporating more technology. The data analytics and the technology is really key and then being able to communicate. Communication is key not only within departments, but across departments, to executives, to all levels within the organization, so that their voices can be heard and understood, and [so] they are able to help improve the organization and the supply chain processes and technology.” 

[17:20] “I would say to [auto supply chain leaders]: keep improving, keep learning. Give these young students a chance. They can achieve a lot more than what they even know they can do, so give them the opportunity and see where they can go.”


supply chain, leader, organization, important, people, leadership, lori, trust, build, school, learning, ropes, future, suppliers, stronger, understanding, purchasing, responsibilities

Lori Sisk, Jan Griffiths, Terry Onica, Cathy Fisher, Dietrich

Dietrich: 00:07

We really can’t predict the future because nobody can. What we can do though, is help auto manufacturers recognize, prepare for in profit from whatever comes next. Auto Supply Chain Prophets gives you timely and relevant insights and best practices from industry leaders. It’s all about what’s happening now in the automotive supply chain and how to prepare your organization for the future. Because the auto supply chain, is where the money is.

Jan Griffiths: 00:40

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Auto Supply Chain Prophets, and today, we have with us the one and only Lori Sisk. Lori is the Assistant Professor of teaching at Wayne State University at the Mike Ilitch School of Business for supply chain management. And I have had the unique pleasure of getting to know Lori over the last several years, as we both sit on the supply chain advisory board. Lori is somebody who is deeply passionate about supply chain not only the function, but the young people that we have coming out of our schools today. Particularly, Wayne State going into that function. So, Lori Sisk. Welcome to the show.

Lori Sisk: 01:26

Thank you, Jan.

Jan Griffiths: 01:28

Laurie, what is your story? Come on, tell it.

Lori Sisk: 01:34

I come from a background of industry and consulting. And I have 26 years of experience. I am very fortunate to now be teaching at Wayne State University in supply chain and purchasing. My career went across automotive, both from an OEM perspective and tier one by working at Mazda and General Motors, TRW and Delphi. And then I was in consulting with Ernst and Young EDS, which now is HP. So I’ve had the unique pleasure to be working across automotive in various different roles from production planning to purchasing and then consulting in supply chain technology, as well as in supply chain processes, and purchasing strategic sourcing processes and the like. And I am so fortunate to be teaching at Wayne State University. I’ve been full time now for eight years. I used to be part time and adjunct professor, but the students really give me that extra energy every day that I need to be able to keep going and to continue my passion not only of supply chain, but of teaching.

Lori Sisk: 01:36

Lori, I wanted to ask you, since you have been working with these young people over the past eight years, and what’s going on currently, with the automotive supply chain being in such chaos? Are you seeing students flocked to supply chain careers or runaway?

Lori Sisk: 03:10

They’re coming to supply chain, it’s just getting that knowledge out there that there is this major called supply chain. I think that’s mostly where we struggle. Once the students get exposure to supply chain classes. They now want to change their major many of them do that. And so if we can get in front of that, and I always say, well, we couldn’t buy toilet paper, so everybody should know what supply chain is. But they still don’t realize that there’s a major in supply chain and that you can have a career in this. So getting the word out early high schools, community colleges, right when they come in is really important for us from a supply chain major recruitment perspective. And then once they take some of our classes, we really sell them on supply chain because most of us as professors have industry experience and they get excited about it and they get excited about meeting industry professionals and we’re so fortunate to be able to be in Detroit and have a lot of access to a lot of industry professionals such as yourself.

Terry Onica: 04:26

So, what are the students expectation regarding supply chain as they start to go out into the world with employers? What are they looking for?

Lori Sisk: 04:34

Yes, students want to challenge and they want to make a difference. They may still be somewhat confused though because there are so many aspects of supply chain I know when I talk about a supply chain career. We know that we can go into logistics. We can go into purchasing. We can go into materials management. We can go into production planning. We can go into supply. We can go into demand. There’s many, many facets of this. So with that they really do target those rotational programs, because it allows them to kind of dip their toe in the water in many different areas. And so that really helps them gain an understanding of what would it be like to actually do this job. I really believe they also want a lot of flexibility, as the world in the professional world has gotten used to being online, while so have the students. They’ve gotten used to online classes. But I do believe that they are mostly interested in a hybrid format, both in classes and in the workforce, I think that will continue over to that area as well.

Cathy Fisher: 05:46

It was interesting that you recognize supply chain as broadly as we do with all of those different aspects, all those different areas. Lori, what are you seeing as the areas of most broad or interest for your students right now relative to supply chain careers?

Lori Sisk: 06:03

Well, I teach purchasing, so most of them like to take purchase. I’m a little biased. I just think it’s, you know, the the hot career. I’ve also seen an interesting, I’ll say navigation path, and that some of them are now starting to go into consulting and supply chain consulting. And at Wayne State, we haven’t had a lot of consulting companies in the past come and recruit. But it’s been a great process that we’ve started. And I think that that’s going to continue as well. And we actually started a student org around consulting too. So I think that, you know, they are just, again, trying to figure out what’s best for them. Logistics is very big in our area as well. We have a lot of great logistics companies that are also part of our advisory board. And they recruit very heavily from Wayne State, too. So we have a very big lot of companies that heavily recruit different areas. And I think anytime they can get some of these rotational programs is really key so they can understand where they want to land.

Lori Sisk: 06:37

So Lori, Wayne State, I think, does a really outstanding job in preparing supply chain professionals in the future. And it’s great, because you’re, you know, it helps so much because you’re right here in the Detroit metropolitan area. And I know I’m a mentorship in the Wayne State program. And I think it’s just outstanding to help these students as they transition into supply chain as a professional want to share all the different things that Wayne State University does.

Lori Sisk: 07:36

We focus on a lot of different areas. One is we really think it’s important for data analytics, we hear over and over again, that companies want the students to understand analytics and pulling that up to say, an executive format and decision making processes. We also do a lot of focus, and our Advisory Board has really helped on this is the leadership and executive skills. So you know, I actually talked to a few students to ask them, How are we preparing you and they said, professors really do care. And they’re setting up the standards for us to have a successful start to their career. Detroit has a lot of opportunities and the professors we have a lot of connections within the industry. Because many of us have had careers in industry. And we strongly encourage the students to have internships. One of the things we do is we require a quality class as part of our curriculum, not many universities, actually required a quality class another area that’s many students come back and tell me the value, is the case studies. I do two case studies in my classes. And one one I partner with Ford and the other ones Meritor and we actually have representatives, former students, alumni that usually come back, and they will create the case, they’ll come back and answer questions to the students directly. And then they will listen and provide feedback to the actual case presentations. And the top teams get to present to the executives at these companies. So I think that’s extremely valuable because of real life problems. These are problems that these organizations have and that they encounter every day. And then we also have an international pace competition where 20 To 25 universities come to Detroit to compete, and it’s an amazing experience for all of these students. We have sponsors, General Motors, writer, Denso, Bose, a, an AGC and AIG. The other thing I really focus on is having a weekly event for the students to meet industry professionals. So we focus a lot on the connections that the students can make with industry and the industry folks coming back and talking to the students and I think this also goes back to the ebook that Terry and Kathy have created and making sure are that we develop as many of these competencies that we can with the students so that they come to you as prepared as they can possibly be prepared. Nothing takes the place of actual real world experience, we know that. But it’s it’s extremely important that we cover not only the technical and the analytic and the technology side, but also that executive presence and the leadership series. And actually, Jan helped us out with some of the sessions, that our executive board actually recruited to teach the students some of these things that they normally wouldn’t think about. And so I just went to an ITSM conference Institute of supply management conference. And I got, I got a lot of feedback from the quality of our students, and just how they presented themselves in their executive presence. And it just made me so proud to be a part of of Wayne State and how they represent themselves and Wayne State and the supply chain function.

Terry Onica: 11:04

And I’m so proud my mentee was on that team for the ISS case study. Very, very proud of her, she did a fantastic job. One of the things I want to mention, too, that being a mentor, is every single one, I’ve had five mentees now have told me I need to take an IT class. So I really like the fact that Wayne State is pushing that third pillar quality supply chain and it I just love it every time. Every one of them comes back and says I need to take a class on IT. So I think that’s really good, too.

Lori Sisk: 11:37

Yeah, and most of our students have double major. So a lot of them do what’s called an ITSM major and a supply chain major. And I always encourage that. And usually if they start out with one major, I’m always like supply chains that great add to that one, whatever it may be, because it’s a great idea anything. And then we just pull them in, and we have them be supply chain majors. Yeah, so Terry, you’re part of that mentoring program, which I think is also really key to Wayne State. And we have that mentoring program. We also have peer to peer mentors, from the GSC may organization or student org. And that also really helps those younger classmen kind of attach themselves to an older classmen. And, and it’s helped them get internships and be able to further educate their executive presence.

Cathy Fisher: 12:23

It sounds like Wayne State has a tremendous connection with industry. And I’m curious to know, Lori, what is industry asking for in supply chain professionals today?

Lori Sisk: 12:36

That’s a great question. And you know, they really look at being able to understand the overview, I know that you have the 24 essential supply chain processes. And I think it’s really important that when the industry professionals come to recruit that our students understand the broadness right of supply chain, but also a deeper dive into that, I think the professionals are really looking at being able to recruit students that have that understanding, and that they are ready to go. So making sure that they have the internship experience, and making sure that they are keeping up with the latest news and automotive technology, and versatile, really a different mindset and how to move to the next level. So I really think that industry is looking to this next group is to make these processes we have less tedious incorporate more technology. The data analytics and the technology is really key and then being able to communicate, communication is key not only, you know, within departments, but across departments, to executives to all levels within the organization, so that their voices can be heard and understood, and that they are able to help improve the organization and the supply chain processes and technology.

Terry Onica: 14:12

So Lori, Switching now to once I’m a professional out there and I’m in my career, you are very active through AIAG, the Automotive Industry Action Group in helping to further education because we all know supply chain doesn’t just stop at the end of university. It’s constantly changing. There’s new disruptions, it’s such a vast field. Can you talk to us about what you’re doing with AIAG to help continue that journey and supply chain?

Lori Sisk: 14:40

The biggest thing that we have been able to develop is what we call the 23 week program. This is a supply chain automotive certificate program. And we have been running this now for 10 years. And we use a mixture of industry executives and academia. What the industry professionals get is, what does it look like from an academia perspective as far as theory. And then from an industry executive perspective, this is how it really works. And we cover all every facet of supply chain in 23 weeks, I work very hard on this program to make sure we have the best. And the latest information. I actually survey our advisory board about once every two years to say, Okay, is there anything we need to take out? Is there something we need to add to make sure that we’re the latest classes available, is a very unique program, because I think many other programs have just academia or just industry professionals. And here we use a blend. And so you can find that through AIAG or by contacting me, or Terry, as well.

Terry Onica: 15:49

I was a second year graduate of that program, and is really outstanding, Lori. Nowhere else are you going to find that kind of training, and the professors and the trainers and the teachers are just outstanding, but I really highly recommend that that program. It’s an excellent program to continue on your knowledge and make sure you understand every single thing about supply chain.

Lori Sisk: 16:10

We work really hard. And it covers like I’ll say examples like customs and packaging and cybersecurity and then logistics and purchasing. And, you know, it just covers every single area you can imagine. And we try really hard, like I said to get that updated to Wayne State also have has a very unique program, we have an MS and automotive supply chain. So I just want to mention that as well. It’s very unique, and that is focused on automotive supply chain. So it’s a great way to continue your education as well and build those competencies, as mentioned in the eBook, too.

Terry Onica: 16:44

How exciting because they’re our future lawyer. They are our absolute future. And so it’s so exciting to see what what’s happening and how they’re progressing and what Wayne State’s doing to support that.

Lori Sisk: 16:55

Yes, thank you.

Lori Sisk: 16:57

Lori, you’re in a unique position. Sitting on the advisory board and facing the students you face both the students industry and ISM and AIAG. What is the one thing the one piece of advice that you would give senior automotive supply chain leaders out there today?

Lori Sisk: 17:20

I would say to keep improving, keep learning to give these young young students a chance they can achieve a lot more than what they even know they can do so give them the opportunity and see what where they can go.

Lori Sisk: 17:37

Yeah, I love that. That’s beautiful. Great. Well Lori Sisk. Thank you very much for your time today.

Lori Sisk: 17:43

Thank you


At the heart of The Prophets’ vision are “The 24 Essential Supply Chain Processes.” What are they? Find out, and see the future yourself. [ DOWNLOAD OUR WHITEPAPER ]

Are you ready to find the money in your supply chain? Visit www.autosupplychainprophets.com to learn how.

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At the heart of The Prophets’ vision are “The 24 Essential Supply Chain Processes.” What are they? Find out, and see the future yourself.
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