In our Centered on Your Success blog series, get to know our experts and how they measure success for clients. In this installment, meet Marcela Caronti.
What is your story?
I started my career at the back of a warehouse in the shipping and receiving dock, unloading truckloads of pizzas after high school. I had come to the U.S. as a freshman in high school five years earlier, and when I turned eighteen, I had a choice to either go back to Chile or stay in the U.S.
I decided I wanted to stay in the U.S., but that meant I had to get a job, and fresh out of high school, you do not have many options – so that was the first job I got. Luckily, I was able to work my way up through shipping and receiving up to inventory management, and eventually, I became materials manager.
From there, I ended up managing purchasing and procurement operations for various small to medium size companies around the Chicago area, which paved the way to working for a few top Fortune 500 companies. This advancement allowed me to grow professionally, learn new skills and funded a great portion of my undergraduate education.
As I was getting my undergrad in Business Administration and HR, I also pursued my Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma at the same time – going to college at night and working during the day. I knew I had a passion for Supply Chain Operations, so I focused on positions, roles and companies that could give me a breadth of knowledge and opportunity there. I started diversifying my background and explored medical manufacturing, then I worked in the financial environment, and eventually, I landed at the supply chain giant Amazon.
Having all that experience made me a stronger professional in the field, but as a woman and an immigrant, I knew I had to get my master’s to be competitive in that environment. So, I got my master’s while pregnant with the youngest of my three kids.
Have I thought about how long it took me to get here compared to some of my peers that may have gotten to this level a lot quicker? I have, yes. But it brings me a different point of view as a consultant. Working my way up from the bottom, you name it, I have done the job and know what it feels like to be the person in that role, and that is incredibly valuable to me. That is what I hope to bring to the table. That is what, I hope, brings me that extra edge.
Why did you decide to become part of your field?
When I was getting started in my career, the concept of continuous improvement was just kicking off, and I found it beyond interesting. There was a huge buzz about it, Toyota had produced this amazing model, and I was all about it because of my manufacturing and warehousing background.
I found it fascinating how, ultimately, the Continuous Improvement methodology around Lean Six Sigma impacts the work people do at the levels where I started – the shipping and receiving clerk, the inventory analyst, the warehouse supervisor, those folks – that’s the work that really gets impacted. I love that continuous improvement can make their jobs easier and increase the value people bring to their organization.
How are you working to guide your clients to success right now?
I guide my clients to success by taking a collective approach. It is not about me telling them what to do and asking them to trust me. It is about partnering together. I’ve found that it is an incredibly refreshing approach that builds and grows trust, and once I have that trust with my client, it is nothing but upwards success from that point forward.
What does the success of your clients mean to you?
From a personal standpoint, obviously the success of my clients matters to me because it means I was part of their progress, indirectly or directly, from a partnership perspective. It matters to me because their success is my success.
From a bigger-picture standpoint, if their firm was successful, that means jobs. That means stability for their workforce and for the communities they live in. It is a huge cycle, and their success does not just mean we are getting paid or they are getting profits. It’s impacting the community that they are in – it comes back to that individual human level, again.
What, in your opinion, do companies need the most help with right now?
Companies today need the most help sorting through the “noise.” These days, we have access to so much data that we try to focus on all the different environmental, social and economic factors that go into being in business and often forget the basics. To manage that noise, you must prioritize what is in front of you so you can tackle problems and bring the business’s value to the forefront. Many organizations are struggling because there is so much going on in this world coming at them in diverse ways.
What do you think they should be thinking about next?
I still think that preventive forecasting and analytics are key aspects of the globalization of supply chains. How are we going to make sense of data, and transform it into impactful and actionable information, so we can make the best real-time decisions? Quick decision making is the secret sauce in the future. I feel for businesses in these uncertain times. Being able to use the right data (including AI) to translate into real-time and future customers’ needs is extremely important. It is not about having information. It is a matter of picking the right pieces to make quick real-time, impactful decisions that will drive future business improvements.
What are you looking forward to in your industry?
Today, only a small percentage of supply chain leaders are women and even less in executive positions in this industry specifically. I want to be able to create a voice for women executives everywhere, specifically immigrants and minorities. As a woman in supply chain and operations, I feel like it is my role to shake things up a little bit.
What piece of career advice keeps you passionate and purposeful?
Never be afraid to learn. Learn about new things and continue to educate yourself even if you have to pick someone’s brain, get a mentor or find formal training. It is never too late to learn new things (it took me 15 years to get my undergraduate!). Continuous improvement is about exactly that. It never stops. You never get to the point where you are done learning.
What do you do when you’re not guiding clients?
It’s a cliché answer, but I really enjoy time with my husband, kids and my friends. That, to me, is everything. I’m a Zumba instructor – I love to teach and love to dance. I also wrote my own children’s book called Rainbow Babies Lullaby.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Chicago?
I love the food in this city, so I love to look for new restaurants. I also like finding new spots for nightlife and music. Chicago is so diverse, and it’s got so much culture all in one small place. There’s always something to do.