Top Female Supply Chain Executive, Mickey North Rizza, Talks Women in the Supply Chain

Mickey North Rizza Women in the Supply ChainMickey North Rizza talks women in the supply chain

As part of our series on women in the supply chain, I spoke with Mickey North Rizza, VP, Strategic Services at BravoSolution.  Mickey holds the distinction of Top Female Supply Chain Executive. She has 25 years of senior-level procurement, sourcing and supply management experience. Mickey has also been an award-winning Supply Chain analyst with Gartner and AMR Research.

How did you get your start in the supply chain industry? (Similarly, why did you choose the industry?)

This is a fun story for me.  At Michigan State, I was a Delta Gamma helping out our Anchor Splash team.  My mission was to find a television that a local company would donate to the winning Fraternity. And of course, it had to be the largest and best TV on the market for the day.   So, I pulled out the yellow pages, started calling around and found a few companies that were willing to help but would not donate.  I learned to negotiate pretty quickly.  At that time my major was prelaw – and I was bored.  I looked into Material’s Logistic Management – an older term for Supply Chain and chose this as my major with two concentrations – Purchasing and Operations.   The rest is as they say, history.  Thank goodness Purchasing has evolved, as negotiating is just a minute portion, but for this young adult it made all the difference.

How did you get to where you are today?

I put in long career hours, learning everything I could from so many. My thirst for knowledge is still vast and that keeps me going and enjoying what I do.  I also had some great mentors and some not so good leaders and coworkers. All of these individuals have taught me lessons in the business world – good and bad. I firmly believe that everyone has something to teach us – we just need to listen, process and apply it. Sometimes we internalize the lessons we learn and others we let go – but all are learning experiences for ourselves.  In the analyst world we called it triangulation – someone can always use the knowledge you have gained and they in turn can impart knowledge to you – though you must listen to learn.

My mentors were the CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, Division Presidents, CPOs, Supply Chain Leaders, Business Unit leads, General Managers, Editors, Analysts, Marketing and Sales professionals and, yes, even many of the suppliers and vendors I have worked closely with over the years.  Each has given me a reason to pause and consider at a particular point in time and that has somehow enhanced my career.

Lastly, I have a strong, close immediate family.  My grandparents and parents set a great work example early.  My parents continue to be a source of inspiration for me.  My sister is an amazing woman in Technology and Consulting and a constant source of ideas as I listen to her stories.  My husband, while in a very different profession, is awesome – he listens, coaches and gives me strength to achieve even more than I did yesterday.   And lastly, Delta Gamma has taught me to be the best I can be, all the time and in every way possible.

Who do you see as leaders (female) within the supply chain industry?

I have broken up the leaders in a few categories because I think it is helpful in terms of their leadership and current positions.

Marketing
  • Andrea Brody, BravoSolution
  • Christine Crandell, New Business Strategies
  • Elaine Benfield, Ariba/SAP
  • Allison Crawford, Supply Chain Insights
Analysts
  • Lora Cecere, Supply Chain Insights
  • Noha Tohamy, Gartner
  • Dana Stiffler, Gartner
  • Maggie Slowick, Procurement Leaders
Procurement
  • Lisa Martin, Teva Pharmaceuticals
  • Stephanie Sklar Financial Services
  • Cynthia Dautrich, Kimberly Clark
  • Cathy Herr, Eli Lilly
Risk
  • Jessica Sanchez, CR Bard
  • Rose Kelly-Falls, Rapid Ratings
  • Edna Conway, Cisco Systems
Supply Chain
  • Linda Santus Topping, Colgate
  • Stacey Lallier, J&J
  • Kate Vitasek, University of Tennessee

What opportunities do you see for women in the supply chain?

The opportunity is vast.  As more and more companies outsource, the supply chains become more complex.  The complexity means that great technology becomes even more critical to ensure proper visibility, actionable solutions and knowledge management.  Rolling this all together requires the soft skills of managing relationships internally as well as externally with our partners, the industry and also to manage the messages to the market.   While business has traditionally been a man’s world, more and more women are now in businesses.  Most women by nature have been relationship builders.  They encourage, collaborate and innovate with others for the best outcome.  It is only natural that these tendencies gravitate to the business world and most importantly into Supply Chain.

Challenges?

The challenges for women remain the same – breaking into the man’s world.  While many women have done it, to be really successful women need to utilize some of the components of Lean In!  In addition, women must be comfortable staking a claim on their position, working from this position as a leader and a coworker so that the company can achieve it greatest results.   In many cases I know I have worked just as hard if not more so than my male coworkers, but I have also come to appreciate the lessons these men have taught me – work smarter, not harder; give it your all and expect perfection; take risks – never be afraid to fail because it is in failure you learn your greatest lesson and can apply it in the future; and always believe in yourself.

A final thought here is that we all can’t be perfect, but we can expect the best, believe in the best, give our best and achieve excellence.  But you have to DO IT!

Any advice for women considering the supply chain?

Yes, go for it!  The Supply Chain world needs you!  Look at University programs such as Michigan State, Penn State, Rutgers, University of Texas, Arizona State University are just a few of a huge laundry list that ISM has on their website.  In addition, groups like CSCMP, Procurement Leaders, ISM, SIG and many others offer continuing education courses to enhance your knowledge of Supply Chain.  And for those that like to read, there are many great books out there (I am happy to supply a few of my favorites).

Any advice for the industry itself?

Yes, embrace women in Supply Chain.  Their abilities are superb and when you select the right one, she can bring your company greater value than ever imagined.  But you must watch, listen, learn, coach and offer opportunities to excel.  And lastly, be a mentor to those that have a spark, work hard and apply themselves to make a difference.  Man or woman, the Supply Chain of the future depends upon the perfect mix of talent.   And as we know, Supply Chain talent is experiencing a shortage.

Mickey North Rizza is VP, Strategic Services at BravoSolution, assisting clients to bring & deliver more impactful value in Procurement, Sourcing and Supplier Relationship Management.  She developed the first Procurement alignment tool, called BravoAlign that has aided many clients on their supply management excellence journey.

Prior to joining BravoSolution, Mickey was a Research Director for the Procurement and Sourcing practice of the Supply Chain Team at Gartner and AMR Research. She was an award winning supply chain analyst during her 7 year tenure and is still a highly popular thought leader and speaker in Supply Management. 

Prior to becoming an analyst Mickey was a practitioner for 22 years.  Her practitioner career includes Moduslink Corporation, where she held the positions of Vice President of Global Supply Base Management and Director of Procurement and Sourcing.  At Moduslink, she was responsible for implementing strategic sourcing programs, driving strategic positioning of procurement and materials in Europe and the Americas, and introducing new procurement technology.

Mickey also worked as a Materials Manager at M/A-Com, Inc. a division of Tyco International.  While at M/A-Com, Mickey developed and implemented strategic procurement plans and integrated roadmaps to accompany a supply chain model.  In addition, she introduced a pilot manufacturing resource management system.

During her career, Mickey also worked as a Purchasing Manager at Advanced Techcom, Inc., Innova Corporation and Motorola; and was also a buyer & sourcing agent at AM General, a division of LTV Missiles and Electronics and Grumman Olson. 

Mickey is a member of the Institute for Supply ManagementTM. She is a founding member of the ISM Supply Chain Risk Management Group, which she chairs for 2015.   She was voted Top Female Supply Chain Executive 2013. Mickey is an active nonprofit volunteer with her work at ISM, as a Delta Gamma Foundation Trustee and Secretary (2006-2009) and her past board work with Lowell’s Boat Shop in her home town of Amesbury, MA. 

Mickey earned a B.A. in Materials Logistic Management from Michigan State University.

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