7 questions with supply chain star Sara Kim
The Institute for Supply Management recently released its annual 30-Under-30 Supply Chain Stars list. Sara Kim, Associate Director of Supply Chain Proposal Strategy for Leidos, is among the honorees and will be joining her peers at ISM’s annual conference on April 7-10 in Houston. Kim is based in Gaithersburg, Md., and is one of 112 employees who comprise the Strategic Sourcing team at Leidos. The team is spread out over 12 states and helps the company manage close to $1 billion annually.
I recently interviewed Kim about the ISM recognition and her journey as a supply chain professional. A condensed version of our conversation is below.
You're the first supply chain professional at Leidos to receive this honor. What does that distinction mean to you?
Just getting nominated was an honor because it came as a huge surprise. I didn't know the ISM 30-Under-30 list existed before this nomination [laughs]. On a more serious note, I think it's telling of how valued Strategic Sourcing is at Leidos, including our focus on supply chain risk management, the importance of collaborating with our suppliers, and building a robust supply chain. So the fact that we want to get our name out there for this kind of award, I'm just honored to be nominated and recognized.
Can you tell us some more about the supply chain ecosystem here at Leidos?
The Strategic Sourcing team is comprised of four main groups: Sourcing Operations (Purchasing & Logistics), Enterprise Category Management, Strategic Technology Sourcing and Alliances, and Supply Intelligence. My direct team falls under Strategic Technology Sourcing and provides material cost estimating, supply chain engineering, and supply chain strategies in support of proposals. The Strategic Sourcing team works closely with stakeholders to drive innovation, reduce costs, and enhance program performance. The team manages all corporate-wide agreements and supports all supply chain activities from the proposal phase to program execution, including developing cost savings strategies for the proposal Bill of Material and executing Purchase Orders and receiving materials on time upon contract award.
According to ISM, the 30-Under-30 list honors those who “demonstrate leadership, innovation, collaboration, and other outstanding attributes.” If you had to narrow it down to a few of your best qualities, which ones make you so good at your job?
Collaboration…with communication being the underlying foundation. Collaboration and communication are key because no one works alone. We work with our team, internal/external customers, as well as suppliers on a daily basis. We achieve greater results by working together and keeping an open line of communication across all stakeholders.
I love to make connections, as well. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to develop a large network across the company and the supply base, so I may not always know the answer, but I know who to go to for the answer. I enjoy connecting people and pieces together as part of my job.
How and when did you decide that supply chain management was the right career path for you?
I was first introduced to supply chain at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. I knew I wanted to major in business but wasn’t sure of the specifics. I attended an interest meeting my freshman year and learned about a relatively new major the Smith School was introducing: logistics, transportation and supply chain management.
After hearing all that’s entailed from point of origin to point of delivery, I decided on my major right away. I liked the versatility of supply chain management and the opportunity to work with multiple stakeholders. I enjoy working with different people because of the opportunity to learn and grow through other peoples' experiences and perspectives.
Who are some of the people along the way that have helped you succeed?
The person who's helped me succeed in the past few years has been my manager Tony Leiter, and it's telling that he nominated me for this award. Throughout my career, Tony has presented different opportunities to challenge me, but also recognized and encouraged my strength areas. I respect him, not just as my manager but as someone in the supply chain industry. He’s always on top of the latest and greatest when it comes to the industry, and he’s helped guide the way for my career.
All the people I’ve worked with on proposal and program teams have impacted me in different ways, too. They challenge me to think one step ahead of the competition and remind me of the impact and value that Strategic Sourcing brings, not just for Leidos Corporate, but for our government customers.
How do you keep challenging yourself and performing at a high level after an achievement like this? What's next for you?
I plan to keep challenging myself by taking assignments that push me outside of my comfort zone. I recently started a new role as Associate Director of Supply Chain Proposal Strategy. This is definitely a new challenge for me as an emerging leader. I'm really excited to learn in this role and make an impact on my team and the broader Strategic Sourcing group.
What are some of the things you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love traveling with my husband, Jonathan, and finding places to hike wherever we go. One of my favorite trails (and one of the scariest) was Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park in Utah. We always try to find the best ice cream spots whenever we travel, and it's usually more than one spot [laughs]. We went to Italy two years ago, and we had gelato at least once every day. So, that's not a regular occurrence [laughs] for all of our vacations, but we couldn’t pass up daily gelato in Italy.
When the weather's nice, I enjoy riding my bike and playing tennis. I also like to try new restaurants with my friends and husband. Those are just a few of the things I enjoy doing!