Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Building the Fundamentals

When I was interviewing for my new position, I was informed that my role would be to build a program from scratch. So, I expected to think through some of the company's risks, review processes and work toward making recommendations.

Little did I realize that I'd have to take a few steps back!

In my first week-and-a-half of work, I've been working with our Sourcing and Supply Chain teams to build very basic processes such as onboarding a new supplier and determining a scorecard of metrics to rate supplier performance. It's been a very steep learning curve and I've had to not only learn the company, but I've had to familiarize myself with the industry and the intricacies of a global supply chain.

Even though I'm completely out of my element and trying desperately to understand our quality standards, purchase order processes, product capabilities testing, costing and production processes, I've realized this gives me a very unique opportunity. It's been frustrating at times, but I actually have a seat at the table during these discussions and I'm responsible for ensuring that social and environmental factors are included in processes and measurements.

From my past experience and from speaking with other CSR practitioners, I think it's typical for CSR to be "layered" onto existing processes and systems. We focus on finding ways to integrate CSR into business processes and finding opportunities to influence process change. Here, we're building processes and systems together, incorporating CSR considerations from the outset!

While it's forcing me way out of my comfort zone and while we're moving at lightning speed (much faster than I've had to work in a long time), I'm very excited at the possible outcomes and having a voice at the very beginning.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Industry Boomerang and Career Paths: An Open Letter of Apology

Dear internet friends,

I realize it's been a long time since I last posted, and for this I apologize. You see, since I last posted, I became pretty busy, wrapping up my job, coordinating a cross-country move (which is still in slow, slow progress) and preparing to begin a new job tomorrow.

After only 19 months in the healthcare industry, I decided to return to my roots, accepting a position to begin a vendor compliance and CSR program at a specialty apparel retailer. People have asked me if my time in healthcare was so bad that I lasted such a short period of time, and I insist that isn't the case. Instead, I was lucky enough to be offered an opportunity that will allow me to build a program from the ground-up.

As nearly everyone knows, the CSR "profession" is still a relatively new one. Unlike Corporate Finance, where a career path is relatively straightforward, positions in CSR differ widely from one industry to another - and even from one company to another within an industry. And thus, there is no one "career path" if you want to ultimately lead CSR at a company.

It was early on in my most recent job that my supervisor told me that it would be unlikely for me to find myself in a VP position in CSR at that company. Since she loved her job and continued to be challenged by her own VP position, she had no plans to vacate it. (And why would she?) So, she offered kindly, she would help me find a leadership position with another company, once I was ready for that next step.

Well, I think that next position is now in front of me, even if it arrived more quickly than either my former boss or I expected. The job I begin tomorrow puts me in charge of developing supply chain social and environmental standards and stakeholder engagement, with the hopes of building out a fuller CSR capability. It's in the industry where I got my first taste of a CSR role in a corporation and it's with a brand whose heritage I'm excited to become a part of.

My focus will be shifting considerably: from environmental sustainability to human rights in multinational supply chains. It's a shift I'm excited for, but I do hope to retain the environmental responsibility as well.

As I think about my career, it's important for me to "round out" my CSR portfolio, gaining experience in different focus areas so I may become a more effective CSR leader in the future. It's also important for me to find increasing levels of responsibility and challenge, to grow my skills and stretch myself. So, while I'm sad to leave my last company and the wonderful people I've had the chance to work alongside, I am very excited for this next chapter in my CSR career, where I will hopefully continue to learn and truly make a difference.

So, I apologize for the radio-silence, but I got very busy and I hope to post more frequently moving forward!