FTG 0052 – Climbing the Supply Chain Ladder with Operations Executive Darren Gibula ’93

Episode 3 September 19, 2023 01:24:51
FTG 0052 – Climbing the Supply Chain Ladder with Operations Executive Darren Gibula ’93
Following the Gong, a Podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
FTG 0052 – Climbing the Supply Chain Ladder with Operations Executive Darren Gibula ’93

Sep 19 2023 | 01:24:51


Hosted By

Sean Goheen

Show Notes


Darren Gibula ’93 Bus is a seasoned supply chain and operations management professional. He most recently served as the VP of Inventory at Owens & Minor servicing the healthcare industry. He previously worked in successively senior roles at LG, United Technologies, and prior to receiving his MBA from MIT Sloan, at Accenture as a consultant. He earned his BS in Quantitative Business Analysis with Honors, a forerunner to the modern Supply Chain Management degree, from the Smeal College of Business in 1993. Darren joined Following the Gong to share his experiences coming to University Park from out-of-state, writing for the Collegian as a business major, and finding his path in business from STEM. Darren also shared how his thesis was beneficial to his career and what it was like as a consultant. He then shares a crash course in supply chain – from what it is, to working as a generalist or specialist, to leading teams and working with others domestically and abroad. This episode is great for any Scholar, and particularly for those interested in supply chains, consulting, pursing an MBA, or pursing activities at Penn State outside of their major. His full bio and a detailed breakdown of topics discussed are available in the show notes below.


Guest Bio:

Darren Gibula ’93 Bus was most recently the VP of Inventory at Owens & Minor in Richmond, Virginia where he was responsible for the oversight and planning of $1.5B of both manufactured and purchased medical supplies to support about 1/3 of the hospitals in the US with the daily supplies they need to serve patients. Before joining Owens & Minor in 2016, he previously worked at LG for 7 years, United Technologies for 11 years before that, and started his career at Accenture and Computer Sciences Corp in Systems Consulting. He earned his BS in Quantitative Business Analysis with Honors from Penn State’s Smeal College of Business in 1993. He also earned an MBA in Manufacturing and Operations from MIT Sloan. He is also happy to speak further about Supply Chain, Distribution, Lean Manufacturing, Continuous Improvement or anything that involves solving tough problems.  Please feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

Episode Topics:


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Credits & Notes:

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen '11 Lib (Schreyer), '23g Bus.

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer. 

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License. 

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

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Episode Transcript

Sean Goheen (Host) 00:00:01 Greeting scholars and welcome to Following the Gong, a podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 00:00:12 Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar Alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar Alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rang the gone and graduated with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Goheen, class of 2011, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 00:00:55 Darren Gibula class of 1993 is a seasoned supply chain and operations management professional. He most recently served as the VP of inventory at Owens and Minor servicing the healthcare industry. He previously worked in successively senior roles at LG United Technologies and prior to receiving his M B A from M I t Sloan at Accenture as a consultant, he earned his BS in quantitative business analysis with honors a forerunner to the Modern Supply Chain Management degree from the Smeal College of Business. In 1993, Darren joined following the Gone to share his experiences coming to University Park from out of state, writing for the collegiate as a business major in finding his path in business from stem. Darren also shared how his thesis was beneficial to his career and what it was like as a consultant. He then shares a crash course in supply chain from what it is to working as a generalist or specialist to leading teams and working with others both domestically and abroad. This episode is great for any scholar and particularly for those interested in supply chains consulting, pursuing an M B A or pursuing activities at Penn State outside of their major. His full bio and a detailed breakdown of topics distressed are available in the show notes on your podcast app. With that, let's dive into our conversation with Darren Gibula following the gong. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 00:02:09 Joining me here today on following the gong is Darren Gibula. Darren, thank you so much for speaking with us today. Yeah, Darren Gibula 00:02:17 It's great to be here, Sean. Thanks for the invitation. Really appreciate it. Sean 00:02:20 Of course, of course. Now, if you're a regular listener, you know, I always like to start with origin stories. Darren, how did you come to Penn State and what is now the Schreyer Honors College? Darren 00:02:30 Yeah, so I'm actually from Baltimore, Maryland, so I grew up a huge Maryland TURPs fan though, who are now a member of the Big 10. But back then it was a c c, so I remember every year that Penn State would just absolutely punish Maryland. So I grew up not being a huge fan of Penn State Football, I must say. But when it came time to figure out where I wanted to go to school, I looked at a lot of different schools and it actually came down to a choice between the Maryland Honors Program and the Penn State Honors Program. And so I set all those thoughts about football aside, visited both places. I liked the campus more. It seemed like it had more to offer. And I think probably the, the final rationale was I had some friends going to Maryland and I didn't know anyone going to Penn State. So I took the plunge. I figured, hey, I don't want to be stuck in kind of the high school days. So I went to Penn State and it worked out great. Sean 00:03:27 Awesome. I imagine that for some students coming to Penn State, 'cause they're second, third, fourth generation, Penn State are really sticks out and then there's other folks who are like, I'm gonna strike out on my own. So perhaps you might relate to Darren on that. Yeah, Darren 00:03:39 It worked out great. Sean 00:03:40 Yeah, absolutely. I would say, based on what we're gonna talk about with your career, I think it did laying the groundwork for that. How did you come to find your major and what drew you to what was at the time it was called Quantitative Business Analysis. I believe that's now morphed into the supply chain management major in the Smeal College of Business. Darren 00:03:57 So it wasn't a direct path for me and maybe some students can relate to this. I actually came into Penn State as a math major. I hadn't really been exposed to business. I knew a business concepts, but I knew that I really liked math. So as I was pursuing my math degree, I was able to take some business courses and I actually became pretty interested in getting a business logistics minor. You know, that's obviously something that Penn State's known for. And as part of that journey, I was exposed to what was called Q B A back then. And it really interested me because I saw it as the intersection of math and business. And so it was really, really exciting when I started to learn more about it, where you could actually model a production floor or run experiments all using math and statistics to come up and try and solve business problems. So that's really what drew me into it. So Sean 00:04:55 You liked math and you liked business, but you also shared with me ahead of time that you were involved with of all things the Daily Collegiate. Yeah. Right. So how did you end up working there as a reporter when you ultimately ended up being a business major? Darren 00:05:09 Yeah, and, and Sean, I wish I had a good story about this one, but actually one of my roommates, a good friend of mine, still Poly sci major, he was going to the info session for daily collegiate reporters and he asked me if I wanted to go, I don't remember the exact circumstances, but I probably had an evening free. And so I went with him to the info session, became pretty intrigued and, and I ended up being assigned to be a science reporter of all things. So it was very interesting. I learned how to take quick notes. I learned how to, you know, from my notes, pull out some key themes, uh, from the information. And honestly it taught me how to write better. Sean 00:05:51 Can you talk a little bit about how the journalism writing translated to any kind of business writing that you've had in your career? Darren 00:05:59 Absolutely. So what we needed to do when we were writing articles is you need to have a hook in the beginning to make it interesting. And then you needed to be able to pull out the key points and then fill those in. And what I've really learned throughout my business career is that there's a lot of value in being able to bring together and synthesize and absorb a lot of information and then be able to pull out the key themes and then ultimately be able to tell a story or a narrative that makes sense for people who aren't familiar with it. So I think all of those I've used later and throughout my career, Sean 00:06:39 I think that's really, really good insight there. Darren, you know, oftentimes I hear people say that, you know, like writing and communication, I, I hate this term, but the soft skills that you don't necessarily have, have right explicit classes in are the ones that employers are saying, I wish that students, you know, our, our entry-level employees had X, Y, Z. And it's, it's these things. So you know, you don't have to go write for the daily collegiate or Onward State, but find opportunities to practice your writing. And obviously a great opportunity to practice writing is your thesis right here at the Honors College. And sometimes folks, they have a thesis, maybe they picked something completely out of left field and maybe you don't ever use it again. But I think yours actually sounds like it was probably still relevant throughout your career. So can you tell us about it and both what you researched and learned and about how you've been using the skills and knowledge from it? Darren 00:07:30 Yeah, I would, I would love to. So just for reference, my thesis was a simulation of the Center County Solid Waste Authority Recycling facility. So it's a bit of a mouthful, but basically I went and I was able to observe, do some time studies calculations, and then ultimately a simulation analysis of the recycling facility at the time to model what would happen if different variables changed, the volumes, the inputs, the contamination, different things within the building, if they changed labor, if they got new technology, et cetera. And it was really fascinating and I think, you know, we talked earlier what drew me to Q B A and it's been the same throughout my career. I'm really interested and fascinated by large complex systems that have a lot of variables and a lot of times throughout my career, and I think for many people listening, the answers to problems are not really clear cut. Darren 00:08:35 It's not always black or white. There are different paths, different solutions. So this was really the first time I had ever encountered a really complex system and problem that had no clear cut solution. So ultimately what my thesis required me to do, but it's, you know, a good metaphor for kind of how I operate in my career was to try different options to test hypotheses and then figure out what was the best path forward may not have been a perfect path. Many times in business there's no perfect path and you have to choose the best path. So it really required that level of thinking and rigor and it was great. Plus I got a chance to learn a ton more about environmental issues, uh, specifically recycling, but more broadly. And that's kind of continued in my interest throughout my life. Sean 00:09:25 Yeah, absolutely. And you know, with supply chain management operations, the environmental impact to be huge and, you know, people often don't necessarily consider the end of life cycle or the kinda the downstream from the end user. Absolutely. You think about all the plastic packaging you get. So things to consider there. But we're not gonna dive into all of those ramifications at the moment. There are plenty of classes you can take in our top rated supply chain program and create environmental courses, I'm sure in Eberly in the College of Ag. So instead we're gonna talk about a really fun way to create some trash, and that is from a Penn State football tradition that you shared with me that I'm not familiar with. So I'm sure our students probably are not familiar with as well. Hopefully we don't bring this back. But it is a nice piece of history and I wanted you to have a chance to share this for some of our younger listeners, uh, who maybe can learn a little bit of Penn State football tradition history from you. Darren 00:10:17 Yeah. And I was pretty interested to find out that a lot of folks didn't know about this. So happy to be able to provide kind of some info on this. So the best way to explain this tradition of marshmallows at Penn State Football games back in the day is a snowball fight. And most people have been in a snowball fight, especially at Penn State during the winter, right? So if you've ever been in a snowball fight, you know that, you know, the key is ammunition and then just being able to, to launch the snowballs. So you want to think about this as the entire student section being involved in one huge snowball fight except for instead of snowballs, there were marshmallows. And so the marshmallows, if you got hit, it didn't hurt too bad, and then you were actually able to pick it up and throw it again. Darren 00:11:05 For the most part. I will say a couple of fun facts about this. You know, if you were sitting down, you were pretty fine in the student section, but if you got up for any reason, um, you were a prime target. So that was, uh, something that you had to think twice before you got outta your seat. And then also cold weather games, believe it or not, were better than warm weather games because, you know, the marshmallows would disintegrate more slowly. So actually you wanted to be in cold weather games. And I was thinking about this, Sean, probably, if you go back to Penn State football games kind of in the early, early nineties, there's gonna be one corner of one end zone in front of the student section that's gonna look like it's actually snowed in front of it, or maybe even confetti. And those are actually marshmallows that didn't hit their targets and ended up on the field. So I'm not sure if anyone has video clips of that, but it'd be pretty good to see. Sean 00:11:57 I I am just flabbergasted by that. And I can see why <laugh>, our, our colleagues in intercollegiate athletics, uh, banned that at some point along the way. Definitely probably a very, there's enough trash that gets created during the games anyway from chicken baskets and, and water bottles that are sold. So can't even imagine adding that into the mix. But Darren 00:12:16 It's, it's fun to look back on. Well, Sean 00:12:18 We do have a winning tradition and when it comes to football, that's absolutely, that's one of the more important things. Great, great people coming off of the field and hopefully putting up some W'S in the wind column now moving into your career. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> from your time at Penn State. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, can you talk about how you got into consulting based on your Q B a degree and, and your experiences and maybe any internships that you had at the time and advice that you have for students who are seeking those internships, co-ops, or those first roles coming out of Penn State? Darren 00:12:49 Yeah, absolutely. So I did not have any internships, so I think it's probably an outstanding opportunity for students out there to be able to dip their toe into the workforce. And certainly I have, uh, as a leader in business, I've employed many interns, but I myself did not have an internship. So really my first exposure was through the Penn State Career Center, which was an outstanding resource. And I ended up interviewing in a number of different areas, but ultimately ended up being attracted to consulting. Like I was talking about before, solving complex problems seemed very interesting to me. The other thing I liked about consulting, which I think is very true about supply chain and operations, is if you like variety, it's different every single day. Heck, it's different every single hour, right? So, um, the idea of joining consulting and being able to go to different projects was very appealing to me. Darren 00:13:45 So I ended up joining Anderson Consulting, it was called at the time, now it's called Accenture. And believe it or not, Sean, and we may talk about this more, but it was the lowest paying of the job opportunities I had coming out of Penn State. So obviously I didn't choose it for money, I chose it because I thought it gave me the greatest opportunity to learn and develop my skills across a number of different areas. So what consulting really taught me was it taught me discipline, it taught me how to communicate effectively with folks that I had just met. And it taught me really the importance of budgets. So I spent the first few years of my career in consulting. And for anyone who's interested in consulting, I would say, um, certainly internships would be a great way to really dip your toe into that. Darren 00:14:39 And also think about what you want to do, where your interests lie. 'cause in consulting there are a lot of different areas that you can focus on and specialize in. And I'm sure that the career center can help guide you in that direction. And then the advice for people who are interviewing with consulting organizations, I would say is consulting organizations in my experience, are looking for folks who are well-rounded, who are eager to achieve and succeed because the consulting organizations are putting together teams quickly and they need folks to be able to gel and deliver results quickly for their clients. Sean 00:15:18 I think that is really good advice, Darren, and I'll give a quick plug. Obviously there is the Penn State Career Services at U Park in the Bank of America Center. There are offices in each college across University Park, as well as all of the campuses have resources. And of course in the honors college we have Matt ler, our director of career development. So, you know, make sure you're taking advantage of these opportunities no matter which college or campus you call home, as well as the opportunities in the honors college. And you know, Darren, you said that you had the opportunity to hire and supervise many intern, I'm sure, over your career. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, thinking back on those interns, what have you seen that set apart the really successful ones from the ones who maybe had an average or a lackluster experience that scholarship think about as they approached their internships or co-ops or other pre-professional experiences, maybe even in student organizations that they're leading? Darren 00:16:08 Yeah, it's a, it's a great question and I think it boils down to a couple of things, at least that I've seen. So, one is somebody who's willing to jump in and learn and contribute as quickly as they can. It doesn't mean that you're gonna be an expert on day one, in fact, it's exactly the opposite. But for the folks who are willing to jump in, roll up their sleeves, contribute and learn, those are the folks who are gonna be the most successful. Secondly, I would say the other thing that I've really seen in successful interns or co-ops, or even folks starting their career, is people who are willing to ask for more. So if you are given an assignment in an internship and you know, you finish it faster, you know, you can certainly ask for more. If it's asked to be at a certain level, you could certainly add to it and provide additional analysis, thought recommendations. What's most important, I think, early on in your career, and especially in internships, is getting exposed to things learning. And so the more that you can get exposed and the more that you can contribute and learn what works and what doesn't work, because not everything's gonna be successful, the further ahead you will be. And frankly, by doing those two things, it's then the attitude that, you know, the company or organization will see coming from you and really be interested in giving you more opportunity. Sean 00:17:43 That is really good insight. And I think there's probably a balance, right? Like you gotta make sure you handle what you've been, been given before you ask for more, right? But if you can do that, not a bad strategy to kind of set yourself apart, right? Yeah, Darren 00:17:55 I mean, that's an excellent disclaimer. I probably should have said that. As we would say, those are the table stakes, right? You gotta be able to deliver on what's expected out of you. And to go a little further afield, I think just broadly in supply chain, but also in operations and, and business, right? The way I've been successful and I've seen other people be successful is you have to meet your commitments. When you meet your commitments. That's the beginning. And then you can really build upon that. So that's really critical. And that's frankly what I learned in consulting. We were given a certain budget, we had to meet that budget. And frankly, if we didn't meet the budget, we had to write variance memos as to why we didn't meet the budget and sit in front of the boss and explain it. And I can tell you, you know, coming right outta college as a, you know, young 20 something, that was a real good lesson that I learned very early in my career. Sean 00:18:51 So Darren, I think sometimes a piece of advice that gets given out is the adage to the effect of under promise over deliver. So what are your thoughts on, on that piece of advice? Darren 00:19:03 I think it's good advice. It's, it's an adage for a reason, right? I will say though, that one of the pleasures maybe of becoming someone who delivers in an organization is that the expectations sometimes aren't set by you. Sometimes they're set by others and they, you know, can be high. But I think that is still something that you want to be able to do, is to be able to over deliver. And as we've been talking about in my experience, that's how you get more opportunity and more responsibility throughout your career. Sean 00:19:36 So one of the things you talked about was in, you know, in these early career roles, especially in internship is learning. And another way that you can learn is something you and I have both done, which is you go back to school and you get an M B A, and in your case you stopped out and did it full-time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So how did you make that decision and decide where to attend? There's so many great options out there. Of course there's Penn State, there's a lot of other great schools I know we've had represented here on following the Gone like Penn and Michigan and Harvard. And in your case m I T. So explain your thought process, both on the decision to go back to school, stop out, stop making money for a little bit mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and specifically on where you elected to go. Darren 00:20:21 Yeah, so when I was in consulting, I had a really great opportunity to learn a tremendous amount. I had leadership opportunities and I really, really enjoyed it. And I enjoyed helping our clients be successful and implement successfully. But as I was sitting on the consulting side, the one thing that I learned that I was missing was the ownership of daily execution. So as a consultant, whatever your project is, whether it's a strategic analysis, an IT system, a financial analysis, ultimately you have your deliverable and then you sort of wait to see if there are other opportunities. So from what I saw, I really wanted to be able to take that next step from the implementation to the ownership going forward. And so even though, you know, my consulting career was great and I was on a great path, I ultimately decided to almost even go back to some of my Penn State roots and wanted to get involved in industry. So I decided that the best way to do that, to change a career was to go back to school. And so I knew that I wanted to focus on operations, supply chain manufacturing. So, you know, I was looking around at schools, applied obviously to a number of them, but my philosophy with grad school is, you know, to go to the best school in your field. And so when I had an opportunity to go to m I t, it just made a ton of sense for me. Sean 00:21:53 So for those who are maybe less familiar, obviously it's the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and so you think probably a lot of good STEM programs, but if you, you know, read a lot of the literature, a lot of, you know, there's Harvard Business Review and a lot of M I T Sloan articles as well are typically in your, in your courses for business. But, uh, what specifically made them stand out, uh, in the supply chain space for you? Darren 00:22:15 Yeah, so, you know, I think it is that relationship with sort of the technical STEM side of the school, which then ties into business through manufacturing and then sort of goes over into operations, supply chain, economics, et cetera. So, you know, I think if you say M i t Sloan with manufacturing our operations worldwide, it sort of, you know, understood that it's a really good education and really good school. And then it provided an entree into different programs outta grad school. You Sean 00:22:51 And I chatted before this and one of the things that really stuck out to me was that you mentioned that you actually took a pay cut coming out of B School compared to what you had been making as a consultant before going back to school. And I know you said you really wanted to get into kind of the hands-on side of things. How did you handle both the philosophical side of that and taking a pay cut on the mental side, but then also the logistical side of, you know, changing your lifestyle and different things and also an entirely different type of work that you're doing now? Walk us through that transition. Darren 00:23:26 Yeah, so it was a very interesting transition, to say the least. I think, you know, maybe when we had talked before, I joked that I might be one of the only people to come out of that program and graduate and take a significant pay cut, but it's because I really knew what I wanted to do with my career at the time. I can't say that I had the next 10, 20 years mapped out, but I definitely knew what I wanted to do at the time. And I think we'll probably talk a little more about it. But I guess what I've learned throughout my career, and this was just one example of it, is that if you execute, if you do a good job, the positions and the money comes to you. So to be honest with you, at that time I wasn't, I didn't have that clarity. Darren 00:24:12 So I don't want folks to think that <laugh>, that they should have that clarity either. But I, from my perspective now and, and what I've learned, so when I decided to go back to school to change my career, I knew that it was going to be a pay cut that I did know because the consulting field and what I was in was relatively lucrative, especially with what I was doing. And it's not as if manufacturing operations could necessarily compete with that from the start, right? So I sort of expected that going in. I did have opportunities to go into other fields, but ultimately I ended up joining a leadership program at United Technologies, which you know, now has been, uh, split apart and most of it lives on as R T X or Raytheon Technologies, and there's Otis and Carrier. But at the time, they had one of the best leadership programs out there. Um, and it was a rotational program. And what I really wanted, similar to what I had talked about kind of before in my advice, is exposure to a lot of different things. So I knew folks who were experts in manufacturing, I knew folks who were experts in distribution, but I didn't really know anyone who was both. So I wanted to become, at least that was my goal, an expert in both manufacturing and distribution. And this was the best program for me. So I joined that program and sought the opportunities from there. Sean 00:25:39 So Darren, you just mentioned two key parts of supply chain and obviously supply chain is very critical to how we live our lives in, in, in the modern era. And it's also, I would say pretty misunderstood or simplified, especially after three and a half years of headlines starting with the pandemic and toilet paper and surpluses shortages that we've had. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and different things over the past few years. And it's obviously not just the subject of full classes, but entire programs like our top rated one here at Penn State. All that being said about simplifying it, can you simplify it and give us a crash course on what exactly supply chain means? Um, I know if you're a supply chain student, this is probably gonna be a little redundant for you, but for those who are maybe exploring their options in the Smeal college business or just curious on the topic, you know, humorous with the overly simplified explanation of what this field is. Sure, Darren 00:26:29 I'd be happy to. So the best description of supply chain is all of the activities that go from raw material to then ultimately put a finished product in the hands of the end customer, which would either be you or me, or it could be a business, right? So there's a lot in that. So to unpack it a little bit, you start with raw materials, but then there are manufacturing call 'em transformation steps that go in. There's wholesale, there's, you know, many times retail, depending on how the supply chain is structured, there could be distribution in there and then it gets to the end customer. So that's sort of probably the linear supply chain. But then I would add to that Sean, that there's all the transportation handling inventory management in between. And then as you can imagine, incredibly complex systems, global supply chains, et cetera. Darren 00:27:32 There are also many, many other functions that I would say, you know, depending on one's definition are either included in supply chain or in operations, but you know, different functions like customer service or warranty or aftermarket support, et cetera. And if you think about the economy, we learned it during the pandemic, the supply chain is absolutely critical. If it wasn't for the supply chain, almost everything that we have right now in our modern lives, we wouldn't have. But to give you kind of a real life example, I actually did an internship in my graduate studies. And so in that internship I was the continuous improvement manager on a jet engine assembly line for fighter jets, which was a pretty cool job by the way. But if you think about the supply chain there are for fighter jets, there's all the raw materials to make all the components. If we think about one example, the fan plates. So somebody needs to then procure the supplies for that, um, the suppliers to then produce the fan blades to then need to transport them to the actual jet engine manufacturer who then has all of their processes and inventory management, which then that needs to go to the jet manufacturer, et cetera. And all the steps in between. So I know you asked for a simplified definition. I'm not sure if I met that uh, mark, but that's sort of a broad overview of supply chain. Sean 00:29:01 No, I think that was a good four minute version of that. And even going back to your thesis, you know, talking about what happens when products hit the end of their useful life and with refuse and recycling and mm-hmm <affirmative> second lives and secondhand markets like yard sales and flea markets even for consumer goods, right? Yeah. Darren 00:29:18 And I mean there's even a formal area supply chain with reverse logistics and dealing with returns and all that processing. So absolutely. So Sean 00:29:26 If you're a supply chain major, thank you for bearing with us. If you're not, I hope you learned a little bit there. Helped give you some context for all the headlines you've seen over the past few years. Now obviously you focus particularly in the manufacturing and the operations component, which is kind of in the middle there. 'cause you've gotta get your raw components, you might mine things, logging agriculture for food products and, and then obviously you have to transform things into different parts and there can be many stages of that. What could be at one point is an end product then becomes an input, like you said with the fan blades one company, they make the fan blades, that's the end product. Next one that what's an input and a component part, right? You talked, you wanted to be an expert in both the manufacturing and the distribution. So there can be specialist roles and generalist roles in supply chain. So can you talk about the pros and cons of both approaches to a career in those areas and how scholars can kind of pick up things that can be helpful in both of those areas? Darren 00:30:22 Absolutely. So just like in many fields, as you said, there are specialists and generalists. And so from my perspective it's really, does something really interest you so much that that's a particular area or function and supply chain and operations? It's true, but it's true in many other fields as well where you just specialize. So, you know, an example in supply chain could be logistics. There are experts in international logistics that are kind of spend their entire careers managing shipments of products, the relationship with suppliers, brokers, et cetera. Getting products from, for example, Asia to the United States. That's a specialist and it requires a lot of very specialized knowledge in that case of exports, imports, suppliers, et cetera. Another example would be inventory management, where one becomes an expert in managing inventory levels to have the best possible cash flow for any organization, while also simultaneously having the best service level for customers. Darren 00:31:29 'cause the holy grail in that space is having a hundred percent service level with almost no inventory. Now I say the holy grail 'cause it's theoretical, but any, you know, lean practitioner listening to this or continuous improvement would say that inventory is one of the key wastes. So you know, you want to keep your inventory down and there's a very specialized field there. So there are a lot of folks, and I would say even the majority of folks that I've worked with in my career end up specializing in a particular area. But then there are generalists, and I guess I would categorize myself as a generalist in this, where you end up being exposed to a lot of different areas you obviously work with lean on and in many cases lead the specialists, but for the broader benefit of the organization and business. I would say though that this is more an evolution than probably a choice. As I said before, I didn't necessarily know, you know, when I was younger, what I know now and have the same perspective. I just went with a goal of trying to be exposed to as many things as possible and learn and deliver in different areas and certainly was up for learning more and being more and more challenged. And I think the generalists in supply chain would end up being in the VP of operations, VP of supply chain roles versus like a VP of transportation, uh, or VP of inventory. Sean 00:32:56 And speaking of VPs, that's a title you've held a few times in your career. So can you walk us just through how you've advanced in your career? You started after, after B-School, you did your leadership program with United Technologies, which obviously you said was kind of split apart into some different companies and you got to experience different parts there. So how did you take, those programs are cut and dry, you do so many rotations through over a certain amount of time, then you've gotta get put into one of the tracks. So how did you opt into one of those and begin kind of progressing up the ladder? Yeah, it's Darren 00:33:29 A, it's a good question. I ended up, like I said, I was interested in manufacturing and distribution. So that program in particular had three rotations. I did one in each of those. And I also decided that I wanted to do an international rotation. And you know, there's another theme in my career, which I think it's important for me to be able to talk about, which is take on tough challenges, take on, you know, try and solve your boss's biggest problem, right? If you can identify and solve your boss's biggest problem, then that's really gonna get you additional opportunities. So I wanted to be able to do an international rotation and this was the time of nafta. So for those folks who aren't aware of what NAFTA is, that was the North American Free Trade Agreement. And basically the US, Canada and Mexico formed one trading block. Darren 00:34:21 And so it made it a lot easier and a lot of production was moving to Mexico is basically what was going on at the time. I decided, you know, there were more glamorous opportunities to go to Paris to go to Hong Kong, but I was the only one in that particular leadership program that raised my hand and said, I'll go to Mexico so that I can learn more. So I went, I went to Mexico and I also, uh, decided that I wanted to get more finance exposure. So that rotation was actually in financial planning and analysis because my logic was if I was gonna be speaking another language, which I am not inherently fluent in, then at least I didn't have to translate numbers. So I ended up going through those rotations. Ultimately you had to place out in the program. So I ended up going into the internal distribution company at Carrier at the time, did different things, different opportunities as they came my way. Darren 00:35:17 I led the continuous improvement rollout in the distribution organization. I ended up negotiating a logistics contract for about $60 million that I didn't really have prior to getting that assignment, any experience doing. Um, so those are kind of, that's an example of things you learn on the fly. And then I really wanted the opportunity to move out into the field or you know, as someone would call, go to a line leadership versus staff leadership function. So I had an opportunity to be an operations manager in the mid-south, so moved there and that I had oversight over distribution and warranty and customer service and logistics, et cetera. All the functions in a distribution organization ultimately had the opportunity to start up a distribution company within United Technologies in southern California. And then was asked to take over the IT organization for a while, take over the production planning organization and the customer service organization there. Darren 00:36:18 And then someone who I had worked with had gone to work for lg and LG for those folks who are familiar with TVs, et cetera, huge conglomerate known for electronics, but it's actually one of the largest air conditioning manufacturers in the world. And so they had a startup division in the us I was recruited over there. They said we could really use your help, built that up as a startup organization from four people to about 60 and you know, would take on more challenges as they were put on my plate. And then I moved over to, uh, a large medical distributor, Owens and Minor, um, when I got a call from somebody else I used to work with who, uh, said they could use my help as well. So worked through, whether it was distribution or logistics, I ran their consulting group for a while, ran their, an offshoot of a software group for a while. So just been able to take the generalist skills and apply them in different areas. Sean 00:37:14 So Darren, I'm looking at your resume as we're talking and I can help but notice you worked for a medical supplier company beginning in, oh, let's see here, 2017 and then moved into a distribution role in 2019. That's right. So I'm sure you had an interesting few months in 2020. Can you talk us through what the supply chain and, and medical equipment was like in the beginning of the c Ovid 19 pandemic? Yeah, Darren 00:37:42 Absolutely. And in, you know, Sean, as you said, and for folks already, you know, in supply chain they'll appreciate this. But for others who aren't, they certainly got exposed to the importance of supply chain during this time. So yes, I was working for Owens and Miner, which is uh, one of the three largest medical surgical distributors in the country. So probably a third of the market. Hundreds of hospital systems are their customers, thousands of hospitals and ultimately having to deliver gowns, gloves, everything to be able to masks to keep those hospitals running. So I was actually in charge of all United States distribution at the time, both the distribution centers and logistics. And I can tell you it was one of the most challenging but also most rewarding times in my career because of the importance of what we were doing. But there were various challenges that we dealt with. Darren 00:38:44 First of all, supply started slowing from China. For those folks who may not remember, China started restricting some of their exports. So the government actually had to step in and was airlifting some supplies, I'm not sure if everyone knows this from China to the United States. And we actually worked with the federal government to coordinate getting those supplies as quickly as we could from the aircraft through our system to the hospitals. But then the other thing that we had to deal with, since we were in a critical industry supporting hospitals, we did not go remote. We did not work from home. We actually had 40 distribution centers across the United States that we had to keep staffed and up and running through the Covid pandemic. So I can tell you, I remember exactly where I was when I got a call that we had our first covid case in one of our distribution centers. Darren 00:39:39 And an interesting quick anecdote here, if you remember, we were obviously serving hospitals. So this was in March of 2020. So no one really had experience with covid. So we actually shut down our distribution center. We brought in a company to deep clean it for in like 12 hours. We had to install testing across the nation relatively quickly. And then we were up and running again. But it was very disruptive to the hospital. 'cause this was the distribution center that actually served hospitals in Manhattan. So folks remember those pictures and when we shut down and then explained it to our hospital customers, they basically said to us, well we have 60 covid cases that we're dealing with right now and we don't shut down. So that was a pretty stark reminder. You learn things along the way. And after that we did not shut a distribution center at all from COVID cases. And so we had daily covid updates on cases, we had clear procedures on cleaning and quarantine and everything. And we just had a lot of vigilance and thankfully, you know, we were able to continue to supply hospitals and get through it. Sean 00:40:48 Nothing like putting those, uh, stroller problem solving skills to use in a time when you really, really needed to. Right? Darren 00:40:55 Yeah, absolutely. Like I said earlier in our conversation, you know, there are a lot of problems that don't have clear answers and this was an experience I had never had, but none of my colleagues or anyone else had ever had. So we were sort of working through it and learning as we went. Sean 00:41:10 And speaking of learning yet again, one of the things that you shared with me was some cool opportunities. Obviously you talked about Mexico, but LG is based out of the Republic of Korea or South Korea as you may know it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And one of our mission tenets is building a global perspective. So can you talk about working with those international components of roles, the cultural pieces, every country and even parts of different countries like ours have different cultures around business and how you interact and how you maybe even if you have family and you can integrate them into those experiences. Darren 00:41:40 When I went international with United Technologies, we actually moved to Mexico. So my wife and I lived in Mexico for about a year. So I was the only American at carrier Mexico. So it was quite an immersive experience. It was incredibly rewarding. And I guess what I learned from those times is it's important to be able to respect the culture, to learn about the different cultures. Not all cultures interact in business the same way. So I, I know that Penn State has a very international focus, but probably a lot of folks listening to this are Americans. So we, you know, we have a certain way we think about business or you know, addressing problems. And I'm sure everyone appreciates it's not the same way everywhere. So the one thing that you know, I learned to be successful is being able to really appreciate the environment that you're in. Darren 00:42:43 Figuring out how to be successful in that environment, in business. And honestly trying to speak some of the language goes a long way. So after Carrier in United Technologies, as you said, I went to lg, so I spent quite a bit of time over in South Korea. Working with that leadership team, the United States is obviously a very important market, um, to many international companies, including lg, as we would like to say. We got a little lot of attention and a lot of help. And so I think the key again is understanding cultural differences, what works, what doesn't work, and listen a lot more than you speak depending on one's perspective. When you're dealing with international business, it's really important to understand where other people are coming from before you start figuring out how you want to really approach a situation and be able to work together through it. Sean 00:43:39 Absolutely there, just reading some basic things, you know, sometimes there's differences in terms of punctuality, speed of relationship building, gift giving, that varies across different cultures and that's a whole extra layer of complexity that you have to add in addition to getting the supplies that you need or the distribution that you need. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you have to figure out what are those differences and how are you gonna blend those, Darren 00:44:02 Right. And I would say for folks, students who are listening to this who are interested in international business, it was one of the things I actually looked for in a lot of companies that I was interested in. And so whether you get an opportunity to work internationally, that's certainly very exciting and you can live there and really immerse yourself in it. But for those folks who don't necessarily have that opportunity in supply chain, especially, there are opportunities to work with global suppliers, partners in other countries, being able to learn from them and really work through the complexities there, I think is an outstanding opportunity. And that honestly will only serve you better as you go throughout your career, just being able to deal with different situations and different cultures and learning about others and, and listening more than you speak. Sean 00:44:58 Amen to that, Darren. And you know, we've talked about the a academic excellence, we've talked about the B building a global perspective, and obviously with people there's c creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. And as we've mentioned, you've had quite a few of these senior roles and you've had to lead teams, build teams, as you said, you took one group from four to 60 people and team members. So how did you approach leading teams and learning those? Again, not my, not a phrase I like, but the soft stass, the relational STAs to compliment all of the technical acumen that you've built up over the years. Darren 00:45:32 What I've learned over, over time and what has really served me well is understanding business is all about people, right? Maybe it seems obvious, but it's important to remind ourselves. So first and foremost, as a leader, if you respect your people and have a genuine interest in them, it really matters. And you know, one thing I've always gone outta my way to do is, is thank people. It costs you nothing except for effort. And honestly it really matters. So, you know, especially in my roles where I would lead hundreds and thousands of people, I didn't have an opportunity to speak to everyone all the time, right? So when I was in front of people in one of our facilities, I would do my best to walk the floor, talk to people and personally thank them for what they were doing. Now if you ask me, did they all know who I was? Darren 00:46:25 No. But did it matter? No, because it wasn't about me being known. It was about them knowing that someone from leadership thanked them for what they were doing and that what they were doing really mattered to the company and the customers. So when I would take over an organization or a function, you know, I would do my best to speak to all the people that were reporting to me and more broadly if I could, and ask them, you know, what was going well, what was going badly, and what ideas did they have to improve? And honestly, it gave me way more insight than anything I could have developed on my own. And if you then take that and you start working through some opportunities to improve things, people notice and they notice because they've been heard and you are taking action, that doesn't mean everything's easy, that doesn't mean everything's achievable, but you are taking action, which means that they were heard and they were listened to. Darren 00:47:24 So I think finally, as I think about senior leadership or frankly any level of leadership, leadership, it's not that it's easy, but in my experience it doesn't need to be tough. When I think about leadership and people ask me about it, I tell them the way to lead effectively is to set clear expectations of what's expected. And on this could be a 3000 person organization, or it could be a team working on a class project. If you're the leader, you want to talk to people, set clear expectations, communicate openly, make sure everyone has what they need to succeed, whether it's tools, whether it's training, and then be open to listening and be interested in them as people. And so everybody knows where you're headed, you know that they have what they need to get there and they know that they're supported. So it doesn't mean that everything is perfect. And again, it doesn't mean that leadership is easy, but it doesn't need to be very difficult. Sean 00:48:24 I think that's really insightful. Darren, early in our conversation, you mentioned coming out of M I t Sloan, you didn't necessarily have a 20 year plan, but we're in the back end of your career and you're heading into kind of an early retirement. You've been able, you've had a good career and you've been able to leverage some opportunities to step out of industry for a little bit. And if a student wants to retire early so that they can travel or pursue other passion projects, you know, what could they be doing now in their early twenties to set themselves up to do that? And then what do you plan to do with your early retirement? Yeah, Darren 00:48:58 I've gotten, uh, this question a lot recently, Sean. So <laugh>, I think in terms of what advice I would give folks is, and we talked a little bit about this, but professionally, I think meet your commitments. If you develop a reputation for execution, and whether it's in supply chain or frankly in my experience, could be in any area of business or other organizations, pretty soon you'll get more and more opportunities and responsibilities and then you'll probably advance your career faster than a lot of your peers. But I would also say, especially for those folks who are still in school, learn as much as you can about finance and investing. So this is especially true for the folks who are at Penn State now. So I would say for you personally, but also your career, learn about finance investing and then really the sooner you can start investing, the better off you will be. And I think there's this old adage that it's not about timing the market, it's about time in the market. So you want to start as soon as possible and then take some chances in your own personal portfolio while you are building your professional portfolio with roles with compensation, uh, and opportunities. Sean 00:50:16 And this is a great chance to give a shameless plug for our colleagues and the resource over in the Salov Miller Financial Literacy Center, great resource for all Penn State students. You don't have to be in Tryer, it's open to all Nittany lines. So go check that out. Darren 00:50:29 And then as for me, Sean, you know, I like to tell people, uh, the best way to describe me right now is I'm a professional investor slash student. I've, uh, started taking classes at a local university, again, lifelong learner, you know, I'm interested in a lot of things, history, economics, et cetera. I, uh, spend time obviously managing investments, uh, traveling as much as I can and who knows what the future holds. I have a passion for financial education, um, which I've sort of developed over time, uh, the environment, we've talked a little bit about that. And also food banks. So, uh, looking for ways to continue to give back. And then, you know, for me, we'll see what the future holds. Sean 00:51:12 And I don't know if this has come up in our conversation earlier, but you are located, you know, you talked about you lived in Mexico, you did some work in South Korea, but you're in a city that I would not include in a list of quote unquote typical locations that a lot of our alumni end up in. Can you just give a little plug for the city and you know, kind of what it's like being a Penn State or in a location that's not the typical Philly, Pittsburgh, DC New York, Boston kind of locations that a lot of our alumni quite, that's where they go. Darren 00:51:43 Right? So we live in central Virginia in the Richmond, Virginia area. So there aren't any specific alumni groups, but I do have access to the DC alumni organization. And then certainly there are a lot of ways virtually obviously to stay involved with Penn State as well over time. Sean 00:52:05 Excellent. That is really helpful. You know, no matter where you go, Penn State can go with you. We've learned a lot from the pandemic and how to engage with you all once you graduate through virtually, you know, you don't have to live in one of these major markets. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, there are great opportunities to plug in with alumni no matter where you live. Now Darren, wrapping up our conversation, what kind of questions about, be it supply chain, manufacturing, operations, organizational leadership or edible projectiles that I haven't asked about, uh, in our conversation that I should have? Or maybe put another way, like, you know, if you're talking to interns or student mentees or a business journalist, what do you often get asked about that I just do to my own level of knowledge? Didn't think to ask about? Darren 00:52:48 So we've talked about some of 'em just to hit a couple and then, and then there's a few we haven't, I touched on this, but I, my advice to anyone early in their career or an internship is figure out your boss's biggest problem and solve it. Right? And it doesn't matter if you're in supply chain operations, marketing, finance and anywhere, I, I think that's key 'cause that will get you more opportunity. But what we haven't really talked about in addition to the leadership that we discussed is for folks in operations or supply chain, but I would say even more broadly nowadays, get involved in the continuous improvement program at whatever organization where you're working for an internship or in your career. And many times, you know, it's Six Sigma, it'll be referred to as lean, some companies have, you know, their own name for the program. Darren 00:53:38 But it's very important nowadays in obviously business in terms of being able to continuously improve things that are going on inside the business. But it's also gonna teach you a way of thinking that will serve you throughout your career and will also allow you to stand out from your peers. So if you're the one person of your team who's really interested in continuous improvement, I promise you whatever organization you're involved in, you will get an opportunity to learn new skills and to be exposed to different things. The other thing we've touched on a little bit, but I would say more directly, I think it's critically important nowadays, especially folks early in their career, get comfortable with financials and data and be able to do data analysis. So you know, this will prove invaluable in whatever you're working on, whatever your field is. And the more comfortable you can get, the better with both financials and data because it's gonna allow you to see things that others may not see. Darren 00:54:42 It'll allow you to be able to ask questions that others maybe aren't asking. And ultimately it'll allow you to make recommendations that others probably aren't gonna be able to make. And so my final piece of advice when I'm asked about this is, and I see this honestly a lot with junior analysts or folks early on in their consulting career, if you're doing a large analysis, especially related to like revenue or cost, make sure you do a sanity check on your numbers. Like will it pass the sniff test? Does this make sense? Does it smell right? And then be prepared to go one level below wherever your boss is gonna go. 'cause expect that you're gonna get questions on it. You know, the way I would prepare for meetings, uh, or big presentations is I would treat them like I was preparing for a final for the folks, you know, who can relate to that. And so you want to be prepared with everything. And again, that's how you build a reputation for being able to execute and being able to add value and get more opportunities Sean 00:55:45 I think that is all really, really helpful advice Darren. So thank you. This is gonna be our wrap up questions here. What would you say is your biggest success to date and this is your chance to brag about something that you're very proud of? Darren 00:55:56 My biggest personal success has been, and I mentioned it in passing, but I had the pleasure of leading a, a small team that had to start up distributor in Southern California when I worked at Carrier and Southern California is actually, I think it's the second or maybe third largest air conditioning market in the world. People can probably relate to that. And Carrier decided that they were gonna start their own distributor there. And so we had 90 days to go from four people arriving at L A X to having 20 buildings, hundreds of people on staff product and actually making deliveries to air conditioning companies so that they could continue to supply the Southern California market. So I would say in between the 20 hour days plus having to travel all around Southern California and, you know, hire hundreds of people and be able to ship product within 75 days ahead of time was a huge success for the organization. So that was pretty fun to be a part of Sean 00:57:05 That. Is that, that must have been incredible too, <laugh> and big relief when that was over. Darren 00:57:10 Absolutely. And in fact, you know, we won some internal awards, uh, with the company, not just me but obviously a lot of the other folks. But what was most exciting was to see kind of the excitement with the entire team of being able to share in the success, to be able to support the customers. 'cause people don't really think about air conditioning, not unlike medical supplies can be, you know, life and death in, uh, some climate. So it's critically important. Sean 00:57:36 So on the flip side of that, Darren, what would you say is the biggest transformational learning moment or mistake that you made in your career and most importantly, what you took out of it and integrated into your experiences? Darren 00:57:47 In a different portion of my career with Carrier, I had an opportunity to become a regional operations manager. And at that time there were two different regions open. One was the mid-south with which I mentioned, and the other one was the northeast. And the Northeast was widely regarded as the best run region, had the number one metrics, et cetera. And the mid-south was widely regarded as the worst run region. Um, had the worst metrics almost, uh, bottom in everything. And when I was thinking about it and sort of similar to a lot of our discussion, Sean, I was actually asked to go to the Northeast by the incumbent manager of the Northeast, but instead I chose to go to the mid-south, um, which was, I won't say the bad news bears, but we had a lot of opportunity and I knew the folks there. Uh, so I remember in my first month after I talked to everyone, I, I put up a slide in front of everyone that our goal was to be number one and or number two in all the key metrics, whether it was customer, operational, financial in two years and seemed really audacious. Darren 00:59:00 Well, we were able to become one or two in all the areas within a year. And it wasn't because of my skill, but rather it was because of the team that was already there that wasn't necessarily appreciated, wasn't being, you know, supported the way they needed to be. And once, you know, I was able to help them, the team was able to perform to get it the organization to one or two in all the areas. So I think what I really learned about that is if you take a hard path but you have a plan and you know, you know how you can work with others to succeed, then a lot of times, you know, that's the more rewarding path, whether it's in one's career, but probably in one's personal life as well. Sean 00:59:45 That is really, really good insight, Darren. Now just some fun questions here at the end. Are there any professors or friends from your days at Penn State and in the installers program that you wanted to give a shout out to? Darren 00:59:57 Yeah, so you know, some of my thesis advisors, I, I'm not sure if the, I, I, they're probably not still at Penn State, but Professor Holly Lewis and Professor Dave Christie were two of my great thesis advisors that helped me, um, through that. And then as I mentioned, when I came to Penn State, I didn't know anyone and uh, I actually fell in with a great group of friends. Uh, they were all fellow scholars and we had a great time together. So yeah, pepper Santa Lucia, who was in poli sci, Paul Casper who was in accounting, Tommy Chang who was in pre-med, who's now a medical doctor, and Stefan Bofski who was in aerospace engineering who's now a PhD. All of us, uh, had a great time together. So I wouldn't have been the same obviously without all those folks. Sean 01:00:47 Kudos to them and, and to your group. And it sounds like you're all still friends, so that's awesome. Yeah, you've given a lot of great advice in our time here together. So Darren, as we're wrapping up our time, can you leave us with some final advice for students to make the most of their time at Penn State and in the honors college like you did? Darren 01:01:04 My final advice for folks in the Honors College is explore classes and topics that interest you. Like I shared a little bit about my journey, I didn't know where I was gonna end up. One of the benefits of Penn State is you can expose yourself to many different topics. You can take classes and, you know, many different disciplines. So explore classes and topics that interest you. 'cause they may just help define your journey or redefine it. And on a related note, don't be afraid to do things that are outside of your path. I didn't necessarily plan on becoming a reporter for the collegiate, but it really helped me. And you know, as I was just mentioning some of my, uh, old friends from Penn State make some great friends along the way, and I think in the honors college and then broadly in Penn State, it's, it's a wonderful community, tremendous folks. You're have the great opportunity to meet people from all over in all kind, in all different disciplines. And as I went through my friends, each one of us was in a different area and it just made it that much more interesting. So yeah, just continue to make those connections. They'll serve you personally throughout your life. Sean 01:02:16 Excellent. Now are there any other fun Tryer, university scholar, Atherton Simmons stories that you wanted to share that didn't come up? I Darren 01:02:24 Lived in Atherton Hall for a couple of years and ended up living in one of the rooms on the ground floor that actually opened to one of the courtyards. And so we would have lots of impromptu wiffle ball games. And I will tell you that those courtyards, I'm not sure if they're official dimensions for a wiffle ball, uh, field, but it felt like it. And you really have a pretty awesome brick home run wall that you have to get over. So, you know, and for folks who are there at Atherton, if you're not playing Wiffle ball in the courtyards, you know, that might be something you wanna look into. Sean 01:03:01 I agree, and I think I've seen some wiffle balls at one of the downtown kinda markets, so if you're looking to <laugh> rectify that situation, you may be able to go down there. Now, Darren, how can a scholar reach out to you if they wanted to connect with you and pick your brain further on any of the topics that we've discussed today? Darren 01:03:16 So probably the best way is if people just wanna reach out to me on LinkedIn, I'm happy to make connections, help folks any way I can. Uh, certainly and if we can establish that connection, then obviously I can, you know, share more information about contact. Sean 01:03:32 Excellent. And obviously one of the unique things at Penn State is something we're known for, the supply chain is, at least for certain components, is pretty simple because the cows, they're right on campus. So a lot of the raw inputs don't have to travel particularly far. And of course I'm talking about the Burkee Creamery and as we always do here, the fun question at the end, Darren, if you were a flavor of Burke Creamery ice cream, which of those flavors would you be? And most importantly, why would you be that flavor as a scholar alum? Darren 01:03:59 So I think this is my favorite question, Shauna. I like this. So I I have to admit, I did spend some time on this, right? Because you could go with your favorite flavor, you could go with, you know, other reasons. Where I ended up was lion tracks. So vanilla peanut butter cups, and chocolate swirl. So first of all, it's great flavors who doesn't love chocolate peanut butter cups and vanilla? But really when I think about my career, I think about supply chain. I think about operations. You have to have some structure to it, but you, it's also a blend of a lot of different things. So I will admit, I don't know much about making ice cream, but I would imagine if you mix it too much, it's not gonna end up the right way, et cetera. So it's one of those ice creams that has to have the right structure, it has to be blended properly, and there's an overall complexity the same way there is in operations and supply chain. Sean 01:04:53 That is a great rationale and I love that you, you thought through that. And we have another one we're gonna chalk up in the tally for team menu. So great, great choice there, Darren. I love it. Uh, after doing so many of these, we've got team, W P S U, coffee Break team, alumni, swirl, and team the rest of the menu. So, Darren 01:05:10 And Sean 01:05:11 Who's leading? I haven't totally tallied it up. This is all anecdotal. I really need to do some data analysis on these flavors, but it's hard to tell. It's kind of an even split, I think between the three of them. So, but you know, when one of the categories, <laugh> is most of the menu, <laugh>, Darren 01:05:25 <laugh>, so I don't know if I should feel good or bad about that, but we'll take it. The menu. Sean 01:05:29 I think you should, I I don't, I think you may be the first line tracks or maybe, or or at at absolute worst. I think the second person who picked it. Okay, so I'll take, it's, that one's not a frequent flyer here. I'll take it. So I'm, I always like hearing new ones. Darin, thank you so much for joining. I know I learned a lot about supply chain. I hope you listening, even if you're a supply chain major, learned a lot. And if you weren't, I definitely think you probably did. So thank you for listening all the way through our conversation today. A lot of great insights for careers, even outside of supply chain operations, manufacturing, and all the different components that go into getting you just about anything you use or eat on a daily basis. So I really appreciate it, Darren, thank you so much for your time and your great insights here on following the gong. Yeah, thank Darren 01:06:10 You Sean. I appreciate your time. I appreciate the opportunity and, uh, thank you everyone for listening to this. Hopefully you find some valuable insights in this and maybe we can connect. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 01:24:01 Thank you Scholars for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Schreyer Honors College Emergency Fund, benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise.psu.edu/schreyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like, or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the College on Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events, and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or are a Scholar Alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on Following the Gong, please connect with me at [email protected]. Until next time, please stay well and We Are!

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