Skip to main content

Supply Chain Leadership II: Jodie Clarke, VP of Procurement at Altria Client Services

Communication is Essential for Supply Chain Leaders

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jodie Clarke, Vice President of Procurement at Altria Client Services thisweek. Jodie grew up in Western North Carolina and graduated from Virginia Tech with a Master’ of Science in Crop & Soil Environmental Science.

Jodie started out as a contractor at Philip Morris, a subsidiary of Altria, out of graduate school, working in the Leaf division of the company, which sources tobacco for Philip Morris. She then moved into the other areas of procurement, eventually got the opportunity to assume the role of Vice President with Altria. Altria is mostly a domestic company, but has an extended global supply chain. To be effective in this role, maintaining a close working relationship with her team is critical to Jodie.

Jodie reports to the CFO of Altria, but has regular and direct conversations with the CEO, as well as theCOO. A student asked why she did not report to the COO, and she discussed this at length.

“Different companies see it differently,” Jodie said. “Financial performance is an enterprise risk owned by the CFO, and Procurement’s strategic vision is focused on value delivery and risk management, which can havesignificant impact to our financials if not managed appropriately.”

Jodie continued, “We also focused on strong risk management ensuring there is no corruption in our supplychains and ensure that social compliance is maintained in the suppliers we work with.”

Jodie also noted the importance of managing cyber-risk. Cyber-attacks in the supply chain are becoming increasingly common and therefore are a focus of our risk management area with our suppliers. We recentlyexpanded our inspection of cyber-risk in our supply chain to not only include suppliers that access oursystems or have access to sensitive data, but also for suppliers where cyber-attack could affect their ability to operate, which could impact our operations.”

Jodie shared a lot about how she and her team manage procurement in a large organization like Altria. “A big part of my job is trying to balance and solve three essential elements of our supply chain: value,efficiency and risk. We define value in terms of savings, cost avoidance, and working capital benefits, which we have been able to positively impact over the last three years.”

“For efficiency,” Jodie said, “We need to be able to continually on-board new suppliers and deliver new products, and that meant we have had to improve our contracting processes, to make them more efficient.We are improving efficiency through the launch of our supplier portal, which will increase visibility and help increase our cybersecurity measures.”

“And we are always focused on risk,” Jodie said. “Our team believes risk management begins before youeven engage with suppliers. We need to know if they have a code of conduct, and sanctions and anti-bribery measures. We also work with a platform that alerts us about incidents in our supply base. This week we were alerted about a fire at one of our suppliers, who had not yet reached out to us about the issue. We contacted them, and they assured us that the issue would not impact us. But they were curious about how we received a fire alert before they even contacted us! Our risk platforms allow us to be more proactive in managing risks.”

Jodie had some important insights for college students graduating and entering the supply chain field.

“I am a first-generation college student, and a big issue I faced was I had no one to talk to about how to work in corporate America,” Jodie said. “A manager who mentored me gave me some important advice: ’Don’t let you get in the way of yourself! You are the biggest impediment to what you want to do!’ I said tohim, ‘But I don’t have the pedigree others have.’ His response: ‘You are a hard worker, and a pedigree is not how you show up every day.’

“I had to get over myself and my insecurities, and I didn’t fit the profile of a corporate executive,” Jodie said,“But as result of support like that mentor provided and a personal development focus, I have been able toachieve a leadership position. I am both grateful and proud of the opportunities that I have had in my career.”

“One of the most important things I’ve learned is, to be successful in supply chain management, one needs tobe constantly connected to stakeholders, and educating. them about what we do,” Jodie continued. “When wego through changes, if people don’t understand what you do, you won’t be successful.”

“I believe that people who are good at communicating with others will be successful in supply chainmanagement,” Jodie said. “A lot of supply people are good at numbers and solving problems, but collaboration and communication is key. The people who do the best are those who communicate and make connections with others in the company and solve problems in a collaborative way.”