Name: Katie Aten
From: Waxhaw, NC
Course of Study: Business Administration, Supply Chain & Operations Concentration
Graduation: May 2020
How did you end up deciding to study supply chain at NC State?
When I first came to NC State, I started at the Poole College of Management pursuing my business degree, but I was also pre-dental. As I was taking my prerequisite courses for dental school and got a bit further into my business coursework, I started to fall in love with supply chain, and eventually decided to fully pursue business administration with a supply chain focus.
What was it about supply chain that captured your interest?
What really sold me was that every company in every industry needs a supply chain. They don’t always look the same, but it’s always prevalent in some form. For that reason, I was really enamored by the fact that I could use a background in supply chain to work in the healthcare industry, or the service industry, or for a product-based company — essentially wherever my interests lie.
Ms. Freeman, who teaches the intro to supply chain class (BUS 370), is the second reason why I chose to study supply chain. She has so much great experience, and you can really see the impact she has on students. She starts off the class at the beginning of the year by asking, “how many of you are studying supply chain?” and one to two people will raise their hands, and then at the end of the year, she’ll ask, “…Now how many people are studying supply chain?” and so many more hands shoot up.
What skills do you think are essential for students to be successful in pursuing a career in supply chain?
Aside from general industry knowledge, I think students will really benefit from having a broad perspective. There are so many different players and parties involved within a supply chain, and typically every player has a different goal — they all value different things. Ms. Freeman tells us that the best supply chain is one where every player is aligned on the same value, and you have to make sure that you’re considering the interests of every stakeholder in order to do that. So in that sense, I would say maintaining a broad perspective and consideration for all of the individual players within the supply chain.
You were one of five students to receive the Caterpillar Supply Chain Scholarship this year, which supports juniors and seniors who have declared Supply Chain Management as a concentration. How did you go about receiving the scholarship?
I was receiving emails from Pack ASSIST, the university’s scholarship portal for students, that were promoting current scholarship opportunities. I looked at what the options were, and there were so many different opportunities available — scholarships for supply chain majors, marketing majors, or even more specific things like someone who is interested in construction… So I went ahead and applied, and at the beginning of the summer, I received an email notification that I had received the scholarship and that it would be applied to my senior year. It was definitely an exciting email to get!
What do you like most about the supply chain program at NC State?
What I think makes the program so great is that all of the professors have so much industry knowledge and are so passionate about their respective areas of the supply chain industry. They’re really passionate about sharing their knowledge with students, and they want to help their students succeed and gain an in-depth understanding so that they can take that knowledge and create value from it.
Another thing I think that makes the program especially unique is the practicum course that students can take, BUS 479, where students can work on projects with real companies on real-world projects throughout the semester. It makes the student experience really unique because we get that real-world experience, and we’re also getting knowledge from other sources outside of the school. I actually just got my project assignment for my practicum course this fall, which is combined with my business analytics practicum course, and I’m going to be working with Caterpillar.
You recently completed a summer internship. Can you describe your work experience?
I spent the summer in Atlanta interning with Georgia Pacific, which is a forestry products company. They make everything from paper products to building products to cellulose, all of which come from forest products. For my internship, I was working in the consumer products group as a supply chain intern under the manufacturing branch, and my focus was on asset optimization and long-term capacity balances for converting equipment and machinery. Throughout the summer I worked on developing tools that would provide a more in-depth view into our current capacity allocation for our converting machines and seeing where we had the opportunity to cut costs and save money.
What was your biggest takeaway from your internship experience?
Georgia Pacific is really structured around their guiding principles, and one of them was this concept that encourages you to question and challenge the things going on around you. So throughout the summer I experienced a lot of personal growth from being given a voice to ask why we do things a certain way, and why we approach things the way we do. It taught me to not be afraid to step up and challenge other’s approaches, which provided me with a lot of new perspectives.
How did you go about finding the internship?
I first connected with Georgia Pacific at the Supply Chain Recruiting Event that occurs the night prior to the Poole College Career Fair. I started talking with their recruiters, and found out that one of them was an NC State alum that was also a supply chain major. By the end of the conversation, I was given the opportunity to return the next day to interview with their recruiting team.
Prior to attending the recruiting event, though, a really big aspect of finding my internship was spending a lot of time in the career development center, as well as going to some of the different Supply Chain Club meetings and trying to refine my resume while also evaluating the companies that would be attending the recruiting event — I really tried to make sure I knew what my passions and values were so that I could make sure I was aligning my interests with those of the companies I would be speaking with.
How else have you benefited from participating with the Supply Chain Club?
A lot of times the club will bring in speakers from various companies who share a lot of knowledge about what they do in their role, what their company does, and what opportunities look like within their company. It was really rewarding to go to those meetings and learn about what I can do with my supply chain degree after graduation and what opportunities will be available.
What other extracurricular activities are you involved with around campus?
I’m a peer leader with the Poole College of Management Peer Leaders, which involves mentoring first-year and transfer management students and serving as a resource as they’re transitioning into the college. I’m also involved in the Poole Student Philanthropy Council, which helps organize the college’s Day of Giving and tries to raise awareness among students about the importance of giving back to the school. I just wrapped up my term as president for the 2018 – 2019 year, and this coming year I’ll be serving as the director of community outreach.
Outside of Poole College, I’m involved in the Delta Gamma Fraternity, where I serve on the chapter management team as the vice president of programming.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I’m currently considering a couple different post-grad opportunities. I’m thinking about pursuing a master’s degree right after graduation, but I’m also considering finding a full-time role in order to get some more experience before I apply for a master’s program. An MBA is definitely on my radar, but as a student in the Business Analytics Honors program, which has opened my eyes to the analytics side of things and the value of data analytics, I’m also considering NC State’s 10-month master of data science program.
Long-term, though, I would just like to find a role where I can apply both my supply chain and data analytics backgrounds to look more at process improvement and lean operations.