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Newly minted MBA from NC State heads off to Apple's Supply Chain Organization

One of my recent students from last year, Gaurav Chhabra, just graduated this semester, and landed a job in Apple’s supply chain organization.  I had a chance to catch up with Guarav today, and we chatted briefly about his experience in the Jenkins MBA program, the role of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative in helping to shape this experience through the projects he worked on while he was here, and the impact that this had in helping to shape his future career at Apple.  Gaurav’s story is also documented in the recent post in the NC State Poole College news page.

Gaurav shared with me that coming into the program, he came into the MBA program with eight years experience as an electronics engineer, but had worked most of his 8 years in the oil and gas sector.  On his first day in class, Gaurav expressed to me that he was really interested in getting into the high tech sector.  As part of the supply management class that all of our incoming MBA students take in the fall, I seek to expose students to a number of different tools, decision methods, analytical frameworks, and strategic alignment issues  related to supply management.  For example, we spend a lot of time initially discussing stakeholder engagement, and a big chunk of the class is also dedicated to supply market intelligence.  We have a business librarian come in and provide students with an incredible array of databases, library resources, Bloomberg terminal tools, and others that would normally cost millions of dollars to access for an external company.   Students learn how to use these resources in mapping out the supply market conditions that are instrumental in shaping category strategies.  Next, students perform a detailed supplier evaluation for a global sourcing case study, involving a high tech situation.  As part of this, they are exposed to concepts of total cost of ownership, “should-cost” modeling, and  utilizing price indices to track and benchmark supplier price quotes and RFQ’s.  Finally, students learn the importance of negotiation preparation and contract management, and participate in a web-based negotiation simulation.  All of this occurs in an in-class and external team based environment.  Guarav noted to me that “These tools and approaches  really helped me to understand the importance of working in teams to arrive at a solution.”

The most important part of the entire experience, however, is the project assignment.  Every student in the class is required to complete a project with one of our SCRC partner members, often utilizing one of the many tools (supplier scorecard, market intelligence, should-cost analysis) that they learn in class.  This is effectively a “real-time” case study – one that is not concocted to derive the “right answer” like so many case studies, but rather a living, breathing case study that involves real people, real data, and real deadlines!   Gaurav noted that “my experience on the project involved a supplier financial risk assessment, for sourcing in countries where financial ratios and information are not always readily available.  We had to come up with innovative solutions for evaluating financial risk – something that is an important factor in Apple’s supply chain.”

Gaurav talked about how the practicum project he worked on with Foodbuy also helped him understand how to leverage information flows to come up with ideas for supply chain redesign and performance measurement.  “I had never been exposed to information flows of the magnitude that Foodbuy was working with from their consumer base, and I learned a lot about how to manage information and create analytics that are meaningful for decision-making.”

The types of things that students in the SCM program learn can’t be gleaned from a simple textbook or Harvard Business School case study.  The SCRC serves as the bridge that brings together the world of supply management challenges into the classroom, enhancing the experience, creating value for our SCRC partners, and giving students the experience and insight they need to “hit the ground running”.  Guarav is emblematic of the type of student that comes our of the NC State Poole MBA supply chain program:  Smart, technically savvy, humble, and most importantly, always willing to learn.  Apple clearly recognized, after 12 rounds of interviews, that Gaurav was exactly what they needed….And we have a lot more students like Gaurav in the pipeline!