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Navigating the Supply Chain, with Maria Villablanca

Navigating the Supply Chain, with Maria Villablanca

We sit down with Maria Villablanca, Co-Founder and CEO of Future Insights Network and host of "Transform Talks," to discuss being a Latina in the business world, the power you gain from instability, and how to adapt in uncertain times.


0:00:00.1 Maricella Herrera: Where leaders go, learning follows. Harvard Business School executive education offers more than 60 in-person and virtual programs. Learn more and apply at That's


0:00:17.5 Intro: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your host, Maricella Herrera.


0:00:37.3 MH: Hey y'all, welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. I'm Maricella Herrera, the CEO of Ellevate Network, and the host of this podcast. I am here with my co-host, Megan Oliver. How are you doing, Megan?

0:00:50.1 Megan Oliver: I am doing well. It's still January, but I don't really have a segue for that, but it's still January.

0:01:00.2 MH: It's still January, will be for another couple of weeks.

0:01:02.5 MO: Yes, it will, it's... January is one of those months that both flies by but also seem slow. I don't know how it's so long, but also then February is there before you know it.

0:01:16.6 MH: It's interesting, for us at Ellevate it's a pretty busy month, it always has been. And I think if you work at anything that has to do with improvement of career or health or fitness or any of those things, January is probably also busy for you. So, we see a lot of people coming to our community to try and revamp what they're gonna do this year and make it successful and look for that support, which is great because that's what we do, that's what we offer, we offer people spaces to come together and help each other out.

0:01:51.2 MO: Oh yeah, back when... Way back in the day, I used to work at Barnes & Noble, and as soon as January would come around, well, really December, because people were making their resolutions in December, but especially January, we would basically set up tables and we basically drag the entire personal growth section out because... And just put them essentially at the front of the store because everybody was looking for them, so that when they came in and they were looking for insert many, many different self-help books, we would just be right on that table, or they would just see them and go, "Oh, perfect, this is what I need."

0:02:20.9 MH: Hey, I mean, it's not a self-help book, it's not... But, I was gonna say, one of the things I'm reading right now is Think Again, by Adam Grant. I definitely love Adam Grant. I think he's a great thought leader, and a lot of his management ideas and the way that he poses stuff. But Think Again has become... It's becoming something that I can really relate to. I think someone had told me, change the way they thought, and it's all about how the importance of rethinking your assumptions and rethinking your stances, or at least contemplating the possibility of changing your mind is what makes you more successful because you're not... Knowing that you don't know everything is so important, and that's one thing I've tried to live by for a long time now. It's hard when you're younger to accept, I think, that you don't know anything, even if that's when you really don't know anything.

0:03:34.0 MO: Oh, yeah.

0:03:36.6 MH: But it's also freeing. It's been years since I accepted that I know nothing though.

0:03:42.8 MO: Yeah. It's so difficult to accept because... It's because I want to know everything. And so that's my drive inside, but I'm like, I have to just accept, you don't know everything, you just have to keep learning.

0:03:56.9 MH: And that's the beauty of it. He talks a little bit, and I'm kind of very... Haven't really finished the book, I'm in the kind of a beginning of a pathway through, but he talks about failure or being wrong, and how a lot of us... And I actually really identify with this, which is when you're wrong, I get that. I don't have a problem admitting that I'm wrong, but I feel really crappy about it.

0:04:29.2 MO: Yes, same.

0:04:30.1 MH: I feel almost guilty or just... It's not a fun feeling. And how he thinks about it, which is how scientists think about it, which is if you're wrong and you know that you're wrong and you realize that you're wrong, it means that you're closer to being right. And that is something I want to bring this year into my way of work.

0:04:55.2 MO: Yeah, it's very... That old saying that Thomas Edison said, he never failed, he just found a thousand ways not to invent a light bulb, until he finally found the way to do it.

0:05:07.6 MH: Yeah, and most of the people that he talks about who are really doing this or really have this kind of benefit, I don't know, benefit, but I don't know how to call it, this innate appreciation for being wrong, and they're genuinely excited when they find something that they're wrong about, I'm like, "I wish I was like that, and I really want to practice it," and in the book, he talks about ways that you can work through it and it's... I really want to bring that into... Particularly into work, I've been saying a lot in the last few months, that action is better than inaction, and I think that that's part of it, right? Sometimes we don't make decisions because of the fear of being wrong, but maybe we should and just think, look, it's another step towards being right.

0:06:01.4 MO: 100%.

0:06:03.5 MH: So, that's what I've been thinking.

0:06:05.8 MO: And that's what you've been into this week.

0:06:08.4 MH: That is what I've been into this week, yeah.

0:06:12.6 MO: Oh, yeah. So, I have been into... Let me tell you how behind, as far behind the ball. I finally on the way... On one of my plane rides back and forth between Texas and New York. Finally saw the movie, I know I'm so behind, I don't know how I saw it because it's exactly the kind of movie that I love. I finally saw Hidden Figures.

0:06:34.9 MH: Ah, it's such a great movie.

0:06:36.2 MO: It's such a great movie. And it was one of those where I was scrolling through on the plane, they have a million different options, and I was about to pass it and I was like, "Wait a minute, I've never seen Hidden Figures. I've always wanted to see this, but I guess just the timing must have been weird." And so, I finally watched it, absolutely loved it. And so then, I almost immediately upon arriving, went to the store and picked up the book and I just... The book is so good. The movie is so good. If like me, you have somehow missed the boat on this one and... Or if you saw the movie when it came out and you wanna know more about the story behind the scenes, because there's... The beauty of a book is you can go into depth of so many more of the different women who were at NASA and helped revolutionize everything. And it's so good and so fascinating and so well-researched, and I just... It's really, really good.

0:07:28.7 MH: Oh, I haven't read the book. I remember loving the movie. So what could be a really good idea for my list of books for this year? I'm always up for reading something like that, so I'll check it out.

0:07:47.5 MO: But there's one person in particular who wasn't in the movie, but who has this amazing moment in the book, her name is Miriam Mann, she was one of the scientists, one of the mathematicians who was there, she was a black woman, and her little daily protests that she would do was they had, of course, little signs on the tables that would say, "For white employees and colored employees." Colored in quotation marks. And she would just every day steal the sign that said "Colored" and put it in her purse so that it wasn't there anymore.

0:08:18.9 MH: I love that.

0:08:20.8 MO: She was just like... And she knew that it was only a little thing, but it was just something that she was like, "That bugs me and I don't want it," and every few days they would replace it, and every few days she would steal it again, and they never really found out it was her doing it, but she just... Until finally, one day they just stopped replacing it, and it was just this little victory. And the book is full of moments like that, an amazing woman you've never heard of, who you absolutely should hear about and learn about, doing incredible things.

0:08:47.3 MH: I love that so much. And those are the things, it can be little things or big things, but it is being courageous enough to challenge the status quo, even if it is by taking a sign away, there's ripple effects to it.

0:09:05.1 MO: Oh yeah.

0:09:06.4 MH: I love it. I'm gonna have to read that.

0:09:08.7 MO: Oh yeah, I'll send it to you when I'm done. It's so good.

0:09:10.0 MH: Kewl. Well, talking about people who have done interesting things and who are helping others do interesting things and changing how work is done in their industries. My conversation today is with Maria Villablanca, she's the co-founder and CEO of the Future Insights Network. It is a membership network of manufacturing, supply chain and digital transformation leaders. So, super topical, we talk a lot about what is going on in the manufacturing world, we talk a little bit about her journey and all the issues with supply chain and what's happened through COVID. So very topical. I think it'll be a fun listen for you all. So, let's get to my conversation with Maria.


0:10:15.1 MH: Hello, I'm here with Maria Villablanca. How are you, Maria?

0:10:19.3 Maria Villablanca: Hi Maricella, thank you for having me here. I'm great, thank you. How about you?

0:10:22.8 MH: I'm doing well, I'm doing well. I'm very happy to have you on our podcast. I know you also have a podcast and you do tons of stuff, also have a community where you're building relationships with people in the supply chain industry. But can we start with a little bit of you telling our audience about yourself, your background, kind of how you started, where you got... How you got where you are? And we'll take it from there.

0:10:48.6 MV: Great. So how long have we got? No, I'm just kidding. So, I was born in Chile in the early '70s, so right in the middle of the beginning of the dictatorship. So, really troublesome time. But my dad was in the aviation industry and moved us over to the United States when I was about maybe two or three. So I didn't really get a lot of time in Chile, although I do go back all the time, my whole family is there. So, I grew up in Miami, and I went to school at the University of Florida in Gainesville, went to college there, but after graduating, I sort of wanted to have a different experience and decided to go back to Chile. I'm not speaking the language really well, but I just sort of threw myself in there and ended up running a joint venture for a winery, California winery working with a Chilean winery, and that was an amazing job where I got to learn every aspect of everything from sales, marketing, wine-making, agriculture, to supply chain, procurement, sourcing it, all that stuff.

0:11:54.3 MV: I did that for about four or five years, which was fantastic. But I also felt that perhaps maybe would working in Latin America at the time, as we're talking about the mid '90s, it's actually the end of the '90s, I felt that perhaps I had reached my peak as a woman who is an American with an American background, living in Latin America. And so I wanted again another adventure, and I ended up coming to Europe because I've got Italian citizenship through my great-grandparents. And so, I've been in Europe in the UK for 22 years now almost. And I've never looked back. This is now my home here in the UK. I have been a commercial person my whole life, so I've been in businesses in mostly sales roles, commercial roles. I worked my way up to become the first shareholder board member of my company, sold that business to private equity a few years ago with my business partners, and now I've set up my own business. I have succeeded in business and in my career, I have failed in business and in my career. And I think that's one of the key defining features of me as the ability to sort of bounce back from failure and learn from it.

0:13:04.2 MH: Yeah, that's how you really know, that aspect of resilience is what makes a great leader, I believe.

0:13:09.9 MV: Yeah, I think I wouldn't be the person I am today without that failure, I would have been a completely different person.

0:13:16.7 MH: Do you wanna tell us about one example?

0:13:21.1 MV: Yeah, sure. Probably on a personal level, I lived this idyllic life with my family and a very stable environment, my parents... My mother got cancer and my dad ended up leaving the family, his business went bankrupt, all of this happened in a very short period of time, which meant that I couldn't finish my university education. I was almost a semester or two away from finishing my degree. And so it threw the whole life trajectory that I had into chaos. All of those things put together could have demolished or even individual thing could have demolished a person. And as a result of all of those things, I was able to sort of just find ways to be resourceful, bounce back from that and say, "Well, you know what, I'm not gonna let this get me down, I'm still going to maybe go on a different path and maybe do something completely different." So, to me, I think that had I stayed on this sort of really great path with everything being so hunky-dory and beautiful and lovely, I'm sure I would have had a great life, but I wouldn't have had the agility that I have now to bounce back, like you said, that resilience, and I think I'm so grateful.

0:14:34.0 MV: Maybe I didn't see it at the time, it was awful, as painful as heck, but that's just one of the many examples where I've had life-altering sort of really big failures. Of course, we all have little failures and I hate those too, but these big smack you in the face failures give you the opportunity to either decide to just stay down or get back up again, and I think that in and of itself, has given me the resilience I need to weather this really crazy time we live in. Lots of change and stuff.

0:15:04.0 MH: Thank you for sharing that. And I think you're right, it's when moments like that, like you said, life-altering things that are not the little ones, is when you get tested and you got to really... You realize who you are in many ways. So we have some similarities actually, which is interesting, 'cause you said, you were born in Chile during the dictatorship. I actually, I talk about this in the podcast a lot. I grew up in El Salvador during the war, so I guess we come from a little bit of unstable places...

0:15:46.1 MV: I was just gonna say, instability. Instability and uncertainty. So we both come from places of instability and uncertainty. And you know what, I think that gives us the edge.

0:15:54.5 MH: I agree. I always say that to me, that's been one of the things, that I can roll with the punches much more easily, 'cause after that, if you live in a state of uncertainty, you kind of get used to it, as bad as that sounds.

0:16:14.7 MV: Well no, it's just not that big a deal anymore. So, it's sort of like, "Okay, we've got this problem. Now, how do we resolve it?" So, I think it instills a sense of resourcefulness that you don't necessarily get if you're in a more stable environment, or at least it doesn't come to you naturally. Maybe, I don't know.

0:16:33.6 MH: Yeah. So yeah, so like you were saying, I am thankful for some of these experiences, and I think we kind of agree on that. You also... Another thing that I was thinking as you were talking, I'm like, "We have a few things in common." We both worked in different countries, and for you especially, you're from Chile, but you spent most of your life... Or not most of your life, but like you grew up in Miami.

0:17:00.6 MV: My formative years.

0:17:00.8 MH: Yeah, your formative years, which is so important. And then you move back to Chile, then you move to London. How has this kind of immersion in different cultures been for you or affected you and your business?

0:17:20.8 MV: Oh, it's a huge part of it. It's being able to be dropped essentially in an environment that you're not comfortable with or familiar with, is exactly how you problem-solve in business. It prepares you for this dealing with uncertainty. I mean, also teaches you empathy. I walked into other countries not knowing kind of how to deal with other people. So, you have to listen to them and understand them, and also utilize your own skills to try to fit in very well with the environment that you're in. So, I think to me, travel in general, is a really good opportunity because it allows you to see things beyond your own eco-chamber, beyond your own little square meter, to find people that are different, and that kind of difference as well gives you the opportunity to diversify thinking. That's why I'm a big advocate of diversity, equity and inclusion, and I mean diversity from every aspect, every race, color, gender, age group. If you surround yourself with the same people, you're gonna get the same things, whereas if you surround yourself with different people, well, you know what, you might get different answers. You may not like all your answers, but you certainly get a different perspective. So, to me, traveling and living abroad has certainly opened up my horizons and given me a lot of different perspectives that I utilize when I make decisions about things.

0:18:45.0 MH: That's like what you said, you might not like the answers, you might not like the comments, but you get so much stronger for them.

0:18:52.4 MV: Completely.

0:18:53.2 MH: And your view points got so much stronger. And I love that you... I'm a huge advocate, this is what we do at Ellevate, and I am so, so passionate about reminding, and I love that you said diversity, equity and inclusion, but reminding people that diversity is not the end goal. Right. The diversity for diversity's sake doesn't mean anything if you can't create environments where people can come and say things that you might not like. If they don't feel included, if they don't feel that psychological safety that they belong.

0:19:30.2 MV: Yeah. It's not just a box to tick.

0:19:33.0 MH: Right.

0:19:33.1 MV: You want to bring different people to the equation, because... I say this in my podcast too. We're living in a world right now with a great deal of uncertainty and volatility. I'm sure every stage of humanity has had that, but it feels like right now for us, there's economic issues, war, environmental issues, I can add to the list constantly. And so if you're going to be surrounded by the same people, you're gonna get the same answers. So I think that in this kind of volatile world that we live in, collaborating with people with different viewpoints can open you up to perhaps different solutions. It's time we start to do things a little bit differently. Where has it got to... Where has the same stuff got us to? It's where we are right now. So if we wanna go somewhere different, let's think different.

0:20:19.7 MH: And you can't see me, but I'm nodding. I'm nodding along. 'cause yeah, the main definition of insanity...

0:20:28.8 MV: I know. Yeah.

0:20:31.4 MH: I keep reminding my team about this, Albert Einstein's definition of insanity, doing the same thing and expecting different results. It's time to do stuff differently.

0:20:39.8 MV: Yeah. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think it's... Just like I don't think it's good to do things the same way for the same... Just 'cause we've always done it that way. Equally, I don't think it's also the right thing to do things differently just 'cause we've never done it that way. But I think that it's, evolution is about adaptability. It's not the strongest that survive, it's those that are most able to adapt. And so how are you gonna adapt to new environments? By trying different things, right? So by... Absolutely, I'm a very... I say that to my team all the time, we can't keep doing the same things and expecting different results. It's crazy.

0:21:13.6 MH: And as you talk about adaptability, that's what research is showing currently, what the number one skill people need for the future of work is the ability to learn new skills. It's quite circular, but... And meta, but it is what's coming up because of the uncertainty. Because of we don't know what we don't know. We don't know what's gonna come. And we've just realized that with a big slap on the face the last three years. So being able to adapt and being able to learn are what are most important right now.

0:21:51.3 MV: 100%. And I think that as women in the industry, I think it's important that we realize that we also have a lot of things that are on our plates in general. If you wanna talk about women, no matter what age group you're in, generally women are caretakers of whether their children, their families, their parents, whether they are supporting a spouse, running a household or not. The reality is that women have a lot of things that they have on their plates right now. And I think in order to be able to get adapt to this future that we're bringing... That we're facing is, I think collaboration is one of those key things. Like with the network that you guys have, it's important to look for different answers, talk to people around you, that are similar to you. So I think doing the same things the same way as we've always done them, which is, let me just get on with stuff, is not gonna help us in the future that we've got moving forward.

0:22:48.1 MH: And collaboration is so important. I was actually... There are so many things I wanna ask you and talk to you about. I was reading and I was doing some research and collaboration is... And you're Latina, I'm Latina. Is one of our biggest assets as the Latino and Hispanic cultures. We are formed to be more collaborative than competitive, just by cultural norms. So, I don't know, I brought that up because you said about how collaboration is gonna be so important, and I believe that there are certain aspects of the diversity of thought and diversity of culture and backgrounds that actually harness these things, that actually bring those to the forefront. But a lot of the times, we are kind of faced with not putting ourselves fully there or trying to ignore it or trying to fit a mold.

0:23:52.2 MV: There's a lot to unpack there. You're absolutely right. There's the whole Latino collaborative thing, and I don't wanna generalize, but my growing up, and I'm gonna see if... I'm gonna ask you the question, see if you had the same thing. I was surrounded by strong women, whether they were Diaz, they were grandmothers, they were, you know, people around me there were... And it was full of people anyway, lots of cousins, lots of... So we were constantly looking to find ways to solve things together as a family unit. So I think that is, collaborating is one of the strengths that we have, that we can have in the Latino community, with the Latinx community. We know that we can tap into other people, this neighborly feeling, maybe it's this sort of provincial, smaller town 'cause we come from countries that needed that kind of thing, or that are create or cultivate that kind of environment. The other thing that you said, which I think is interesting, is trying to fit into a mold, you know. And I don't know if it's because I get... As you get older in life, you start to realize that I don't need to fit into a mold, I am the mold, I am the mold for myself. And so there's less pressure. I certainly found that after I hit 40, there's less pressure on me wanting to fit some sort of someone else's idea of what a woman in business looks like, what a woman CEO looks like, or what a woman in management looks like.

0:25:11.9 MV: I tried so many times and I was so unhappy. And so I think to me, one of the best bits of advise that I would have as well for women who are working, is to remember your strengths. And your strengths maybe not the... May not even be the strengths you think they are. But you have no one to compare yourself to, you just have to find your circle, get people to collaborate with you and be open to contributing, as I like to say to my team and to people in my podcast, it's about solving problems. If you can solve problems, well that's great.

0:25:48.2 MH: Yeah, it's interesting. And I really appreciate that point of view. I think it's certainly a learned adaptability skill, and it might be from resilience and it might be from just life, to learn to accept kind of, this is what makes me happy. This is how success looks like for me, this is who I am, and this is how I'm gonna show up. Unfortunately, from what research shows, that's not the case for the majority of Latinos. It's like, I think 76% feel like they can't be themselves at work. So I love that you're giving this advice, and particularly for women, because we are the ones that are kind of not seeing necessarily ourselves reflected in those higher roles, or like you said, as CEOs or as this. So it's good to hear it come from someone who has had that impact and has had those that you know, great career trajectory and remind us that our strengths are our uniqueness.

0:26:57.7 MV: 100%. And I think you're right. When I look back too, I remember seeing, well, female CEOs to begin with, there were few and far between. But Latino...

0:27:06.2 MH: Especially in your industry.

0:27:08.6 MV: Well, in most industries, think about it, how many women CEOs do you remember seeing in 20 years ago. I don't. Not many, there were maybe a couple. I can think of Carly Fiorina over at HP, that's about it.

0:27:25.5 MH: Yeah, and how the world treat her.

0:27:28.9 MV: Exactly. So I think it's important, and I guess maybe that's something I learned early on, that I didn't necessarily need to see other women, Latino women in those roles to go after them myself, because I realized that I could be the pioneer. I could be the first one. I could be... I could use my strengths as best as I possibly could and try to carve a path for others to follow.

0:27:55.4 MH: I love that so much, I love that so much. It's so refreshing to hear. I will tell you. So my career, I did not started in the US, I started in Mexico. And when I started... When I came to the US, started working at Ellevate, did all these things. And I remember the first time I was in an inter... Someone was interviewing me for a blog, I don't know, it was an event or something. And they said to me like, how does it feel being a Latina in business? And you cannot imagine the blank stare on my face.

0:28:32.0 MV: Well, I giggled as soon as you said it.

0:28:35.8 MH: I was like, What? I come from a place where everyone was like me.

0:28:42.7 MV: Yeah.

0:28:45.0 MH: So it didn't necessarily feel like I was performing or I was trying to fit into something I wasn't. And at that moment, that's when I realized I'm like, Oh, maybe I am a little different. It was an eye-opening moment. So I love hearing from you kind of like, you know, you can be a pioneer and you knew this from the start, and you went after it, and you've accomplished a lot of what you've done.

0:29:12.1 MV: I mean I'm very proud of my heritage, very proud of my background, and I don't shy away from it. As a matter of fact, anybody who knows me will know that I will be first and foremost talking about how I am a Latino woman, grown up in the '70s, '80s. It wasn't easy, it wasn't easy. Even in the States, you know, as a Latina girl in '70s and '80s, I'm sure you experience and as would a lot of people, a lot of stereotypes, a lot of racism, which is funny 'cause when you are from a country where everyone looks like you, where everyone is the same as you, it's so weird because you don't get that. So when I moved back to Chile, it wasn't a, Oh, how are you gonna deal with things as a Latina woman? It wasn't. It was just, how are you gonna do things as a woman, right? So I completely hear you. But I think the way that I see this is despite being extremely powerful, you know the whole being Latino, 'cause I do think it is so many... Gives you so many advantages. I also think that I've just sort of put that to one side and focused on me. And so how can I be the best version of myself, and how can I carve a path that eventually, hopefully others will follow. That others will say, Well, hold on a second, they might see themselves in me and say, Well, hold on, she can do that, I can try too. Why not? Because I didn't have that.

0:30:29.1 MH: Yeah, and that's so important, being a role model and carving your own path.

0:30:34.8 MV: Yeah, for sure.

0:30:37.1 MH: It's like making your own definition of success. So now you're working with your company, Future Insights Network.

0:30:48.3 MV: Correct.

0:30:49.1 MH: You are connecting people in the supply chain industry. So tell me a little bit about... I hear all the time through COVID and through the pandemic. Oh, there's so many supply chain issues, so many supply chain issues. How has it been navigating that industry? And I know actually, there's two parts of it. One, how has it been navigating that industry during the last three years, 'cause that can't be easy. And B, I know that you identify more as a generalist, I saw this on your LinkedIn, and I couldn't be more happy to see that because that's the way I think about it too. And a lot of our conversation has kind of underscored that. How do you think those skills have helped you navigate this last three years.

0:31:42.9 MV: That's good two questions. Let me start with supply chain. Before COVID, the only people that knew about supply chain were those in supply chain, basically. So, supply chain was still a very important topic, it always was a very important topic, but it was something that was relegated to the people in businesses, in manufacturing businesses specifically, or retail businesses. So it was seen as a back office cost center function, warehousey, the logisticy, transport, male-dominated industry. I remember one of my first... One of the first supply chain events I attended, I was the only woman there, maybe there were two of us, and we'd look at each other from the other room going, Hey, look, another one.

0:32:23.5 MV: So it was an industry that was very interesting and very important because getting goods from places to places made the world go round. Now when it broke, when things broke, when COVID happened, everyone noticed. And that's when you realize, it's almost as if you took for granted supply chain, 'cause until it broke, you didn't know what it was, you just knew that if you order something online, it was gonna arrive. You knew that if you went to a store, it was gonna be there. That's the kind of sort of privilege to some degree that we have had.

0:32:55.0 MV: We've grown up within a post-war environment, right? You wanna eat strawberries in the middle of winter? Of course you can. 'Cause someone's gonna get it to you. Whereas I don't know how it was in Salvador when you were a kid or in Chile when I was a little kid, if you wanted to eat strawberries, you only ate them during the season, and it was... It came locally. But anyway, it's a step, I digress. So COVID came and essentially shook things up, and then all of a sudden people started to realize, Oh my gosh, this is what supply chain is. It's more than just trucks driving goods from one place to another, it's understanding how you plan for this, how you get to understand demand and supply issues, how do you get your... You wanna build a phone, an iPhone, it's got like a million... I mean, I don't know about million, but it's got a lot of moving parts. You gotta get them from different parts of the world. What happens if China is closed? What is the impact of that? So I think the last three years of COVID have demonstrated that. And this is where my business comes in. We help supply chain leaders try to collaborate with each other, we create this network for them to learn and collaborate as they transition their businesses from analog businesses to digital businesses.

0:33:57.6 MV: And that's still going on. It was going on before COVID. Then COVID hits, and now it's all about resilience. So how do you actually build resilience within your supply chain when the poop hits the fan. Yeah, how do you do that when you don't know where you're gonna get your semi-conductor chips. So all of those things affect us, affects me, you, we go to the store and they tell you, well, you buy something online, a piece of furniture, it's not gonna get here for two months. We're not used to that. So navigating the supply chain in the last couple of years has been an exercise in, to some degree resilience. Some people have done it really well, and I think business sort of kicked into gear and said, Wow, we can definitely make things happen. But then equally, understanding that there are major gaps that still need to be dealt with. We still have uncertainty. What was I reading the other day? China again, Wuhan's closed again. Zero tolerance policy. That's gonna have an impact. The war in Ukraine, it's not getting any better. That's gonna have an impact. All of those things will continue to impact. So being in supply chain is difficult right now, is the best thing I can do.

0:34:58.6 MV: They're stretched to the limit. Best thing I can say is to say that they're stretched to the limit. And that's why I love operating here because I believe a good supply chain makes the world go round. In so far as being a generalist, I think it's also one of the key superpowers in a world that is changing and evolving. If you are a specialist in one area, don't get me wrong, I'm sure... I'm not a brain surgeon. You need to be very good at that if you're... If you work in that. I don't wanna be... I don't want some generalist operating on me, right? But in the world I live in and in the world of business, being able to turn your hand to multiple things is a skill. And being able to go, right, I'm gonna delve deep into how I solve marketing issues, or how I'm gonna delve deep into, you know what, I'm going to commercial stuff, or let's look at how we execute, gives you that adaptability and agility we were talking about in the beginning.

0:35:49.9 MH: Yeah, I feel like we keep hitting on the same topics, collaboration, adaptability, resilience. And to me, those are three basic things if you wanna be successful. So makes sense that that's where we keep coming back to.

0:36:05.5 MV: Well, it's an era, I think, for transformation. And this is why my podcast, which is about transformation in supply chain and transformation in business, we have an opportunity here as businesses evolve to create more sustainable business practices, more equitable business practices. And so this is, let's take this really big shakeup of COVID that has really changed everything for all of us around us and take it as an opportunity to make something better. And that's kind of what we do and we talk about.

0:36:35.3 MH: I love that, and that's what we need to do and that's, I'm 100% there with you. We're tackling from very different angles, but I think that's the same core, which is how do we create something better after the last few years of shake up, like you said. We don't wanna go back to the same thing.

0:37:00.2 MV: Definitely.

0:37:02.3 MH: Well, thank you so much, Maria, this has been a lot of fun.

0:37:04.7 MV: Maricella, this has gone really quickly. I love chatting with you. And there's just only so much one can cover, but I'm excited about the future and I'm excited... I hope your audience finds this valuable and thanks for having me.

0:37:17.8 MH: I'm sure they will. I actually think they'll get lots of really good, both inspiration, but actionable advice. Like you said, own your super powers. Learn to be resilient. Don't try the same things, collaborate.

0:37:34.3 MV: Carve your own path, carve your own path.

0:37:36.1 MH: Carve your own path. Yes. So thank you so much.

0:37:40.0 MV: My pleasure, thanks for having me.


0:37:51.1 MH: Cool, we're back. Hope you enjoyed that conversation. Maria's pretty cool, and the work they're doing in their network to support the industry is pretty great.

0:38:02.4 MO: So good. And you hear so much about supply chain and it's kind of a buzzword right now, so really getting down to what that is and what that means and how it works. Really interesting to hear.

0:38:13.9 MH: Yeah, absolutely. Well, let's talk a little bit about Ellevate and what's going on in our world. So last week, I mentioned this, mentioning it again, our squads application cycle is open now, so if you're looking for support and looking for people who you can bounce ideas off of, who you can have deep conversations about work, who will be your cheer leaders, your accountability buddies, join a squad. It's a group where we match you with five to eight other women, they will be close to you in career stage and what they're working towards, and you'll be able to talk to them once a week for 30 minutes for a period of 12 weeks.

0:38:58.0 MH: So it's really an in-depth professional development, but really it's more than that. It's a way where you can navigate challenges like, how do you get credit for your ideas, particularly in male-dominated workplace, or how do you strike a balance between career ambitions and personal well being or personal ambitions, or they can help you decide what are the viable career paths that you might have if you're considering a change. So when you have this group of people that you can bounce these things off of or that can give you different perspectives, you can feel more confident in the decisions that you're making. I've been in a couple of squads, it's been incredibly helpful for me, particularly the squad I had right after I took on the role of CEO, it was a great group of people who helped me with the transition. So I highly recommend signing up for a squad. You can apply at Go there, you can read more about it, the program and sign up. Megan, do you wanna talk a little bit about our community circles?

0:40:06.2 MO: I absolutely do. And it's kind of appropriate that I take it over this week, because coming up today, the day of this episode, if you wanna meet us, is the LGBTQIA community circle. I host that one. It is super fun. This one is actually an allies included edition. If you are an ally of the LGBTQ community, feel free to come in. Basically, we just talk about what it is like to be LGBTQ in the world and the workplace, and what's going on in our lives. Topics have ranged widely. Sometimes we do more structured topics, sometimes we do more just what's happening with you. I think this month's is gonna be a very what's 2023 gonna be for you kinda deal.

0:40:54.0 MO: We also have upcoming on Thursday, the Asian and Pacific Islanders community circle, that's one of our newer ones. That will be really, really great. And then next week, we have coming up our community circles for black women, for parents and caregivers and for 40 plus professionals. So we have community circles ready to go and we are here waiting and so are members of your community and they wanna meet with you and they wanna talk with you.

0:41:25.3 MH: Yep, come join us. And part of these community circles, part of that squads and what we do, everything we do at Ellevate is about celebrating your wins and not just commiserating, although commiserating is a big, big, big deal. But since we do celebrate wins, let's celebrate some of our history makers for this week. I'll get started with Emma Tucker, who became the first woman editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal. I think that's massive.

0:41:56.8 MO: That's a huge deal. I was so excited when I found out about that one. Michelle Woodfork became the first woman to leave the New Orleans Police Department.

0:42:08.1 MH: That's pretty cool. Lorna Mahlock became the first black woman, two-star general of the Marine Corp.

0:42:15.1 MO: Norie Gonzalez Garza became the first woman mayor of Mission, Texas.

0:42:21.8 MH: Annika Sorenstam became the first woman Vice President of the Association of Golf Writers. Wow, I didn't know there was an association of Golf Writers, but way to go.

0:42:31.5 MO: I didn't either, but that's... See, that's breaking glass ceiling I didn't even know was there. That's how we do it, that's how we make progress. Just keep breaking...

0:42:38.9 MH: And talk about an industry that needs some... Golf tends to be very much considered male-dominated.

0:42:49.8 MO: Well, golf and just the sports world in general is just so... There's amazing women and non-binary individuals out there playing sports, but so often they don't get... They don't get coverage and the women reporters get kind of pushed off to the side lines often. So it's amazing to see more and more women making strides.

0:43:10.8 MH: Absolutely.

0:43:12.0 MO: And finally, Julie Giordano became the first woman to serve as Executive of Wicomico County, Maryland.

0:43:21.2 MH: Yay. So I always love our history makers segment, I love seeing the achievements women are making in different industries and in different fields. If you have something to celebrate, share it with us, we love celebrating wins.

0:43:34.0 MO: If you have a win or you know somebody who should be featured on the podcast. Anybody like that, feel free, you can email us at

0:43:42.5 MH: See you next week.

0:43:45.8 MO: See you then.

0:43:47.6 MH: Bye.


0:43:53.3 MH: Join an exceptional peer group to sharpen your leadership skills and advance your career. Harvard Business School Executive Education now offers in-person and virtual programs. Learn more at That's

0:44:11.8 Outro: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to The Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @ellevatentwk, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E,, And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice over artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.