Interview with Stacy-Ann Sarwan, Executive Logistics and Supply Chain Management MSc Alumna, September 2016
Why did you choose Cranfield?
Cranfield was recommended to me as a small elite institution which is excellent in the areas in which it specialises. While I didn’t know much about Cranfield before, upon doing research and realising it had the best Masters and research centre in Europe for Logistics and Supply Chain Management, I quickly wanted to be a part of it. What also appealed to me was the Executive version of the Masters which allowed me to keep my job and study part time. Being able to fund it via manageable payment schemes made it even more practical. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to boost my career profile by studying at the best University for my field.
What have been the highlights on your course?
There were many highlights. One of which was interacting with a global classroom and learning from a global faculty. This helped me to develop myself on so many levels in terms of being able to see other peoples’ perspectives, being able to work with people from different cultures and learning about how businesses are operating in different parts of the world. This has been very valuable to me. Another highlight was the International Study Tour. This is a fantastic element of the programme because it allowed us to see in practice what we learnt over the duration of the course. It has been very insightful to actually see it all in practice for me in particular, because I’m from the service sector. Getting the opportunity to actually go out to manufacturing plants to see how they make products and how they move goods through the supply chain.. It was fantastic. I was amazed. That was the top highlight for me but there have been so many other little things like the networking sessions and dinners which allowed us to interact more closely in a relaxed setting.
Have you been able to utilise what you have learnt at Cranfield in your own work?
Yes, from the very first module I have been applying the concepts in my job and there were some specific tools and techniques which I was able to introduce into my company that were never being done before in the procurement department. It has been very insightful. Where I am from, supply chain is a growing field and we do not have any educational institutions that offer this field of study. Bringing knowledge back on best practice was extremely invaluable and allowed me to stand out and make a mark in my workplace.
What benefits will your Masters have on your future career aspirations?
For me, what I love about the programme is that you cover everything you need to know about logistics and supply chain operations from warehousing, freight and sourcing to re-designing and networking a supply chain. It’s very broad based and it gives you a lot of options to specialise in any of those areas. This will allow me to navigate and move around in my career without having to do one particular task for the rest of my life. This is invaluable to me because I love learning and doing new things while also building expertise in a particular field.
What have you learnt about yourself, are there any areas of your personal and professional development that have been enhanced through the course?
The Cranfield experience helped me to broaden my thinking by interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds and working in teams with different perspectives based on their age, experience, country and industry. I believe this to be crucial when building a global career and is invaluable now given that the world is becoming so integrated. This course has taught me so many new ways of viewing things and approaching tasks, people and situations. These are some of the soft skills I’ve been able to develop in addition to the technical competencies of the course itself. At the start of the course we also did a personality test which enabled me to learn some things about myself and my peers so I can take appropriate steps to manage situations and develop better relations with them.
Why do you feel now is a good time to be working in the Logistics and Supply Chain industry?
It is a growing and very exciting field but in my home country it is still a new concept. It’s been a really good opportunity for me to acquire the skills now so I have a head start when it really starts to boom back at home. I now have a competitive edge and can take full advantage of opportunities as they become available. The field is also very male dominated so now is a good time for women like myself to rise up and make their mark early in the game.
How have you found the balance between working and studying?
It’s been challenging and sometimes very painful. You have to prepare yourself mentally for it and need to manage not only your time, but also your energy. It has been a challenge particularly because I have been travelling from half way across the globe to attend modules here in the UK. I coped by sticking in some extra activities while I’m here at the weekend like sightseeing and touring just to soften it up and add some fun to the mix. Back at home I tried to schedule my assignments so that I have some free time to come up for air and reconnect with friends and family.
What has been the impact so far that your learning has had on your career?
The course has really opened up a lot of doors for me and although I’m not finished yet, I’m already being shortlisted for several job opportunities senior to my current position. On the job, I’ve also been able to perform tasks that supersede my current role and expectations.
Was the decision to begin studying the course yours or your employers?
It was actually my decision and something I’ve been working towards for a few years well. I saw it as the next logical step in my career and personal development and embarked on this journey as a self-funded student. I just fell in love with the course to be honest and was determined to make it happen one way or another.
Has your employer commented on what you have brought to their organisation?
Yes, I have been able to bring a lot of new ideas and approaches. The organisation I work for is a state owned enterprise; the culture is very rigid in terms of change so they aren’t very receptive to ideas or doing things in a different way. But I’ve been able to bring new perspectives and apply best practice and therefore the results spoke for themselves. Now I believe they appreciate what I can bring to the table.