Rising Stars 2021: Relationships The Key To Success, Says Supply Chain Professional
Editor’s note: We’ll finish running all Rising Stars Class of 2021 profiles this week. Today, we profile Jennifer Lewis.
At one time if anyone even thought about a company’s supply chain, it conjured up a vision of an older man sitting in a dusty basement writing out purchase orders in triplicate.
Today, that stereotype could not be farther from reality, says Jennifer Lewis, category lead, engineering and survey services at TC Energy Corporation. She’s part of a new group of university-educated supply chain professionals, increasingly female-dominated, who play a critical role in driving value for the company as they look for ways to reduce costs.
“Supply chain groups get a bad rap as the people who control the purse that nobody really likes and they’re not always seen as a strategic partner, which is something I try really hard to work on,” says Lewis.
She earned a degree in supply chain management from Mount Royal College and later obtained a designation as a Supply Chain Management Professional. Lewis, who joined TC Energy in 2017, has worked in the industry ever since she became fascinated with it during a stint as an intern at Apache Canada.
“It turned out to be something that I absolutely loved,” she says. “I’m not an engineer. I’m not a particularly technical numbers person,” says Lewis. “But it was a way for me to really be involved in all areas of the business and a crucial part of the business without having to be an engineer.”
Until her recent temporary assignment to a project, Lewis looked after more than $400 million in engineering services spending at TC Energy in Canada and the United States. She also runs a supplier management program within her category to help both the company and its suppliers continually improve.
What Lewis likes most about her job is that she gets to deal with almost every part of the business. “Everyone at some point needs to buy something,” she says. “And so you get to learn all different kinds of businesses, how the different functions work and what they do, and you get to meet so many amazing people along the way that to me makes the job worth it.”
But the flip side is also what makes it a challenge. “There’s a lot of people and a lot of stakeholders to keep happy, and a lot of people to keep informed and sometimes it feel like a lot.”
For Lewis, the most valuable skill in being successful in supply chain is an ability to develop relationships with people, both within the company and with outside suppliers.
“Just being able to communicate and build relationships and rapport for collaboration is what’s really important,” she says. “But then sometimes you have to have really tough conversations with them which isn’t fun.”
“Sometimes you’re getting people to change the way that they’re doing things or the way that they look at things,” says Lewis. “You’ve got to have a lot of change management skills, like persuasion skills, to get people onside with a project.”
Lewis also says it can be a challenge to get people who have been doing things in a certain way for a long time to consider a different way of working — especially when it’s some person who’s been working in the field for a long time. “But if you can really get an understanding of their needs and if you can translate that into what someone’s looking for and what they need to look at in a supply chain solution, that’s probably the biggest skill set that you could have.”
On the technical side, a lot of the job involves dealing with contracts, a little bit of math and a little bit of bidding. “You need quite a bit of creativity sometimes.”
True supply chain involves more than just looking at price, she says. It’s about finding better and more efficient ways of working and driving quality — for example in engineering services figuring out how to obtain higher quality work that will result in less cost downstream. “A really good engineering package can mean that there’s less issues in construction, and construction is where we spend so much of our money.”
Outside the office, Lewis also is an active community volunteer, including supporting Avatar Innovation and the Avatar Program (the Accelerator is now part of the Avatar program) that promote innovation in the oil and gas industry.
As for the future, the companies that survive and thrive are going to be the ones that embrace energy transition technology, she predicts. “The ones that take the risk. The ones that make it part of their business. The ones that don’t just do the bare minimum — those are going to be the companies that really rise to the top.”
Rising Stars: Sponsors
Fluor has provided engineering, procurement, fabrication, construction, and project management services to Canada’s energy industry for 72 years. Its 43,000 employees globally (and 3,000+ across Canada) deliver comprehensive services — from conceptual design through to commissioning and maintenance — for all types and sizes of facilities. Fluor applies its broad expertise, extensive experience, and proven technology to benefit Canada’s energy transition in areas such as liquefied natural gas, carbon capture, hydrogen, renewable fuels, small modular reactors, and minerals mining. Fluor is committed to positively contributing to Canada’s energy tomorrow by focusing on safe and sustainable solutions today. This commitment includes focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure opportunities represent the diversity of Canada’s population and support reconciliation, partnerships, and benefit-sharing with Indigenous peoples.
geoLOGIC systems ltd.
geoLOGIC systems ltd. is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and has been providing high-quality, integrated data and analytics to the upstream oil and gas industry in Western Canada and elsewhere for almost 40 years. geoLOGIC’s relentless focus on innovation, quality, and service has made it the trusted standard in the upstream Canadian industry. Customers include exploration and production companies in oil & gas and related products; pipeline and midstream companies; service companies; the financial sector government and regulatory organizations, and educational institutions. Key products include geoSCOUT, a decision-support tool providing high quality data and analytics for all disciplines within the oil and gas industry, and gDC, geoLOGIC’s comprehensive upstream oil and gas database.