How UD MBA Lisa Weaver saved DuPont $8 million and counting

“Lisa Weaver has a proclivity for seeking improvements beyond a project’s requirements. Coming from an undergraduate background in operations management and marketing, she knows how to deliver inventive, process-oriented results. Her ability to combine creative and analytical thinking makes supply management a perfect fit for Weaver.”

This is how ThomasNet and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) described Lisa Weaver, MBA student at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, in naming her one of their 2017 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars.

In her role as category manager for DuPont’s sourcing and logistics department, Weaver has lead initiatives resulting in more than $8 million in savings. In this Q&A, we ask Weaver about how she achieves such impressive results, and how her experiences at UD have influenced her career in supply chain management.

What was your experience like as an undergraduate operations management and marketing major at the Lerner College? 

My experience as an undergraduate was very rewarding. I entered Lerner as a business undeclared major. After a brief period of time in the program I decided to pursue management and marketing majors. However, after taking the introductory operations management course, I realized that was my passion. Soon after, I changed my major to operations management and marketing.

Another unanticipated benefit of changing majors was the relationships I was able to build. The network of students and professors made it feel like I was a part of something bigger, and participating in business-centered student organizations allowed me to have exposure to other experiences outside of the classroom.

Why did you decide to return to UD for your MBA?

I felt that my undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware prepared me for the business world. When I graduated, I knew I wanted to obtain my MBA after working for a few years.

I decided to return to UD for a few reasons. First, I was looking for a program that could fit my schedule. The flexibility of night, weekend, or online classes helped me balance work and school. In addition, the cost was reasonable and supported my desired timeline to obtain the MBA. Finally, I enjoy the UD community of educators, current students, and alumni.

What is your favorite thing about your career working with DuPont in supply chain management? 

My favorite things about my career at DuPont are the relationships I have built and the opportunities that have been made available to me. DuPont prides itself on its core values of safety and health, environmental stewardship, highest ethical behavior and respect for people. By working in an organization that focuses on these values, I am able to be more productive.

I am very fortunate to work with many individuals who are willing to collaborate and learn from each other. DuPont has given me the opportunity to try new things and develop myself. Each role or project I have been a part of has allowed me to learn new skills and expand existing capability.

Your 30 Under 30 profile mentioned that in the last two years, you have led initiatives that have saved DuPont more than $8 million. Where did that $8 million come from? And how do you accomplish such impactful projects? 

The $8 million came from several projects. Some examples include conducting a market event for commercial printing, negotiating with advertising agencies, and reevaluating a bulk truck carrier.

When I reflect on the past few years and how I have been able to accomplish impactful projects I think of three key things: First, organization allows me to keep track of multiple initiatives. It also helps me with time management and making sure tasks are completed to expectations.

Next, communication is critical. Whether working with teammates, internal clients, or external parties, being able to communicate verbally and through written interactions will allow initiatives to succeed. Active communication can help ensure all individuals have a voice and all key stakeholders are aware of the project status and requirements.

Finally, teamwork is required for a successful project. The projects that had the best outcomes were those that were not the efforts of one individual, but the collective effort of those with knowledge and expertise relevant to that situation.

How do you start, and what is the outline of your process for finding savings?

I often start the sourcing process by identifying the need. I work with my internal clients in the marketing department to understand what support they need in addition to what they want. If there is an upcoming project I will identify suppliers that can support that type of activity. This could include looking at suppliers we already have a relationship with or identifying new suppliers as well. I then perform market research to understand the industry. I plan some potential negotiation points for myself and points that I may receive from the supplier.

How would you handle a situation where one division chief wants to buy a product from Company X and a second division chief (of equal power) wants to buy the same type of product from Company Y?

This is a challenge, especially in my buy space because the services I am responsible for are creative services. Therefore, the experience and output provided is very personal and subjective. In these situations it is best to see where there are areas that can be supported by the same supplier and where there are areas that truly need to be separate.

For example, if it is a simple process such as distributing an email blast, it might be possible to share one supplier. However, if it designing a new product launch different suppliers might be the right option. Working together with marketing to understand their need, present alternatives where they make sense, and collaborate, leads to the best possible outcome.

How have your experiences at Lerner influenced your career?

Both my undergraduate and graduate degree from UD have had a direct impact on my career. The coursework and topics covered in each program were directly applicable to my work. Most of the skills transferred into my daily tasks or gave me context for other individual’s positions.

Lerner resources like the Career Services Center allowed me to find the right jobs for me at the time. I was able to utilize Career Services during my undergraduate program to receive resume critiques and to obtain my first full-time position. In addition, I was able to use similar resources after graduation for additional opportunities.

Additional programs like the Graduate Executive Mentors program allowed me to expand my network and develop a relationship with a mentor. My mentor has challenged my thinking, increased my confidence and provided alternative perspectives. Each of these experiences through Lerner have influenced my career in a different way and provided additional capabilities to be successful.

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