CARISCA Executive Director Dale Rogers shared his wisdom with up-and-coming supply chain scholars at the 2022 Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Doctoral Student Symposium.
CARISCA Executive Director Dale Rogers was the invited speaker for a special session titled “Learning from the Giants” at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ 2022 EDGE Conference.
His talk, on Sept. 19, was part of the conference’s Bowersox Doctoral Student Symposium.
The Academic Strategies Committee of CSCMP annually selects someone who has meaningfully impacted the field and honors that person with the Learning from the Giants session. The invited speaker has the floor for an hour to share lessons learned “from a most admirable career.”
Donald J. Bowersox, for whom the symposium is named, is often referred to as the “grandfather of logistics.” He was one of the most well-known and influential supply chain management academics in the world. Rogers studied under Bowersox at Michigan State University and co-wrote two books with him.
“I’m very grateful for this honor,” said Rogers. “It’s a big deal to me.”
In 2021, Rogers received CSCMP’s Distinguished Service Award and joined his mentor, Bowersox, in the Supply Chain Hall of Fame.
“And this year, to get this, in a lot of ways is a much bigger deal,” said Rogers at the event. “I don’t know if there weren’t any other candidates or something, but I’m very grateful to get the pick.”
Following are excerpts from Rogers’ talk to up-and-coming supply chain academics:
ON WHY NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO BE A SUPPLY CHAIN ACADEMIC:
This is such a great time to be in supply chain in academia. You guys are coming into this field at a time when people kind of know what it is.
I remember sitting on an airplane around the age that you guys are now, and I told the lady sitting next to me I was a logistics professor. And she said, “I’ve always loved languages.”
I think you’re coming into this profession at a really good time. The world understands what supply chain is a little bit. They know it’s hard to do. They know that it is an important economic variable.
I mean, if you look at the cause of inflation right now, it’s really mostly supply-based inflation. It’s not the traditional 1970s demand-based inflation. That gives you a lot of opportunities to do a lot of different things.
HOW THE FIELD HAS CHANGED SINCE ROGERS WAS A NEWLY MINTED PHD:
It’s way harder to publish than it used to be. I mean, I’m an old man and it feels to me like I’ve lost all ability sometimes. You know, the first 20 years of my career I got a rejection once. And in the last 13 years of my career, it feels like I’ve gotten about a thousand.
You guys are competing when you go into your jobs and even right now, you’re competing with the world. When I was a brand new academic, we were competing against a few people in the U.S. and a few in Europe and I don’t think hardly anybody else.
But now the whole world is doing supply chain. And they want to be in the same journals that you guys are in, that you guys need to be in to keep your job, and also get a job. So there’s tremendous pressure.
ON WHAT YOU SHOULD DO TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN ACADEMIA:
You need to do some things that are likely to get you published. But you also should be trying some things that maybe are really innovative and could make you famous someday. You know, the reviewers only understand what they understand. You can’t be mad at reviewers when they reject your paper. You know the old saying, “If they don’t get it, then you didn’t explain it well enough.”
When Bruce Springsteen was just a New Jersey bar band guy, he didn’t only sing other people’s songs. He did his own stuff. The guys who sang other people’s songs in New Jersey bar bands, what are they doing now? They’re probably gray-haired guys, balding with a ponytail, still singing in New Jersey bar bands. So the way you get to be something special in this profession is when you take some chances.
You need to look for opportunities every time you go somewhere. When you come to CSCMP, talk to people both on the academic side but also talk to business people. They’re desperate for academic friends. They want to know bright young faculty. They want you to help them figure out problems.
The problems that companies and governments are dealing with today are more complex than they’ve ever been before. What do we do as we’re sort of undoing the global supply chains that we’ve built over the last 70 years? What’s the next step? Companies are really looking for help trying to figure out where to go.
And if you’ve heard anything I’ve said today, I think you should try to be valuable. Do stuff that is going to be useful and valuable.
And to do that you’ve gotta know as much as what business people know. And you’ve gotta know more than what other academics know about something. And you should be strategic in how you pick those topics. Everything can be a stepping stone if you do it right.
I didn’t come into this profession really having a clear vision of what I was going to do. I just had Bowersox’ voice in my head saying, ‘Rogers, you’re running out of runway. Get stuff done. Move quickly.’ And I still hear his voice in my head every single day, even though he died in 2011.
ON WHY BEING A SUPPLY CHAIN PROFESSOR IS A GREAT CAREER:
It’s such a great career. This is one of those jobs where you get to make your own path, if you make your own path. You get to invent stuff and you get to try things. You’re not just stuck. I mean, you’ve got to do the work. You have to publish. The publishing expectations are greater than they’ve ever been.
But having said that, it’s such a great life. Because what you’re really being paid to be is curious. You need to have a great sense of curiosity. You need to look for interesting problems and truths in a lot of places.
I mean, every time I go to the grocery store, I think, ‘Hmm, this is an interesting deal.’ Every time I go to another country I go to the grocery store.
This job is entrepreneurial. I’ve always thought I should be an entrepreneur, in this professor’s job. My job is to do research, but how I generate that research can be in a lot of different ways. One thing that this profession rewards is innovation. It really does.
One of the other things that’s cool about this profession is you’re surrounded by people that it’s quite likely you’re gonna know for the rest of your life. You get to be with people who will be your friends maybe for the next 40 or 50 years.