In 30 short years, Charlotte de Brabandt has led a life that most people could only dream of. She speaks 5 languages, has traveled to more than 60 countries over 5 continents, and has led expeditions across the Swiss Alps. To add to these accomplishments, de Brabandt was recently named the Rising Supply Chain Star Megawatt winner for 2017.
Over the past four years, Thomas and ISM have recognized over 100 young leaders in the supply chain industry, with their program 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars. We had a chance to talk with de Brabandt, this years Megawatt winner, to discuss her goals, achievements, and insights into the future of supply chain.
De Brabandt obtained her master’s degree in technology entrepreneurship from the London Business School and University College London. She believes that her education played a significant role in her success.
“My education provided me with a basic knowledge of business, finance and technology innovation. I required all three fields to succeed in my career, furthermore it helped me think outside of the box and consider what the future of digital technologies may behold,” she said.
After graduating, de Brabandt began her career in supply chain working with the Volkswagen Group, where she was responsible for the procurement of innovative technologies and mobile communication.
“I got selected to undertake a fast track international procurement management program at the VW Group in supply chain. I realized that a passion and strength of mine was negotiation and interacting with people, therefore I wanted to become an expert in this field, so I decided to continue in that path,” she said.
While de Brabandt did not originally plan on pursuing a career in supply chain, she realized that this path was right for her. “It quickly became a clear career choice for me, therefore I led a few supply chain projects in different fields of strategic procurement, project procurement, logistics and quality,” she said.
While working with the Volkswagen Group, de Brabandt spent time in Beijing, where she led negotiations with suppliers that ultimately saved the organization more than 1 billion euros over three years.
In 2015, de Brabandt developed and built a procurement department for Porsche Design. This involved developing an ERP system, establishing a new supplier portfolio, and implementing 11 supply chain processes.
In her current role as part of the construction and facilities services (CCFS) global procurement team for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with Johnson & Johnson, de Brabandt has continued to curate her own success. She recently took on a project where she was tasked with a market engagement program (MEP) to find a global service provider for global energy procurement.
“During the most recent energy service provider tender, including 920 sites globally I showed great leadership skills by starting and completing a project successfully, devotion by having good communication on a virtual global basis, determination by finishing the project in four months rather than the normal nine months, furthermore the successful price negotiation,” she said.
This project required her to coordinate a global team. MEP’s typically take nine months to complete, but de Brabandt was able to finish in less than four months. As a result, she was able to save the equivalent of one free year towards a three-year contract. “This impacted my career development, because I received an encore award and recognition,” she said.
While de Brabandt has experienced many moments of success, there have also been challenges and struggles along the way. She believes that her biggest challenges are “dealing with different cultures, diversity and daily consensus between business stakeholders. Overcoming daily communication challenges and gaining agreement between different stakeholders.”
Looking to the future, de Brabandt sees herself growing in the supply chain industry. “I would like to stay in the corporate field and become a Director or VP. I will also expand in the field of keynote and public speaking for supply chain,” she said.
Insights into Supply Chain
If you’re looking to go into a career in supply management, de Brabandt believes there are many opportunities that are waiting to be discovered.
“Supply chain is still an untouched territory of the future developments. Everyone is talking about blockchain, digital technologies, AI, humanoid robots and autonomous intelligent systems. There is a great future in the field of supply management and how we will interact with new technologies and innovations ahead of us,” she said.
In fact, if de Brabandt could go back, she says she would do it all over again. “I am very curious what the future of supply chain may behold. How procurement will change in the near future with the digital era,” she said.
Technology plays a large role in the future of the supply chain, and de Brabandt recognizes the importance of harnessing these technologies in order to get ahead of disruptions.
“We’re living in a time of astonishing progress with digital technologies. The transformations brought about by digital technology will be profoundly beneficial ones; they’re allowing us to overcome many limitations rapidly and to open new frontiers with unprecedented speed,” she said.
While de Brabandt believes that technology is an important and beneficial part of growth, she also understands the negative impacts of disruptive technology as well.
She says, “Rapid and accelerating digitalization is likely to bring economic rather than environmental disruption, stemming from the fact that as computers get more powerful, companies have less need for workers. Technological progress is going to leave behind some people, perhaps even a lot of people, as it races ahead. Supply chain professions can decide themselves how to go about with change, but I believe it is important to include supply chain to the new way of digital working and being open towards what the future will behold.”
According to de Brabandt, the secret to success as a supply chain professional is good communication. She says, “I feel the most important thing in communication is listening to what has not been said. As James Humes says, the art of communication is the language of leadership.
Going Above and Beyond
Apart from her success as a supply chain professional, de Brabandt has many other interests as well. She has played soccer professionally for 3. Liga in Germany, is an accomplished musician, and she organized the largest TEDx in Switzerland, TEDxLugano.
Maintaining a work/life balance is important to de Brabandt. “I try to leave work at a sensible time, and use the sport activities which are offered by the company. I also make use of the music room to practice the piano or saxophone. At weekends, I switch off my mobile phone to relax my mind and regain energy from the stress,” she said.
When de Brabandt is not working, she is pursuing her many passions.
“I love public speaking, as it is presented on my website charlottedebrabandt.com. It gives me a sense of freedom and relaxation when being on stage. I also run international marathons every year and hold a rescue diver license. I am the soccer captain at the Johnson & Johnson Switzerland soccer team; we won the euro champions finals last year. I love traveling and furthermore I am a Swiss mountaineer tour-leader and took a mountaineering group to Mont Blanc,” she said.
De Brabandt also volunteers her time to helping charitable organizations. She recently volunteered at a school in Burma, and she organized the largest charity event in Switzerland for the international stroke association.
One thing is for certain; de Brabandt continues to go above and beyond in all that she does. In terms of being this years Megawatt winner she had this to say, “Super excited to be given this amazing recognition! And cannot wait to make a difference globally and become a supply chain ambassador.”