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If you have considered a career in logistics, you will enjoy this interview with a solutions engineer in the logistics industry. Here he tells his story of how he learned that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and shares his hopes for reaching management level positions in the future.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I work in the transportation industry and my job title is "Solutions Engineer". I have been in my line of work for 10 years. If I have to choose only three words to describe myself, they would be responsible, confident, and decisive.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I am a middle-aged white male. My co-workers come from diverse racial backgrounds and I don't feel that I have ever been discriminated against on the job. If I ever did, I wouldn't let other people's ignorance or preconceptions about me affect my job performance.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: My job is to develop and sell supply chain solutions to my company's customers. I analyze my client's existing supply chain and determine value-added services that will be beneficial to them. Additionally, I make presentations to the clients to demonstrate why our services will be advantageous and help implement those services when they sign on to them.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: My current job satisfaction rates at about an 8. I am very enthusiastic about my job; it just doesn't dominate my life. I don't let my job define who I am.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: Although my job doesn't move my heart, I am comfortable calling it my calling in life. I enjoy helping clients streamline their supply chain and I believe I am very good at finding the right solution for a given situation. I like to keep my business life separate from my personal life, so I don't invest myself emotionally in my career.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: No, my situation is nothing unique. Like most people, I go to work five days a week and do my job the best I can. I've had no disadvantages or hardships in my education or job search to speak of.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I went to college and earned a Bachelor's Degree in business administration. I met and signed up with a personnel recruiter at an on-campus job fair in my senior year. I had a number of firms contact me and I eventually found the right fit with my current employer.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I learned a practical application of the old phrase "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link" when a trucking firm I was using utterly failed to deliver on the performance they had promised. They assured us repeatedly that the shipping schedule stipulated by our client was routine for them and they could absolutely make the required deliveries. They were constantly late and made excuses when confronted about it. It was a complete fiasco.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: I learned that the real world is a very unpredictable place and that sometimes, a more creative approach can be better that the conventions of book learning. Not to undermine the strategies learned in the classroom, but sometimes you just have to think outside the box to arrive at the desired outcome.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: The strangest thing that ever happened to me was when I was examining the supply chain of a particular client and discovered some unusual sources that they were using. It turned out that they were using a good deal of counterfeit goods in their manufacturing process. Needless to say, we don't partner with that company any more and they are under investigation by the FBI!

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: Supplying logistical solutions is my bread and butter. I go to work, do my duty, and reap the rewards of a job well done. I am proud of every job in which I make things better for our customers.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: The biggest challenge I face is in clients with unrealistic expectations. Sometimes a client will expect that freight can be delivered overnight, every time, and at minimal cost no matter where it is coming from. They will argue all day long about how that needs to happen but will balk when the cost of air freight is brought up. That can get aggravating enough to make you want to quit.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: The stress in my job stems from meeting deadlines and juggling multiple projects. Everything is okay when working with reasonable and realistic clients, but the stress level skyrockets when I have to deal with one of the aforementioned unrealistic ones. I like to engage in physical outdoor activities like rock climbing and wind surfing to take my mind off of work.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: A logistics professional can earn a salary from $35,000 for an entry level position on up to $60,000 or more. The average pay for my position is roughly $48,000 per year. I do earn enough, although I am hoping for a raise at my upcoming performance review.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: With 10 years of employment, I now have three weeks of vacation available and I use it all. I consider it one of the rewards for my hard work. And yes, it is enough for me. I enjoy taking adventure vacations that revolve around the outdoor activities that I enjoy so much.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: A Bachelor's in business, logistics, materials management or a related discipline. Most firms will require 4 to 6 years of experience. Strong communications and computer skills are a must. You must also have excellent communication, organizational, problem solving and strategic skills as well.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: Supply chain management might be for you if you can solve problems quickly and communicate the solution effectively. If you enjoy solving supply issues for companies and have the will to succeed, you can do this.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: I have been concentrating of the present and hadn't given too much thought about the future. I've always imagined I'll get myself promoted into a management position eventually, I guess I see myself there.