Life is uncertain, and the only constants are growth and challenges. If one perceives the problems as opportunities to improve, growth is inevitable. Similarly, when it comes to the supply chain industry, challenges prove themselves to be a great way to grow professionally. Overcoming these challenges every day with the support of a diverse team of 140 supply chain professionals is Alma Arzate.
Alma is the Director of Global Supply Chain Logistics at Apotex. Driven by her goal to deliver transformational results, her global experience has been built over two decades across the supply chain and operations. Her background and expertise are multi-faceted. However, her passion lies in bringing order from chaos, whether it be through people development, systems implementations, or processes improvements, leveraging all of her first-hand experiences gained from the Automotive, Electronics, Medical Devices, CPG, and Pharma industries.
In an interview conducted with Insights Success, Alma sheds light on her professional journey to become an inspirational leader how she constantly aims to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at Apotex. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I am originally from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Juárez is the sister city of El Paso, Texas, United States. Together with the surrounding areas, these two cities form the second largest binational metropolitan area on the Mexico-U.S. border, with a combined population of over 2.2 million people. There is a thriving maquiladora industry, with over 300 multinational companies operating in my hometown, so this is where I started my career. Supply Chain was never highlighted as a possible career pathway while I was attending the Instituto Tecnológico de Ciudad Juarez, where I completed my B.B.A., or the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, where I completed my M.B.A. When I learned that there was a vacancy as a Buyer, Indirect Procurement in the same company I was working for, I decided to apply. This was a couple of years after graduation. I only had Finance experience, but the hiring manager decided to take a chance on me. I really enjoyed the fast pace, how I had to be resourceful to help resolve many challenges, and being able to make tangible contributions to support the business. Once I came over to the supply chain side, I never left.
There have been many challenges that I have had to overcome; just to name a few: the supply chain has been and still is a male-dominated field. I have been the only woman in the room more times than I can count. I have also been put in new positions where there was no one else before me, and I had to find my own way, sometimes even having to write my own job description! Then, as I chose to restart my career in Canada 14 years ago, this required a lot of perseverance to achieve a successful integration into a new country, culture, and workplace expectations. The lack of female role models has also been a challenge throughout my career, but luckily, I have had a lot of kind and supportive male role models and sponsors that have helped me get to where I am today.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the Supply Chain Industry.
For many years, I have been focusing on whatever time I can spare to lift others. Despite my sometimes hectic professional and personal life, I am passionate about actively supporting multiple initiatives related to supply chain, education, women, and immigrant advancement. My hope is that whoever attends these events will learn from my journey and the many obstacles I have had to overcome to find my voice and be recognized as a leader, and through ongoing dialogue, they will also be inspired to find ways to continue to persevere, achieve their own dreams, and become the best version of themselves.
I am an enthusiastic supporter of the co-op program at Apotex Inc., where so far, more than 15 students from many Universities have greatly benefited by acquiring relevant supply chain experience. I aim to crush barriers for women wherever I go and try to inspire female supply chain professionals to reach forward and accomplish their dreams. On immigrant-related initiatives, I have been a keynote speaker for many organizations, supporting Canadian newcomers to ease their integration into the Canadian work environment and even hiring many of them.
I would like for my mark in the supply chain industry to be helping others to succeed. This is an extremely rewarding way for me to give back to the profession, as I am helping pave the way for future leaders that will eventually rise to prominent positions within our companies.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.
Apotex’s culture is guided by our core values of Collaboration, Courage, Perseverance, and Passion. They inform how we work and how we connect internally and externally with our customers, partners, and other stakeholders. We have an incredible team of bright, passionate, and committed individuals who are proudly dedicated to our mission of bringing a growing array of high-quality, affordable medicines to healthcare systems in 115 countries around the globe.
We invest in continuous learning and development to support employees in expanding their capabilities and reaching their career aspirations. Our leadership team is fully committed to fostering and encouraging an environment for learning and development. This is complemented by robust training to ensure our employees have the latest industry knowledge and expertise to continue to excel in their roles. Connecting with our internal talent is key to ensuring our organization’s sustainable growth. We prioritize and consider Apotex employees for all available career opportunities across the organization to support their career development and drive business success.
Working at Apotex also means working for a company that recognizes the obligations that come with success. That is why we are proud to provide significant support to a variety of charitable organizations and community groups in Canada and around the world and to invest in the universities where many of our employees earned their degrees.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Apotex?
I can see myself continuing to expand my responsibilities, leading multiple teams, giving each and every one of my team members the opportunities, resources, and time required to lead initiatives that will take them above and beyond the comfort zone and will help drive advancement and innovation in how we do things. I see every single person in my team as having the potential to be a leader, regardless of title, time in the organization, or if they have direct reports or not.
As leaders, being credible, trustworthy, respectful, and empathetic naturally leads us to make better connections with our teams. Everything starts by having meaningful conversations. We know that when employees feel valued, empowered, and connected to their work and the organization, there is an overall boost in their engagement. I try to be as involved and available as possible, as this allows me to provide the support that my team needs. My job is to lead the way, role-model a mindset of growth and continuous improvement, and continue to encourage my team to achieve ambitious goals and deliver significant results for Apotex.