The Professional Development Program has a second “graduate,” a dynamic supply-chain specialist based in Lawrenceville who stepped into a newly created role at WIKA USA in the summer of 2021.
Justin Savage received his bachelor’s degree just a year prior, but this WIKA employee was already handling projects that would intimidate some professionals with several decades of work experience.
He came to WIKA USA in February 2021 via the Graduate Training Program, which has since been renamed the Professional Development Program (PDP). Very quickly, Justin’s supervisors and colleagues took note of his drive and leadership. We asked him about his background, his brand-new role, and an unusual master’s project.
Give us a 60-second rundown of your resume.
I graduated with a bachelor of business administration in supply chain management (SCM) from Georgia Gwinnett College. It‘s actually a new concentration that GGC created while I was there. I was originally studying marketing and had almost completed it, but it just wasn’t a field I wanted to be in long term. No offense, Jessica. (None taken!)
What I love about SCM is how it allows you to touch almost every aspect of a company. In fact, I’m currently working on getting my master’s in supply chain management at Clayton State University.
How did you hear about WIKA?
Well, my prof had a connection with WIKA’s HR department, which was how I found out about the Graduate Training Program. When I read the program description, I immediately said, “Absolutely! That sounds awesome.” I applied, went through several phone and in-person interviews, took a tour of the facility, and was offered a spot.
Pat McGrath, the person in charge of your first PDP project, was quite impressed with you! Tell us about what you worked on.
Aw, thanks! My task was to lead a project team, along with support from the CI (continuous improvement) department, to improve our RMA (return merchandise authorization) processes. The challenge was to reduce the number of returns and speed up the process. By the end of that six-month project, my team and I created a system for discouraging non-warranty returns, streamlined how an RMA is processed, and improved the way we organize the inventory. I guess Pat and others were happy with how it went because I was offered my current job right after that rotation ended.
Right, you are now our inventory controller. It’s brand new, isn’t it?
Yeah, this role is brand new. There has never been a person in control of inventory. In fact, the entire controlling department, headed by Jonathan Massey, is new within the last two years. So, when I stepped into this new role in September 2021, I had to build it from scratch – the structure, general procedures, what reports to create, figure out what the current practices are and how to improve processes, and so on.
Nothing is typical! But I usually start by checking emails, going through my task list, and determining what I need to accomplish by the end of the day. I have about two meetings daily about the many projects I’m currently working on, such as the current state of the inventory in all our US locations. I generate whatever cycle counting journals my three direct reports need, come up with ways to reorganize and optimize storage, etc. Then I wrap up by answering whatever emails I didn’t get to during the day.
Coming up, I’ll be traveling out of state to our locations in Houston and Chambersburg to work on their inventory. And to continue WIKA’s partnership with GGC, I’ll be the liaison for students in the supply chain program. I’m also very interested in sustainability, and one of the projects I’m working on is to move from cardboard boxes to longer-lasting plastic bins for inventory storage.
What has been surprising about your WIKA experience so far?
When I was in school, the assumption is that after studying for years, you get your entry-level job and handle mundane tasks until you have enough experience to step into that next “real” job. But thanks to the WIKA PDP, that wasn’t my experience at all! I don’t know anyone else I graduated with who has had the opportunities I’ve had and is currently at the level where I currently am, even though they are just as capable.
My rotation on the RMA project grew me more than all my years in school and other companies. [Justin worked as an IT specialist while getting his BBA.] As a new graduate, I was able to lead a team, take the initiative to manage a project, set goals, overcome major obstacles, and coordinate with people across multiple departments. It was difficult at first, but that is what the PDP was built for. Felix [Brockmeyer, VP of Industrial Instrumentation and PDP chair] warned me before I was hired that it would be like being thrown in cold water, and that I would be allowed to flounder a little before I learned how to swim. It certainly felt like that, but now I am so thankful for the experience.
Well, all of us here have certainly been impressed by your skills, including your Titanic project. Tell us about that.
(laughs) So, for my final project in a statistics class for my master’s degree, we had to take the concepts that we learned and show how they can be applied in a real-world situation. I guess I had a little fun with that. What I did was to pull all the available data on everyone who was on the Titanic, including whether they lived or died. I then did something called multiple regression with the data, which tells you how correlated certain values are to one another. And from that I was able to create a formula that told you how likely you were to survive the shipwreck based on your age, sex, and monthly income. I called it the “Titanic Survival Calculator.”
That is so awesome! Thank you, Justin. Final words?
Thanks to the Professional Development Program, I was forced to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Pat, Felix, Jonathan, and many others helped me realize that I was capable of much more than I thought. For that I am grateful.