Informational Interview — Experienced Purchasing Professional

Jared and I are former colleagues at Hearth & Home Technologies. Earlier this year, Jared took a unique opportunity to leverage his professional work experience and become a professor for Winona State University, which opened up the opportunity for me to take on the Purchasing Manager role that he formerly held. Jared has achieved a lot of success in both his personal and professional life and he has a lot of great career experience and advice to share that I believed would be beneficial for me to learn and share with my peers.

The Contact

Name: Jared Eberhard

Title: Assistant Professor

Company: Winona State University

Industry: Education

LinkedIn Profile

Questions about the Contact

Career, Company, Industry, Skills, Success

What is your professional background?

18+ years of experience working for OEM’s in the Aerospace, Semiconductor Capital Equipment and HVAC industries (Honeywell, Micron Technologies, ASML, Hearth & Home Technologies). I have held positions as Buyer, Purchasing Manager, Planning Manager, World Wide Sales Planning Manager, Senior Commodity Manager and Senior Manager of Plans and Controls. In addition, I have started and eventually sold a couple of small companies. Most recently, I left the corporate world and have become a Professor teaching Operations and Purchasing courses at Winona State University.

What skills or education have been most important for helping you succeed in your career?

The more knowledge and experience the better. But where my true success has come from is my ability to solve problems and make decisions. This does not mean I have always made the best decisions. Occasionally I have failed. But I quickly learn from my mistakes and keep rolling. Now, as first mentioned the more knowledge and experience the better. The more I have learned, whether in my area of expertise or not, the more foundation I have had for solving additional problems and making critical decisions.

How would you summarize your career objective?

Tough to say. My objective changed from time to time. Originally, I wanted to quickly climb the corporate latter to a top executive level. Later, I wanted to achieve independence as an Entrepreneur.

What do you see as the next step for your career?

At this point, money and esteem are not the important factors. Rather, I just want to enjoy what I am doing. I am finding this personal satisfaction in my current role as a College Professor.

Looking at your entire career, which position did you enjoy the most?

Hard to say. I have enjoyed aspects of each of my jobs. But there has also been negative parts of each job. I greatly enjoyed being a Commodity Manager because of the many times I got to lead negotiation teams. However, I did not enjoy laying people off or the continuous travel that kept me from my family. I also found great satisfaction in starting my own business. However, once again this came at a cost of time and financial stress. Therefore, I would not say I had a favorite position — but definitely favorite times within each position.

Looking at your entire career, which position did you enjoy the least?

Same answer as above.

Questions about Communicating for Leadership

Best Practices, Problem-Solving, Motivating Others, Change/Innovation

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

My philosophy is to teach, train and then empower. Basically, teach them correct principles, make sure they have the right tools, and then let them govern themselves.

Could you tell me story about challenge you faced as leader? How did you solve it? How did it change you?

While a Procurement Account Manager for ASML I was assigned the ElectroMechanical product. We had numerous suppliers, high costs, quality problems, and a disengaged or nearly non-existent cross functional category team. I needed to find a way to coordinate the cross functional team to come up with and implement a Category Strategy that would resolve all the problems/challenges. I determined that their was plenty of expertise and knowledge within the cross functional team to determine a strategy and solve the existing problems. So rather than spend my initial efforts on my suppliers, I spent my efforts on getting to know my team. The more I got to know them, the more they trusted and opened up to me. The more they trusted and opened up to me, the more they started to trust and open up to each other. Before long I was able to hold weekly Category meetings. The entire cross functional team consistently showed up and actively participated. We were able to determine a strategy to reduce and consolidate the supply base to include only the best of the suppliers, and thereby solve many of the other existing problems as well.

Could you tell me a story about a time you needed to deal with a difficult person or have a difficult conversation?

At one point in my career I was approached by a co-worker with a story about one of the Sr. Manager’s in our company behaving inappropriately at a company lunch meeting. The inappropriate behavior was being interpreted as Sexual Harassment and had made other employees, both male and female uncomfortable. Now that I was aware of the situation, as a manager I had the obligation to do something about it. I started by documenting the issue in form of an email that I sent to both the accused Sr. Manager and our HR Representative. I also called and left a voice mail for the Sr. Manager in an attempt to proactively talk with him. Soon after I got a phone call from a very defensive and aggressive Sr. Manager who wanted to immediately attack everyone that was at the Lunch Meeting. I had to quickly calm him down and help him understand the follies of attacking people that he had already offended and made feel uncomfortable. The Sr. Manager eventually did calm down, the situation was resolved on record, although I felt from that time forward that the Sr. Manager held contempt towards all at the Lunch meeting, as well as toward me for challenging him on the accusations.

Could you tell me story about a time you need to communicate to get a group of people to change?

When I started my contract manufacturing company with a business partner in Mexico. Early on we had already ran out of capacity and needed to expand our business. We had two choices, grow through buying our own capital equipment and hiring people, etc. Or grow through acquisition and/or partnership. We soon found a small family owned business that had all the capabilities and capacity that we needed. Through various modes of communication (email, phone, and face to face) I prepped them for the possibility of forming a partnership. This all escalated into a face to face meeting in which my business partner and I met with the head of the family and all his children. In that meeting, I needed to convince them to join forces with us. This meant they would need to give up the majority ownership of their family owned business. This was a big step for a family that had owned their own business for so many years. Yet through solid communication, I had built a trusting relationship with the family that eventually allowed them to see the benefits of a partnership.

Questions seeking Advice for you

Background, Skills, Resume, Job Search and Interviewing

Based on your knowledge of my current position, what do you see as one of the biggest opportunities to go after?

I see you with two major challenges/opportunities. 1) to build the talent and success of your current team of buyers. 2) to somehow coordinate with the Corporate Supply Team to build category strategies and better utilize your supply base.

If you could offer me one piece of advice for my career, what would it be? Why?

Learn the value that other people hold. If you as a manager truly help mentor, develop and grow your employees — you in-turn will share in their success. The key to being a great manager, is to not watch out for yourself, but to watch out for those you manage. Add this step to all your other knowledge and experience and you will achieve great things.

What other roles do you think best fit my skill set and experience? Why?

Any managerial role. And sticking with your background, keep it in a manufacturing environment. Your lean knowledge is more valuable than you know. Especially if you ever end up at a firm that is not as far along on the lean journey. Or better yet, to help lean out and improve your current suppliers.

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

I learned more about Jared’s background than I previously knew. I also learned that he shares a lot of the same perspectives on managing that I am both learning and trying to apply as I become more experienced in my management role. As a take-away, I will continue to remain mindful of the members that I manage making sure I am spending enough time to train, develop, and empower to try and build a strong, successful team. I will also remain mindful of how to best leverage my management experience and lean manufacturing knowledge I end up pursuing a future employment opportunity outside of Hearth & Home Technologies or HNI.