When Willa Blasingame joined McCormick in 2019 as Vice President, Americas Supply Planning and Logistics, little did she know that just a year later, the world would be dealing with the impact of COVID-19. Since then, her work has been a living example of what it means to stand together for the future of flavor. Her role has been and continues to be critical in protecting the business and preparing for the future. “Not only do we need the right systems and tools, but the right people in place to plan and deliver the business as needed,” she reports.
Willa and her team continuously identify new ways to invest in data availability and insights, operation optimization and capacity improvement in order to prepare for future events like COVID-19. She frequently explores ways to ensure we have the right capability, data, tools, systems and analytical skills to weather the volatility in today’s global world – something she believes will not change. “The speed of change occurs at a much faster pace with wider impacts – because we are all globally connected,” she reveals.
Willa’s experience began after earning a BS in Chemical Engineering from Tuskegee University. In no time, she learned how to climb tanks, wear steel toe shoes and work with operations teams. In those early days, she encountered very few women in the field of engineering and few people of color. Finding role models was a challenge. A lot of time and effort was spent making people feel comfortable with her, convincing them that she had their best intentions, building trust and credibility and proving she was qualified to do the work.
In addition to her time at Kellogg as Senior Director Pringles Supply Chain Leader and at
Kraft Foods Group as Senior Director Product Supply Oscar Mayer Division, Willa had a 22-year career at Procter & Gamble, where she was able to work in many industries within the same company. It was there that she gained first-hand experience in manufacturing, customer service logistics, innovation, project management, and managing global organizations. Willa also learned early on in her career the benefits of joining affinity teams like Women in Supply Chain Management and the African American Leadership Network, which helped drive retention of and provide positive experiences for diverse employees.
In her current role at McCormick, Willa is responsible for developing and designing strategies, as well as building methods to plan and control the flow of product and information in the company’s supply chain. On a daily basis, she is accountable for making sure the right products are delivered to the right recipients, in the right quantities, at the right time, according to the right price. This involves a significant amount of coordination between McCormick’s activities and those of multiple third parties and a great deal of precision, efficiency and accuracy.
The COVID-19 crisis has also driven closer connections and greatly enhanced communication among colleagues. This cross functional collaboration has been game changing for the business. It continues to promote a sense of togetherness while ensuring everyone is aware of the business challenges at hand.
Today at McCormick, Willa’s entire team checks-in with each other weekly through virtual department meetings. These gatherings also help keep the team focused on where we want to take the business. In her role, standing together for the future of flavor is a core component in forecasting for the future and creating supply plans and strategies. It helps her drive focus, inspire positivity and build organization capability.
Willa is also making a positive impact on the future through mentoring, tutoring and volunteering. She recently addressed the Society of Women Engineers at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she shared her experiences and knowledge about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers available to them. She spoke about what it takes to be successful – not just focusing on academics, but on important soft skills like the ability to work with people who look different from you or who may have very different personalities from you. She explained that learning to navigate your way to the decision-making table takes time and patience. She stressed that sensitivity and cultural awareness are critical in today’s global workplace and knowing this at the start of your career is invaluable.
Willa enjoys passing on her wisdom and advice to the next generation and knows the future depends on them. She proudly pledges to McCormick, “I will stand for the future of flavor by building the right capabilities in our planning and logics organization not just for today, but for tomorrow.”