NeXxus, a diversity initiative of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business and Global Supply Chain Institute (GSCI), named Joanne Wright, chief operating officer and vice president of enterprise operations and services for IBM, an “Outstanding Women in Supply Chain” during the institute’s Supply Chain Forum in November.
Kendall Grafton, president of NeXxus and a supply chain management and international business student, says the award was presented during the NeXxus Reception, which brought supply chain professionals and supply chain students together for networking purposes. The reception followed an afternoon roundtable during which 12 female supply chain students of myriad backgrounds and ages talked with Wright about her career, challenges and the advice she had for young people at the beginning of their careers.
“Joanne [Wright] is an outstanding role model for our students to look up to,” Grafton says. “Her path has taken her across the world with challenging and successful roles. She has developed a fantastic personal life as well and does her best balancing both. Joanne embodies what these young women strive to be. While she acknowledges that success doesn’t happen overnight, she encourages us to put our best effort forth every day.”
Wright, who was instrumental in driving the integration of pre- and post-sales operations for IBM and managed $79 billion of the company’s revenue, serves on the GSCI’s advisory board. She is responsible for accelerating IBM transformation and business performance, optimizing for speed and quality, and driving end-to-end solutions while enhancing how employees work and IBM operates.
Grafton says that Wright was selected for the honor because she “drives innovation and growth within the industry, but also uses her position of leadership as a platform to encourage other women.”
Wright’s discussion with NeXxus was an inspiration for Caroline Jones, vice president of the organization. Jones says the qualities NeXxus works to cultivate in its own members are reflected in Wright’s attitude.
“Throughout the roundtable, she mentioned that she absolutely loves her job and gets excited to go to work every day,” Jones says. “Personally, I found that very inspiring and encouraging to hear from someone in a position of such high responsibility.”
For Jones, opportunities to engage with high-level leaders has been a crucial part of her experience with NeXxus. She became involved with the organization during her freshman year, and says the decision to do so has significantly affected her educational experience.
“I have had ample opportunities to build confidence in networking with professionals through NeXxus events,” Jones says. “I have held leadership positions which have challenged me to improve skills that employers search for, and I have received invaluable guidance from my NeXxus mentor.”
The NeXxus student-led organization was formed in 2016 as part of a broader NeXxus initiative. Throughout the year, the organization hosts events and workshops to educate women in supply chain, prepare students to achieve career success and create a confident community of women in business. Additionally, the college’s Office of Diversity and Community Relations hosts the NeXxus Summit, a four-day summer residential program designed to help female sophomores in high school explore the field of supply chain management.