Returnships Podcast - Navigating Supply Chain-Diversity&Inclusion-Mentoring Careers with Karuna Thomas


Through this episode, we will be navigating careers in Supply Chain, Diversity and Inclusion and Mentorship and diving deep into what it is like in each of these domains and careers. education needed and day-to-day work, by chatting with Karuna Thomas. Karuna is one of our amazing mentors from the upcoming Returnships Career Coaching and Mentorship cohort, champion caregivers to get back to work after long haul in career :

If this episode inspired you to try career mentoring and you would like to be a mentor for our upcoming cohort, sign up here :

if you would like to ask Karuna additional questions, checkout our Returnships Form :

A bit more about our guest speaker:

Karuna Thomas is the Founder and CEO of Karuna Thomas Coaching and Consulting, LLC. Her mission is to equip Emerging Leaders discover their ‘Thrive-Version’. As a dynamic leader with a diverse global portfolio, she specializes in Supply Chain, International Business, Training and Development, Distribution and Logistics, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and Coaching. She holds a two-decade successful spell in the Foodservice and Restaurant industry, which
includes the launch, development, and expansion of a US global restaurant brand in 30+ countries. She also mobilized supplier operations in all five inhabited continents while orchestrating sustainable supply chain models and networks to scale. Karuna’s work has earned her global recognition from the various stakeholders. In addition, to consulting in Global Supply Chain, she also provides expertise in DEI which was organically embedded in her role from partnering with team members from around the world, plus she holds multiple certifications in this domain. She has since been dedicating her global intelligence and cultural competence to conduct talks and workshops on various forums from Lean In, Power To Fly, Connect4Women etc. on empowering women in the workplace,
#IamRemarkable, anti-racism campaigns, DEI initiatives, and importance of community outreach. Karuna is a passionate Community Builder who champions organizations and community leaders in creating impactful moments, causes and experiences. Among her various advocacies, she mentors’ veterans transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce and several mid-management women leaders, which led her to earn her ICF accredited certification as a Senior Certified Professional Coach

Hi, have you run really well, come back to I'm going to be sort of the redgens podcast. Youare listening to the regens podcast with no one and are from the nonprofit issue, the re done dot org. We have people who go back to workafter they have had a long hollow and garlier. Today our special guest isconnorent Palmus, who has the seasonal mentor and currently she works in subflighting andthere was to be an inclusion. So we're going to hear from home herjourney of mentoring so many different women acrosses and back forms and how she navigatedcod US within subflight. You know that was being dous, so let's hearit from Gona. Not gonna go ahead and introduce yourself. Yeah, thankyou so much, Levinita. I really appreciate being here on this forum andtalking to the audience and the members of returnshiporg. So to share a littlebit about my journey, I do go back at two decades of having asuccessful spell in the food service and restaurant industry and, as you mentioned,I have specialized predominantly in the supply chain domain, and the subsets would bedistribution and logistics to training and development and managing national restaurant chain accounts. Andthis past decade is definitely close to my heart because it is dedicated to mobilizingUS global restaurant brand and it's international growth. So I got to work with internationalfranchises from thirty different countries and suppliers and diverse stakeholders from additional, youknow, different parts of the world, almost all the five inhabited continents,and helping again our franchisees in or the brand's Franchisees in growing sustainable supply chainmodels and networks around the world. So that actually transitions me. I'll givethe opportunity that I had to work with diversity members and stakeholders from around theworld embark me on my journey into diversity, equity and inclusion. And since twothousand and seventeen, where I like to call pursuit of purpose, Ihave been, you know, tapping into my global intelligence and cultural competence infurthering diversity, equity and inclusion and of conducted workshops and empowering women, inaddition to mentoring women and Veterans Advocating Representation. Also taken part in anti racism campaign. Still been very involved, but I'm also a community builder and Imentor Veterans Through American Corporate Partners and mentor again other mentis and emerging leaders.So I brought my passion and purpose, real life experiences and practitioner expertise andactually started my own venture called current atoms coaching and consulting, which is incoaching and also consulting in the city, Equity Inclusion and supply chain. Well, you have such diverse experiences. I'm...

...sure that the listeners listening today haveso many questions to ask you, and I'm sure the plastering that goes tomy mind is, you know, what are some of the similarities in thedifferent domains and the part of weed supplied to you and, as the Incushouldn't read, starting Your Own Business of entering and coaching. And how doyou navy? YOU DISCO USE? Yeah, great question, you know, becausewhen you're pivoting and transitioning different fields and industry, there you will finda lot of, you know, transferable skills and also a lot of similarities. I think the proverb that comes to my mind actually when it comes tosupply chain, which is commonly known, is you know, your supply chainis only as strong as it's the weakest link. So I think that isapplicable not only for supply chain, but even for teens and a company culture. So what the problem literally stands for is the strength of the chain islimited to that of the weakest link in the chain, even if the otherlinks in the chain are strong, the strength of the chain depends on theweakest link. So that's goes even to, you know, employees and Culture andcoaching. It's like leaving no team member behind, regardless of whether it'stheir diverse perspective or diverse background. So I think this is the best descriptionthat I can give when it comes to similarities. Everything life in the strengthor it's as strong as your weakest link. So ensuring that all aspects are takencare of and not minimizing anyone aspect or link in the chain. Well, that is awesome. This is like completely new information for me, likeI'm not somebody works in sublighting, so just knowing about like you know whatall you do to all these school us, is amusing. Like can you tellme a little bit about how does somebody get into supply to you orwhat does the work they're going to be to do? This is look like. Yeah, yeah, I know. Thank you for that question. Supplychain, it's a very broad spectrum and there are many areas that fall underthis umbrella. It goes from planning to protoremnt to distribution, logistics, manufacturingand for me, coming from the Food Service and restaurant side of the industry, it was, you know, dealing with food and non food equipment,smallware. So it gives you a robust array of product line and supply chainalso opens you up to a lot the fundamentals of business. It tends to, you know, being that unifying force in business that ties each moving parttogether. So as a supply team professional, you get to see a product youknow throughout its cycles, from from the beginning to the ends. Youwork with marketing to understand and shape demand. You work with finance to understand andneed financial objectives of the organization, then with product development to ensure productscan be moved to the distribution network,...

...with Qa to again make sure you'remeeting the brand standards and quality customer service. Then, of course, the consumers. Ultimately, you know, it's managing the product from inception to itsend users, the customer. So you really have the ability as a supplyteam practitioner to add to the significant business value, increasing revenue, decreasing costs, improving customer service. So there's both strategic and practical initiatives involved and alsodiversity. You get to work with a lot of different stakeholders and for mepersonally, I got to work with, you know, suppliers from all aroundthe world. So it's it's definitely got a lot to offer. So youmentioned working so many more sort of people and backgrounds. Is that what inspiredyou to didn't do an inclusion. Are they? How do somebody find themsomething? Income Yours, which are around, was an inclusion. Nothing is asolutelyyou are spot on. So it was my work in the international arenaand forum that got me interested in diversity, equity and inclusion because for the pastdecade I was involved with working with, you know, diverse franchise, thestakeholders, team members from around the world. So the EI, shortfor diversity, Equity Inclusion, was embedded in my role organic. So beingable to work through all the different facets of an individual with part of thejob. So learning how to collaborate, how to appreciate those differences actually tapinto innovation. There was so much innovation, innovative ideas that came to the table. You just learned to collaborate and have diverse opinions and also work throughthat diversity of difference in opinions at times towards the common goals. So thewhole collaboration was so beautiful that there were times that we did not agree andbut at the same time we worked towards a common goal. So it wasultimately, you know, bringing the brands, launching the brand on international grounds.And what is the end result? That's serving the guests, bringing thatexact same experience that we have here in the US, culminating that, adjustingthat to the audience and the guests globally on each international, you know,country that we went into. So I really got to see diversity and inclusionfirsthand without necessarily calling it out as a separate, you know, discipline.So that's really got me thinking about how can we tap the same level oftalent, the same level of diversity, the same level of innovation within thefour walls of an organization right here as well? So I'm curious for you. Do you even mean these kind of rules? What kind of renovation degrees, courses? Somebody can do or expediences...

...would even to the value and dorules of B and I or supply to yeah, so for supply team specifically, there are universities that extend, you know, majors and minors and supplychain their NBA's that are again dedicated just to supply chain management. So theeducational forms are pretty vast when it comes to specializing in supply chain, logisticsdistribution. So there is definitely, you know, certifications and even degrees thatare associated. Now, on the other hand, for diversity, equity andinclusion, it is quite interesting in the sense that I have seen a lotof diversity equity leaders, you know, share of the eyes and cdeos,chief diversity officers, who actually come from various different backgrounds. It could rangefrom HR human resources or human capital now to even attorneys who moved to headingthe departments, to even folks who were managing a counting departments. So itis pretty diverse when it even comes to the leaders who lead diversity, equityand inclusion. So it really depends on the need of the organization and howinvolved you have been in the various facets. In my example, I was involvedon the global in front and then I got engaged at the corporate levelin working with the diversity a leader and helping with setting up employee resource groupsor engaging in the various diversity, equity inclusion activities, and I also gotengaged outside of the workplace as well. But to your coint now there aremore certifications that are available through, again, universities like Cornell. Cornell has aGreat Certification Program University of Michigan does, and various diversity councils also offer certificationin the EI. But based on everything that has happened in the pastyear, the pandemic has brought so many disparities to light, now universities arealso considering extending programs and like minor and major in diversity equity inclusion as well. That's awesome. I mean, I did not know about all these differentresources. Well, like through this podcast, we try to build stories of differentwomen who have championed in different ideas, with suppliging with education, with differentideas that you're interested in. So, moving on the Internet track a littlebit more, you mentioned that you know, you have been a God, you in mentor and you have actually opened up your own going your mentoringbusiness. So you have any gifts for somebody who actually wants to become aGod your mentor? Yeah, absolutely, I think for of all, thereis, there has always been and there...

...will always be a need for careermentors. So professionals, you know, seasons, professionals especially, who areconsidering career mentorship should definitely, you know, move ahead. If it is throughtheir organization. They can check with their organization if they extend mentoring programs. If not, what would it take to start one? I know Ihave worked on creating mentor menty programs as well, even before I started myown venture, because there is a big need. There is still a lagin mentorship. I still hear, you know, emerging leaders, young professionals, stating that, you know, they have difficulty in finding mentors or theyare interested in finding mentors. So definitely, going through your organization is one wayanother, and there are now even companies that are set up just tomatch mentors and menty. So you can even join an organization that extend theseprograms so they are dedicated to again matching mentors and Mente from various industries andbackgrounds, and the court you can do that even through community outreach and giveback for example, like I've mentioned, I'm part of a mentor for Americancorporate partners, which is a veteran organization that helps victions transitioning from the militaryinto the civilian workforce. So you mentor them on you know, how toassimilate into the civilian work war. What are the skills that they bring tothe table, what do they need to hone in on, and things likethat. But I think one of the important things to keep in mind isthe matching process. So it's really necessary to it's important to know the matchingprocess who you would like to mentor so understanding the needs of the Mente,understanding your skills and specialization that you bring. So the matching process, I wouldsay, plays a big role in the success of the mentorship and then, of course, outlining expectations, the outcomes, roles and responsibilities, whatmentorship is and isn't. So it definitely helps even the mentor and building theirleadership skills and even when it comes to managing the team. So it's awin win for both. Absolutely. Have you worked in different mentoring Oho Tomthis before? Right now that you know I'm really you, don't shoot atOrg. We actually are going to launch our first mentorship go hard when wewould basically match mentors and gotn't actually assigned up to be one of our mentors. So all the mentis who are especially interested in Lexi and the and I, they can definitely, you know, never reach this program. So definitelylooking forward to all the activations that is going to come for the first youdon't should smoove our program so cornscence. You have mentored so many different womenbefore in so many different Adias. What kind of things do people need?The most helpful that you've noticed? A yeah, that's a great question,because I do see, you know,...

...that there are some common denominators thatI would say that some of the women, you know, are challenged with orrequire additional mentorship with. Is One. You know, we talked about securinga seat at the table, learning that seat at the table, gettingthat seat at the table. What also happens is once that seat is secured, there is still that hesitation in owning that seat at the table, andthis is something even Sheryl Sandberg has called out in her book. Leaning sometimes, I suppose it comes from Imposter Syndrome, and that is something else that hascome to light in this past year where women are talking more openly abouthaving that challenge of imposter syndrome. You know, whether are we good enoughfor this or am I ready to take on this next role, but havingthat almost deflective, you know, self talk. So what helps? Throughmentorships and also joining women's organizations or having that support network, can kind ofhelp deflate some of that negative self talk or help overcome some of those challengesor barriers, because you also find out from other women who have experienced thatas you're not alone and it is something that can be overcome. And theother one that I come across quite a lot is we tend to get soinvolved in our job that we procrastinate the networking or or just expanding our exposureto other professionals and other industries or other companies. So I feel these aretwo things that I come across a lot because I can't emphasize enough, especiallyduring these last two years, how important it is to have a strong network, whether it is within your own organization but also other organizations. And oneof the good things that has come about from the pandemic is that as reallyshrunk the world, everybody is just a boom call away. So taking advantageof some of those opportunities that have come about as a result in the lasttwo years where you can actually grow and have more exposure and expansion, iswhat I would say. Absolutely. I've seen so many moving go to livingboss syndrome and feeling hesitant, that being to qualify each and every single thingbefore they even apply for jobs or in general, like even after being hired. I've definitely seen a W millionoly they feel like they are not doing theirbest in that they are. So I feel like usually have having that personto go to, especially before your career, is so, so instrumental. SoI definitely recommend business listening, you know, seek aw that coreer mentorshipby the tow professional services or just look for those mentors in the organization.It could be somebody new deal with, be somebody you sister team, couldbe a friend in a different company.

So they make sure after the networkand SE condos mentorship opportunities. So what are questions? I guess men thesehave very commonly asked you. Why do you wear those mentorship sessions? Yeah, most of my mentees are millennials and of course, now genes's and thebiggest question they asked. I would like to call it, refer to itas the three these, so it's visibility, voice and value add, or addvalue. So they asked, you know, what are some ways tobe more visible, to gain, you know, visibility in the right platformor right forum or leadership, managemental level, and then getting their voice heard,you know, being taken seriously, because sometimes there is that feeling thatthey get dismissed because their expertise is not as much, they're not validated withthat much experiences is expected and some believes are even misconceptions, they could say. And then value add, again wanting they are very driven, very ambitiousand have very, very talented and have a lot of expertise. But again, how do you channel that in a way that has impact? So theseare three things that I do you know, come across a lot. Is Howdo I gain visibility in front of leadership, how can I my voicebe taken seriously and what are some ways that I can continue to contribute whereit's in is the value add. So what I normally say is, youknow, be aware of all the resources that are out there, the network, the you know, your sponsors, your mentors within the organization and youhave to be your biggest advocate to begin with and being more, you know, continuing with the self advocacy and, of course, do you have accessto all these resources, so as being aware of what they are and thenhaving access and then, of course, being able to implement that into action? Absolutely, I think the three aspects that you brought up. It's alsoimportantly a lot of big companies have something like Internet performance reviews or connects.They depended from the company to company and usually it is around all these aspects. You know, that's how kind of free the mother in fact, you'vebrought to win in the organization. And you know, having that want tobe certain time ahead in time helps you not only like even like if you'sjob searching, but also why the job the stock to you when you aregoing for the next performance review, but asking for the trees or even changingjobs with having that reflection really helps. So that is amazing you're doing current. I thank you so much. The next thing that comes to my mindis our organization. returnships are an IT's focus to helping people who are returningto the work more after we have happened gaping career. So do you haveany advice for this school lot of people...

...who are trying to get back tothe workforce after we have had a significant gap and just starting the Jom rightnow. First of all, congratulations on again, you know, setting upreturnships dot org. I think this is an initiative that is that the longoverdue and it certainly helps bridge the challenges that people, you know, facewhen they're returning to work after having a break, whether it was to raisefamily or take care of children or, you know, any for any otherreason. So I think the biggest advice that I would give, or recomrecommendation, would be to continue to tap into the resources that's being extended throughreturnships dot org, because it can be pretty on daunting and overwhelming getting backinto the workplace after an extended break. So, instead of facing any ofthose challenges alone that they may come across, making sure they're tapping into the supportsystem that is being extended through return ships dot org, making sure theydo have life coach or a career coach as support work again, continuing totake advantage of the other resources that are being extended programs and continuing to upskillagain through the various channels that the organization extends. So what I would sayis everything that they have tapped into to make that concision, to continue todo that so that they're not combating any challenge alone. Support Network is key, I would say absolutely so we have a forum and they have a member'sside, so you can go to the forum right now and basically leave yourthoughts of what you felt about listening to this podcast. So we will behosting asking me anything with Corona on our bree downships forum website. So feelfree to leave any questions you had for corona or in general. If youhave any questions or mentorship, finding mentors or even like getting master to themental feel free to leave those comments on the returnshipstorg forum page that you canfind on the returnship org are. You can even follow us on instagram andreturnships are in for and seeing those. For facebook, we can find uson the returnships return to workforce. Thank you so much, Calona, forcoming on our podcast today and sharing your vast knowledge about mentoring, about thesupply chain and about navigating careers in the and I divers day inclusion. Sothis ens who are listening today. Thank you so much for listening to us. And if you want to speak at our podcast, feefly, to reachout to us at www dot return hips org. Thank you, by thankingof Benita. Thank you so much.

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