Future Leader Spotlight: Nate Macon, 2021 MBA Candidate at Cornell Johnson

I love relating to people to build trusting teams and drive impactful change. From debate and football in high school and my fraternity in college to factory leadership teams at Carlisle and my core team at Johnson, I really enjoy understanding what makes people tick and playing my role in bringing them together to achieve something.

Homeschooled until high school, I was, and still am, a proudly independent person. That kind of runs counter to that first paragraph, but it wasn’t until my later teens that I saw the multiplicative power of people coming together. Understanding why a debate teammate was a nervous presenter or why a teammate was struggling to keep up at summer conditioning highlighted the power of empathetic listening to unlock a solution. Fast forward to graduation from Lehigh with a degree in supply chain management and business information systems. I knew I liked the opportunity supply chain presented to deal with the complexities of mountains of data and scores of internal and external players. I wasn’t sure what piece of the broad supply chain discipline would click for me, but I knew that listening aggressively (to borrow from Capt. Mike Abrashoff, author of It’s Your Ship,) would be vital.

As I worked my way through a 2-year leadership development rotational program (that’s a mouthful), I discovered that Sales and Operations Planning presented the best shot to utilize my evolving ability to bring people together. Outside of the silo of supply chain, S&OP is the process of mid to long term planning that focuses on a lot of things, but beyond all else, alignment. Whether it’s coming to consensus on our demand forecast with sales and product management or making direct labor decisions on the operations side, a successful monthly S&OP cycle ends with the plant leadership team on the same page, with a set of financially vetted plans to strive to win in the marketplace and deliver profitability.

At plants in China and the US, I learned how challenging that goal can be, and how vital and incredibly rewarding talent development is. Leaving plants in China and Milwaukee in capable hands and watching those process leaders continue to succeed and grow is my proudest professional accomplishment.

Dongguan, China 2017

I recognized a need to take the next step from two key perspectives. First, I needed to deepen my financial acumen: how to quickly determine the P&L impacts of managerial decisions, how to manage capital, and how to live and thrive within the structural constraints of accounting standards. Second, I needed to surround myself with driven people in a close-knit environment where I could experiment and grow as a leader and follower. Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management was a perfect fit.

Sage Hall, home of the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University

My mid term goal is P&L responsibility. I love the tangible nature of manufacturing and the leadership challenge of complexity: product, process, and people wise. Post MBA, experience leading and developing larger teams, potentially including those directly adding value on the factory floor, is a crucial step to growth.

I’m looking for an internship experience in a plant environment where I can build upon my experiences and get more hands on in operations. Whether the projects are laid out in advance or we determine and prioritize them together, I can’t wait to make a positive impact with something that moves the business forward. Whether it’s a cost reduction via process optimization that allows the company to gain market share or a flow improvement that reduces turnover by bettering the day to day lives of teammates on the floor, I’m excited to tackle a tangible issue that will require leveraging both quantitative and qualitative skills.

A successful internship would be one that ends with a measurable and sustainable impact to the company and a shared desire to continue working together. Companies win through recruiting, developing, and retaining strong team players and then committing to them. Places that commit to their people earn that commitment back and become magnets for talent: the effects snowball. Opportunity for impact and a proven commitment to talent development through stretch assignments, further education, and mentorship are the key differentiators of a company that I’d love coming to work for.

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