That box delivered to your doorstep is more than a gift; it’s a philosophy, a series of special systems and protocols in place that brought it from the manufacturer to your doorstep. Supply chain and logistics technology is concerned with the flow of materials from manufacturer to finished goods to the consumer.
The journey of that delivered box had a starting place. For Irfan Agha, program manager of Canada Transportation at Amazon, it was the University of Houston College of Technology. Agha graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science, majoring in Supply Chain Logistics Technology and a double minor in Procurement and Organizational Leadership & Supervision.
Q. You’ve just started at Amazon. What is your title and the goal of your position?
A. In January 2017 I joined the Canada Transportation Department as a Program Manager; my specific role focusing on Network Planning. The goal for my position is to configure the systems we have in place to optimize the outbound transportation of goods from the fulfillment centers to the customers doors within the country of Canada. I focus on factors such as carrier reliability, availability/zoning, resources available, and cost saving initiatives. Our focus is to make sure the customer experience is the best they can receive with cost being in the back of our minds. Every decision I make, I first ask myself “How will that impact the customer?” With these factors I then work with different teams to properly configure our harmonized systems to enhance and grow the network.
Q. Why was this industry appealing to you?
A. To understand how things are, what they are and where they are is to understand the supply chain and logistics of it. Having an understanding is not the only objective, also optimizing the overall flow down to the intricate steps. These kinds of things fascinate me, and when reading about the degree plan at UH and doing independent research it really just called to me.
Q. How did your studies at UH and your extra-curricular activities prepare you for your current career trajectory?
A. The thing I value most at UH is that the professors for SCLT all currently work or recently worked in the Industry. This is remarkable. Not only are students gaining knowledge from a textbook and lecture, but the professors share their personal experiences giving us true knowledge of how the industry is currently working through discussions. We are not just graduates who learn terms from a textbook; we essentially got on-the-job training of the concepts and how they apply to real world situations and experiences. Along with the amount of projects our degree required, most of them were ones we had to involve actual companies with. This forced students to research and network with our industries’ leaders and companies in order to gain a better understanding of how their operations function. Not only did our names get circulated within the industry, but some companies even got to witness our projects and provide feedback on our work. The companies had a first-hand experience of our capabilities and creativity with the information they provided.
Getting the opportunity to help lead Supply-chain Industrial Distribution Organization (SIDO) also aided heavily in networking skills, scheduling, negotiations and time management, all skills that are needed in the industry. Some of the professionals I met through that organization guided me to where I am so far in my career, and will have an influence on where I go from here.
Q. What kinds of student activities/volunteer activities were you involved with?
A. I tried to get involved as much as I could at UH. I really focused on joining and leading academic and professional focused organizations.
I joined the Supply-chain Industrial Distribution Organization (SIDO) through the College of Technology in August 2015. In August 2016 I was elected as SIDO’s External Vice President with an incredibly passionate team wanting to sky rocket the possibilities for our members. We built solid relationships with professionals who were excited to see students wanting to get involved and learn in a primarily seasoned industry.
Another influential organization I joined is the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP). This is a great avenue for students to meet and interact with industry professionals and companies interested in bringing in the new talent.
Q. What classes do you remember and what project(s) were most memorable
A. My most memorable classes were Intro to Supply Chain, Practicum, and all of my Transportation courses. All of these classes included group projects involving the industry. These were a great challenge to not only earn the grade for the course, but to impress the professionals we were in contact with.
Q. What questions do students most ask you and what advice do you give them?
A. Many students ask me how I received the opportunities that I have taken advantage of. I stress to them they need to be their own personal advocate. I personally sought out the CSCMP certification I received, which eventually led me to the conference, which introduced me to the recruiters for the company I now work for.
I can’t stress enough to get involved. Take every avenue available to you to network. If you don’t think the avenue is there, then make it. Professionals in the industry are hardly going to come and find you. If you seek them out and make an impression they will most often listen. Make yourself stand out from the crowd. Most people you interact with are getting a similar degree with the same classes. What makes you different? The opportunities are out there. Go and find them.