Rachel Vickers, 31
Global Strategic Sourcing Leader, Avient Corp.
Rachel Vickers graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and an MBA in supply chain management. Her first post-graduate school job was with Avon Lake, Ohio-based materials firm Avient Corp., where she held a summer internship supporting the Global Outsourcing organization. She started her career in the Operational Excellence Leadership Program and achieved Lean Six Sigma black belt certification.
"I was interested in working for Avient for two primary reasons," Vickers said. "First, the culture and investment in talent. I was very focused on the culture of the organization I was joining, knowing I needed a place I could flourish, inspire others and be motivated to keep excelling.
"Second was the mission and vision of the organization regardless of industry type," she added. "I was inspired by being a part of the supply chain that was providing an array of sustainable and specialized solutions to end consumers."
The global strategic sourcing leader said her greatest accomplishment has been the response effort of Hurricane Harvey.
In 2017, Vickers was promoted to senior sourcing manager, eight months before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. At the time, she said, she was responsible for sourcing polyolefin materials, which were significantly disrupted by the storm.
"Once Harvey hit, I was selected to lead the project to understand the impact to our organization and then eliminate or mitigate it for our customers," she said. "This required leading meetings with suppliers to understand where our materials were in the supply chain, on-hand inventory levels and communicating to our business leadership the impact to customers."
The undertaking required detailed communication, negotiation, planning, decision-making, but also empathy, as many peoples' lives were altered due to the flooding.
"I'm proud that Avient was able to keep our business operational with little to no missed customer orders due to the team's extraordinary efforts," she said. "I'm even more proud our organization and associates came together generously donating relief aid and supplies and company contributions to the Red Cross."
Vickers is a founder of Avient's Community Service Team, which was started six years ago; a volunteer through her church doing community outreach; supporter of the local United Way; and serves on Avient's diversity and inclusion employee resource group, LEAD By Women.
Vickers and her husband, Jordan, have a daughter. They enjoy traveling (pre-COVID), playing golf and tennis, biking, attending Cleveland Indians games and spending time with their families.
Q: What should the plastics industry do to expand its efforts in diversity and inclusion?
Vickers: My firm belief is that an organization will not meet its diversity goals if it does not offer an inclusive environment and culture. The move towards a more diverse and inclusive industry is much more than achieving a metric or target. Organizations need to become comfortable having the tough conversations on race, age, gender, etc. Organizations need to provide educational workshops and training to help their associates understand how to cultivate inclusive behaviors and environments.
At Avient, I am proud to say that we are embracing and encouraging these tough conversations. As part of our LEAD By Women diversity and inclusion group, we have addressed topics of unconscious bias, self-awareness and race. It's exciting to see our associates eager for these training workshops. These trainings have helped our associates grow and develop both personally and professionally, contributing to Avient becoming a Great Place To Work. The more we open the door for these conversations, the better our organization, people, communities and industry will become.
Q: One of our criteria for Rising Stars is whether they are active in the plastics industry, manufacturing or their community. How are you involved?
Vickers: Community: I am a founder of our Community Service Team (CST) at Avient, which was started grassroots from scratch six years ago. We align with local charities and plan three to four volunteer events each quarter where our associates can give of their time and talents. Examples: childhood education, tax preparation, volunteering at shelters, cleaning up river banks, food banks and providing meals to elderly. It's been a tremendous success and I'm extremely proud to see it continuing to flourish. Through our CST, our headquarters employees have volunteered over 1,000 hours in each of the last four years! I also volunteer through my church doing community outreach and am a proud supporter of our local United Way.
Industry: I serve in a leadership role for our diversity and inclusion employee resource group, LEAD By Women. I am responsible for the content, programs and the external speakers we bring to our global organization to provide D&I training to associates. Avient is a leader in so many regards. By demonstrating our investments and support of increased inclusivity and diversity, we can play an important part to help elevate our entire industry. I'm thrilled to be playing an important role in this process.
Q: What has been the biggest impact/challenge on your career from the coronavirus pandemic?
Vickers: At Avient, we are focused on integrating our most recent acquisition, Clariant Masterbatches. Bringing together two global organizations requires a lot of exciting work, and doing so in an environment where you cannot travel and meet your new colleagues in person has required us all building relationships in different ways. My current challenge is leading our Global Indirect Sourcing team through a transformational change. This includes harmonizing processes, procedures and even technology. As a new global leader, it has been challenging to learn the existing processes and procedures from both legacy companies, then determining what strategy is best for the combined organization moving forward. Getting everyone together in one central location to really vet it out could have saved significant time, however, we are learning to adapt to our current circumstances.
Q: What steps have you taken to advance in your career?
Vickers: I am a believer that each individual is in control of her/his career. If you want the results, you have to put in the effort. These are the efforts I take to continue pursuing my aspirations, including seeking out informal mentors, communicating my career aspirations to my leadership team, using feedback to define professional and personal objectives and goals, asking for continued personal development training and building out my network and relationships. I am very fortunate at Avient, as our organization invests greatly in career and personal development. The organization provides not only the necessary resources and training opportunities to help me achieve my goals, but also mentoring relationships with our executive leadership. I also feel fully supported in my career journey and know that I have the organization to support me in achieving my career aspirations.
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Vickers: Invest in the people. I want my associates to know they are the most valued asset of our organization. You can have the greatest products, leading-edge technology with automation and robotics, but if you don't value your people and invest in your talent, your business will fail.
The biggest ROI for any organization is its investment in people. When your people love what they do, feel valued and have opportunities for growth, they work harder. They go the extra mile. Investing in your talent fosters a culture of creativity where innovation, collaboration and success happens.