Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jay Anderson wanted to be an international patent attorney, though he didn’t exactly know what that meant at the time. As a social studies major at Harvard University, he discovered his love for understanding how people organize and what motivates them. Over the past nearly 20 years, his titles and geography have shape-shifted from business strategist in Paris to health system IT director in Chicago to his current role as Vice President, IT Global Supply Chain at The Estée Lauder Companies in New York City. He credits his time at the University of Michigan’s Tauber Institute for shaping his ability to problem solve and think on his ever-moving feet.
Recently Jay returned to Ann Arbor for the first time in many years as a participant in Spotlight! Team Project Showcase and Scholarship Competition 2014. “I am excited to be coming back to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan representing The Estée Lauder Companies. It is an amazing opportunity to attract and attain talent” he said.
Anderson answered a few questions about his career path since earning his Michigan Ross MBA in 1996.
Q: What drew you to the University of Michigan?
A: My main objective in coming to Michigan was to focus on my MBA and to hone my skills in business strategy, finance and industrial engineering because I thought I wanted to work for the Big Three automotive companies. I was actually working on building self- awareness and finding my strengths and preferences. At Tauber I found out I was good at problem solving. My time at Tauber was the beginning of what I now see as my brand; focusing on driving value through the convergence strategy, business operations and technology.
Q: What sticks with you as important lessons learned while at the Tauber Institute?
A: Process mapping and operational efficiency. My summer at Whirlpool was all about taking a problem and breaking it down to see what drove costs and lead time to be too long in their supply base. In my conversations today, people often ask about inventory and what we can do to further increase efficiencies. The Tauber way of thinking is even more prevalent now that I’m with a highly branded company – the relationship between operational effectiveness and the brand is key. The Estée Lauder Companies has more than 25 prestige brands.
Q: What recurring principles do see showing up in your career?
A: The principles of my career include: collaboration, teamwork, innovative problem solving, and effective communication. Typically to get things done your way, you need to influence. Staying focused, getting your point across, and acting with integrity results in people trusting you. How you inspire confidence and trust is important. I would add that thinking globally and embracing diversity are essential as well. Everywhere I’ve worked, I have thrived on working with people from many cultures. It is something I get energy from. Companies who want to become major players must be global players.
Q: What’s the most important thing to remember in business?
A: Well-functioning teams, people and collaboration are important. Very few situations are single-function in nature. In supply chain, in operations, everything is cross-functional. For example, at The Estée Lauder Companies, we are organized by brands, regions, and functions. To get things done, we collaborate across all areas. Business issues can be so multi-faceted that oftentimes it takes a group of people to come up with right answer. Executing always involves gaining alignment and having people support the objectives.
Q: What advice would you give today’s MBA students as they continue on their career paths?
A: Think about who you are and your personal brand. What do you want to be? When you are seeking opportunities, how do you want to show up? Take time to figure it out and establish your personal brand – one that is relevant to the market. Also, have a 3- 5 year outlook on your personal roadmap, and constantly refresh it. I know that it’s easy to get caught up in the work, but you’ve got to think about how and where you are headed and how you will get there.
Q: What would your fellow alumni be surprised to know about you?
A: It might not be surprising, but I’m focused on my family and my career. We have three kids, ages 8, 10, and 12. It is important to my wife and me that our kids are well-adjusted and have the opportunity to grow physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I’m really proud of them. We invest a lot of time in the kids’ chess, soccer, football and other activities, and because I travel quite a bit for work, my wife (who also has a career with IBM) spends a lot of time engaged with the kids. Finding time to be with my family is a top priority for me.