How to Build Supply Chain Organizations and Careers: Our Interview with Jess Godin

June 25, 2024

On the Argentus Blog, we aim to provide you with up-to-the-minute insight about the state of supply chain management in Canada, particularly where it intersects with talent and executive leadership. And as part of this effort, we love to bring you interviews with senior leaders from our network. We want to highlight the people who are bringing supply chain success to organizations through strategic thinking, business acumen, and leadership. 

So naturally, we were thrilled at the opportunity to interview Jess Godin. 

Supply Chain executive Jess Godin.

Jess is a true supply chain leader with a wealth of experience. She began her career at Canadian Tire, working up the ranks to become an Associate VP of Supply Chain Integration. In 2015, she joined Giant Tiger as VP of Supply Chain, where she scaled up the supply chain function, transforming it from a transactional execution arm into a centre of strategic competitive advantage. Now, she’s beginning her next chapter, teaching as an Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management at Lambton College, while pursuing opportunities to help more companies scale their supply chains, potentially in a fractional or interim capacity.

Jess is a supply chain guru at the top of her game, so naturally she had a lot of insights that will be useful to companies scaling their supply chains, as well as to supply chain professionals looking to build their careers. 

Read on to see Jess’s thoughts on:

  • Her approach to building a supply chain, including advice for startups, scaling companies, and companies that want to boost their supply chain functions;
  • What she’s looking for when hiring supply chain talent, and where she finds it;
  • Her advice for mid-career supply chain professionals looking to progress into leadership roles;
  • Why she’s moving into fractional/interim executive opportunities, and the benefits of that hiring model for companies;
  • And more! 

Many companies struggle to formalize and implement supply chain best practices. How early should a scaling startup implement supply chain best practices? And what are the key competencies to get in place from the outset? 

It’s no surprise coming from a supply chain person, but it’s very crucial to implement supply chain best practices early. If you don’t get the fundamental structure right at the very beginning, it’s very difficult to re-engineer something later after it’s become an unmanageable beast.

The first thing to get right is always going to be people. Startups need talent who have a solid understanding of fundamentals and who have also been through the ringer. They need people who have experienced things going wrong and who have managed through them and learned from it, as opposed to just people who have spent a career managing a status quo. But they also need people who are willing to dive in and get their hands dirty in the details. It’s hard to find someone who has that deep experience and  who still enjoys getting their hands dirty. 

The second, equally important thing is data management. You need to have the right data elements and structure in place before a company gets too big. If you don’t have the right data, you can’t manage and measure everything effectively, and you have tons of risk and lost opportunity.

The third thing goes back to the people. In the very early days of a startup, it’s a bit of a mishmash of people willing to chip in and do everything. At the second stage, when functions begin to be formalized, it’s important to carve out clear lines of accountability and across functions. One team is the wings of the plane, the other is the wheels, the other is the engine. Everyone’s goal is to get the plane in the air, but everyone has a distinct part to play in that goal. Depending on the overall value proposition of the startup, whether it’s quality of product or speed to a customer’s hands, the supply chain function can be geared towards that value proposition and being a real competitive advantage instead of just a traditional execution function. 

What’s your approach to hiring in supply chain? Beyond functional expertise, is there any particular set of soft skills you’re looking for, or an overarching personality fit? Where do you find the best sources of talent? 

Whether I’m building a new team, or looking to expand an existing team, I’m always looking to create a team with a wide range of talents and backgrounds. Depending on the role and what might be complementary to the team, I might focus on someone who has deep practical experience, say working in a DC or dispatch, versus someone who has an engineering degree, versus someone who has a Master’s or PhD and has the theory but hasn’t slugged boxes before. 

No matter the role, it’s important to have a lot of different backgrounds and experiences. But regardless of the background and the skillset, I always look for people I can trust, who will be respectful and helpful team members regardless of who’s in the room. I want to hire people who have integrity, curiosity, and want to be collaborative. I need people that I trust to take initiative, and be independent, and have a good sense of the right time to check in and ask for direction. When your team is made up of people who respect each other and enjoy being around each other, it makes a huge difference to culture. 

The best sources of talent are often within the organization, because it’s my job to elevate the individuals and create succession plans. That doesn’t always pan out, for various reasons. If I’m looking externally I’ll leverage my network or an organization like Argentus. As great as my network is, a company like Argentus has a good view of the talent that’s out there.

Say you were speaking with a supply chain professional with 3-4 years of experience in a functional role (for example a Buyer, or Logistics Analyst) who wants to grow their career into a manager role and beyond. What advice would you give them? 

I love this question. Over the last few years, I’ve put on a number of sessions for my team at the analyst level giving them my perspective on this. There’s advice that I think people need to hear, whether they want to hear it or not. 

My overarching message is not to rush in moving up the ladder. It’s tough for people to hear, because they want a bigger paycheck, a bigger title, more responsibility. They want the stature. I tell them–and sometimes they believe me–that often the folks who are more successful long term are the ones who make a number of lateral moves at the lower levels. This can be within the supply chain, or even taking detours to the other areas of the business. The people who move around gain wonderful perspectives, because they gain a first hand view of the challenges and opportunities of whatever role they’re in, but also because they’ve built real relationships and collaboration with other people. You get great exposure to other leaders in the organization.

Far too many times, I’ve seen folks go from analyst to team lead to manager to director, all within the same function, because they’re more focused on climbing the ladder and staying in their comfort zone. You’ve painted yourself into a corner in terms of not being able to move laterally. No one wants to take a step down, but I’ve seen people get cornered. Another reason not to rush things is that, as a guiding principle, no matter what level you’re at, you want to leave the role in a better place than you found it. It does you no good if you leave a job too quickly and all you’ve done is leave the lights on. Before you start trying to move up, make sure that you can really show that you’ve delivered value. 

Lastly, from a competency perspective, once somebody has that solid foundation, they have to make sure that they’re proficient in how to manage a team. Make sure that you get informal experience with taking on that responsibility, through projects, learning how to prioritize, delegate, build teams, and give feedback. 

Since the pandemic, it seems that more people understand how critical supply chains are. In 2024, what do companies still misunderstand about supply chain management?

I found it both funny and sad that it took a pandemic to make Supply Chain household words. Nobody cared before. Products made it onto the shelf. During the pandemic, it was a Wizard of Oz thing. A peek behind the curtain. It’s only when something breaks that people care about it, and gain respect and appreciation for the front line workers. It was a horribly tough time for a lot of supply chain professionals, but it did a lot to elevate the importance of a good supply chain. Many companies were successful through the pandemic on the back of a well run, efficient supply chain that was nimble, resilient, and could keep people working, keep people healthy, and keep products on the shelf. Some organizations took a step further after the pandemic, and the CEOs and non-Supply Chain executives realized that capability and all its benefits could be augmented into a real competitive advantage. They could turn what was a cost centre into a revenue centre, or at least be a central part of the value proposition–not just an execution arm, but really propelling the company’s mission. 

That’s the success story. But I’ve also seen the flip side. Some organizations just patted people on the back, said thanks for your hard work, and went back to the supply chain being just an executional arm of the business, and not a strategic advantage. From a people perspective, it meant the hiring and people development strategy is focused around people who can do transactional work, rather than people who can be strategic, collaborative, and have a real supply chain vision. And that’s a missed opportunity, especially if they have long term growth plans.

Following your work with Giant Tiger, you’ve spoken about your desire to help organizations succeed, possibly with fractional leadership roles. What appeals to you about working in this model, as opposed to taking another permanent executive role? And what do you think are the advantages for companies in using a fractional executive?

After leaving Giant Tiger, I took a little time to reflect back on what I love most about an executive leadership role. I love supply chain. I’m passionate about the function and how it can support a company. What I loved most is inspiring the same enthusiasm in others, and educating them. I’m at the point in my career now where I will be most effective in the kind of role where I can help others be the best that they can be by virtue of sharing my experience, pointing out landmines, and helping them develop a strategy or a path, be it at a startup or another organization.

For companies, I see quite a few benefits of hiring a fractional executive. For example, some startups or scaling companies don’t have the budget for a supply chain executive to go full time. Nor would they necessarily want to commit to someone full time permanent going forward. It can help a company build their function, without having to make financial or staffing commitments that they don’t have to make. That can avoid serious pain in the long run. I’d love to come in, offer a fresh perspective on how the function is running, a new perspective on the people, what their potential is, who the star players are, where there’s risk. It’s a great opportunity to get a fresh set of eyes on people, processes, cost, risk, and opportunities. 

A huge thank you to Jess Godin for taking the time to do this interview! We hope you found it as informative and insightful as we did.  And stay tuned to the Argentus blog for more upcoming interviews with leaders in the supply chain and procurement field. 

If you have any supply chain or executive hiring needs, either now or in the near future, tap into Argentus’ network. Send a brief email outlining your requirements to


Submit a Comment

You might also like…

Sign up for Argentus’ Market Watch newsletter

It only takes a moment. You’ll receive low-volume, high-impact market insights from the top specialty Supply Chain recruiters including: Salary Information, Supply Chain industry trends, Market Intelligence, personal branding tips and more.