Alumnus combines supply chain and social justice
Loyola completely changed how Jonathan Wittig defined professional success.
“Loyola encouraged me to explore my passions and apply my energy to address social issues that exist,” says Wittig (BBA ’06).
After years of service in the nonprofit sector, the Quinlan alumnus recently became the supply chain manager of Top Box Foods, a community-based nonprofit that sells healthy and affordable grocery boxes to food-insecure neighborhoods. Supply chain is a field Wittig naturally gravitated toward, as he has always enjoyed exploring how systems work.
Here, he talks about how his work at Top Box combines his interest in supply chain with his commitment to social justice.
How did Loyola prepare you for your career?
The Quinlan School of Business helped give me the tools and confidence to go into any business situation and feel great about the work I was doing. But the larger Jesuit mission of service and justice really changed the focus on the work I wanted to be doing in my life. Loyola completely changed my trajectory, and I wouldn’t be working with Top Box Foods if I hadn’t gone to Loyola.
What about social justice appeals to you?
I’ve seen a lot of injustice that exists internationally, as well as in the States. There are systemic issues that lead to a lot of people living with modern disadvantages that I don’t personally live with. So I feel a deep passion to address those in as many ways as I can. This is also a big part of the values at Top Box.
What’s the biggest challenge as a supply chain manager?
My biggest challenge is coordinating so many variables. At Top Box, we rely heavily on the generosity of our individual and corporate partners which push the mission forward. From a logistics perspective, I’m coordinating multiple schedules that are not within my control, which is challenging.
It’s not as simple as us contracting a company to provide a product to be delivered on a certain day and time. A lot of it is asking people to help out and understanding how much I can ask from them while maintaining their enthusiasm. So, trying to balance all these variables that you don’t have complete control over is very challenging and time consuming. This is also a reason why building relationships is so important. The better you understand what they need, or what they have and what you need, the easier it is to encourage people and the whole process forward.
What’s your favorite part about the supply chain industry?
My favorite part about working in this industry is meeting new people. I strive to build deep relationships with each of our vendors with the goal of building a partnership that benefits both parties. I also like to meet them face-to-face and see the operation first hand so I can better understand them and how they operate. Information tends to get lost in translation, especially via email. So meeting vendors is always a positive experience and both parties end up leaving with a better understanding of the relationship.
Any advice you would give to someone looking to enter the supply chain industry?
My advice is to first find out what interests you, and keep working in that area. Always ask your boss if there is more you can do. Learn it, ask questions, and figure it out. That, for me, has been a great way to go farther in this field and learn more about it as well as expand my responsibilities. Having the curiosity and willingness to go above and beyond, without always asking for a raise, will separate you. Higher management will always appreciate that, and, in time, you will be rewarded for your work.