Alumnus, Taj Wilson ’21, Pieces Together the Supply Chain Puzzle for Cisco Systems
By Jess Clarke
Taj Wilson, a commodity analyst at Cisco Systems Inc., and others like him who work in logistics and supply chain, are used to the headaches of shipping delays and rising costs from the pandemic and inflation.
But for the 2021 Jenkins MBA graduate, there’s also another challenge: coordinating logistics for Cisco’s semiconductor components division, with revenue projected to at least quadruple over the next five years because of recently acquired companies.
Daunting? No — it’s a dream job for someone like Wilson who loves to solve problems.
“A lot of times with supply chains…you’re putting together puzzles,” Wilson says. “I have to decide how to make the pieces work together.”
He does that by figuring out supply chain bottlenecks and constraints, import-export regulations, duties, and taxes, while mitigating cost increases and finding a balance between too much and too little inventory.
As the technology company continues to grow, Wilson helps ensure that “We have a unified system for how the entire business model should run,” he says. “My goal is to break up the silos and make one uniform optics business” from the Silicon Valley-based semiconductor manufacturers Cisco has acquired.
For that ambitious objective, Wilson taps his MBA experiences.
He started at Cisco when he finished the Jenkins program last year. And the timing was ideal.
Cisco needed someone to help the company switch to a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Wilson learned how to optimize and transition to an ERP system in his classes for an SAP University Alliances certificate at Jenkins.
The Jenkins Raleigh Residency Program for professional and online MBA students also was valuable for Wilson, an online student who worked full time during the program. In team activities with his classmates, he gained skills in building relationships and networking, which have been especially important in his Cisco position because he works from home in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina.
The two three-day MBA residencies “helped me learn how to resolve conflicts and coach and motivate my Cisco teammates…to create a more collaborative environment,” Wilson says.
With logistics experience in transportation and manufacturing before he joined Cisco, he pursued an MBA to advance his career with a top-tier company and learn more about supply chain. He thought the Jenkins program had the best return-on-investment potential.
It worked. “And it’s continuing to work,” says Wilson, who earned a Jenkins certificate in operations and supply chain management.
Having a choice of MBA program options at Poole College — on-campus, online and hybrid — appealed to him. The college is committed to networking for online students, he notes, and networking opportunities increase exponentially with Poole’s large alumni base. “With a smaller program, you don’t get the backing of 20,000 alumni,” Wilson says.
His MBA degree helped him achieve his biggest career accomplishment so far: landing his current position with a Fortune 500 company. “That’s a badge not many people get to wear,” he says.
Eventually, Wilson wants to start his own logistics business to offer lower shipping rates to small companies that lack the volume of such giants as Amazon to reduce transportation costs. “There’s no one to help those businesses. I want to fill that gap. If we want them to thrive, we have to do something to lower shipping costs,” he says.
Whether he becomes an entrepreneur or works for a leading company, Wilson knows he will succeed. That’s his biggest takeaway from Poole.
As a first-generation college student, he credits John Hutchings in the Poole College of Management Career Center with that.
“The Jenkins program is highly focused on diversity,” Wilson says. “John and his team reassured me that I was supposed to be there. That gave me the confidence I needed. Now I feel like I can take on the world.”
This post was originally published in Jenkins MBA News.