Director, Strategic Finance, Allbirds
If you think about a pair of shoes, there are many components—from tags, to fabrics, to the small caps at the end of laces,” he says. “There's embroidery thread. There are so many things that can go wrong. If you can't get one of those components at the right time and in the right place, you can't ship the product.”
By Betsy Verecky
It’s mind-boggling to think about how much work goes into making and shipping a pair of sneakers, even to Alex Jenny D’10, T’16, who’s been at Allbirds for several years.
“If you think about a pair of shoes, there are many components—from tags, to fabrics, to the small caps at the end of laces,” he says. “There's embroidery thread. There are so many things that can go wrong. If you can't get one of those components at the right time and in the right place, you can't ship the product.”
Managing the shoe retailer’s supply chain is even harder when you work for a company that prides itself on sustainability and tracks the carbon emissions of its products, from the farm to the customer. Even the sheep that Allbirds relies on for its wool sneakers are raised in the most environmentally friendly way possible, he says.
“Sustainability is deeply integrated into how we do business, which is incredible, but it definitely makes our jobs harder,” Jenny says. “Not only are we trying to manage the speed of our supply chain, the product quality and the costs, but we are trying to solve for carbon emissions as well,” says Jenny, who longed to work for a mission-driven company like Allbirds.
While the pandemic and major problems in the supply chain have upended the company’s operations, it has also forced Allbirds to start developing new behaviors and processes that were desperately needed. For example, Allbirds’ technology and engineering teams are working on a technological solution that will provide real-time visibility into where products are when they’re being shipped. This way, they can provide updates to Allbirds’ commercial and marketing teams, which is invaluable to provide clarity for upcoming product releases. Having the perfect timing is crucial in these instances.
Jenny majored in economics while an undergrad at Dartmouth and developed a keen interest in operations while at Tuck. “One thing that I started to realize when I was there was that I wanted to be close to the inner workings of a company, to be near what was happening on a daily, weekly basis so I could help make an impact.”
He laid the groundwork for a career at Allbirds by taking an operations management course and a retail operations seminar. Also invaluable was an emphasis placed on cross-functional exposure, which has helped him tackle all the “whack-a-mole” problems he’s had to solve during the pandemic which have impacted teams ranging from Sustainability to Technology to Marketing.
“Having knowledge of different functional areas is so important in any operations role,” he says. “On one call, I could be talking with a fiber supplier, and then on the next call, I'm working on an initiative with the digital marketing team. Having the ability to be able to toggle back and forth and shift my perspective is crucial to my role.”
This alumni profile first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Tuck Today as a part of “The Great Supply Chain Disruption.”
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