Interview With Kathy Wengel
Kathy Wengel is Executive Vice President & Chief Global Supply Chain Officer for Johnson & Johnson, and member of the Executive Committee. Her responsibilities include the global Supply Chain and enterprise-wide responsibility for Quality & Compliance; Procurement; Environmental Health, Safety & Sustainability; and Engineering & Property Services, including Real Estate, Facilities, and Capital Project Management. Kathy leads a team that delivers healthcare products and services to more than a billion patients and consumers around the world every day across three business sectors: Consumer Health, Medical Devices, and Pharmaceuticals.
Kathy serves as Chairman of the Board of GS1 Global, is on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers in the US, and the advisory board of AWESOME. She is the executive sponsor for the Johnson & Johnson Women’s Leadership & Inclusion initiative and the Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing and Design program.
In 2019 Kathy was recognized by the Council of Supply Management Professionals with its lifetime Distinguished Service Award.
What risks have you taken in your career that have paid off?
- Some of the biggest risks I’ve taken involved moving to different countries, and taking assignments that led to significant personal growth. I spent my younger years within a 20-mile radius in New Jersey. Five years into my career, I moved to Puerto Rico for an assignment, and then to Europe and Italy. Those moves changed the trajectory of my career and my personal life – especially because I met my husband in Italy. Exposure to different cultures changed my values as a person, made me more humble, and gave me an outside view of my home country. These experiences completely transformed how I am as a leader and my ability to work well with global teams.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
- I think I would repeat the advice I received from my parents because it worked out pretty well: “Find what you love to do and build your career around it. It makes the bad days better, and the good days great.”My parents say that they knew I was destined to be an engineer from a young age because I always gravitated towards building blocks over other toys. As I continued through my education I was always interested in technology and science.When I graduated with a degree in civil engineering and operations research from Princeton University, I began to explore career options. Choosing a supply chain career within the healthcare industry was a no-brainer for me. Being able to innovate while impacting the lives and health of people around the world provided me with the sense of purpose that I needed from my career. I knew I found my home at Johnson & Johnson once I read Our Credo, and saw how deeply it aligned with my own personal values… something I think is key to a long, fulfilling career.
What industry organizations are you involved with and how has this enhanced your leadership skills and career development?
- There is great value to be gained by going outside of your own organization’s walls. No matter how impactful or innovative the work you do at your company is, we do not exist in a vacuum. The external environment, regulations and processes must grow and change with the innovations of tomorrow so we can deliver our solutions and products to the end users we serve. That is why I am humbled to serve as Chairman of the Board of GS1 Global, an organization that sets and maintains global standards regarding the exchange of critical business data to ensure patient safety and supply chain efficiency. I am also committed to meeting with and learning from the Supply Chain community at large—exchanging best practices and collaborating through peer-to-peer connections so we can drive mutual benefit. Another area I am passionate about is how we pay-it-forward by truly maximizing the talent of our current workforce and inspiring the next generation of supply chain professionals. I am privileged to have been recently appointed to the Executive Committee for the National Association of Manufacturers and the Board for the Manufacturing Institute in the US, and I also serve on the advisory board of AWESOME, an organization focused on advancing women’s supply chain leadership. I think it’s important to network and be involved in all facets of the industry you are in—not only to grow and develop personally, but to help grow and develop others. It enables you to drive change and ensure the best talent is available to drive innovative outcomes for patients, customers and consumers around the world.
What does your company do to support diversity in the workplace?
- At Johnson & Johnson, everything we do is guided by Our Credo. It codifies our commitment to patients, the world community, stakeholders and our employees who work with us throughout the world… stating that we must provide an inclusive work environment where each person must be considered as an individual. We must respect their diversity and dignity and recognize their merit.For more than 130 years, diversity and inclusion has been key to the success of Johnson & Johnson—starting as far back as 1908, when the company hired its first female scientist. And although this long-standing commitment is engrained in our Company heritage, we know there is still much more work to do.Within my organization we have teams in nearly every corner of the world, which allows us to truly maximize diversity of the ideas, solutions and results we bring to light in service of the diverse patients, consumers and customers we are privileged to serve. Additionally, our Supply Chain Diversity & Inclusion Council is focused on advancing three main areas globally.First, we are continuing to increase representation of people of color, particularly black and brown, within all levels of our teams around the world. Some of the ways we are doing this include: ensuring diverse and inclusive interview panels, furthering our global sponsorship programs, and accelerating our professional development trainings around the world.Second, we are advancing a culture of inclusion. We will achieve this with a multipronged approach, equipping our leaders with proper tools and resources for inclusive leadership, as well as educating about racism through empathetic conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion across Johnson & Johnson globally, including our onsite manufacturing employees.Third, we are committed to continually diversifying our suppliers—not only by selecting qualified businesses owned by people of color, women and other minority populations—but also by setting an expectation to see diversity and inclusion incorporated in all of our suppliers’ business practices.We also encourage our employees to celebrate their diversity through our Employee Resource Groups, which connect colleagues around the globe with common backgrounds, ethnicities and passions… such as our Johnson & Johnson Women’s Leadership & Inclusion (WLI) initiative, of which I am proud to be the Executive Sponsor. WLI’s mission is to drive change and foster an inclusive organizational culture that champions the advancement of women so we can achieve greater gender equality.Johnson & Johnson also offers opportunities for employees to make an impact on diversity in the external environment. For example, our WiSTEM2D (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing & Design) program, of which I am also the Executive Sponsor, aims to spark interest in young girls and women to pursue and maintain careers in STEM2D disciplines.
Final Piece of Advice:
- I’m an advocate for stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking opportunities or positions that may seem scary or overwhelming – in my experience, that’s when you learn the most. Each new opportunity I’ve taken has tested me, pushed me to new limits, and helped me to grow as a leader. Certainly, there were challenges and learnings along the way, but I believe those are the moments that define you, teach you, and set you apart from others. When times get difficult, you have the opportunity to forge a new path forward. That is the kind of resiliency leaders notice and reward.