Ashley Chona always knew that graduate studies was part of her life plan, and an extremely important part of earning the next degree for her was deciding when to do it. After graduating from the College of Business with a degree in business administration in 2019, Chona made the bold decision to turn straight to a Master’s of Science in Business degree, and she says the decision was an easy one.
“Education has always been very important in my family, and it has always been a personal goal,” Chona said. “A large motivator in applying to the program right after my undergrad was how I envisioned my future in ten years from now. I knew once I had kids, a house, a husband and a career, going back to school would be very difficult.”
Chona set her sights on the accelerated MSB program in supply chain analytics, deciding that the additional nine-months of schooling was a solid investment in her future and would help set the foundation for what she wanted later in life. Sticking with the formula that worked so well for her during her undergraduate studies, she kept up with her 20-hour, part-time job at Home Depot, and completely focused on her graduate studies.
Most of my undergrad years were spent working with students that were the same age as me, had a similar background as me, and, for the most part, thought in the same ways I did. In my MSB program I got to work with … professionals from all different backgrounds.Ashley Chona
Her decision proved prescient. Chona was younger than most in the program and could work full-time on her degree, while her peers had careers and studied part-time.
However, this peer group brought Chona another level of insight that she’d not anticipated in her life plan, and one that proved to be exceptionally valuable to her career. Chona learned to communicate effectively and look at problems from a range of perspectives.
“Most of my undergrad years were spent working with students that were the same age as me, had a similar background as me, and, for the most part, thought in the same ways I did,” she said.
“In my MSB program I got to work with people who ranged in age from 23, that was me, to upper 40s. These were professionals from all different backgrounds with years of career and life experience and who all thought about things differently than I did.”
Acknowledging that it was a challenge to learn how to work with such a diverse group, she also says it is one of the most valuable things that prepared her for career.
“Aside from the technical aspects and skills, I feel that one of the most valuable things I got out of my MSB program was how to communicate effectively and how to look at a problem from someone else’s view. Being able to understand, communicate and solve very complex problems with anyone is a skill I use every day. At the end of the day, my main role is to ensure that our products get to our customers when they need them — which means ensuring communication between the customer, the manufacturing plants and the carriers,” she said.
Now a supply chain specialist for Georgia-Pacific Chemicals, she found that her experience in graduate school matched what working in the real world is like. “For example, my customers at a mill site don’t speak the same ‘language’ as my engineers at the plant do. And they also don’t speak the same language as the truck drivers I work with. Being able to bring all three together can be very challenging at times but that’s my job, and I really enjoy that aspect,” Chona said.
Importantly, her MSB Supply Chain Analytics degree delivered just the right technical aspects and skills. Responsible for ensuring that Georgia-Pacific Chemicals from two West Coast locations reach customers, Chona’s day may begin by working with customers across the U.S. and in China to schedule orders in a wide range of industries, including wood products, paper products, agriculture, industrial adhesives or aerospace products.
She’s also responsible for ensuring that all other customer requests are communicated to the right parties. These requests can vary from how the finished goods are packaged and the type of equipment the product needs to be transported to a customer’s facility – at the proper time.
For the manufacturing side, she’s helping track and schedule the inventory levels of finished goods based largely on forecasting done in partnership with sales teams, our supply chain planning teams, the raw materials procurement agent and customers. And finally, she’s taking care of production byproducts and organizing finished goods transportation, be it truck or pipeline.
One final credit she gives to her career success is the strong foundations from her undergraduate studies. “A company’s supply chain isn’t just one category; it essentially covers everything,” Chona said. “Having some knowledge in every field gave me an advantage, and that was my having an undergraduate degree in business administration that covered so many different angles of running a business.”