Off the Cuff With Steve Tracey

Steve Tracey delves into a montage of topics including why CSCR® is the place to be, his predictions for the future of the center as well as advice for soon-to-be-graduates.

Whether you’re graduating, rebranding or watching trends unfold, the only thing that is constant for us is change.

To this end, the world is full of opportunity and the field of supply chain, in a nutshell, is one of opportunity’s many hubs— serving as a stage for community, leadership and research in both private and public sectors.

Steve Tracey, the current executive director for both the Center for Supply Chain Research® (CSCR®) and Penn State Executive Programs, as well as a Professor of Practice within the Smeal College of Business, has been seizing on these opportunities for nearly seven years now.

He has only good things to say about CSCR®, and has an inkling for the future of the renowned center and some well-placed advice for soon-to-be graduates. 

“What makes CSCR so great is the excellent team of individuals and the history and legacy of success,” Tracey said. “We’ve got wonderful sponsor organizations, some of whom have been with us for over 30 years and our students are so dedicated and driven, moving on to exciting supply chain careers within those very corporations.”

It is, in fact, this thought leadership and collaboration that sets CSCR® apart. Tracey knows Smeal’s SC&IS students are more than equipped to continue curating the legacy of the established center. He also knows their success will be built upon a foundation of altruism and ambition.

“If you look at the landscape of industry and academia and the intersection of the two, there are only a few centers in our discipline that have the name recognition that we have,” he said.  “When it comes to personal success, it’s also important to recognize that putting others first is key— it doesn’t matter if you get credit for the services you provide for a company or other professionals you work with— because you see the tangible, visible successes and know in some way that you were a part of it.”

As for expectations, the center’s executive director is adamant on the salience of setting your own. You are your own toughest competition.

“Have expectations for yourself that meet the goals you want to achieve, but also have them be higher than what others set for you,” Tracey explained. “And that’s also an important highlight of leadership. Sometimes, you find yourself having to expect things from people who don’t have high expectations of themselves. Hold people accountable or they won’t excel on your team. If you need others to set your expectations of yourself or if the team you are leading, that’s not a recipe for success.  People can do more than they think they are capable of, they just don’t realize it”

Tracey has had manifold experiences in successful leadership, leading the center towards virtuosity and innovation, matching the development of the supply chain industry.

His time in the field has led him to find the biggest growth to be supply chains moving from the traditional analog to digital format, where supply chains becomes more of an “ecosystem and technology plays a much bigger role.”

The center has been rebranding and redefining its standards of excellence, harnessing major focus on world-class knowledge, skills and research, while never forgetting key stakeholders, faculty, students and the college’s leadership.

“Ultimately, our vision and mission is about keeping our center up to date and making sure we’re always still relevant and forward-looking,” Tracey said, smiling. “Just like supply chains.”

Forward-looking also means looking at the center’s graduating students, making sure each has the proper tools and values to find their own professional and personal happiness in this world. Tracey finds that lifelong learning is the special token that cashed in, can generate transformative partnerships and networks built to sustain and help grow.

His ultimate words of wisdom revolve around the very themes of “don’t ever stop being a student” and “always maintain high ethics and integrity.”

“Lifelong learning means seeking knowledge and wisdom from others but also paying forward what knowledge you yourself have gained,” Tracey explained. “And with the exploration for knowledge and constant learning, you begin to see mistakes are human, but it’s more important to do the right thing than be right. Never give up your honor or personal values to advance your career. You will succeed when you have the humility to know there’s more to learn and the respect to always follow your moral compass.”

Change is always going to be on the horizon and it’s never something to be afraid of. Tracey is more than ready for the future of CSCR® and encourages all students, alumni, partners and faculty to stay tuned for what the center’s future has in store.

“Supply chain keeps things moving and therefore, so do we," he said. "In that way, we know there are always things out there to get excited about.”