How I Got Here: Mark Zafra,
Director of Supply Chain Management, Verigy

By ELIZABETH GARONE
Special to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Like many kids who grow up in Washington, D.C., Mark Zafra figured he, too, would join the ranks of lawyers and lobbyists in town. "Potomac fever at a young age" is how he puts it. But a stint with the Peace Corps and an advanced degree in international management led Mr. Zafra to a start-up, a spin-off and, ultimately, a career in supply chain management. Elizabeth Garone spoke with Mr. Zafra about his job. Edited excerpts follow.

[How I Got Here]

Full name: Mark W. Zafra
Age: 36
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Current Position: Director of Supply Chain Management, Memory Test Solutions, Verigy
First job: Development worker in Thailand, Peace Corps
Favorite job: Project Line Manager, Agilent Technologies
Education: B.A., Trinity College; M.B.A., Arizona State University; Masters of International Management, Thunderbird School of Global Management
Years in the industry: 10
How I got here in 10 words or less: Hard work and a passion for international business results.

Q: How did you end up in your current position?

A: In 2006, I was recruited to rejoin Agilent Technologies to help lead the spin-off and restructuring of the divisions focusing on semiconductor testing that is now Verigy. I led the NPI (new product introduction) procurement team, designing the supply chain, including all of the strategic material engineering, planning, contracts, and execution.

Q: You worked at Agilent, then part of H-P, five years ago, too. Did that help you land your current position with Verigy?

HOW YOU CAN GET THERE, TOO
 
[Climbing the Ladder]
Best Advice:"If you want to be in supply chain, you should learn to be good at negotiations and be able to say 'no' to people that are aggressively trying to sell you things," says Mr. Zafra. "It is also critical that you can work with a variety of levels -- in supply chain you'll often deal with entry level people up to very senior people."
Skills you need: Along with technical knowledge of the job, you need "a passion for negotiation and financial analysis and people skills," offers Mr. Zafra. He also recommends working with shipping and receiving employees.
Degrees you should go for: If you know you want to work in logistics, consider studying supply chain issues says Mr. Zafra. And, he says, go for a B.A. in business or an M.B.A. with classes in logistics.
Where you should start: Consider a career as a buyer, planner, logistics analyst or a financial analyst, recommends Mr. Zafra. "Supply chain is critical with companies that have a tangible product," says Mr. Zafra. That includes things like computers, clothing, or food. "Manufacturing companies especially need good supply chain people," he says.
Professional organizations to contact: National Association of Purchasing Management, Institute for Supply Chain Management
Salary range: About $125,000 to $175,000.

A: I left Agilent in 2001 and joined a series of promising start-up companies, which provided invaluable experience and knowledge for the transition from being at a large company to being at a mid-sized technology leader. I developed the background of the HP culture with the energy, flexibility and responsiveness of a start-up. Some of my old colleagues from HP/Agilent felt that combination would be a perfect fit for helping to spin off the new division.

Q: Joining a start-up might sound risky to many people. What pushed you to jump in, especially at a time when the tech bubble was bursting?

A: The start-ups that I joined really taught me a lot from being the "big fish in the little pond." I had seen the bubble and still wanted to broaden my skills from a functional expert at a Fortune 20 company to be the big fish. Also, I went with people that I knew and loved working with.

Q: Does your Peace Corps experience mesh with your current career? What special skills does it bring to it?

A: Serving in the Peace Corps taught me that no project is too challenging or tough. Developing a project to bring eyeglasses to a very poor village was the single most rewarding project I have ever managed. Learning the Thai language has also been very useful as I have had many customers and suppliers in Thailand and throughout Asia in the last decade. It also helps me get (good) food at authentic Asian restaurants.

Q: Where to next?

A: I think that I'll stay in supply chain for a while but, as with many supply chain experts, sometimes I am tempted to cross over to the other side of the table into sales. Ultimately, I would like to start my own business, probably something international.

Write to Elizabeth Garone at cjeditor@dowjones.com

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