The original plan was to become a pilot. James Roe, currently a Director on AlixPartners’ Manufacturing and Operations team, enrolled at Western Michigan University to study aviation, but an eye disease meant that he would never have corrected 20/20 vision and therefore couldn’t pass the necessary medical to become a commercial pilot.  

“I knew going into college that it was going to be a stretch, but I was in denial. During my first semester, I had to face it that I was not going to be a pilot,” James said.

Needing to switch majors, he took advice from his friends to study supply chain management.

WMU’s program was heavily focused on the automotive sector, a global industry highly reliant on logistics and transportation that would allow him to maintain a connection to his passion for aviation. He liked the field immediately.

After graduating, James landed with the global logistics team at Lear, a manufacturer of automotive seating and electrical systems. Known for having low margins and high inventory turns, Lear was intensely focused on operations.

“Supply chain was integral to that success of the company. It was a core competency, so there was a lot of pressure to make sure we were being as efficient as possible, and I really enjoyed that kind of an environment.”

At Lear, he gained experience in sourcing, operations, network design, commodity buying, and vendor management, working on projects across the globe, which included a year-long transfer to Lear’s Munich office.  

He extended his time in Germany by enrolling in Mannheim Business School in Frankfurt, graduating with his MBA in 2019, which he followed by joining one of the Big Four’s M&A practices.

James was excited about this new challenge—M&A, he was told, was the pinnacle of the business world—and being in M&A did help him better understand the connection between a company’s operations with its finance function and organization structure.

But he had a passion for ops and logistics that wasn’t being fulfilled. He also found himself watching from the sidelines as myriad challenges, both from long-term shifts in geopolitical and business dynamics and discreet, high-impact events, were radically disrupting the global supply chain. He wanted to be back in the thick of it.

When a former Western Michigan classmate reached out about a role on AlixPartners’ Ops team, James found his ideal next job.

“AlixPartners is truly global. At my previous firm, while we had a large global footprint, I rarely interacted with anyone outside of my office’s home country,” James said. “Now, I’m regularly pulled into projects around the world.”

“Another thing I like is how entrepreneurial the firm is. I have been able to say these are the things I like and these are the geographies I want to work in, and, with the support of my leaders, I have been able to find my niche and make a difference there.”

And these projects are offering what James calls “acute challenges,” interesting problems that require urgent action.  

“Companies are dealing with a lot,” he explained. “They’re still addressing the aftereffects of COVID while simultaneously dealing with the changing landscape of global trade—demand is moving from China to places like Vietnam, Mexico, and North Africa, and then there are global events popping up all the time due to geopolitical tensions or changing weather patterns. This is all creating a lot of fun problems we need to solve to ensure our clients have smart, efficient, and resilient supply chains.”

With so much in flux, James’ genuine interest in the field is helping him stay abreast of new solutions to circumvent these challenges.

“When I am working with clients, I think my passion comes through which helps give me credibility right away. I’m reading about this stuff on the weekends—it doesn’t feel like work to me.”

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