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From Instruments to Instrumental: Supply Chain PDP named "30 under 30" Superstar

By Jennifer Broadwater

If you asked Leah Williams what she wanted to be when she was younger, she'd tell you a "musician."

True to her word, the 24-year-old plays nine instruments. But, music isn't her only talent. She's been tapped as a rising star in a field that also requires cutting-edge quality and performance: supply chain management.

So, how does a young professional arrive – and excel – in global supply chain? For Williams, it's her appetite for knowledge, experience and growth that led her to Northrop Grumman's Professional Development Program (PDP).

Since joining the companies' mission systems sector just a year and a half ago, Williams has completed two PDP rotations that exposed her to the company's partnerships with small businesses and diverse procurement operations.

Leah's achievements thus far earned her a spot in the Thomas and Institute for Supply Chain Management's "30 Under 30," which celebrates young professionals for their contributions to their organization and the supply chain industry through leadership, innovation and collaboration efforts. Luis Huazano, a procurement analyst for our aerospace systems sector, also earned a spot on the list.

“To be given this recognition early in my career indicates that I'm on the right path," she says. "I'm honored and humbled.”

Williams views her role not solely as buying parts for the best price, but as a critical partner in the company's quality and performance objectives.

For instance, in November 2017, Williams competed a contract worth more than $1 million between two small business suppliers. She also assisted with a successful Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) audit and has immersed herself in the company's employee resource groups.

“I wanted to find a company that values me," Williams says. "The opportunities here [at Northrop Grumman] are endless.”

Voltaire Walker, manager in the MS sector's Global Supplier Diversity Programs, sees Williams as a future leader, in light of her ability to learn quickly, willingness to take on stretch assignments and knack for interpersonal communication.

Working with Walker's team to prepare for the DCMA Small Business Program Review, Williams conducted a detailed analysis of data trends, which helped explain changes in small business subcontracting performance between fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

“Leah is very quick at grasping required details to complete a project," Walker says. "Leah is ambitious and eager to learn more and to exhibit to others how she can contribute to their success.”

Williams was valedictorian of the 2015 undergraduate class at Delaware State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in management. She also obtained a master's degree in business administration, management and operations shortly after in 2016.

But, her learning didn't stop there. In her 16 months with Northrop Grumman, she's added a supply chain professional certification to her repertoire and is working toward her Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification with the company's support.

“Northrop Grumman has given me a great foundation," she says. "I look forward to continuing to grow as a business professional.”