Volkswagen supplier manager sows, nurtures diversity – The Philadelphia Tribune

Posted: Tuesday, February 07, 2017

As the supplier diversity manager at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., Edkedsha Mathis says she relies on a concept called the three A’s: aim high, apply yourself and achieve your goals.

Mathis, whose position falls under the company’s purchasing department at the plant that employs about 2,800 workers, says that her concept is rooted in the philosophy that credibility is built on results and leaders that achieve by doing and not just advising.

“As a young adult venturing into the business world, I had a road map and goals. One year, three years, five years and 10 years,” she said. “That’s something you need to stick to. Make two road maps, one for yourself on a personal level and a professional one to present your leadership as the path that you want to follow.

“When you are in your evaluations with leadership, you can show them this is where you are and this is where you want to be; advise your leadership that you need their guidance and support to meet these goals,” Mathis added.

For Mathis, whom colleagues and family members affectionately call “KeeKee,” mentoring and advising young women, minorities and anyone within the diversity community are traits she’s demonstrated during her career at Volkswagen Group of America.

Born and raised in Chattanooga, Mathis has been with German automaker for eight years and she has more than 20 years of experience in purchasing, having previously worked for 13 years as a buyer for chewing gum maker Wrigley Co.

“There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself,” she said. “The only barrier between yourself and success is you. No one can stop you from what you want to accomplish, but you.”

The powerful principles of diversity and inclusion — which promotes superior performance and competitive advantage — has helped Volkswagen Group of America create an environment where everyone can feel respected and appreciated, company officials said.

Mathis says much of her job is spent traveling and engaging with minority and diverse suppliers as executive leaders in the company participate each year in a diversity strategy conference to help shape Volkswagen’s diversity initiative.

Through its diversity outreach initiative, the automaker has continuously sought opportunities to partner with community and organizations such as the National Urban League, Out and Equal, the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, the Tri-State Minority Supplier Diversity Council, National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I closely coordinate with buyers and purchasing managers to ensure we have inclusion of our diverse suppliers within our purchasing processes,” said Mathis. “Diversity represents a different range of categories including minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned and LGBT.”

“And, it’s not only identifying these suppliers, but mentoring and developing them to make sure they have the capabilities needed by Volkswagen,” she said.

For instance, Volkswagen has a strong commitment toward supplier diversity. If officials discover that a minority supplier doesn’t possess the capability to meet their requirements, Mathis works with the supplier to gain the experience and ability to win a contract with the assembly plant, which opened in 2011 on 1,400 acres of an industrial park.

“My job is to support them. In most cases [request for quotations] have gone out when we’ve had really small businesses that wanted to participate in the bidding process,” Mathis said.

“I may tell them they can go through the process, see what the scope of the work entails, and they will know, in the future, how they can build up their capacities to submit a proper proposal that meets the requirements,” she said.

Mathis says it’s also important to provide diverse suppliers the tools and feedback needed to be successful as Volkswagen suppliers and community members. Those tools include mentoring, training, feedback, networking and one-on-one meetings with responsible buyers and business units.

Mathis says that participating in the Center of Excellence at TSMSDC is a great way for suppliers to improve their services by identifying their strengths and weaknesses.

She also coordinates several best practices that include increasing supplier diversity program awareness within the organization, working to keep top leadership committed and informed about the importance of the program, mentoring suppliers, and training new and current suppliers.

Additionally, Mathis works to build strategic partnerships and alliances with diverse suppliers.

“I can help suppliers even if it means partnering with them with a larger business that’s willing to work with them, because a larger business can be used as mentors,” said Mathis. “We are always looking for partners throughout the year and there’s no cut off on identifying such suppliers, which is why I attend trade shows and trade fairs nationally.”

At Volkswagen, more than 10 percent of production purchasing has been awarded to minority-owned businesses and 10 percent for non-production in 2016.

Mathis says there are always opportunities for suppliers, but they must be properly certified, registered and be competitive. — (NNPA)

“Volkswagen has been working hard so that diversity and inclusion is a part of our day to day business,” Mathis said. “At Volkswagen, our goal is to be recognized as a top company for diversity and inclusion practices as part of being a top employer in our city.” — (NNPA)


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