A Two-Generation Passion for Supply Chain – and Life

April 09, 20214 minute read

It was no surprise to AWESOME that Ashley Servais, a 2020 AWESOME Scholar who is soon to graduate from the Neeley School of Business at TCU, was chosen by Poets & Quants, a high-profile publication for undergrads, as one of the 2021 Best & Brightest Business Majors. She has had an outstanding collegiate career and, after graduation, will begin a position with Dell Technologies in their Supply Chain Development Program.

In honor of Ashley’s selection, we decided to explore her “roots.” We learned that both parents are supply chain professionals. What led Ashley to choose supply chain and excel in it? We talked with Ashley and her mom, Donna (Lao) Servais, Sr. Director, Transportation, International Operations at Office Depot.

One of the influences Ashley credits most for her decision to pursue a supply chain career is having her mom as a role model.

Growing up, Ashley didn’t realize the extent of her mother Donna’s career because Donna was always where Ashley hoped she would be – in the stands for Ashley’s basketball games and other parts of her life. “I just thought of her as ‘my mom.’” It was later that Ashley understood the professional side of her mom’s life. Donna says it was a main priority for – being there for her daughter and son. She explains that the key to balancing it all was being able to “compartmentalize.” She might use the laptop in the bleachers during warm-ups, but when the game started, she was all focused on the game.

After more than three decades in industrial engineering, distribution, logistics operations, international logistics, supply chain and transportation roles, Donna can still say every day is different and “there’s never a dull moment” in supply chain. In addition to her 17 years at Office Depot, she’s also worked for UPS, Neutrogena,  and Marshall Field’s/Dayton’s/Target. She has a degree in Industrial Engineering from California State Polytechnic University – Pomona and an MBA from Pepperdine University.

While Ashley was being cheered on from the stands by her mom, she was busy as a three-sport athlete in high school. She credits those experiences as another major influence. What athletics taught her were “resilience and grit.” She says, “What I learned is that obstacles or even failure can be channeled into something positive.”

Donna agrees that “grit” is one of Ashley’s special qualities. She also has seen that Ashley has a “natural way of networking’ and building relationships with people.” She says, “I’ve found that one of the most important qualities in business – yet one of the hardest things to coach or teach people is to develop people skills.” Ashley’s natural, authentic people skills have been put to good use in her campus activities and leadership roles in her sorority, and she’s also become a mainstay in AWESOME Scholar Programs.

One thing that comes through loud and clear when talking to Ashley is that her vision of supply chain is big and broad. It’s so much more than a job or an assignment. She sees supply chain professionals as impacting the world in important ways.

She particularly remembers a class taught at TCU by Travis Tokar, Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management. Students followed the path of a simple pencil and saw all the steps required to get that pencil into the right hands. She feels that “small miracles” happen every day in supply chain.

There’s something else Ashley picked up from Donna. Ashley explains, “Knowing about her childhood as a ‘tomboy’ and then her career as a woman succeeding in a world of mostly men, I loved seeing that she owns being a woman at the same time being a strong, capable professional – and I want to do the same.“

As Ashley finishes her time at TCU and moves on to new challenges at Dell, there’s another reason to celebrate: She’s engaged and will wed in August.

Is she going to maintain the Servais model and marry another supply chain graduate? In this, she’s charting a different course and marrying a public accountant.

Congratulations, Ashley, on all fronts and best wishes for your bright future!

Read Ashley’s Scholar Spotlight

In the write-up about Ashley in Poets & Quants, when she was asked “Which academic, extracurricular, or personal achievement are you most proud of?” – she replied: “In 2020, I was named as an AWESOME Scholar for the year, along with four other incredible female supply chain students across the country. AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain, Operations Management, and Education) is a female supply chain organization that connects women across companies and gives female business leaders a sense of community and support. This award had deep significance for me because of my relationship with my mom, who is an AWESOME member herself. My mother has been a huge role model to me, and I loved being able to literally follow in her footsteps through AWESOME.”