Supply Chain Global Graphic

Gene Pledger headshot


Many experiences have led Gene Pledger to where he is now. After working as a professional musician for over a decade, he transferred into the graphic design space for almost 20 years. After his graphic design tenure, Gene decided he wanted to pursue a new career and began working in procurement. He now serves as the supply chain director for D&F Equipment Sales in Crossville, Alabama. Gene’s story shows that a love of creativity can be applied in unexpected areas and lead your career down unforeseen, but rewarding, paths.


Marah: How did you become interested in supply chain, and what made you decide to pursue a supply chain certification?

Gene: I was initially curious about the world of purchasing. It’s a little different from procurement, which I was working in at the time, and research showed me that I would be able to use my creativity in purchasing and supply chain. It takes creativity to learn how to buy things, how things work, and how to coordinate logistics. Three years ago, I went on a trip to Europe where I saw how Europeans use different manufacturing methods than we are accustomed to. Their creativity made me realize that there were things that my company needed to implement to be better operationally. I was confident that certification courses would be the perfect way to learn and help us improve.


Jeff: What made you decide, specifically, on the CSCP certification?

G: I had worked on a couple of other certifications at other schools, and then I decided to go after the Institute for Supply Management’s Certified Professional in Supply Management certification. I realized that particular certification was more about vendor management and legal aspects, which didn’t describe what I was doing in my role. I wanted to learn more about lean and operations. I don’t even know how, but I somehow got in touch with CPE’s director, John Freeze. There are several different APICS certifications, and we spent a large portion of time talking about which one would be best for me. I wanted to get it right. CSCP was a great fit because I would be able to lay a broad foundation for my supply chain knowledge. The CSCP covers manufacturing, lean processes, purchasing, and everything in-between!


Marah: What did you enjoy most or find the most beneficial about UTC’s CSCP course?

G: I thought I would be able to self-study and prepare for the exam, but there are various areas that you just can’t understand as well through self-study. The instructor, Chris Barnes, was able to fill in the gaps where I needed more understanding. The best thing about a class is the networking. Every single person in my class was in a different industry; that was important because I was able to hear different perspectives on supply chain operations. The networking, making new friends, and Chris’ expertise were a nice combination of factors that I found to be beneficial.


J: What’s something you learned in the CSCP course that you’re applying to your current role?

G: There are many examples I could give, but a fun one is regarding our Costco plant in Fremont, Nebraska. It’s a nearly $40 million-dollar chicken plant and is vital in creating rotisserie chickens for Costco. All our chicken conveyors are made of stainless steel, so if there is a spike in stainless steel prices, our company must adjust to that increase. My understanding of supply chain helps me say, “Do we need to buy material now or wait?” and make wise financial decisions.


M: What advice would you give to someone considering taking UTC’s course?

G: As I said before, you need to go through a process to make sure you’re getting the right certification for you. John and I had many conversations about whether I should get my CPIM or CSCP certification. Assess where you are in career, age, and what your goals are (are you an executive type or working in operations?) John, again, was a huge help in figuring this out. If you decide that CSCP is the right fit, then I would absolutely say that UTC has a great course to take.


J: How did you prepare for the CSCP certification exam? What helped you be successful?

G: I recommend reading through the books before taking the course. Then, while taking the class, go through the books for a second time to gain a greater understanding of what you’re learning. Soak up everything you’re being taught in the course and participate. After the course, take practice exams and review the questions you miss. I would catalog the questions I missed and figure out which sections they were in to focus on my weak areas. Find your weak points and hone in on those! It’s like playing golf; if you go to the range and hit balls all day, but your swing isn’t right, you’re just practicing the wrong thing.


J: Now that you’re certified, what’s next? What does it mean for your career journey?

G: I earned the CSCP as a foundation and am now pursuing CPIM certification, along with Six Sigma certification, so I can contribute more effectively within operations.  I am also taking APICS certified instructor classes to maybe someday be able to teach supply chain courses.


M: What’s a fun fact you would share about yourself with our readers?

G: Most people know me as being a drummer. I’ve been able to do many fun things in music; my best friend played with Alice Cooper for years and later played with Thin Lizzy. I’ve been blessed to play with some great musicians over the years.


J: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your UTC experience?

G: I am grateful that I found John and UTC. I didn’t know a lot about UTC even though I am not too far away. I am glad that I found success in the CSCP Certification Review course, and I appreciate the opportunities the course gave me.


Marah Whitaker headshot

Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M) serves as the marketing assistant for the UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, she spends time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with CPE’s customer base. During her free time, you can find her getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, she aspires to live by Mr. Feeny’s advice, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” She strives to use her passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around her.

Connect with Marah on LinkedIn.


Jeff Grant sees himself as a storyteller, and thankfully, he gets to tell some incredible stories by serving as the marketing coordinator for the UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, Jeff can be found implementing new marketing strategies or writing content. When Jeff is away from the office, he could be found hiking the Cumberland Trail, trying new recipes, or getting lost in a good book.

Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn.