You won't necessarily need a degree but most hiring companies require it. You could work your way into a senior role by obtaining an entry level junior buying role or procurement analyst position for example. Certifications are helpful in procurement, such as CSCP or CIPS.
I built new food supply chains, from scratch. Internally, I worked with chefs to develop weekly menu's and was responsible for finding the highest possible quality ingredients, often negotiating crop plans with farmers to build out crop plans for heritage varietals, while being responsible for cost management and reduction, in a way that impacted the overall margin of the product significantly.
To get there, I've taken a career path based around chasing the innovation within food supply chains and procurement. Starting in NGO research around Corporate Social Responsibility, I moved into Private sector jobs in the early ages of booming industries including Organics, Direct to Consumer E-Commerce, Multi-nationals --> B Corporations, and ultimately into Sustainable procurement consulting.
Joining a tech e-commerce start up in the early to high growth stage is nothing short of an exhilarating and exhausting experience. The D2C (direct to consumer) field in 2012 was disrupter to the retail industry, now it is exploding. Joining any D2C startup in early stages is demanding, coupled with the work ethic of chefs, farmers and NYC hustlers, you need to be highly engaged, committed and a bit obsessed in order to succeed. Many of your peers are also hustling toward a common goal, and without the camaraderie you cannot get through the growing pains. Overall, a day in the life was a lot of young hustling food nerds trying to pull off the impossible.
My role building out a Sourcing team and strategy was highly operational and strategic. Every conversation was ultimately around food, so whether I was speaking with an expert chef, a salt-of-the-earth farmer, a food safety inspector or a regenerative soil scientist, we all spoke with passion about the fruits and vegetables, (I was buying millions of pounds of). The operations and manufacturing aspect of this fresh and perishable market were highly complex. I was often flying every 4 -8 days to develop relationships and negotiate contracts with farmers, processors, distributors, CEOs, etc.
The conversations I got to provoke around re-thinking our food system were inspiring and boundless. Getting food-schooled by some of NYC's best chefs also was not so shabby! Equally exciting, getting my boots dirty and being in the fields with farmers geeking out about different types of cabbage, for example.
Very social role, split external vs. internal time, on-the-ground with producers, farmers and suppliers, highly analytical, creative R&D opportunities, high impact potential through strategy creation
The challenge was, the chefs ran the operations and had extremely high and veritable standards, E-commerce food subscriptions were brand new, and sourcing a national menu from food on a regional scale was highly dependent on not only operational difficulties but also highly agriculture dependent. It was the perfect storm for a challenging career scaling in a highly disruptive industry of D2C Meal kits.
Start ups usually don't pay too well and offer more junior roles than you may be seeking.
Equity helps. Make sure to understand the growth potential for any young start up you are thinking of joining and also the costs (overtime expected, long nights, stress, travel, etc.)
If you are young, super excited about something, willing to put in the hustle, go for it. Just remember to stand your ground and not be taken advantage of in any way. It is great to feel ownership and real investment in a purpose behind your work, and to feel that with the people you are working with. Don't ever let that replace a proper paycheck however!
Social and relationship management skills
Diverse! Smart young folks.
Don't get into politics. Change your communication style to suit those who are receiving the information. Don't party too hard at the all you can drink beer and ping pong events. Never participate in the events with jello shots and karaoke.