KINGSTON, R.I. – May 11, 2012 – Hidden from the headlines declaring record unemployment for college graduates are the Tony Poons of the world. A supply chain major at URI’s College of Business Administration, Tony will graduate this spring but he has already been working fulltime as a weapon system manager for the U.S. Army since the end of January, navigating his way through an extremely complex organization.
“Not many people understand how the U.S. military works,” said Tony, 22, who is a civilian employee at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass. “We manage what a soldier eats, sleeps in, uses, and wears. We control the demand quality, deciding how much we order and provide for warfighters anywhere in the world.”
After Tony arrived at URI, he soon became a trusted part of the College of Business Administration, performing work-study as an office assistant then as a teacher’s assistant. It was in these positions, which provided an insider’s view of how a college department works, that he learned the value of higher education.
“I was really fortunate to have great resources like Professor Hales and Dean Chen,” said Tony, who established mentoring relationships with Associate Dean Shaw K. Chen and Associate Professor Douglas Hales in his freshman year. “Under their guidance, I learned to approach professors for advice. If you hesitate to reach out for help, sometimes you lose out on opportunities. I really appreciate the opportunities I got from URI.”
As the president of the Supply Chain Management Club at URI, he created a LinkedIn group for his major as a way to connect not only the students and alumni, but also to network with potential supply chain employers. He promoted this online community and educated its members about opportunities in the field.
“Knowing the right people can get you the right job at the right place,” he said. “The connections made with professors and other students in college can last a lifetime. While the knowledge you learn in books is useful and applicable to what you do at work, the connections you made may play a significant role in your career.”
His network at URI played an important role in helping him get his current position. He had interned at the Soldiers Systems Center for the past two summers, an internship that a professor had recommended him for. He admits networking played an important role in securing this job.
Tony, whose given name is Heung Wing, came to the United States from Hong Kong when he was nine and his family settled in Barrington, R.I. He graduated from Barrington High School and arrived at URI, determined to work hard and graduate early, packing in six courses every semester. He gathered enough credits to graduate in December and work fulltime starting January 30. He squeezed in a visit to relatives in Hong Kong and Korea after his classes ended and before his job started.
Now, Tony is working full time in the field he studied in URI, managing the supply chain from manufacturers to end users at the US Army Soldier System Center. He enjoys the processes of planning, resource allocating, acquiring, negotiating, and procuring.
“I was initially an accounting major, but I chose supply chain because it’s a really dynamic and versatile major. You can do a lot with it,” said Tony. “After my first Supply Chain Management Club meeting, I talked to Professor (James) Kroes, one of the supply chain professors, who facilitated the event. From that point on, I became really interested in this field. So I have to thank him for getting me into this major.”
Aside from thanking his professors, Tony also wants to express his appreciation to his parents for all of their support throughout these years.