When Anouk Prop moved from the Netherlands to the United States on an athletic scholarship, she anticipated a hectic schedule. She knew she’d have to strike a balance between running on Georgia State’s cross country and track and field teams, and pursuing a B.B.A. in management from the Robinson College of Business. But she didn’t expect to find herself fascinated with the topic of supply chain management. Her 2.5-hour classes on the subject seemed to fly by.
“It felt like solving a huge puzzle, and I love puzzles,” Prop said. “I wasn’t ready to stop learning.”
When Prop completed her undergraduate degree in May 2022, her instructor Issam Moussaoui told her about a new Master of Science in Supply Chain Management program set to launch at Robinson that fall. Prop didn’t hesitate to enroll. She extended her athletic scholarship another year and secured additional funding through a graduate assistantship.
Prop finished her master’s in July 2023 and landed a job as a customer logistics management trainee at Norfolk Southern the following month. Over the course of the one-year program, she became comfortable interpreting data and turning it into actionable insights.
“When looking at a screen full of data, most people have no idea what they’re seeing,” Prop said. “I learned how to use data to answer clients’ questions.”
Everything Prop learned dovetailed into the capstone project she completed during her final semester. Prop and a group of classmates partnered with Clorox to identify possible supply chain risks. Their biggest takeaway was the potential negative impact of internal employee incentive structures, particularly relative to inventory forecasting. Demand for a product fluctuates for a number of reasons such as seasonality, consumer trends, market competition, and price. Employees who underestimate inventory could face more severe penalties than peers whose predictions result in an oversupply.
“Forecasting is never perfect. If employees get a slap on the wrist for overpredicting but get fired for underpredicting, your staff will always end up making sure you have too much inventory,” Prop explained. “It’s critical to think about how incentives could drive unintended behavior.”
Prop’s team also made recommendations on lowering the company’s turnover rates within manufacturing roles. Through conversations with the client, the students realized most people can learn how to operate a machine—therefore, personal skills are more important than technical skills. Once the group nailed down the ideal candidate’s traits, they urged the company to use social media as a tool to attract talent.
As part of her training at Norfolk Southern, Prop is completing a series of rotations through eight different departments. Her ability to analyze data will be key in succeeding on the job.
“The foundation I built during the master’s program is so important,” she said. “Big data is part of every business.”