Middle River, M.d. – If you asked Tracy Washington to tell you about Supply Chain Management, he’d do so in a heartbeat. He’d tell you about the industry’s growth, its international appeal and its connection to nearly any field you can think of.
He’d also tell you that Supply Chain Management is still one of the best kept secrets on college campuses, and that starting his studies in it at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) was one of the best decisions he ever made.
But when Washington graduated from Trenton Central High School, he couldn’t have imagined that he’d build his career in Supply Chain Management. Born the sixth of eight brothers and sisters, Washington’s career prospects were wide open. He was the first in both his immediate and extended family to go to college.
“When I say I was the first to go to school, I mean it,” Washington emphasized. “Out of hundreds of cousins, my parents and my siblings, I was the first to attend college.”
Though he calls West Trenton his hometown, Washington’s family hails from Accomac, Virginia. Migrating north in the 1960s, Washington was raised by his parents – his mother Dorothy, a homemaker, and his father George Sr., a manager for a sod farming company.
“Back then you could raise a family on a single income,” Washington said, noting that his father held his position for 45 years.
“I loved the way people respected him,” Washington said. “My father set the table for me. His career and work ethic taught me that you could achieve anything if you apply yourself.”
After graduating from Trenton Central High School, Washington was at a crossroads. He knew college was a possibility, but wasn’t sure of where to go.
“Growing up I was very involved in my community, coaching basketball, baseball and football among other things,” Washington said. “That sparked my interest in Mercer, with an added bonus of how affordable it was to attend.”
Even before he started at MCCC, Washington didn’t waste any time getting right to work. Prior to enrolling, Washington worked as a temp for Lockheed Martin, which served as the basis for his decision to study business.
“At Lockheed, I really appreciated seeing the purchasing staff making decisions,” Washington said. “I was trained by someone named David Hernandez. Every year he would win an award from the Department of Defense, and I thought that was awesome.”
A runner who touts his knack for the half mile and longer distances, Washington was a member of Mercer’s now disbanded men’s cross country team. But when he wasn’t running, he was studying, both on the West Windsor and James Kerney Campuses.
“Even though I took most of my classes at West Windsor, I spent a lot of time at JKC,” Washington said. “Their labs and study spaces were great. I love that Mercer continues to invest in the campus to improve the area and opportunities for students.”
Washington credited a number of MCCC staff and faculty with his success. Among others, Washington looked to Dean Frederick at JKC, and Martha Gunning, Wayne Jackson, Dr. Khalida, Dean Dr. Harrison Morrison, and Joanne Bullock on the West Windsor Campus.
“And that’s just to name a few of the administrators who made my experience at MCCC worth the effort,” Washington said. “These people were good friends and mentors who were there to keep me focused on my academic dreams!”
Graduating in 1989 with a Business Administration degree, Washington continued on to earn his general business degree from Mercer in 1992. Then he transferred to Rider University to pursue an organizational behavior management degree.
“I especially loved Econ I and II with Professor Holt,” Washington raved. “He was another source of inspiration.” After teaching at Mercer, Holt went on to become Vice President of what was formerly known as CoreStates bank before joining Rider’s Executive MBA program.
But Washington’s educational career didn’t end at Rider. He is, and was, a voracious learner who made the jump to Towson University to pursue a master’s degree in Supply Chain Management. At the time, Towson’s program was in its infancy, but the prospect of a long and prosperous career helped Washington through the program.
“I met some intelligent young students and had the opportunity to study the field I had been working in at a higher academic level,” Washington said, adding that the Towson program focused more on direct negotiations, presentations and logistics.
“When I started working, you could just call up Bob at the parts store and strike a deal,” Washington recalled. “The fields have evolved so much since then, and Towson’s program highlighted those changes.”
Those changes took Washington’s career through a variety of industries and companies – wind energy, nuclear, satellites, pharmaceuticals, mobile phones, defense technology - all of which led to his recent hiring at ITW Food Equipment Group, one of the largest international commercial kitchen suppliers.
The scope of his career has taken him around the globe, with stops in Ireland, Sweden, China, Spain, England, Canada and Mexico among other places. Washington highlighted that given the communicative nature of his work, technical and interpersonal skills go a long way to making a successful career.
“China had some of the nicest people in business I’ve ever met,” Washington said. “They were also tough, but they really respected the people they worked with.”
Travel aside, Washington added that one of the best feelings he gets is the surprise of seeing the fruits of his labor around town.
“I’ll walk into a Panera, or Five Guys or any of the hundreds of businesses we support and suddenly realize how much of a hand we have in furnishing their kitchens,” he said.
Despite the prevalence of Supply Chain Management on both the local and international level, Washington admitted that it is still an underappreciated field among college students.
“This is a global field, and a multitrillion dollar industry,” Washington said. “You have to understand tariffs and how other places do business, and Mercer can be the foundation to do that.”