To mark World Humanitarian Day, we caught up with Rusudan Gongladze (MSc Procurement and Supply Chain Management, 2019) to find out more about how studying humanitarian logistics at Cranfield kick-started a career ambition to help make a difference in the world.

Shortages of goods caused by the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on global supply chains have served to show that logistics is about so much more than simply moving items from A to B. Now, more than ever, we all realise the role the industry plays in ensuring the supply of vital goods and services to the people that need them.

But, what happens when disaster strikes, and established networks are broken or unable to operate as before?

Humanitarian logistics is a branch of logistics that specialises in organising and managing the delivery and storage of critical supplies during natural disasters or other complex emergencies, with the aim of helping to save and preserve lives, as well as alleviate the suffering of those affected.

For Rusudan Gongladze, choosing to study an elective module in humanitarian logistics as part of her Procurement and Supply Chain Management MSc at Cranfield kick-started a career ambition to help make a difference in the world.

She said: “My first degree was in business administration but it was a very broad subject and I hadn’t decided by the end of it what I really wanted to do. So, I spent some time afterwards working in different roles in various organisations, from NGOs, to government and private sector companies. Most of my roles were in administration, procurement and logistics, which allowed me to see how the same function differs across the different sectors. I saw how key supply chain and procurement was to organisations and to the successful completion of projects.

“I came to Cranfield looking to improve my theoretical understanding and gain more experience, and I was fortunate to receive a Chevening scholarship to cover the cost of my studies.”

Initially, Rusa was focused on a career in commercial logistics, but a choice to study the humanitarian logistics elective module taught by Dr Hendrik Reefke opened her eyes to how her studies could help make a real difference to people’s lives.

“There are so many man-made and natural disasters going on in the world, and humanitarian logistics is crucial for saving lives,” she explained. “It’s not just about getting something from point A to point B, it’s about how you get it there and how fast you get it there. Lives actually depend on the success of humanitarian supply chains, so working in this area you’re not just doing a job, you’re contributing to saving lives and making people’s lives better.

“For instance, in 2015 there was a devastating flood in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, which left many people homeless needing food and accommodation, not even mentioning the severe damage to the environment and infrastructure costing millions of dollars to recover. Successful immediate response was vital to assist those in need and reduce the consequences of this natural disaster. In these sorts of instances, you realize how important it is to have a really good humanitarian supply chain set up, so that you can act immediately and easily deal with all the chaos which accompanies the disaster. If you cannot do it, then it becomes very hard to help those in need.

“It’s a complex field, because you’re always operating under pressure and in uncertainty, but it is also very rewarding knowing that your efforts, however small, are part of the operation that is helping to save lives.”

Rusa is currently working for the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in her native Georgia. The EUMM is an unarmed civilian monitoring mission that was established by the European Union to contribute to the stabilisation of the situation on the ground following the 2008 August war between Georgia and Russia.

“I work as Operations Administrative Officer,” she explained. “I find it very interesting as my work is very diverse. In my role, I have to closely work and communicate with different mission units like asset management, procurement, logistics, three field offices and it helps me to get a good overview of how each unit operates in this type of organisation. I also get the opportunity to go in the field and join the patrols on the ground. Previously I worked in the local government, NGO and commercial sectors, so this is a completely new field, new experience for me.

“It’s important to me that, when I work for an organisation, I’m adding value to the good things that they are doing. I feel very proud to be working for the Mission. The work it does is very important for my country so, by working for the EUMM, I feel like I am contributing to a better future for my country.

“Before I studied at Cranfield, I worked on the British Petroleum South Caucasus Pipeline Expansion Project (BP SCPX), which generated great benefits for the Georgian economy and local communities. I feel very proud to be supporting my country in any way that I can.

“Although I am not working directly in humanitarian logistics at the moment, my current role helps me to develop the knowledge and capacity crucial for my career path.”

Rusa credits the Cranfield MSc with helping develop the critical skills she needed to set her up in her career.

She said: “The course was a great combination of practical and academic work, with simulations, exercises and visits supporting the theory that we learned. Continued support from academic as well as administration personnel was something I also highly appreciated

“I enjoyed studying alongside people from all over the world. It taught me a lot about diversity and cultural sensitivity, which is really helpful in my current role as I work with a very diverse team at EUMM Georgia. Having that experience at Cranfield prepared me for integrating into a diverse, multicultural, multinational team, and I have friends all over the world now thanks to my year at Cranfield.

“I really had an amazing time on the course, and I am so pleased with how much Cranfield keeps in touch with its alumni. I still access the library services, the careers service, and speak to the alumni team. That feeling of continuing to be part of something after graduation is one of the reasons I chose Cranfield in the first place.”

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