“Don’t underestimate anyone’s ability.”
That advice has stuck with Mark Ippolito for years. He repeats it often, hoping to instill it in his students.
“Don’t underestimate anyone’s ability. No matter how mundane you think someone’s job is, if it’s a job that needs to be done, it needs to be done well. And that individual probably knows something you can learn,” said Ippolito.
As a full-time faculty member at the Kelley School in Indianapolis for nearly 30 years, Ippolito knows a thing or two.
“Regardless of who you’re interacting with on the job, regardless of his or her position, that individual is going to know something you don’t know. And you’re not going to know it until you listen to what he or she has to say,” said Ippolito, a senior lecturer in operations management and director of the Undergraduate I-Core program.
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Ippolito spent several years serving with the U.S. Air Force (from 1970-1973).
He later began his career in operations as a plant superintendent with Sherwin-Williams in Newark, New Jersey, while also receiving his MBA from Seton Hall University.
A promotion led Ippolito and his wife to Cleveland, where he managed production planning for Sherwin-Williams plants across the country.
“What I really like about supply chain is that you can see what’s happening, and you’re able to take action when something happens,” he said.
He says he got a reputation for being the manager who went out into the plant to solve problems, rather than one who sits in his office. In a world before cell phones, Ippolito’s colleagues knew to find him in the plant, talking with employees.
“You need to listen to the people who are working for you. Make it easy for them to talk to you,” explained Ippolito. “You have to go where your people are working. If you’re sitting in an office, you can’t see what’s happening.”
Ippolito and his wife moved to Indianapolis in the early 1980s when he accepted a job at RCA.
While in Indianapolis, Ippolito joined the local chapter of APICS, which is a professional association for supply chain and operations management. He remains a member today, having served as the organization’s president in 1986-1987. It was through his connections with APICS that he first started teaching at the Kelley School. At that time, he was teaching one I-Core class while maintaining a full-time job at RCA.
When RCA was acquired by General Electric in the late 1980s, Ippolito opted not to take a lateral move to another plant and was offered a full-time faculty position at Kelley. He said he anticipated getting back into the industry after several years, but soon realized his love for teaching full-time.
“I really enjoy teaching. It’s incredibly rewarding to see students move out into the industry and do really neat stuff,” said Ippolito. “A few folks came to campus for a Kelley Indy Supply Chain Club meeting, and one of them was my student 20 years ago. It’s gratifying to see it all come full-circle.”
“I always get a kick out of it when a student emails me during an internship and says, ‘This is what you taught us in the classroom! It’s real stuff!’”
“One of the best features of supply chain is that there’s a role for everyone. If you’re a quantitative analytic type, we need you. If you like digging into the numbers, there’s a job for you. If you’re action-oriented, or more externally focused, there are roles for you, too. No matter what your skill-set is, or what you like to do, there’s a job for you in supply chain,” said Ippolito.