Since September 2020, Skeleton Technologies has a new VP of Supply Chain, Oliver Kotkas. Before joining, Oliver worked for more than ten years in Estonia and in North America for Stoneridge, a leading designer and manufacturer of highly engineered electronic systems.
- Can you please tell us more about your background and previous experience?
I’m a through and through procurement and manufacturing guy and I really love what I do. Before joining Skeleton, I worked for Stoneridge Electronics for almost 11 years- navigating through the supply chain, commodity management, project sourcing, and ultimately the global commodity strategy functions for the automotive manufacturer. During my time with the company, I also had the chance to spend 1.5 years as an expat in El Paso, Texas, commuting daily across the border to Stoneridge’s Mexican supply site in Juarez and heading a focus factory there. My educational background is from TalTech Logistics and University of Groningen International Business & Management.
- How has your time as a factory manager at Stoneridge's Juarez site benefited you in terms of professional development? What did you enjoy the most there?
My time in Juarez was definitely eye-opening both from personal and professional perspective. Having mostly been somewhat on the other side of the table and making sure from procurement side that factories are equipped with components needed, I got to see how procurement looks like from factories’ point of view and how important it is to have supply chains that work, are efficient and flexible. And of course not only- the hectic life on the shop floor helped me realize how intricate the workings of a manufacturing organization actually are and how much effort actually goes in to making high quality products, on time, with a competitive price. And at the factory, more clearly than ever, I was again reminded that you cannot do anything if you don’t have the right people behind you- both from upper levels as well as across the organization and in your own team. Moreover, I was reminded how crucial it is every day for you yourself to be behind your ideas and beliefs and to keep on pushing when you know what you need to achieve. My time there definitely helped me understand myself better, grow to become more resilient and to listen more to understand the true core of problems before jumping in to solving them.
- Your previous employer had more than a thousand employees worldwide. How different is it to now work for a younger, smaller and fast-growing company?
I guess the biggest difference is getting used to stepping on new paths every day, meaning there are a lot of processes, frameworks that have not yet been fully outlined, but need further enhancements. In a large organization with decades of history, most things are already worked out. In a young company however, a lot is in construction, laying the foundation or even just idea phase. If you want to grow sustainably and make sure you don’t make mistakes that will come back and become an issue in some months or years, you need to work a lot on frameworks and agreements in supplier relationships. Another thing is the crazy fast pace- don’t get me wrong, I know what working a lot means, starting my days in Juarez with 5 a.m. Gemba walks and running around on the shop floor until I didn’t want to see the shadow of my ESD shoes anymore. But with a startup its different. There is so much to be done, invented, and it just can’t be done fast enough. It’s a constant race with time and the palette of topics to be resolved ranges from red to violet every day and all of them seem to land in the important corner.
- How did you hear about Skeleton? What motivated you to apply for a position?
On a lovely July day this summer when I was holidaying in Ireland with my family, I was reached out to by Skeleton's HR Manager who asked if I’d like to have a chat about an open role. Looking into it a bit I was immediately on the edge of my seat and it didn’t take long before I understood this company has a lot of potential. It sounded like a perfect opportunity to jump onboard and combine my procurement background and experience in automotive industry to help Skeleton reach new heights in the procurement and supply chain operations. And of course, the idea of moving from the corporate world to a startup was refreshing to say the least. Luckily, after a few interviews and tests of character, it was a match. And I’m super happy with the choice and where I am today.
- Can you describe your role and tasks at Skeleton?
Me and my team are responsible for Skeleton's procurement and supply chain, meaning we make sure we find the components we need for producing our final products that go to the customer. We need to find components with the best quality and price available on the market, make sure relationships with the suppliers are regulated and our interests protected, and that the components have a path outlined on reaching the manufacturing facilities.
- What do you like to do outside work?
My family is important to me, so I make sure to spend as much as possible quality time with my two daughters and my wife. I must say I’ve enjoyed 2020 as I haven’t traveled this little since I joined Stoneridge after university, and even though traveling Asia and Americas has definitely been wonderful, it is good to take a small break from it and spend more time at home. My way of releasing pressure from the cooker is to work out, so morning gym is a must have for me. I’m usually accompanied by audiobooks and podcasts to get entertained and educated, and in some mornings when a special pick me up is needed, deathcore metal sneaks in. I can’t get by without music and try to visit a couple of concerts every year with my brother who shares the same passion (still trying every now and then to make my 6-year old interested too but with no massive luck so far). And lazy Sunday mornings with last night’s UFC fights are something I really enjoy too (she is already picking up some interest in that section).