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Supplier Diversity

Dell/CSTMBC partnership launches diverse supplier training camp.

Facilitated by a local business council, this mentor-protégé program helps develop M/WBEs. MagRabbit is an early participant


Betty Parston: "A new kind of program to develop the diverse supply base."

Betty Parston: "A new kind of program to develop the diverse supply base."

Betty Parston, senior supplier diversity manager at Dell Inc (Round Rock, TX), notes that Dell has focused on its supplier diversity program since 1986. That's when senior management assigned dedicated, fulltime managers to begin developing a communication and education plan.

The company became a member of NMSDC, WBENC and their local branches, including the Central and South Texas Minority Business Council (CSTMBC), the regional affiliate of NMSDC. Dell diversity managers linked into the corporate procurement and sales and marketing processes, worked on innovative supplier development initiatives and developed communications and outreach strategies.

Dell's tier 2 initiative, asking its prime suppliers to share their spend with M/WBEs, will be expanding this year.

The CSTMBC training camp
A hot new strategy, introduced in 2005, links Dell with CSTMBC, its corporate members interested in promoting supplier diversity, and the M/WBEs themselves. They're taking part in a mentor-protégé "training camp" program.

Parston, one of the originators of the camp, explains how it came about. "I was having a strategy discussion with Dinah Lovett, the CSTMBC president. I mentioned that we wanted a new kind of program to assist in developing the diverse supply base. We thought about a football camp format, and we both got excited by the idea."

Dell developed the content; the program is facilitated by CSTMBC.

The developers are quick to point out that the program is a strictly mentor-protégé relationship. "Neither coaches nor quarterbacks should expect contracts to come out of the training camp," Parston insists. "It is all about education for the participants."

Camp details
The training camp matches CSTMBC-certified minority-owned vendors with large member companies who are interested in bringing in more diverse suppliers. Using football camp imagery, the big companies are the coaches and the diverse suppliers are the quarterbacks they're training.

"A survey of corporate members and MBEs identified the core competencies the big companies had to share and the areas of development opportunity the MBEs wanted most," Parston explains.

The relationship enhances the MBEs' access to local corporations. It also creates additional opportunities for the big companies to increase their spend with diverse suppliers, and helps send the supplier diversity message throughout their organizations. The pilot camp was held in San Antonio, TX last September, with three corporate members and six MBEs participating. CSTMBC and Dell are currently working on a second round to be held this year.

"A unique thing about this program is that there is no set timeframe," Parston explains. "The length of the relationship is based on the need of the MBE. It could last for one week or six months, depending on the gap that needs to be filled."

Going national?
Dell and CSTMBC expect to offer their training camp format to the NMSDC for national use. "We think this could be a model for all the affiliates," Parston says.

Trevor Hildebrand is VP of sales and marketing for MBE MagRabbit, Inc (Austin, TX), a provider of third-party logistics. MagRabbit was one of the first group of participants. "Through this mentor program, a company can gain the skills it lacks and come out a better company than when it started," he says.

MagRabbit for logistics
Tommy Hodinh

Tommy Hodinh

Tommy Hodinh is CEO and founder of MagRabbit. The company offers supply-chain management consulting and custom solutions to highly complex logistics and distribution problems, as well as customer support, distribution, transportation and global freight forwarding services.

MagRabbit has facilities in San Antonio and Dallas, TX as well as Austin; Seattle, WA; Washington, DC; Minneapolis, MN and Chicago, IL. Its diversified portfolio of customers includes Dell, IBM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Trico, HEB, Toyota and GM, plus many of those companies' first-tier suppliers.

When Hodinh started the company fifteen years ago, it was engaged in magnetic software duplication for IBM, Motorola, Novell and the like. Then, he says, "The Internet came along and the demand for software duplication was significantly reduced. When the Internet and the Web took over we had to reengineer our company. We turned to just-in-time fulfillment, order taking and logistics, which is now one of our core services."

His approach was to go to existing customers and ask what else he could do for them. "The whole supply chain is very long and we thought we could take care of the first few steps. The first project we had for Dell was to warehouse parts for them and do just-in-time delivery."

Several Dell execs in procurement and manufacturing helped the new company as informal mentors, he recalls.

Meeting in the community
Through the years, Hodinh took an active part in Austin community affairs. He was one of the founders of the Texas Asian chamber of commerce and the Vietnamese chamber of commerce, and on the founding board of the CSTMBC.

"As a refugee from Vietnam in the 1970s, I feel very fortunate to have built a company and made a good living. So when people ask me to help in the community I can't refuse," he says. "I thank God every day for my success."

He was also on the board of the Austin Children's Museum, and that's where he got acquainted with Dell founder Michael Dell and other company execs. "I met several executives from Dell, and that's how our relationship with the company developed," he explains.

It all worked out fine
Hodinh arrived in the U.S. in 1972 at the age of eighteen. He went to the University of Texas-El Paso where he earned an ME degree, and worked for IBM in Austin for fifteen years in manufacturing, marketing and product development. His wife, also from Vietnam, worked for IBM as a software engineer.

In the early 1990s IBM was having problems. "My career didn't look too good," Hodinh says. "I'm a little guy but very ambitious. My wife and I decided we could live on her paycheck while I started my own company and hoped for the best."

It's all worked out fine, and his wife joined him at MagRabbit two years ago. Today the company has more than a hundred direct employees and is doing business worldwide. Hodinh has completed the NMSDC advanced management program at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

Fulfillment for Dell
MagRabbit is working on several continuing projects for Dell. One, started in 1998, involves warehousing and delivering refurbished Dell products nationwide. "We manage the warehouse and the ship order," Hodinh explains. MagRabbit also warehouses new product orders for direct customer pickup.

It's the American dream
Dell has helped MagRabbit make contacts with other likely clients. Last year, for example, "Through the Dell mentor program they found a business match for us with Office Depot for government delivery services," Hodinh says.

The idea is to help MagRabbit do well so the company can continue to provide logistics services when Dell needs them. "Betty Parston was one of the first Dell corporate diversity managers to realize that if you really want to help MBEs you need to go beyond your own company," he says. "Our other contacts help us get bigger, and then we can handle big projects for Dell that we couldn't do otherwise.

"It's the American dream," Hodinh concludes. "You start at the bottom and work your way up."


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