A former stand-up comedian with three decades of logistics experience, Pete Mento stands out as weirdly unique among top global supply chain executives.
Applying his distinctively diverse expertise and a teamwork mentality, Mento is keeping things fun while advancing tailor-made forwarding solutions in his latest gig – as head of procurement and commercial excellence for the international supply chain of Boston-based furniture and home goods e-commerce leader Wayfair Inc.
Mento, who joined Wayfair last September with extensive hands-on knowledge in freight forwarding, customs and trade policy and, yes, stand-up comedy, shares thoughts with AJOT readers in an exclusive interview:
You have described yourself as “the most unlikely trade nerd you will ever meet.” Why is this so?
I like to think that I’ve worked hard to create a reputation as a person who makes very difficult topics easy to understand by using comedy and storytelling. Trade and logistics can be painfully dry. It really doesn’t have to be.
Global trade is the engine of our modern civilization. When you begin to think of it in those terms, it can get exciting to explore how moving goods across borders has helped to make our world more peaceful and full of opportunity.
I started my life as a deck officer for cargo ships and was God awful at it. I went into comedy, and I was pretty good at that – but hated the lifestyle. So, like a lot of people, I fell into a world of forwarding. There aren’t a lot of formerly seagoing comedy writer/Ivy-educated/economists-customs brokers running global logistics for e-commerce companies.
I think I’m weird – but my therapist tells me it’s healthier to think of myself as “unique.”
How are you applying your broad background – as a customs house broker, trade academic and even standup comedian – and diverse education (including a master’s in government trade theory from Harvard University and a bachelor’s in marine transportation management from Maine Maritime Academy) to your efforts to enhance Wayfair’s supply chain operation?
MMA [Maine Maritime Academy] was really an education on managing projects in difficult environments with motivated teams. Attending the maritime academy remains the most important decision I ever made. It taught me how to improvise while working in multicultural environments.
There was always something very broken – but this was an opportunity to learn and collaborate. It taught me that not everything was a crisis and that people all really want to just have…
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