A Georgia Northwestern Technical College graduate overcame a language roadblock in his education to pursue a career in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.

Raul Soto, a native of Cleveland, Tenn., earned his associate degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and was named a semi-finalist for GNTC’s Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) in 2020. He is currently a Supply Chain Development Program trainee at Shaw Industries Inc. in Dalton.

“In my GOAL speech, I talked about having to overcome a language barrier,” he said. “Growing up, it was a challenge learning English while living in a Spanish-speaking household. I managed to overcome this obstacle.”

Soto’s interest in supply chains sprouted during a 10-year stint in grocery retail, he said.

“I worked my way up from front-end clerk to department manager,” he explained. “I gained valuable experience in vendor management, purchase orders, inventory management, forecasting and demand planning.”

After leaving retail, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he learned about military logistics. He said following his honorable discharge, he “stumbled across the supply chain and logistics field.”

While deciding which college to attend, he met with Leyner Argueta, GNTC program director and instructor of Business Management, who discussed the Logistics and Supply Chain Management program with him. Soto said he decided his past work experience aligned well with this program of study.

“The coursework at GNTC taught me key concepts utilized in the supply chain field,” he said. “In addition, the interaction with my classmates was critical, not only to further develop my soft skills, but also to gain a better understanding of the supply chain field through my classmates’ own experiences.”

He excelled in the program. Soto’s GPA was not the only thing that made him an excellent student, said Graceful Beam, assistant dean of Business, Cyber and Public Service Technologies.

“His GPA is the result of his curiosity, his love of learning, and his organized and disciplined attitude,” she stated. “He not only applies himself diligently to his studies, he delights in them.”

Beam said, “Instead of his high performance separating him from the other students, he embraces the chance to share and learn from those around him. He consistently demonstrates strong leadership skills, evident by the way the other students look up to him.”

Soto primarily attended classes on the Catoosa County Campus in Ringgold and the Whitfield Murray Campus in Dalton, he said.

Since completing his associate degree in 2020, he has earned a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management and Logistics at Georgia Military College and is now pursuing his master’s degree in Supply Chain Management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, he said.

He also serves on GNTC’s Logistics and Supply Chain Management Advisory Committee.

Soto brings a valuable combination of supply chain management experience and knowledge, along with the experience of having been through GNTC’s associate degree program, Beam said.

“He has given great feedback in how our program prepared him for his successful completion of his bachelor’s degree and his admissions to one of the top supply chain management master’s degree programs in the country,” Beam said. “He has also given us great insight into ways we have improved some of our classes to better prepare students for entering the field while they continue their education.”

As a student, he participated in Phi Beta Lambda (PBL). Future Business Leaders of America – Phi Beta Lambda is a nonprofit education association that prepares students for careers in business and business-related fields.

He joined other GNTC PBL students to volunteer at the Northwest Georgia Branch of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, which supports seven counties in GNTC’s service area, as well as Fannin and Gilmer counties.

His education at GNTC and support from his GNTC instructors have helped to pave his path for success as he furthers his education and career. 

Beam encouraged students to further their professional development in the supply chain field, he said. He earned the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) and Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) certifications, which helped him “tremendously” by preparing him for the workforce.

Soto, now a Chattanooga resident, began working at Shaw Industries in August 2022, he said.

“I have the unique opportunity to do four different rotations within the Supply Chain Development Program at Shaw Industries,” he said.

The program will give him exposure into all aspects of the company’s supply chain. He said he is leading a project to improve supply chain efficiency between Shaw’s distribution centers and overseas suppliers.

“Raul is an extremely bright individual that brings knowledge and expertise from multiple fields and unique experiences, said Robbie Wimer, Early Career Program manager at Shaw Industries Inc. “Raul came to Shaw Industries with work experience in department management, the military and an internship with Shaw; however, his knowledge that he brought from the classroom is what helped make him stand out from the rest. His education allows him to be cross-functional in all areas of the business.” 

Wimer praised Soto as hard working, organized, diligent and a curious learner. He is motivated not only to improve processes, but also to make himself better as a person, Wimer said.

“Raul is in a unique position within our Supply Chain Development Program where he must work across all divisions and interact with many teams, but his ability to build trusting relationships and ask questions to understand the process help make him successful,” Wimer said. “I have no doubt that Raul will be extremely successful in his career journey here, and I attribute most of that confidence to his work ethic and determination to be the best.”

Founded in 1962, Georgia Northwestern Technical College is celebrating 60 years of providing quality workforce education to the citizens of northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma or a certificate in aviation, business, health, industrial or public service career paths. This past year, 11,134 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. GNTC has an annual credit enrollment of 8,528 students and an additional enrollment of 2,606 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training and Georgia Quick Start. For more information about GNTC, visit us at www.GNTC.edu. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.