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Moving Quickly

Mountaineer, marathoner and prolific problem solver Shristi Upreti ’05 is always up for a new challenge. The math graduate from Nepal uses her competitive spirit and unquenchable curiosity to help Adidas stay ahead of the game as the second-largest sportswear manufacturer in the world.


She’s held various leadership roles in supply chain management over the last eight years at Adidas, where she currently serves as director of tech consultancy. Upreti leads four teams totaling 24 people in four countries — Colombia, India, Portugal, and at Adidas’ world headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

“It’s a learning journey,” said Upreti. “Together we function as a team of builders — responsible for creating the system that enables the flow of goods around the world.”

Upreti’s teams ensure that Adidas products move through the many layers of the supply chain accurately, efficiently and at the speed of light expected by today’s consumers. The widely differing preferences of a global customer base and unpredictable kinks — or breaks — in the chain require them to be strategically proactive planners and agile problem solvers.

Leading Through COVID Chaos

Managing global logistics is an especially daunting role at Adidas, which sells more than 375 million units of sportswear and nearly 350 million pairs of shoes each year. Add in a global pandemic and the work seems virtually impossible.

But Upreti says the unprecedented challenges of COVID came with a silver lining.

“The positive aspect of COVID is that it forced us to collaborate better across geographies. Before, team members were working more in silos. During the pandemic, instead of waiting for in-person meetings, we learned how to connect and create bonds virtually. That took a lot of effort, but now it’s paying off.”

The pandemic also prompted Upreti to adjust her leadership style. Instead of employing her “hunter’s instinct” to find big opportunities and projects to bring in, she says she adopted more of a methodical Midwest mindset.

“Being assigned to grow my team, I had to take a step back and put in the farmers’ mentality. In Iowa, people prepare the land, sow the seeds, and let them grow — even as they are susceptible to the changes that happen outside of their control. I’m trying to do that with my teams at Adidas — that’s been the big shift for me.”

Finding Her Stride at Simpson

Upreti is quick to credit her Simpson liberal arts education for giving her the critical thinking, problem-solving and leadership skills to thrive in any situation. She honed those abilities participating in The Mathematical Contest in Modeling and doing a Maytag Innovation summer research project on global warming.

She was also involved in Model United Nations and served
as president of Simpson College’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, where she helped lead fundraising efforts to build a home for a Nepal family in need.

The sum impact of her academic and cocurricular pursuits made her Simpson education especially rewarding.

“What I really liked about Simpson was adapting liberal arts learning to serving others. What stood out for me was my senior interdisciplinary research project that focused on community applications. It helped with my leadership and learning to work with people of different backgrounds.”

Though she didn’t participate in varsity sports, Simpson is
also where Upreti became a dedicated runner and proficient swimmer — thanks to a course taught by women’s basketball coach Brian Niemuth. Those early laps in the pool and on the track helped fuel her growing passion for sports that have “made a difference in my life, because they’ve enabled me to connect with people.”

Running with the Best

After Simpson, Upreti made quick career connections, holding a pair of consulting assignments in Minneapolis, before taking a position with a start-up company in Providence, R.I. There she engaged in employing advanced analytics for inventory demand planning with major U.S. retailers.

“That’s where all the science of supply chain management and technology really started coming together for me,” said Upreti.

In 2010, Upreti moved to Germany to pursue personal interests and postgraduate studies in economathematics at the University of Gottingen. She stayed in Germany, picking up her career at Puma for four years before making the leap to Adidas.

She says the sporting industry giants have helped her develop an athlete’s approach to helping her teams consistently excel. “We have a goal as a team to achieve something. Then we come up with a plan and stick to the plan to achieve it. And that gives us a satisfying sense of belonging together.”

For Upreti, building great teams begins with knowing the importance of giving people a chance to show what they can do.

“I had the chance to get my education in the U.S. and that opened the door for me. There are people with great minds all over the world who just need an opportunity. I try to make inclusive hiring decisions and provide an even playing field. And then it’s exciting to see them grow.”