Category Archives: Generation Procurement

5 disruptive forces that will keep CPOs awake at night in 2015

CPOs around the world may have some sleepless nights in 2015 as they defend themselves and their companies against powerful disruptive forces.

5 things to keep you awake at night

In the true spirit of social media, I’ll highlight just five of these disruptive forces and have created the convenient “METOO” acronym to cover – Markets, Ethics, Transparency, Optionality and Organisational alignment.

2015 is the time to make sure you have your bases covered in these areas:

Markets – We would be naive if we didn’t expect more market volatility in the coming year.  In 2014 we saw interest rates remain low, the Rouble depreciate 50 per cent, the Australian dollar depreciate 20 per cent, oil prices drop 50 per cent, iron ore prices drop 40 per cent and Chinese growth at its lowest since 2009.

As we are all exposed to the instability of global markets, CPOs will need to decide how to either protect or profit from this volatility.

Ethics – Some leading global retailers had their public reputations shattered last year with revelations about unscrupulous and bullying behaviour towards their suppliers. CPOs will need to have a clear conscience that they are using squeaky clean negotiation techniques and are taking demonstrative actions to ensure their team, and the entire organisation, has a healthy and ethical approach to managing suppliers.

Transparency  – Discovering that one of your third or fourth tier suppliers is involved in corruption, using child labour, unsafe work practices, or substituting lower quality ingredients or parts will be the stuff of nightmares for CPOs in 2015.

A focus on supply chain transparency will see a whole lot of quality assurance consultancies, and other intermediaries, busy in this booming sector of the services economy.  As one of my mentors has always said, “better to know you’re right, rather than hope you’re not wrong”.

Optionality – Talking recently with a federal government defence advisor and the CPO of a leading European telecommunications company, really brought home to me the dilemma of developing and managing suppliers as we move to operating in an era of the “Internet of Things”.

More than ever, we are actually buying technology more so than the actual product or service (think driverless mining trucks – we’re really buying the technology to manage and maintain these vehicles, more so than the trucks themselves).

As technology increasingly becomes the product, we need to keep our options open in order to take advantage of the frenetic pace of change. Our tenders and contracts will need to more broadly define the functionality and utility we require of a product or service, rather than the exacting specifications we know today.

We will also need to ensure we keep our minds, doors and sourcing processes open to engage new suppliers with break-through technologies.  With most contracts being around 3-5 years long, CPOs will need to build optionality into their contracts to ensure they have the agility and can be opportunistic in adapting and adopting new technologies.

Organisational alignment – Procurement teams today are well-versed at “finding the money” and negotiating great deals that should result in bottom line savings.  That’s 101 stuff – our traditional raison d’etre .The trickier challenge has always been to “keep the money” and make sure that contracted savings actually make their way to the bottom line.

Today’s CPO has to work harder than ever to make sure “everyone is on the bus”, utilising negotiated contracts and treating every dollar as if it were their own.

Creating cost-conscious cultures is a huge change management exercise that requires a vastly different skill-set from the CPO’s traditional tool kit.  This challenge, teamed with frequency and voracity of carpet-pulling and direction-changing that will go on in the boardroom and C-suite this year, will require a lot of creative thinking and schmoozing by leading CPOs.

Anyone need a Xanex? (Is that a sleeping tablet?)

If you agree with my thoughts or have want to comment on the forces impacting procurement in 2015 – please Tweet #metoo #bigideas @taniaseary or just respond “me too” on LinkedIn or Procurious.

How to break out of the mould and become an entrepreneur

We’re kicking off our #procuriousactive profile series with David Lawrence from Sydney. We’re profiling (and celebrating) some of our most-active members – Procurious thanks David for all of his support to-date! 

Want to see your name in lights like David? New members should follow our primer to get more out of the site, while existing users can extend their enjoyment with these tips.

Procurious member David Lawrence

Having taken a much-needed career break in June 2014, David looks back to his time at Sensis where he was responsible for National Logistics, Distribution, Publishing & Print.

Procurious asks: What excited you most about your role?

David answers: A number of things to come to mind. Firstly, getting a great result for the business (not always the lowest price) is always satisfying after a long process. In addition, working with and developing suppliers to improve their business to benefit the entire supply chain and by providing leadership through working with the team to develop “our” skills and competencies are also rewarding.

I say “our” as I am continually amazed at what I learn from those around me. I don’t pretend to know it all and enjoy learning from others, even if they are a new starter straight out of university. In summary, it is the people side that excites me, as without relationships, the business world would stop. 

Procurious: When did you decide on procurement as a profession, and what attracted you to it?

David: Around 10 years ago, I was working as an operations manager with FedEx. Well known for their training and development of people, which is based on a People, Service, Profit philosophy, I felt that at the end of my tenure I was hamstrung to a certain degree, more number cruncher than entrepreneur. I felt that I was missing the interaction with suppliers and the ability to run my own process from start to end. I probably wanted to break out of the mould that FedEx developed and become more of an “entrepreneur” in my career.

While the Procurement profession still offered me the opportunity to build on my people skills it also allowed me to develop a more strategic approach to business. Within the procurement cycle I was afforded the opportunity to build business cases, to develop strategic plans and to make my own mark on business success. With cost of goods and general expenses being a significant percentage of business spend, what better way to contribute to business success than getting your hands dirty in influencing these areas.

Procurious: Can you recall a moment you’re been especially proud of professionally?

David: In 2013 after a two year process spanning the globe my team delivered significant savings to the business. While the business was extremely overjoyed at this result I was more circumspect. It wasn’t the savings that satisfied me, it was the way in which we worked with the incumbent supplier. A large number of people were made redundant and a plant was shut down, however the professionalism and strong relationship between my team and the supplier was evident in the way they worked with us; to reduce our costs at their own expense. We always treated the relationship on a strategic level and in the end  it led to both of us decoupling that relationship.     

Procurious: How did you first find out about Procurious, and what prompted you to become a member?

David: From memory I think it was the “a new website coming soon” campaign. I became a member as it was another avenue to learn from others. The news articles and questions are a great way to interact and gain knowledge. As I noted above, I don’t pretend to know it all so reading others opinions is enjoyable. 

Procurious: What are you doing to help spread the word?

David: I believe that I have encouraged two people to join up. Discussing the site is easy as it is not a personality contest nor a place for producing the best one liners or clichéd sayings. Getting people interested is easier when the discussions on Procurious are based on fact and real world experience.   

Procurious: Some would argue that procurement suffers from an image problem; do you feel that there needs to be more education around the profession?

David: I believe that it is more the dynamic of the business world rather than procurement itself. Image problems stem from the functional silos that exist. Operations versus Sales, Customer Service versus Logistics, Marketing versus Procurement, (Everyone versus Finance!), are traditional sore points in business relationships.

As Deming noted, silos and management are the biggest inhibitors to improving business performance. To fix the image problem requires fixing the dynamic within your business. Procurement leaders need to build internal relationships, demonstrate what value they add, operate cross functionally and support the business strategy. Image problems will exist if Procurement cant demonstrate how it is contributing to the business.

Procurious: Do you foresee any particular challenges in 2015 for the profession?

David: Making sure that Procurement remains relevant to the business with demonstrable results. With the global economy still stagnating, procurement professionals need to be agile and innovative in their approach to delivering on these results.

Procurious: And finally, if you had to sum procurement up in three phrases – what would they be?

Innovative and Agile

Internal and external Partnership building

Quantifiable and strategic results

Thanks David! We couldn’t have put it better ourselves. 

Tim Cook: From Supply Chain Management to CEO

Is Apple CEO, Tim Cook, procurement’s greatest ambassador?

One of the key goals of Procurious is to improve the image of our function.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, procurement’s greatest ambassador?

It’s fair to say procurement has received a bad wrap over the years. We’ve been dubbed corporate policemen, paper pushers, roadblocks, as well as a raft of other unflattering names we dare not mention.

Thankfully, due to the innovation and hard graft of procurement professionals, the function is shedding this negative image and starting to become recognised as an integral part of any successful business.

Perhaps the greatest exemplar of procurement’s ascendancy to date is Apple CEO Tim Cook.

In 1998 Tim was the vice president of Corporate Materials for the Compaq computer company, a role that that saw him hold responsibility for the organisation’s procurement and inventory operations. Despite having no real intentions of leaving this role, the enigmatic Steve Jobs managed to convince Tim to take on a role at Apple (pre iMac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone).

Tim’s performance at Apple was stellar, particularly from a procurement point of view. In his authorised autobiography of Steve Jobs, Walter Issacson described Cook’s methodical approach to supplier rationalisation and inventory management.

“Cook reduced the number of Apple’s key suppliers from a hundred to twenty-four, forced them to cut better deals to keep the business, convinced many to locate next to Apple’s plants, and closed ten of the company’s nineteen warehouses. By reducing the places where inventory could pile up, he reduced inventory. Jobs had cut inventory from two months’ worth of product down to one by early 1998. By September of that year, Cook had gotten it to six days. By the following September, it was down to an amazing two days’ worth. In addition, he cut the production process for making an Apple computer from four months to two. All of this not only saved money, it also allowed each new computer to have the very latest components available.”

The procurement and supply chain decisions made by Cook highlight the critical importance of procurement to Apple’s success. The strength of the company (and arguably its competitive advantage) has been in building and managing a complex network of suppliers that the company has successfully leveraged to produce ground-breaking technology products. Put simply, without the supply network, there is no product.

Cook’s performance in Apple’s supply chain clearly caught the attention of Steve Jobs who gave the follow recommendation of Cook during his departure from the firm.

“I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.” Steve Jobs

The promotion of Cook to CEO shows that the board of Apple understands the critical importance of external suppliers as a source of innovation for the company. Apple clearly sees the procurement function as the conduit to successfully managing these relationships and ensuring the future success of the business.

Apple is the world’s most valuable brand, has undergone a remarkably successful business transformation and has produced products that have changed the way we interact with each other and the world around us. With so much of this success being attributed to great procurement practices, could there really be a stronger endorsement for our function?

“Tim Cook came out of procurement which is just the right background for what we needed.” Steve Jobs

Do you have the soft skills to deliver on strategies?

Today we’re talking about soft skills.  We are all aware of the need for us all to be technically proficient at what we do, however more and more the drive for us is to drive and build relationships, indeed it’s often cited as one of the most important aspects of what we do.

Do you have the necessary soft skills to succeed?

A recent Deloitte CPO survey identified that globally 57 per cent of CPOs consider that their teams do not have the required skills to deliver on the strategies. Potentially this is because of the lack of the relationship and soft skills that are required to make connections with individuals.

The Faculty’s recent research on procurement capability discusses the increasing need for soft skills within procurement: “As the category management process matures, procurement leaders are shifting their focus from core concerns (cost, delivery, quality and compliance) to supplier relationship management. There is a recognition that effective relationship management has the potential to improve performance in all of these areas and drive supplier innovation and value.” Stay tuned for more articles on The Faculty’s research findings around procurement capability and soft skill development.

Your grandmother may have always told you that you never get a second chance to make a good impression, well the writers at Harvard Business Review beg to differ. BTW the “Gordon” the article refers to is not me!

In this article they suggest that when people view others they do through a series of lenses, these are trust, power, and ego.

  • The trust lens is employed when people want to figure out if you are friend or foe. Perceivers answer that question by tuning in to two particular aspects of your character: your warmth (your expression of friendliness, respect, and empathy), which suggests that you have good intentions, and your competence (evidence that you are intelligent, skilled, and effective), which shows that you can act on your intentions.
  • To get someone to see you accurately through her trust lens, project warmth and competence
  • The power lens comes into play when there is a disparity of power, especially when the perceiver has more than you do. He or she gazes through this lens to assess your instrumentality: “Prove yourself useful to me, or get out of my way.”
  • To create the right impression in your perceiver’s power lens, be sure to demonstrate your instrumentality at every reasonable opportunity.
  • The ego lens gives the perceiver a sense of who’s on top. Subconsciously, people often want confirmation that they, or their group, are superior to other individuals or groups.
  • To be seen positively through the ego lens, be modest and inclusive. Go out of your way to affirm the strengths of others, and try to create a sense of “us,” so that your perceiver can celebrate your achievements rather than feel threatened by them

If you started off on the wrong foot and need to overcome a bad impression, the evidence will have to be plentiful and attention-getting in order to activate phase two thinking. Keep piling it on until your perceiver can no longer tune it out, and make sure that the information you’re presenting is clearly inconsistent with the existing ideas about you.

A common theme we hear is to try and influence senior leaders within the business about the value of procurement or a specific strategy. A recent podcast I was listening to discussed the importance of getting the boss to buy in. There is a written piece to accompany this too.

The piece discusses that most managers struggle to sell their ideas to people at the top. They find it difficult to raise issues to a “strategic” level early in the decision-making process—if they gain entry into such conversations at all. Studies show that senior executives dismiss good ideas from below far too often, largely for this reason: If they don’t already perceive an idea’s relevance to organizational performance, they don’t deem it important enough to merit their attention. Middle managers have to work to alter that perception.

The piece highlights and expands on key tactics, these include tailoring your pitch, framing the issue, managing emotions on both sides, getting the timing right, involving others, adhering to norms, and suggesting solutions.

Let’s take a closer at involving others – while seeking input from multiple individuals can aid decision making, it can also fail as we select the wrong team members. The following piece from Harvard Business Review is all about avoiding this and how to make under-performing teams actually deliver what was desired.

The main issues that go wrong in groups are:

  • Groups do not merely fail to correct the errors of their members; they amplify them.
  • They fall victim to cascade effects, as group members follow the statements and actions of those who spoke or acted first.
  • They become polarised, taking up positions more extreme than those they held before deliberations.
  • They focus on what everybody knows already—and thus don’t take into account critical information that only one or a few people have.

The report goes on to suggest ways to make groups work better:

  • Silence the leader
  • “Prime” critical thinking.
  • Reward group success.
  • Assign roles.
  • Establish contrarian teams.

As ever you can subscribe directly to the sources I have identified here (nothing is my copyright), and if you wanted to discuss please feel free to contact me via Procurious, or follow me on Twitter.

5 point checklist for a great procurement boss

What are the qualities that make a great procurement boss?

Gossip, scorekeeping and throwing you out of the office certainly don’t sound like the traits of a great leader… but read on and you may change your mind.

How to be a great boss

I’ve been told that in this day and age employees choose bosses, not companies, when choosing their next job.  In 2014, our Procurious community provided their thoughts on what makes a great procurement boss.  So, as we kick off the New Year, I thought I would share five things I think you should look for when selecting your next procurement boss.

Ask yourself, are they a CPO who:

  1. Kicks you out of the office.  As helpful as water cooler chit chat and Google can be for finding answers to your questions, there is nothing more valuable than getting out of the office and meeting with your customers and suppliers.  Your internal customers will be impressed that you have made the effort to come and visit them and understand how they use the product or service you are buying for them.  Similarly, actually visiting a suppliers’ office or plant will help you understand a lot more about that category you buy and identify new ways to add value.
  2. Fills you in on the goss’.  While it’s not appropriate for your boss to share all the intricacies of what’s happening within the upper echelons of your business.  It’s important that you know enough corporate gossip so that you can expertly manoeuvre yourself and your projects through the minefield of personalities and relationships that make up your business.  Stakeholder engagement is one of the most important skills required to be a successful procurement professional, so understanding “the lay of the land” is critical to your success.
  3. Helps you keep score.  Whoever you are in an organisation, you need to demonstrate the value you are delivering.  In procurement, this often means savings, but it should mean so much more than that.  Your boss should work with you to explain how your role links to the delivery of the overall business strategy and how all the different dimensions of your role deliver value – efficiency, productivity, innovation, customer service and other non-cost related value drivers are all important conversations to your CEO.
  4. Has a game plan.  Yes, your boss should have an overall plan for how their team is delivering against the overall business strategy, but they should also have a plan for you – both for what you need to deliver and how you need to develop in the coming year.  The best CPOs I know are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop.  They send their people out to be trained up in the skills they need and to build peer networks that will develop their leadership skills.  The worst CPOs keep their category managers locked away from the rest of the world in fear that their people will be poached.  A great CPO doesn’t need to worry about this, because they know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged… and retained.
  5. Is a bit of a procurement rock star.  If your CPO is well known and has a strong peer network, this provides you with a type of insurance policy that they know what they’re talking about and will hopefully be a great teacher.  However, you need to be careful that they’re not so committed to building their own profile out on the speaking circuit that they’re not providing enough support to their team.  A healthy balance between managing their internal and external relationships should provide you with a leader that connects you and your organisation with the outside contacts it needs to “stay in the loop”, while keeping everyone on track within your organisation.

How you are going to assess your potential new boss against this checklist when you are outside the organisation? This is where your network becomes invaluable.  You will know someone who knows someone (use LinkedIn or Procurious to see the connections) who has worked for your target boss.  Contact them, have a chat, see how the CPO measures up.  The most telling sign of success is how the CPO’s employees have been promoted both within and outside the organisation…

Good luck!

The building of Telstra man James Chalupa

Telstra man James Chalupa has taken deliberate steps to look more closely at his personal brand and what it means to him.

James Chalupa of Telstra

Taking his own brand more seriously has not only helped him network with a bunch of hugely influential industry colleagues, he’s also shared and picked up useful new snippets of information that has helped him tackle his role, too.

The Senior Vendor Management Specialist for the country’s major telco agrees that procurement professionals need to consciously consider how their own brand affects their ability to tackle their role.

“When I first started down this path, I started taking LinkedIn more seriously, extending my network as I met someone I wanted to stay connected with. I’m always trying to finesse information on LinkedIn and make sure it’s up to date and accurate. It’s just a really great tool for people to learn more about what I’ve done and what I’m working on now,” James says.

He’s also paid for higher LinkedIn subscriptions from time to time to further build his network.

James also makes sure he’s across relevant industry news and articles and is an active part of the broader procurement profession, fronting up to networking functions and industry events whenever possible, including The Faculty roundtable events.

“I’ll head along to breakfast events, where I’ll be rubbing shoulders with other procurement professionals from major brands. It’s extremely valuable to be at those events, because you’ll always meet someone interesting or learn something new.”

And while attending industry events isn’t specifically part of his job, he thoroughly enjoys the prospect of sharing thoughts and experiences with his industry colleagues.

“I’m a bit of an extrovert, so I really enjoy these sorts of opportunities. For me, personal branding is about being an active part of the broader profession. It’s about connecting with people and sharing your experiences of procurement. People I meet will share information about what they’re working on, and I’ll talk a little about what I’m working on too, within reason,” he says.

“When some of us get together and start to talk about what’s holding us back when it comes to technology, for example, and we’re all contributing to that conversation, you can get a very effective outcome pretty quickly. Someone will always know something that you didn’t know about a certain area.”

Taking a considered approach to personal branding has been hugely beneficial not only to his ability to connect with others, but his ability to do his job, James says. A recent conversation with a procurement professional working for a global FMCG brand about global sourcing initiatives revealed a new approach that fitted well with what Telstra was already working on, which prompted the company to look into more closely.

Procurement at forty thousand feet – Qantas in the spotlight

Qantas has a fleet of procurement professionals keeping the iconic Australian brand in the air, and Cassie Mackie is a key part of that team.

Cassie Mackie from Qantas Airlines

As Portfolio Category Manager – Aircraft Cabin, she’s responsible for the end-to-end procurement and lifecycle management of Aircraft Cabin product categories including seats, inflight entertainment, connectivity, cabin electronics and cabin interior.

It’s a mammoth role, which puts her in charge of procurement on behalf of the Qantas Group Aircraft, including Qantas Domestic, Qantas International, Jetstar Branded businesses and other Qantas Group airlines.

The Sydneysider is in charge of a team of category management professionals, who all work with her to develop and deliver on all aspects of the source-to-contract and contract-to-supplier relationship management processes.

Cassie has been with Qantas since 2008 in a range of procurement roles.

“I can see a tangible connection that my role has on the business and specifically on our customers. I love that no day ever feels like ‘groundhog day’ and that I’m constantly challenged. Most of all, I love that I work with a diverse group of people that are incredibly talented at what they do and are always in pursuit of excellence.”

Like many, Cassie fell into procurement when living in London. She had the experience to consider a job in the field, with a Bachelor of Arts in Asian and International Studies under her belt. She also speaks Mandarin Chinese.

“I distinctly remember seeing a job advertised on the Australian High Commission website for a Procurement Officer with Defence Material Organisation. At the ripe old age of 20, I phoned Dad back in Australia, and asked him what procurement was. He told me it was basically like shopping, and that was it. Now, 10 years later, I’ve never looked back.”

She credits her parents for mentoring her and always being there to remind her that the world is her oyster. “They’ve always told me that as long as I work for it, I can have whatever I’ve ever wanted. I’ve had formal and informal mentors and inspirational people who have helped me to progress through my career and contemplate the future. I’ve also had some not so inspirational leaders in past experiences that have helped me see exactly what I don’t want to be, which I’ve learned from.”

She advocates the importance of good relationships with business partners and suppliers, and says some of the most challenging and difficult negotiations have ended up being the most rewarding.

Faculty CPO of the Year mentors CIPS Young Procurement Professional of the Year

What do you get when you put two award-winning women of procurement together?

Billie Gormon, Bree Pitcher, Visna Lampasi

Inspired by the Women in Procurement panel at the 2013 CIPS Australasia Annual Conference – four women blazed a trail for a new breed of mentoring program. Just under a year later the Australasian pilot of the global Women in Procurement has become a reality – the program has been designed to connect future procurement leaders (both female & male) with female role models they don’t necessarily have access to in their sector or region. There is also hope that it will address some of the disparity found in the percentages of women in procurement roles, into the future.

Those  four motivated women were Linda Eames (Head of Group Procurement, NRMA), Sommer Baxter (Director Procurement, PwC), Carrie McCafferty (Category Manager, Westpac), and Sarah Collins (CPO, Roads and Maritime Services).

With this fresh in mind, enter Billie Gorman (Manager Procurement Excellence at Thiess), who connected the 2014 Young Procurement Professional of the Year with another award-winner – Visna Lampasi (The Faculty’s CPO of the Year).

Bree Pitcher won the CIPS Young Procurement & Supply Chain Professional Award at the recent 2014 CIPS Procurement Awards in Sydney – she will be mentored by Visna Lampasi over the next twelve months.

Procurious talked to both women following Billie’s introduction, quizzing them on their wins, the future, and importance of the mentorship program.

Procurious asks: Let’s talk the power of networks – why do you invest time in growing your network?

Visna answers: Skilful networking, which these days is far more than shaking hands and introducing yourself, is a powerful marketing approach which can accelerate the access to opportunities as well as sustain success.  From a business perspective, it provides me with the ability to identify and tap procurement talent for future hiring, as well as bringing ideas and people together that would have not otherwise crossed paths.

If fact, it was Billie Gorman (Procurement Excellence Manager at Thiess) from my network who had introduced me to Bree Pitcher at the recent CIPS Procurement Professional Awards dinner in Sydney, Australia and suggested the potential mentoring opportunity.

Procurious: What impresses you about young people starting out careers in Procurement?

Visna: These days, young people have far more resources available and they are utilising them. They are also establishing and leveraging their networks, actively seeking out Mentors (more than one in many cases) and often have a career path already mapped out for themselves which they regularly review and adjust.  When I first started in procurement, there were not many courses available in Australia.  Fortunately, the companies that I had worked for were multi-nationals which gave me access to programs offshore.

Procurious: Why mentor? What are the benefits to you? 

Visna: Mentoring gives me the ability to share my knowledge and experience, which hopefully are useful insights to assist someone with navigating the organisational landscape.   It also gives me the opportunity to give back to the procurement profession, as well as the satisfaction that I am helping someone to achieve their professional goals.

Procurious: Do you have any top tips for others wanting to position themselves as a great mentor?

Visna: Outside of being qualified on the relevant subject matter and interested in the development of others, a mentor needs to display the highest of ethical standards, be a good listener and be able to steer, guide and inspire the mentee rather than direct and control.

The American author William Arthur Ward said it best – “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires”.

Procurious: How has mentoring changed since you first started your career?  

Visna: Mentoring is utilised more nowadays than in the past.  Many organisations and professional bodies offer formal mentoring programs which are well structured.  For example, it would not be unusual for the two individual’s to enter into a Mentoring Agreement, along with having documented Mentoring Action Plans which are reviewed periodically throughout the relationship to ensure that they are on track.

Procurious: Did you have any mentors on your way up?  Do you still now? 

Visna: Fortunately for me, I did have a number of senior male mentors during my career who took me under their wing. This was particularly important to me, as the majority of my career had been spent in male dominated industries. Up until most recently, I also had a female Executive Coach assigned to me by my previous employer as part of their senior executive leadership program.  Whilst I am in between mentors at the moment, I still keep in contact with those that have helped me throughout the different stages of my career.

Bree Pitcher

Procurious asks: What does it mean to have CPO of the Year as your mentor?

Bree answers: I am very fortunate to have Visna as a mentor. It is clear that she has achieved so much in her career to date and I look forward to spending time with her and learning from her wealth of knowledge and experience. The opportunity will greatly assist me in developing further as a young professional which in turn will help me to progress my career and achieve my future goals.

Procurious: How did you get into Procurement?

Bree: I, like many others in the field, stumbled across the procurement profession. As a soon to be university graduate I by chance met a representative from the Queensland Government Procurement Office at a careers fair held on campus. As soon as I heard about what was involved I knew it was the career for me. I applied and was successful in obtaining a placement in the Queensland Government Procurement Professional Graduate Development program placed at Government Owned Corporation Tarong Energy now Stanwell Corporation.

7 Years on, I feel so very fortunate to be part of such an exciting profession. I enjoy the challenges of my role each and every day and thrive on the opportunity to make a measurable impact and difference in my organisation.

Procurious: As a millennial do you see a change in this new generation of procurement? 

Bree: It is truly exciting to see so many young, capable and passionate professionals involved in the procurement profession. From my own perspective, I am never afraid of a challenge, continuously question the norm and strive to think outside the box, all important and distinctive traits in which I see very often in many of my millennial peers. For this young and enthusiastic generation the profession really does present so many exciting challenges and opportunities to make a difference. The foundation and ever increasing profile for procurement which experienced CPO’s like Visna have worked so very hard to build and foster within business means the opportunities are plentiful and for me, procurement really is the “career of choice”.

Procurious: Networking and making contacts is a valuable career investment! To that end, how are you investing in your network?   

Bree: I cannot stress more the importance of building and fostering a professional network. I am very fortunate to be involved in professional associations such as the SCLAA and CIPS where I have had the opportunity to meet and liaise with likeminded and passionate individuals who are happy to share their knowledge, offer guidance and provide introductions to others in industry. In fact it is through my network that I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Visna.

For me the investment in my network is essential in my development as a professional, however it is equally as rewarding to give back and share my own knowledge and experience with my peers.

Procurious: How did the mentoring opportunity come about?

Bree: I was fortunate to be introduced to Visna at the 2014 CIPS Australasia Awards Dinner through the wonderful Billie Gorman, a procurement professional whom I connected with through my own professional network. Visna was delighted with the announcement that I was the winner of the CIPS Australasia Young Procurement and Supply Chain Management Professional of the Year award for 2014. She kindly offered to mentor me and we have since begun to connect. 

Procurious: What do you hope to get out of the mentoring experience?

Bree: I look forward to working with Visna to help identify areas in which I need to build upon my current skillset and experience to enable me to further progress in my career. My ultimate goal is to one day become a successful CPO leading and inspiring others to make a difference and deliver valuable outcomes for business. I know Visna as the successful professional and CPO of the year that she is will be able to share her knowledge and guide me further with my own career path.

Procurious: And finally, can you provide any tips on finding a great mentor?

Bree: Finding a great mentor and someone who is the right fit for you is not always a short and simple task. There is great potential to meet your next mentor through your professional network connections. I would also encourage those interested in finding a mentor to become involved in professional associations. In particular a number of associations (including the SCLAA) now offer formal mentoring programs whereby mentors and mentees are paired and connected. The important thing to note with regards to mentoring is that you personally have to know what you want to achieve from the experience. Your mentor is there to guide you however you only get out what you put in to the opportunity.

Procurious thanks both Visna and Bree for their time.

If you are interested in registering for the Women in Procurement program you’ll need to complete the registration survey by clicking here.

Jason D’Assisi

He may be a procurement superstar now, but after high school, Jason D’Assisi wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do.

Jason D'Assisi

With a little push from his family, he ended up in real estate, but when an opportunity to do something different came along, he jumped at it and took a role with an import/export organisation. He recalls working his way through the organisation and experiencing the different aspects of procurement, including commercial negotiations and sourcing strategies.

He knew he’d found his niche and in 2008 he began studying supply chain management full-time while also continuing to work full-time in procurement.

He went on to work for KPMG Australia as a procurement specialist and Myer as a category manager, where he gained valuable leadership and management experience.

These days, you can find him at Newcrest Mining, where he’s a supply specialist and category lead for engineering services, CAPEX and site services.

“I didn’t get to where I am today without having experienced teams around me to learn from and develop. Add a supportive wife to the mix and I’ve been lucky enough to have the foundations needed to help me succeed in this industry,” Jason says.

“I’m also ambitious and naturally competitive and both these traits have helped me achieve success in the last five years.”

Jason has worked with some great leaders that have helped him develop invaluable strategic sourcing, negotiation and procurement skills during his career. He’s now on the lookout for a formal mentor to ensure he reaches his full potential.

He’s been told he’s an outcome driven person, which he agrees with.

“I really enjoy reading a supplier and deciphering their real intentions in a negotiation. It allows me to expose their real needs and wants, which I can use in the negotiation process to deliver greater commercial outcomes for an organisation.”

Jason also hopes to be part of a mentorship program so he can share the story with young procurement professionals looking for guidance and career direction.

“Most of us can and do procure in some way in our everyday activities, but procurement for me is more than just the transaction. It’s about developing the skill and ability to get the most out of the negotiation in order to benefit the organisation.”

Meet the woman who’s lighting-up procurement

The ability to transition from procuring cosmetics to lighting products for a hardware retailer makes Natasha Ryan a diverse type of woman.

Natasha Ryan - Bunnings

As the national buyer for the lighting category for Bunnings, her role allows her to source, create and deliver products that customers tell her they want.

“It’s a vibrant role that involves a deep understanding of the fashionable on-trend products within decorative interior lighting, as well as working with technical products.”

Natasha has been in her role since 2009. Previously, she was the national garden décor buyer for Bunnings.

“It’s a privilege to work for a great brand that’s deeply authentic and such a powerful category leader. Bunnings has an incredible strong relationship with Australian consumers that has been built upon trust. People understand and love our brand, and appreciate our low prices and wide product range.”

Natasha has also worked for John Danks, where she revitalised the outdoor furniture and lifestyle products. Prior to this she was hired by Cosmopak to revamp and relaunch redundant teen cosmetic brand KISS.

She has travelled extensively for Bunnings, either buying, sourcing or developing products with manufacturers anywhere from Europe to Asia.

The travel has been a real eye-opener. During her early trips to China, many of the factory owners she visited seem surprised to see a woman in her role.

“My early trips to China were mostly spent in a car travelling long hours to factories. The trips were always exhilarating, driving licenses for the masses were just becoming available as the Chinese became more affluent, traffic lights considered merely a suggestion and new roads being built so quickly that no-one really ever seemed to know which side of the road they should be driving on,” she says.

“I’m very lucky to have met and worked with incredibly talented manufacturers, who have taught me a lot about negotiations, relationships, buying and manufacturing.”

Natasha says that the best thing about working in procurement is bringing products to market and making a difference, adding that it’s all about market disruption.

“I’m passionate about creating products, delivering it to the shop floor and ultimately carving out great customer experiences.”