Category Archives: Generation Procurement

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.”

Rollin’ – this procurement professional keeps you on the road

Emily Hall hit a cross-road in her early 20s when a manager gave her something of an ultimatum.

Emily Hall

After participating in the National Championships for five years in the junior ranks, the keen softballer approached her manager about taking a couple of weeks off to partake in a major tournament. She also indicated that she might need to leave work on time to attend training twice a week.

“He told me that I would have to make a choice – sport or career. I chose career, and have no regrets.”

Emily’s decision has seen her rise through the ranks at Australian corporate giants like Coles Supermarkets, technology giant IBM and Ford Motor Company, among others.

These days she’s leading a team at international toll road owner and operator Transurban in three key areas – sourcing, procurement operations and corporate services (facilities and corporate travel management).

She’ll spend this year embedding the relatively new procurement team into the business, overseeing the deployment of new technology solutions that will increase automation and improve work flows. She prides herself on always delivering results and leaving a legacy.

“Like most, I fell into procurement. My first job was on a graduate program which involved rotations through the broader business. My second rotation was in purchasing, and I ended up in that role for two years. I did a small stint in sales and marketing before coming back to procurement, and have now been in the profession nearly two decades.”

Emily isn’t one to plan too far into the future, which has worked well for her to date.

“I want to continually position myself to learn, improve, deliver results for the organisation I work for, and grab the right opportunity when it comes my way.”

Emily’s sporting abilities haven’t faded completely. She still likes to have a hit of hockey or perhaps basketball on weekends, and doesn’t mind a bit of cycling. But she leaves the sporting tournaments to the next generation, reserving her leadership prowess for work hours.

Cheese-in-a-can inventor turns to procurement

According to legend, when captors of Saddam Hussein searched his bunker, they discovered a high calcium cheese-in-a-can developed by Australian man Peter Force.

Peter Force

While not entirely a procurement project, it’s a story Peter recounts with pride and a wry smile because it shows how far and wide his rather unusual invention was sold around the world.

The product came about while Peter was working in research and development for Kraft, before he got his break in procurement at Parmalat.

Peter actively sought a procurement role with the FMCG behemoth after realising that career progression opportunities were severely lacking in the research and development field.

His Parmalat boss told him he needed to study business to get a break in procurement, which he did. He already had a Bachelor of Food Science and Technology, where he gained honours for inventing a fat-free cheese.

Then there’s the Advanced Diploma in Business Management and a Diploma in Project Management, a Graduate Diploma in Purchasing and Supply and a Graduate Certificate of Writing, Editing and Publishing. Whew.

“I told the procurement manager at Parmalat I wanted to work for him. He took me seriously after he happened to catch me in a heated debate with someone in marketing, saying he could see I had the backbone for the job. When a job became available, I applied for it and was successful, so switched to the dark side.”

He recalls a trip to China for Parmalat to audit the quality of strawberries destined for the company’s Vaalia-branded yoghurt. “I told my mates I went to China to pick fruit, which was kind of true.”

The keen angler has also worked in rail, government, mining and energy industries. He now works for AGL in the merchant energy division, which is one of Australia’s leading renewable energy companies.

Procurement is a fine balance between getting what you want, and being nice, he explains.

“I like people, and sometimes they like me back. Either way, my aim is to get a better deal with a supplier, but I also know we’ll need to continue working together, so I don’t want to upset the relationship.

“Other times, I need to tell suppliers when their bid has been unsuccessful, but I always want to bid next time I go to market so I’m nice about it.”

On a mission to challenge procurement’s misconceptions

A few months into a year-long work placement role with Mercedes-Benz, Emily Gloyns admits she was ready for a new challenge.

Emily Gloyns

“The challenge was no longer there, so I began shadowing buyers to better understand their roles. I expanded my role by supporting them with drafting RFx documents and analysis tasks.”

Her initiative paid off. Emily was promoted to Graduate Buyer seven months into the work placement and before completing her Bachelor of Business. As Graduate Buyer, she was responsible for the entire marketing and travel categories for the luxury car marque.

She thrived in the role, which allowed her to work with lead buyers in Germany on major global contracts.

Emily was tapped on the shoulder by EnergyAustralia a couple of years later, where she’s currently the Category Lead for ICT, looking after telecommunications, software and hardware. In the next few years, she hopes to be in a managerial role.

While Emily is grateful she was curious enough to follow around those Mercedes-Benz buyers and ask questions, she admits to being frustrated by the misconception that the procurement industry is filled with either dull or grumpy people with the solitary goal of saving money for the business, regardless of whether it compromises on quality or end result.

“What I love about procurement is that it’s so easy to change these misconceptions. It’s all about the approach you take with your stakeholders and vendors. It’s fun to work with a diverse stakeholder group and vary your approach depending on their personality and their objectives in their role.

“I guess you could say I love the people side of procurement, as it can be the most challenging. And I love a good challenge.”

Her main focus this year is stakeholder management and category strategy planning. She also plans to invest more time in keeping up to date with the ICT industry.

Outside of work she loves cooking, and admits to being a serious chocoholic. “I love having a holiday planned too, whether it’s an overseas trip or a visit to somewhere local I haven’t been before.”

‘Don’t be intimidated by the people you respect’

Marissa Brown features in the next of our Generation Procurement series.

Marissa Brown

A bold approach and hard work has seen Marissa Brown go far in the nine years since she joined the procurement profession.

She showed strong initiative early, applying for a role as a senior contracts manager at BAE Systems after university, knowing it was out of league.

“I wrote a marketing piece on myself as the cover letter. It worked. Although they didn’t offer me the role, they wanted to meet me, and offered me a procurement role, as they were developing a graduate program. I was the first to start six months later. ”

Next, she moved into BAE’s communications division, managing the procurement requirements and relationships with major suppliers.

“There were lots of travel perks, including trips to the UK or US every three months visiting facilities that manufactured satellite communications infrastructure for high priority maritime platforms and ground based networks.”

She’s also worked for Leighton Contractors and Suzlon Energy Australia, and now holds a Market Senior Lead Role at BP, which puts her in charge of retail capital expenditure for BP service stations across Australia.

“It’s different from previous roles because I drive past BP sites every day, knowing I play a significant part in driving change that impacts the look and feel of a site and enhances the customer experience,” Marissa says.

“There’s never a dull moment, and you’re constantly interacting with people from varying industries and professions. I don’t think I could do a job where I just sit in an office every day working in isolation. Procurement gets you interacting with senior leaders, and enables you to drive changes that have fundamental impact on the business, not just to the bottom line, but operational efficiencies and improving the customer experience.”

With a commerce degree under her belt, she set a goal to complete her Masters of Supply Chain Management (gaining honours) before she was 30, which she finished in 2013.

She’s most certainly bold, explaining that when in the same room as speaker and well-respected procurement professional Stephen Rowe at a CIPSA event six years ago, she had to introduce herself. Stephen still mentors her today.

It’s important not to be intimidated by senior leaders that inspire you, she says, urging others never to underestimate the value of a mentor.

“Since meeting Stephen, I’ve made connections with other senior leaders, who have also been informal mentors to me. I can’t put into words how valuable this has been not only from a professional perspective, but more importantly, from a personal development perspective.”

Problem solver by nature? Procurement’s for you

A career in procurement has opened countless doors for Ashish Srivastava.

Ashish Srivastava

The Chicago-based career professional recently transitioned into a new role that puts him in charge of ICT Parts & Service in North America, where he spends his time sourcing and buying technology services and products.

This year, he wants to build and grow a North American-focused IT organisation that’s fully capable of delivering to his business needs.

The new role comes after a decade of industry experience in managing and delivering large and complicated system integration and transformation programs for Fortune 500 clients in financial services, healthcare and automotive sectors.

It’s no wonder he landed such a remarkably complex role. He’s well versed in client relationship management, and can practically develop a strategic roadmap with his eyes shut.

Procurement appeals because he’s a problem solver by nature. He loves his role because of the high levels of ambiguity and the large scope he’s given.

He names integrating the technology platforms of two large US banks after a merger as his greatest professional achievement.

“This was a very long and complicated process of leading multi-platform, geographically distributed technology and process landscape. And 18 months later, everything worked like magic.”

Ashish is an enterprising type. While at Melbourne Business School, he noticed that the career opportunities were geographically limited to Australia. So, he developed a program called Asia Career Track, which sent students interested in a career in Asia on a short trip to meet various potential employers and engage in a productive dialogue with them.

The program was hugely successful, enabling some graduates to land jobs in companies like Apple, Standard Chartered and Louis Vuitton. His program has now been adopted as an ongoing initiative run by the Melbourne Business School.

When he’s not at work, you can find Ashish strumming his guitar, reading a book or listening to topics on world affairs, economics or business trends.

“I’m most comfortable in the company of people who like to discuss a variety of topics over drinks, coffee or dinner.”

Following in the footsteps of Richard Branson…

The words of Sir Richard Branson were ringing in his ears when Ben Briggs accepted a job offer a few years ago. He really wasn’t sure how he would ever be able live up to expectations, but wanted nothing more than to give it a shot.

Ben Briggs wanted to be the next Richard Branson

So, he fronted up on the first day as the global commodity role at General Motors in Detroit, aged 27, and began working. He was one of the youngest managers in the company. It was huge, by anyone’s definition.

“I remember Sir Branson saying that if someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later. And that’s what I did.

“Despite having strong technical skills, I believed at the time I was short on leadership skills, predominantly due to my age. This was not the case however, but when you’re 20-something, you often doubt your own abilities – or at least question them.”

Saying yes has seen Ben rise to the role of head procurement honcho at Melbourne’s Crown Resorts, where he’s working to improve cost efficiencies, quality, delivery and technological benefits to one of Australia’s largest entertainment groups. He’s been in the profession 15 years and has worked on both the cost and revenues sides of the operation.

Ben describes procurement as a dynamic and fast-paced industry with significantly varying stakeholder requirements, which creates daily challenges.

But juggling his first child with his role managing a major restructure to better align procurement operations is easily his biggest achievement to date. “Both were occurring at the same time, and each had their challenges,” he muses.

Crown Resorts is a fantastic place to work, he says.

“You’re constantly challenged. What’s also interesting is we’re now playing a pivotal role in finding ways to improve revenue uplift via our sourcing activities, creating new skills and creative thinking in the team.”

Ben loves overseas travel to experience different cultures. He also competes in marathons in his spare time.

“In all aspects of your life, I believe it’s important to back yourself, be committed, have passion and be a good listener, as these key traits will greatly steer you to success in whatever you do – at whatever age.”

Can you be a creative and still excel in procurement?

“Beware the team building exercise” 

At first, Karen Carmichael wasn’t sure that her creative streak would fit with the serious business of procurement. She loves to sing and dance in amateur theatre, which means dressing up.

Karen Carmichael

“So, beware the team building exercise, as you will need to dress up in some way. During my career I’ve dressed up as a leopard on stage for a divisional conference, I have been a penguin, the Mad Hatter, the Wicked Witch of the West, Santa’s Elf, the Starlight Star and more. My team and I have walked through Sydney dressed as princesses and Mexicans.

“How has this shaped my professional journey? Not really sure, but I truly believe that we work with people, and people need to have fun where they work, or why get out of bed?”

Karen was most recently the Head of the Procurement Team for Singtel Optus and specialises in transformational and digital change. The experienced finance executive has a diverse career spanning retail, telco, manufacturing and engineering.

The qualified CPA was also awarded the Who’s Who Worldwide Financial Management Professional of the Year 2012 for her achievements.

She’s now moved into consulting to help other organisations achieve excellence in their procurement function.

Karen is a problem solver who loves a challenge and passionately believes there’s always room for improvement.

“I love diversity because I get bored easily. I love to inspire people and watch them reach their true potential. Never be afraid to do something difference, even if you’re not clear where it will lead you. Who knows, you may end up in procurement, like I did.”

She wishes she could change people’s perception of what she does for a living.

“The function of procurement is still largely seen as an administration task focused on cost-cutting. But used correctly, it’s a truly strategic competitive advantage that can help business achieve their goals and drive better value from their supplier base so that customers receive what they really need at the best possible value.”

Karen also likes to make a difference to the world. She was a corporate mentor for student refugees from war torn countries or whose families struggle with substance abuse or domestic violence in 2007-2009.

At the time, Karen was being treated for breast cancer. A number of the intellectually and physically handicapped students from the support unit of the school presented her with turbans to keep her then-bald head warm.

“It was the most humbling experience of my life and one I accredit for my speedy recovery.”

Procurement at 160bpm: fast cars and high-stakes deals

From car marque to bank brand…

A decision to lunch in one of Cincinnati’s most historic suburbs while on a buyer training mission could have cost Daniel Filipovic more than just the bill.

He and a couple of colleagues hadn’t realised that the restaurant they’d agreed upon was located in one of the most dangerous suburbs in the city.

“No sooner had we parked the car and got out, I was being complimented about how great my jacket looked by a couple of the locals – and not in the friendly sense. Needless to say we make a brisk walk back to the car and hastily made our way back to the hotel, thankfully still my jacket and myself intact,” Daniel says.

Daniel Filipovic
Daniel Filipovic pictured here with his jacket still intact.

“Really, we should have paid more attention to the abandoned buildings and bonfires prior to getting out of the car!”

It was quite an eye-opening experience for the Melburnian, who has a double degree in Commerce & Arts, with majors in Electronic Commerce and Public Relations from Deakin University.

“Although I’m not sure how much actual study I did during those degrees, those undergrad days were quite a blur, to say the least.”

After college, he started his career in engineering support roles, and eventually an account executive role, where he worked alongside procurement specialists.

An opportunity opened up to join the purchasing division at Toyota Australia as a buyer, and he grabbed it with both hands. He recalls flying out to Japan to present on Toyota’s transformation activity with colleagues as a major highlight for him. He’s been in the profession for seven years now.

“What I love about procurement is dealing with people first and foremost, being a direct link between the organisation and its key suppliers and building and maintaining long-lasting relationships.

“More specifically, I enjoy my role the most when procurement lead strategic sourcing activity that directly links and creates value to the organisation’s overall strategic plan.

“I believe we’re about creating value both internally and externally with our supply chain and getting the best return on investment. This may or may not be necessarily have to do with lowest cost, as some believe.

“As a profession, we have an active part to play in educating our suppliers through knowledge sharing, such as local and global benchmarking activity to ensure they’re aware what is best practice and why, to enable them to continually improve.”

The young father of two also runs an electronic music label with some friends and DJs live on radio, which he’s been doing since university and remains passionate about.