Category Archives: Generation Procurement

Generation Procurement: Susannah Thelander

Susanne Thelander

Susannah Thelander admits she had a sneaky peak in the dictionary on her first day of work in the procurement industry eight years ago. Because she wasn’t particularly sure what it meant.

She had landed a role with the tenders and contracts department of Victoria Police as part of the Victorian Graduate Scheme, where participants rotate through three government departments over a 12 month period.

Since then, Susannah has worked in private sector, public sector, consulting and now on a major infrastructure project at the Port of Melbourne Corporation.

She’s never been one to shy away from hard work. With a Bachelor of Arts (politics and philosophy) and a Bachelor of Science (maths and environmental science) under her belt when starting out, she’s since completed a Juris Doctor Masters of Law (with distinction) part-time, while holding down a full-time job.

She has her sights set on being a CEO or a senior executive in operations, perhaps, where she could broaden her knowledge of business and organisational challenges.

“I love the exposure procurement gives you to interesting activities across a business, and the opportunity to support these.”

However, the continual misconception that procurement folk simply follow process without considering whether their structures support the business frustrates her.

“Though in all fairness, that’s probably still true in some places. Procurement can often help with some of these pressures, but how well it’s implemented often comes down to the individual. If you’re passionate and engaged, you can find ways to be creative and show the value procurement can offer, even if you operate in the most constrained environment.”

Outside of work, Susannah likes snowboarding, bike riding, cooking and reading. She’s also about to start a group for young business women who want to learn to play golf.

And while she claims she’s not a great cyclist, she made the 210km ride to raise more than $3000 for the Smith Family to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds with their school expenses last year. Monumental, in anyone’s books.

“I’m passionate about the work of the Smith Family, and am looking for ways to be more involved with them this year, as long as it doesn’t involve me riding my bike a really, really long way again!”

The 5 must-have attributes of a procurement superstar

Attributes of a procurement superstar

Procurement professionals need plenty of key attributes to be a real superstar.

We’ve called out five skills that are vital for anyone working in procurement. If you feel any of these skills are still an area for development, then it’s about time to skill up…

1 The ability to innovate

An innovator is someone that’s extremely creative, highly motivated and a leader able to visualise the big picture. They also understand that the key to a growth strategy is to develop and implement disruptive ideas.

Often also known as a pioneer, these people are often inventing new ways to do things and know how to solve problems by coming up with new ways to do things.

And in today’s hyper-competitive global marketplace, there’s a pressing need for procurement professionals to consistently remain ahead of the growth curve.

2 A serial strategist

Strategists are the ones in the workplace that understand that there are ways to work smarter, and set about finding ways to make that happen. They also believe in hard work.

Having a strategy in place rather than racing headlong into a major project is a major part of the job in procurement. Above all else, you need the ability to create a strategy and communicate it to the team.

3 A major influencer

Sure, you may be the boss, but a title isn’t enough to get people to do what you ask. Your ability to command others may be further diluted when you work in a team or across boundaries, which is why personal influence is such an important leadership skill.

Influence is the power and ability to affect others’ action, decisions, opinion or thinking. And it’s a vital part of the job for those in procurement.

4 A natural leader

Being out front and leading a team isn’t a skill that comes naturally to everyone. Good leaders can delegate, are good communicators, they’re confident and committed to their role. They are the role models in an organisation that others look to for professional inspiration, and are worthy of respect. Above all else, they’re knowledgeable in their field.

5 True commercial nous

This is something that all companies want their employers to have, but it can often be difficult to pin down exactly what commercial nous actually means.

Put simply, it refers to a person being commercially minded and able to translate their performance into tangible and demonstrable outcomes. It also means they’re aware of the issues and current affairs influencing their industry.

When making business decisions, those with commercial nous usually go one step further by providing actual figures or metrics that demonstrate how well they can monetise their actions.

We want to hear from you. Can you add to the list? What other attributes to procurement professionals need?

Generation Procurement: Georgina Portelli

Georgina Portelli

Procuring a Bombardier Global Express XRS500 business jet was a once in a lifetime experience for Georgina Portelli, who names this procurement project as her greatest professional achievement so far. She was working at the Casino division of Tabcorp at the time, and needed a flash mode of transport for the VIPs.

“Procurement tends to be mainly indirect goods and services, so putting together a deal for a moveable asset was a key achievement. I’m pretty certain that’s as glamorous as it’s going to get, and I can cross flying on a private jet off my bucket list, which may be considered an achievement in itself,” Georgina laughs.

The general manager of procurement for the country’s largest aged care provider reckons there will be many more days of equally dizzying heights ahead.

For her, procurement has given her the skills to negotiate her way through life.

She hopes to move into a global procurement role in the next five years. Long term, she dreams of running a high-end resort in the Greek Islands.

Emulating greatness doesn’t work, she says. “A very wise woman once told me that people that work hard tend to be lucky and that’s no coincidence, and that’s stayed with me.”

Georgina has been in procurement just over a decade, after originally planning a career as a psychologist. A year into the study, she decided it wasn’t for her.

However, she’s not the type to not finish something she’d started, so completed the degree and used the opportunity to study the greats, discovering her passion for travel and taking a corporate role at Myer. A Bachelor of business followed, with a major in HR management, then an MBA.

Georgina applied for a procurement role at Myer head office post-graduation, and the rest is history.

The CIPSA and The Faculty member attends regular industry events, relishing the opportunity to network with peers.

“The value networking brings to me is the solace that we all face similar challenges with the maturing role and expectations of procurement. It has evolved into a true partnering role, which is very exciting. Maybe it’s the safety in numbers thing, but it always makes me feel positive about the profession as a whole and my position in it.

“I love that my role is valued and gives me the ability to influence buying decisions across the organisation, building on a commercial culture.”

Generation Procurement: Matthew Dierkx

Matthew Dierkx

Matthew Dierkx might rub shoulders with some of the country’s most elite sporting stars all day, but for the Melburnian, it’s all just another day at the office.

The procurement maven for the Australian Football League was offered the high profile role 18 months ago after working in procurement with the Melbourne Cricket Club. He’s met some of the best known sporting names in the country along the way.

Matthew has major influence on various levels of the AFL industry, from the elite level to grassroots. He’s assisting AFL clubs to get matches scheduled and organising accommodation where required. Other days, he could be providing AusKick Packs to youngsters starting out in the game.

And while Matthew might know how to kick a football, he’s quick to point out that he feels far more at home in the corporate box than on the field.

“I’ve always loved Australian sport, so it’s great that my occupation is directly related to the country’s favourite sport. As a nation, we have a close affinity with Australian Rules, and I achieve great satisfaction from contributing to that and being part of the team.”

With a Bachelor of Law/Economics from the University of Newcastle under his belt, Matthew walked straight into the procurement industry from university. His early taste of the profession included roles in the lead-up to the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, where he was charged with the task of procuring the all-important Games Timing and Scoring System.

And while he might be surrounded by sporting greats all day, he takes all that in his stride. He names his father as his best professional mentor to date.

“My father taught me that hard work and being an individual are incredibly important aspects of both your professional and private life. He also taught me that no one ever got anything by sitting on their backside,” Matthew, a young father himself, says.

His networking efforts thus far have been conducted on the side of a sporting field, but he’s looking forward to being an active part of the Procurious community.

Generation Procurement: Tehara Wickham

Tehara Wickham

Tehara Wickham was a young school girl when she migrated to Australia with her family. But the Sri Lankan-born woman ploughed through her studies, finished high school and then university studies in her new country.

She graduated and relocated to Sydney for a finance role before moving back to Melbourne six years later for a manufacturing industry position. At the time, she was heavily involved in the implementation of an electronic procure to pay system.

She enjoyed this process, and continued to look for new professional challenges, which were leaning towards the procurement profession.

But it wasn’t until she decided to return to university to complete a Bachelor of Business and Marketing degree while working full-time that a whole new world of professional opportunities started being offered to her.

“I’m proud of my ability to challenge myself and push outside my comfort zone to learn new things. Sometimes, this puts me in a vulnerable position, but I’m all the more appreciative and proud of my achievements in the end.

Tehara works in Melbourne’s trendy Docklands precinct in the National Australia Bank’s flexible working building with some 5,000 other bank employees. Her core task is raising awareness of procurement internally, ensuring consistency and best practice is adopted in the team and to deliver value to customers.

She names a procurement colleague in a previous job as having biggest influence on her career, empowering her to take some calculated professional risks.

“I will always be grateful to that person for being genuine and instilling confidence in the decisions I was making at the time,” she says.

Learning the importance of trusting her instinct has also been an important part of the job.

“I try not to have regrets about anything, and think of experiences as opportunities to grow.”

On a personal level, she named being a mother as her biggest achievement. “I’ve never been this sleep deprived before, whilst at the same time being high on the happiness that my children bring in to my life.”

Generation Procurement: Aurelie Roberts

French-born procurement expert Aurelie Roberts was surrounded by champagne when she started out in the profession 14 years ago.

As an intern with a French champagne producer, she was in charge of purchasing promotional items. At the time, the job was known as purchasing, not procurement, Aurelie explains.

This early start proved the ideal springboard into senior roles. Over the years, she’s procured everything from packaging, ingredients and marketing services for companies Cadbury/Schweppes and petroleum giant BP. Most recently, she was in strategic procurement for Air New Zealand, sourcing cabin interior items for new Airbus and Boeing aircrafts joining the fleet.

“My role for Air New Zealand was very eclectic. I would look after tenders for inflight items and supplier relationship management and work with a cross functional team of engineers, financiers, interior designers and marketers.”

She describes New Zealanders as glass half-full types who look for solutions. “They are creative enough to turn a less-than-ideal situation to their advantage. It’s no wonder Air New Zealand achieves such a surprising amount for its size.”

Aurelie named a previous colleague and friend as her mentor, although she’s since sought out a life coach that she sees regularly. “I feel supported by her, and she helps me keep disciplined.”

This French woman living in Australia certainly gets attention, with her accent and frankness catching others off guard sometimes. “Other times, its most definitely worked to my advantage,” she laughs.

Aurelie recently relocated from Auckland to Melbourne after her husband landed a new role. She has three young boys and is currently on maternity leave. She will seek work in Melbourne in a few months.

“I think it’s great to have inspiration from others to always improve and be the best we can be. My previous manager is an inspiration given how she manages to combine being a family, family life and work. It’s always a real juggle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”