Emily Hall hit a cross-road in her early 20s when a manager gave her something of an ultimatum.
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.
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.
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.”
A few months into a year-long work placement role with Mercedes-Benz, Emily Gloyns admits she was ready for a new challenge.
“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.”
Marissa Brown features in the next of our Generation Procurement series.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
This week we shine a light on Nils van de Winkel – a Procurious member who’s decided to incorporate the network into his studies. Without further ado we’re handing the floor over to Nils so he can tell you more about himself…
Procurious asks: What attracted you to the profession when you were originally settling on an area of study?
Nils: My interest in supply chain management and procurement in particular has been shaped by two key events during my business studies.
The first was the practical insights gained into the global workings of supply chain management whilst studying a semester in Indonesia for my bachelor in international business and management.
The second was an internship with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok where I was exposed to the aftermath of the 2011 monsoon floods. Many companies with direct or indirect links were adversely affected. Through information sharing seminars it became strikingly clear how companies with supply chain risk management processes accomplished to mitigate disruptions.
Procurious: How much focus is there on supply chain management and procurement in general business studies?
Nils: In my bachelor program the main focus was on finance, marketing and intercultural aspects of global business operations. It has been more so during my master program that I have gained deeper insights into specific functions of supply chain management. Procurement in specific has not had a deep focus, however important areas such as negotiations and drawing up contracts has had a great deal of attention.
Most interestingly I found that in business studies Porter has an important place. His Value Chain model (Porter, 1985) has received considerable attention throughout both my bachelor and master degree. This model was mainly used to analyse a firm’s activities and compare these with competitors to identify competitive advantages and guide strategic planning. Procurement is depicted as an important support function together with accounting, financial planning and human resource management. Given the importance of the procurement function, as this model acknowledges, I find it surprising that there was quite little focus on procurement during my bachelor and master degree compared to finance, marketing and human resources.
Procurious: Tell us a little bit more about your thesis, and what you hope to achieve with it.
Nils: As part of the GGSB MIB program a thesis is to be completed during your second academic year whilst employed. As a result of the exposure from my internship with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce my research will take place within the field of supply chain risk management. The focus will be on the purchasing function and how these professionals contribute to risk assessments, creation of contingency plans, and risk management.
My goal is to provide an overview of how procurement professionals have evolved in their risk assessment, creation of contingency plans, and risk management over the past decade. In addition to this I hope to identify whether there been a shift in the importance placed on certain risk categories.
Why did you join Procurious?
Nils: [Procurious member] Matthieu Baril, a GGSB alumnus, introduced me to the platform and explained its potential. So far I’m definitely not disappointed. My belief is that the best way to learn is through the experiences of others. Procurious gives the ability to see what professionals are doing and on which issues they are focussing. These types of insights are difficult to obtain without a social network specified for this field. The exposure, ability to discuss and ask questions greatly enhances ones understanding at a speed that otherwise would not be possible.
How are you using online networks [like Procurious] to help in your studies?
Nils: Firstly, in the beginning stage of my research in order to gain a practitioner’s insight into the risks that they feel are underestimated in their business and industry as well as how their perception of risks have changed over the past decade. This will help me frame my research and will ensure that the findings are of value to practitioners.
Secondly, in the later stages of my research I hope to test and validate my theories through interviews with business leaders.
Procurious: Do you think it’s important to make a name for yourself in the social space?
Nils: Over the past year I have come across great examples of young professionals that have built strong personal brands through blogs and social networks, which set them apart in a competitive job market. Social networks have made it much easier to build a strong online identity to reinforce and market your knowledge and competencies.
Procurious: Let’s turn this on its head… If you were the tutor would you make any particular recommendations to your students?
Nils: In order to gain most from your studies it is important to relate theory to practice. As it is difficult to have a qualified job alongside full-time studies it can help to have discussions with practitioners as well as stay up to date with industry progress through company reports and other sorts of content.
One of these different content formats has been the valuable rise of online learning. There are great online classes such as Procurious’ Learning page that discusses a wide variety of topics, which can help in courses and general skill development.
So far I’ve already seen two master students that are using Procurious to gain insights from professionals. I hope to be able to reach out to people in time to come as well in order to gain a more thorough understanding of their approaches to risk management.
Procurious: Do you think enough is being done to promote procurement as a profession?
Nils: From the direction that I have come there was little promotion for procurement. Looking at my bachelor program today I see that supply chain management has received somewhat more attention. However, general business studies still tend to be more geared towards specific finance, marketing, and human resources functions.
Then again, there are a reasonable amount of programs specifically focusing on supply chain management where I presume that the profession of procurement receives ample focus.
Procurious: How do you envisage securing your first job in procurement?
Nils: My goal is to gain hands-on experience and an understanding of how internal processes are created to assist in supply chain risk management. Through professionals I hope to come in contact with companies that place an emphasis on its procurement department.
Procurious: What’s your advice for younger students who show an interest in procurement and supply chain management?
Nils: Go out and talk to people. So far I have noticed that professionals in the field of procurement are very open and willing to share their experiences over a cup of coffee. Even through platforms such as Procurious it is easy to connect and have conversations with professionals from all over the world in order to get a deeper understanding of the specific activities in procurement.
Jon Hansen is a guest blogger – if you want to contribute to the Procurious blog please drop us a line – here.
I have been writing the Procurement Insights blog since 2007. It currently has more than 21,500 followers. (Note: the European Union Edition of the blog – which was launched in May 2013 – has just over 16,000 followers.)
Around the same time I joined LinkedIn ( 30,000 connections), followed by Facebook (5,000 connections), and finally Twitter (17,000 connections) in 2008.
In 2009 I launched the PI Window radio show on Blog Talk Radio – which will soon air its 900th episode in which featured segments are downloaded between 25,000 and 30,000 times within the 24 to 48 hours immediately following the live broadcast.
Over time I have also expanded my virtual presence through various other platforms including YouTube, Sprout Social, Pinterest and on and on and on.
So one might reasonably conclude that as a procurement professional, I am deeply immersed in the virtual realms of the Internet. While I would not disagree with this last point, if I were reading as opposed to writing this article, the first question I would ask is what does it all really mean? More specifically,
what are the tangible benefits that a procurement professional can derive from being “connected” in the virtual world?
My response . . . it depends on how long you have been in the profession.
For those of us who have been around for 15 or more years, the answer is not as clear as it is with the newer generation of procurement professionals. I am talking about the ones 30 years or younger.
For this newer group the thought of utilizing a dog-eared catalog with stick-it notes of varying colors to source products from suppliers via telephone is unfathomable. I would imagine that theirs would be a similar reaction to that of my young nephew, who upon viewing the black and white images projected through the old rabbit-eared television at his grandmother’s house, declared that the “TV was broken”.
In this generational context, the virtual world is a comfortable given for the younger set, while an revolutionary development for the veterans. This factor will to a large extent influence our respective perceptions and considered benefits.
Rather than continue to focus on the obvious disparity in understanding, the purpose of this article is to identify the points of commonality. Specifically, how can the web-based platforms or elements of the virtual world that is the Internet, be best leveraged regardless of age or experience.
The Operational Element (Action)
I have no doubt that I could, with little effort, turn this into a long dissertation on the various technical aspects of the myriad of platforms that make up the networked world in which we do business. From cloud-based B2B to P2P and B2C and everything in between, including big data and The Internet of Things, there is no shortage of material.
The irony of course is that in terms of impact, these present day technological advancements are no different than those from earlier eras such as the telephone and fax machine – both of which were quite revolutionary in their own time. Quite simply, the only real difference from an operational standpoint, are the actual tools of the trade themselves. The core principle upon which they are based is still centered on increasing capabilities and improving outcomes.
Therefore, what is really needed to understand how this transformation unifies generational perspective and perception, is to find a common point of reference. For me this would be ThomasNet.com.
ThomasNet.com is the current version of the Thomas Register. First published in 1898, the Thomas Register was a simple yet powerfully useful buying guide which listed industrial products and services from an expansive list of potential vendors.
It was an indispensible tool for buyers who through one convenient catalog, could source needed products from reliable suppliers who had been researched and screened by the publication.
Fast forward more than 100 years to the here and now, and this core benefit is still the same, which is the ability to source products and services from a reliable pool of vendors. The only difference is that instead of looking up a product in a hard copy catalog and then contacting the applicable supplier by the available means of bygone days,
the Internet has made it possible to locate, source and procure electronically by way of a few simple keystrokes.
Granted this is an oversimplification of how a ThomasNet.com works in comparison to its earlier versions, but you get the idea.
The Socialized Element (Knowledge)
Where it once did, the value gained from the traditional Association model can no longer compete for my attention. I need to collaborate bigger, faster, stronger – and at my convenience.
Associations could better leverage Web 2.0 to deliver a greater level of service to me as a supply chain professional by more actively, rapidly and efficiently aligning with the pace at which new, useful industry information becomes available – then delivering this information in an effective way, so as to keep me abreast of trends, best-practices and exchange ideas with fellow members; thereby making me a more valuable professional.
From my standpoint, the sentiments expressed by this individual explains perfectly the impetus behind the socialization of the procurement professional within the virtual realms. It is also the reason why, when I was originally introduced to Procurious I took notice.
From “connecting to correcting to listening to learning” etc., platforms such as Procurious are as indispensible a tool as the operational platforms or technologies we use to procure goods and services.
Ultimately, it is the socialized aspect of virtualization that ensures access to the needed insight and information that enables the procurement professional to maintain relevancy in an increasingly complex global marketplace. In fact, the underlying value of these communities of shared interest is that they serve as a filter through which the information overload of the World Wide Web can be circumvented to ensure that you get the intelligence you need quickly and reliably.
The key point to remember is that these are truly “get out what you put in” virtual communities, in which the tangible benefits can only be measured by the quality of the relationships that help you to add greater value to your own career and organization. This means that you have to get involved. Whether it be in the form of a question posed within a group, or commenting on an article. When you insert yourself into the conversation you gain knowledge well beyond your own experiences. Or to put it another way, and regardless of your age, the old axiom that knowledge is power is as true today as it was when Francis Bacon originally coined the phrase back in the 16th century.
In the end, when you hear terms such as procurement virtualization or socializing procurement, what it really means is that the main objectives of the procurement profession are still somewhat the same…
– with some notable extensions. The only difference is in the tools that are available to achieve the desired outcomes.