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.
Bianca Amore’s career experience makes her the sort of all-rounder that any company CEO would snap up in an instant.
She’s worked her way through the ranks for a number of major corporate brands both in the UK and overseas.
A major standout for her was working with the head of sponsorship to negotiate a major sponsorship deal with the English and Wales Cricket Board for grassroots through to professional British Cricket.
“The best bit was heading to the cricket at Lords with my mates to watch the game and seeing where my hard work went. It was everywhere, the pitch advertising, overall branding, junior cricket representation and the like. It was a really enjoyable day.”
Bianca now calls Sydney home, where she works as a procurement consultant.
Her strong negotiation skills have sealed her destiny in procurement. She had initially studied to be a civil engineer, but soon realised a career in engineering wasn’t what she wanted in her future.
So, she changed directions, enrolling in a Bachelor of Business in internal business and marketing. It was a much better fit and she found herself gravitating toward firstly analyst roles, then project management, strategic sourcing, category management and now, end-to-end procurement. She went on to complete her CIPS qualification while working.
Working abroad has allowed Bianca to also travel. She loves soaking up new cultures and enjoying new cuisines along the way and counts Italy and France as her favourite destinations.
She names coaching a client towards a promotion as a proud moment for her.
“I’ve worked with so many great people around the world, and been fortunate enough to work in some fantastic organisations on high profile projects. I would like that to continue. Though, if I didn’t work in procurement, I’d probably own a designer shoe shop and lend my skills to not-for-profit organisations.”
“I love the variety of work that I do. I’ve sourced everything from telco networks to multi-million dollar media deals. True procurement allows you to learn and use a variety of skills. It gives you an opportunity to gain lots of skills across more areas of a business than most other careers.”
When asked how she approaches negotiations and what works well for her, she says: “Be prepared, stick to the facts, understand your leverage and keep your stakeholders informed.”
We arm you with some myth-busting one-liners to help you educate your workplace.
Myth: Procurement people are nothing more than over-paid bean counters
Reality: Procurement people have a vastly different role and responsibilities to Finance people, with each contributing differently to the success of the overall business. For procurement, this often means acting as the interface and conduit for the business with external parties and being agents of change and innovation within the business. Procurement people are just as much sales people as they are finance people.
Myth: Procurement is a constant obstacle for other business functions
Reality: Procurement works with other business functions to overcome business obstacles and create better outcomes. Often this is not a quick fix for the short-term; rather it’s an action for the long-term. Obstacle or aid, it’s a deliberate practice for business sustainability.
Myth: Procurement people just get in the way and complicate things
Reality: Procurement people help make things happen, in the right way and with the right resources. This takes effort upfront and should be seen as an opportunity to get things done right. Complications arise from lack of consideration, which is not the case for procurement.
Myth: Procurement is nothing more than glorified outsourcing
Reality: Procurement is the means to consider different options and seek opportunities, get thinking creatively, and forge new and better ways. Outsourcing is a potential strategy that has its appropriate uses, but it’s not the only option that is put in place.
Myth: Procurement departments are always trying to find ways to save costs, but don’t consider the broader cost to the business of what they do
Reality: Cost is a major factor, but it’s more than just a dollar value. Procurement is in a good position to highlight different perspectives and the cost/benefits from business decisions. Savings is one of the tangible outcomes from looking at situations differently.
Our #firstmovers series profiles those members who we feel truly embody Procurious, and go to show just how “rich” and global our network is becoming.
Farshad is a senior consultant for A.T. Kearney, and works out of Dubai. You can find out more about him – here.
Procurious asks: How do you think procurement differs in your country, as opposed to elsewhere in the world?
Farshad: I work mostly for clients in the GCC. As opposed to other parts of the world, especially EU and US, the Procurement functions here are still in a developing phase. That’s why quite a lot of focus is on developing the internal capabilities i.e., people, processes, etc., Obviously driving cost savings is expected from any Procurement function and hence strategic sourcing programs are also picking up very fast.
Overall, I believe organizations in GCC are realizing the value of Procurement beyond their operational work and depending on them to create value in terms of cost savings, innovation, product development and other critical value generating areas.
Procurious: Do you know how many other procurement professionals are in your country?
Farshad: The demand for Procurement professionals is immense in GCC partly owing to the fact that very few academic programs cater to Supply Chain / Procurement in this region and hence there is still a lot of dependency for “importing” this critical skill set from outside the region.
The Procurement teams are growing and becoming more influential, which is good news for the profession.
Procurious: Are you usually an early adopter? (Perhaps you’ve been a “first mover” with something else…)
Farshad: I work mostly for other companies (my clients) on Procurement consulting projects and usually “adoption” of global best practices has been a little delayed. But as I mentioned earlier, organizations are now waking up to the importance of having an efficient and effective Procurement function. And the fact that I can help different companies in their journey towards Procurement excellence gives me a lot of satisfaction.
Procurious: Why did you join Procurious?
Farshad: Procurious attracted me as it is probably the first genuine social network for Procurement professionals.
I believe it is important for Procurement as a profession to create a strong identity and social networks such as Procurious can go a long way in helping popularize Procurement and help it get the deserved due credit.
Procurious: How did you find out about us?
Farshad: I am a frequent reader of Supply Management (both the website and magazine) and this is where I got to know about Procurious.
Procurious: What are you hoping to get out of the network?
Farshad: Connecting with other like-minded Procurement professionals, share and learn more about the profession and contribute in any way I can to market this interesting profession further.
Procurious: And finally, are you going to invite your peers?
Farshad: I will try in a personal capacity.
Many thanks to Farshad for contributing and answering our questions.
If you would like to be considered for a future profile, please drop Matt Farrington Smith a line – he’d love to hear from you! (Bribes may or may not be encouraged…)
Like so many, Paul Holland didn’t have specific ambitions to work in procurement. But after his boss pulled him away from his usual duties to work on a procurement project, he found his niche.
“I had no idea how in-depth procurement was at first, and what value you can create for your organisation through the role. It gives you so much scope to explore other aspects of the business.”
The Melburnian works for transport provider Transurban, where he’s been stepping into bigger shoes every year or two since 2007.
He’s managing the current procurement transformation project within the corporate behemoth. The company has chosen the Ariba solution and is part-way through implementing a full end-to-end solution including sourcing, contract management, supplier performance management, spend analysis and requisition to pay functions. This will be complemented by a new procurement operations team, which Paul is also in the process of building.
“This is a huge undertaking for us and will bring major efficiencies and automation to the business. We’re also growing the role that procurement plays within the company, which is why we need to be smarter in the way we operate,” he says.
The implementation will take around 10 months and once complete, will mark his biggest professional achievement to date.
“In the past, we were rubber stamping the procurement process within the company, but now we’re making huge changes to that and the business is now realising the real value that a procurement team can deliver.
“I love the fact that the job changes every day and we can influence and change entire processes to make them more efficient at all levels within the business.”
Paul isn’t sure what his professional future might bring, but says as long as he’s still being challenged by new opportunities and enjoying his role, he’ll be happy.
He plays football on weekends and is a young father, which he names as his biggest achievement in life. He’s also working towards an Executive MBA, which he expects to complete by the end of the year.
He can influence how one of Australia’s most iconic companies spends more than a billion dollars every year. But it’s all just part of the job for Tony Huang, who’s in charge of strategic sourcing at telecommunications provider, Telstra.
Tony heads up this important function for the telecommunications and media giant, making him accountable for the sourcing strategy across all categories. He’s been with Telstra since 1999.
He’s a highly influential part of the senior team at Telstra, and a major player in many of the large and significant projects implemented by Telstra. Many of these have massive impacts on the way Australians interact every day.
A few years ago, Tony took up a role working for Telstra subsidiary CSL in Hong Kong, where he led the mobile device marketing team.
“This role came along through my professional networks, and the learnings I took away from the experience transformed me and the way I’ve operated ever since,” Tony says.
He was ready for a new challenge 18 months later, so returned to Australia, walking into Telstra’s senior strategic sourcing manager IT procurement role.
And yet despite the huge demands of his job, Tony puts a lot of energy into coaching and mentoring staff, which gives him the chance to share the skills he’s learned along the way.
“I enjoy making a difference and improving the experience of my staff’s time in Telstra. It’s a diverse organisation, and you’ve got the opportunity to work in many difference roles.”
While his skills would be a valuable asset for any Australian company, Tony expects he’ll stay loyal to Telstra, predicting he’ll still be there in a decade.
“Telstra is a diverse organisation that gives staff the opportunity to work in many difference roles. The company also gives you the opportunity to work on the latest and greatest in just about every category.”
International Jiu Jitsu competitor Jason Ng loves nothing better than unwinding from a day at the office with a training session of the Brazilian style of martial arts.
“The sport has a huge strategic, strength and athletic component to it, which is similar to Judo. And strangely enough, the stresses I put on my body during training allow my mind to relax.”
The Melbourne man spent three years in banking and finance, but was so moved by the impacts of negative macro-economic factors on companies that he wanted to be part of the solution.
“I read some good news stories about some high performing procurement divisions turning around ailing businesses, and this made me want to be a part of those impacting on the bottom line.
“I really felt I could apply my financial, negotiation and relationship management skills to help companies spend more wisely, so transitioned into a newly created analyst role in healthcare a year ago.”
In that time, Jason has built savings dashboards and trackers, provided new ideas to sourcing strategies and built analytical tools for more efficient and meaningful data analysis.
He gets a thrill out of seeing savings he’s able to achieve for his company, which directly impact on hospitals as well as patient’s lives.
“I like being in a role that makes an impact on an organisation’s bottom line, although making a positive impact on people’s lives has been an awesome bonus. It really puts into perspective the great outcomes that can come from a good procurement team.”
Career progression is important to him, and he will be assessing opportunities to step up into a procurement specialist/manager role in the near future.
Jason was taught the values of hard work by his family, who run a Chinese restaurant in Perth. During university, he studied full-time as well as co-running the family business.
He has two Bachelor degrees, two Masters and a desire to complete an MBA in the near future.
“I think this mentality has become increasingly scarce, especially in my Gen Y peers. Working hard has been the single most important factor in developing the foundations for a good career path, and has enabled me to achieve my goals.”