Category Archives: Life & Style

Annual Leave: Make Sure You Seize The Days!

It’s the same story around the globe. Paid annual leave is yours for the taking but you never quite get round to using it…We need to shake up our priorities!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

Years ago, there were days that all blurred into one. I’d finish the week with little recollection of conversations had, what I’d achieved, or what job seekers I’d placed in amazing roles.

I loved my job. I loved it so much that I worked round the clock. You see, recruitment, like any sales role, is fast-paced and competitive. And the fear of losing a job to a competitor drove me to stay connected, 24/7. It also took priority ahead of personal relationships, which reflecting back, was a big mistake and huge learning curve.

Before I founded Agency Iceberg, I took two weeks off. I had resigned to launch my own business because I felt the recruitment industry needed a voice that would stand up for others, promote positive opportunities for women to address the gender gap, help parents find flexible roles and challenge the idea that recruitment was a ‘boys club’ or that talent agents will cut corners in any shape or form to make money.

Finding time to re-wire

It was also during this time I started doing things a little differently. I bought my first dog, Marlowe. I reconnected with friends that I had lost touch with from putting work first. I caught up with industry mentors to seek advice about launching my own business. And, after spending a few days recovering, I eventually started to feel my brain rewire itself and began ‘hearing’ conversations again!

Also, without being KPI driven, I didn’t need to check my phone as often. I wasn’t worried about missing out on client or talents’ urgent needs. My needs were put first. I started feeling calmer. I could concentrate for longer periods of time and recall conversations a week later. When my girlfriends and I caught up, I could relax and spend more time learning about their lives, rather than worrying when to get back to my desk and be reactive to other people’s needs.

After a few weeks of weeks rest and catching up with industry peers for advice and encouragement I felt that I was ready to focus on myself, my body (and lack of exercise and poor nutrition that needed to be seriously addressed) and my new professional goal: to start my own business.

If perspective was a performance enhancing drug, I’d be the first in line to sell it

In a 2010 survey of 1,700 global professional services workers, it was found that, “on average, workers report spending slightly more than half (51 per cent ) of their work day receiving and managing information, rather than actually using information to do their jobs”.

Furthermore, and perhaps more worryingly, “an average of half (51 per cent) of all those surveyed in each country say that if the amount of information they receive continues to increase, they will soon reach a ‘breaking point’ at which they will be unable to handle any more”.

At what point do we learn to stop?

Unfortunately, many of us don’t. In 2014, 11 per cent of Australians took no annual leave in 2014. Workplace perception around taking leave, leaving work on time, and what it means as a ‘productive worker’ weighs heavily on many workers, including those who come to Agency Iceberg offices feeling exhausted and on the verge of burnout.

In my own experience, I didn’t take annual leave because I felt guilty about it in the past. And when I did take leave, it wasn’t uncommon for employers to call me with urgent requests, so often I felt anxious, even when away from the office.

In Overwhelmed America: Why Don’t We Use Our Earned Leave?, the US Travel Association reviewed the factors contributing to Americans not taking paid leave. While a number of factors contribute to the findings, it suggests perhaps senior management plays a role in perpetuating myths that holidays are a ‘once a year’ goal.

“There is a striking disconnect between the importance that workers place on taking PTO [paid time off], and the ease with which they feel that they can take it. The central challenge is closing this gap”, the report said.

“Far too many employers do not encourage taking PTO (in policy and/or communications), and senior business leaders send mixed signals about the importance and benefit of taking PTO. Only 32 per cent of workers say that their employer encourages taking PTO; 33 per cent of senior business leaders either say nothing (19 per cent) or only discuss the merits of taking PTO once a year (14 per cent).”

Given that Australia has the third highest amount of average annual leave, behind countries such as the UK and Sweden, we aren’t lacking for options.

So why aren’t we taking leave more regularly, instead of when we’re nearly out of juice?

Well, as the Overwhelmed America report indicates, perhaps it is less about official policy, and more about how whether employees worry they’ll be ill perceived if they take regular breaks; the workload to manage while away; and that the business might actually fall over if they do hit pause.

The report writes, “the top barriers to taking PTO are a ‘mountain of work’ (40 per cent  difficult to take PTO), nobody else can do the work (35 per cent ), cannot afford it (33 per cent), and taking time gets harder to do the higher up you go (33 per cent) … Senior business leaders think taking time off is harder the higher up you go (56 per cent to 28 per cent for employees), that nobody else can do the work (54 to 31 per cent), and that they would come back to a mountain of work (54 to 37 per cent).”

Someone else CAN do the work

The idea that ‘no one else can do the work’ is a theme that I have felt very deeply in the past. There were years when I felt if I missed a day of work, there wasn’t anyone else in the business who could do the deal. It’s only looking back now, I realise how devoid of reality that really was. My colleagues were so darned good at their jobs, what I was actually worried about was missing out on a deal myself.

If you’re a top performer, the business will certainly miss you. But, as I’ve learned for myself, if you have failed to create a workflow that others can pick up in the occasion you get hit by a bus, or, your employer is not committed to resourcing regular leave, maybe there’s something in our  work DNA we need to seriously rethink.

There’s a lot to be said for the impact to productivity and motivation when employers build in reflection and decompression time. In addition to cognitive benefits, regular breaks promote decreased stress levels, higher productivity levels, intensified concentration levels, ability to regulate emotions and deal with stress at work, and the ability to delegate more effectively.

Prioritise rest and rejuvenation

Experience has told me, as countless books and studies do, the more regularly we prioritise rest and rejuvenation, the most effective and impactful we will be at work, as well as happier, and we can actually enjoy each other’s company every day.

Since my career break, I’ve made a commitment to not only lead by example by taking quarterly breaks, but to actively encourage my team to make plans every three months to get out of the office. I often sit down with my team during our weekly WIPs and openly discuss travel plans for the year to let them know that it’s okay to plan your personal life and enjoy it! You don’t need to tip-toe around the office and quietly plan your annual leave.

There are 365 days in the year, 249 workdays, and 20 annual leave days up for grabs in Australia. How are you going to spend yours?

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here

Anna O’Dea is a recruitment expert, LinkedIn Top Voice 2016 and Founder and Director of Agency Iceberg. This article was originally published on Smart Company.

Four Work-Life Questions To Ponder On Vacation This Summer

Going on vacation this summer? Print this out and take it someplace without any Wi-Fi….

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

You packed your favorite journal and a couple of pens. You planned some time on the beach, or left an afternoon empty to find a table at an outdoor cafe where you can grab an ice-cold drink and just think. This vacation, you’ve told yourself, you’re finally going to be able to take a break and get some clarity.

But clarity about what, exactly?

It’s true that vacationing can hold some unexpected career benefits, in addition to letting you recharge your batteries and do some self-reflection about your working life, your personal life, and your overall goals. But musing on these big-ticket themes isn’t something many of us have a lot of practice doing. When you finally get a chance to do it, you might find your thoughts a little unfocused. That’s fine—mind-wandering is sort of the point here. But in case you need a little more structure, these are four questions to let your mind wander over.

1. Stresses and worries aside, am I happy at work?

One question worth asking is whether you’re happy with your job on a day-to-day or week-by-week basis. You may find some workdays pretty stressful, and that’s normal, but do you generally find your job fulfilling to do?

Vacation is a great time to really step back and consider that, because it’s one of those rare occasions when you can step back to monitor your own reaction to being away from work. A change of pace is always nice, but at the end of your vacation, are you excited to get back to the projects you’ve been working on? If you totally dread the end of vacation, it might be time to start looking for something else.

When you’re away from the office, you can also think about which aspects of your job are most rewarding. By identifying the tasks that excite you, you can lay the groundwork to pursue opportunities that let you do them more often.

2. Where am I headed?

One of the most aggravating questions hiring managers like to ask on job interviews is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Lots of people find that hard to answer, in part because a lot of the time they don’t honestly know.

That’s understandable. It can also be difficult to do long-range planning when you’re buried in the daily grind, when your goals are changing, when your industry is evolving at a breakneck pace, or all of the above. Taking some time off lets you think about whether your career is headed in a direction you’re generally happy with. To get a handle on a big-ticket question like this, try to think specifically about the skills you feel you still need to acquire to succeed.

In other words, you may not be able to see the future, but you can still think like a futurist when it comes to your own career planning. Are there people who might be good mentors (including of the unofficial kind) to help you fill in those skill gaps? Maybe it’s time for some more education. Going back to school for another degree may be daunting, but you can always start by taking a couple of professional development courses. Or maybe you just need to do a little more networking to brush up on the latest goings-on in your field.

Many companies have some form of educational benefits that lots of employees don’t know much about, let alone actually use. Maybe this vacation is the time to figure out which opportunities you can ask your HR team about once you’re back in the office. In fact, even companies that don’t offer a standing set of training resources may be willing to cover some of the cost of professional development you pursue on your own.

This is one of those items that way too few employees actually negotiate for, beyond compensation. Use a few spare hours this vacation to come up with some training options you’d like your company to help you go after.

3. Who don’t I know

You have more colleagues than just the ones who work for the same company as you. There’s a whole community out there of professionals who do much the same kind of work, but most of us don’t spend enough time getting to know them. After all, networking is a tedious chore and often completely fruitless.

And sure, sometimes that’s true. But there are a few things you can do to expand your connections in ways that don’t feel like networking. One of them is pretty old-school: Join a professional society. They’re often a great source for the latest developments in your field, sparing you the need to scroll LinkedIn for industry news. And they often have local meetings where you can meet people dealing with the same issues you are, rather than blindly scouring a random mixer for them.

There are also “networking” opportunities that might be lurking in your average workday—chances to connect with valuable people you haven’t had a chance (or a non-awkward pretext) for to strike up a conversation with yet.

You’re on vacation, though, so all this will have to wait, right? Technically, yes. But one of the reasons so many people procrastinate on (or just downright avoid) networking is because they haven’t given much thought to who’s missing from their contact lists, let alone what the best strategy might be for filling those gaps. Your vacation is a great chance to consider that. Based on where you are in your career and where you’d like to be before long (see above), think about the ideal connections you’ll need to make. Here’s a handy guide for figuring out who’s most important to you at the moment and where can you find them.

4. What’s Missing?

Work is great, but there’s more to life than the things you do to make your company money. In high school and college, you might’ve spent a lot more time doing things you were passionate about—or things that helped you discover what you’re passionate about. After hitting the workforce, most of us start to shed extracurriculars. If you look back, you may see a graveyard of discarded instruments, sports, clubs, and volunteer work stretching out in your wake.

It’s great to draw a sense of purpose and fulfillment from your full-time job, but those outside activities can also be powerful sources of energy. What’s more, they can be the steam valves that give you much-needed emotional release when the pressure at work builds up. Vacation is a good time to re-engage with old hobbies and pursuits you’ve left behind. Pull that old French horn out of the closet. Brush off your tennis racquet. Find a local dog shelter that needs another pair of hands. (Puppies are always a great cure for whatever ails you.)

Don’t feel guilty about carving out a little more time away from your work to pick up these side gigs and activities. Not only will they give you a chance to develop your other interests, they’ll also give you people to hang out with who aren’t all focused on the same set of work issues that you are.

And hey, you never know; over winter vacation about 16 years ago, I started taking saxophone lessons. Not only has it been great fun, I’m now in a band!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

This article, written by Art Markman was originally published on Fast Company.

Art Markman, PhD is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organisations. Art is the author of Smart Thinking and Habits of Leadership, Smart Change, and most recently, Brain Briefs, co-authored with his “Two Guys on Your Head”co-host Bob Duke, which focuses on how you can use the science of motivation to change your behavior at work and at home.

Think Big, Think Business, Think People

“I’d rather regret the things I did, than the things I didn’t do.” Insights and wisdom from the career of Hans Melotte, Starbucks EVP Supply Chain and ISM Chair. 

Hans Melotte is less than one year into his “wonderful new adventure” leading Starbucks’ global supply chain. At the same time, he is nearing the end of his tenure as Chair of the ISM Board of Directors. We caught up with Melotte at #ISM2017 to discuss topics close to his heart, including the importance of intellectual curiosity for procurement and supply managers.

Melotte’s Mantra

“There’s a personal mantra I’ve always tried to adhere to,” says Melotte. “Think business, think big, think people.”

Think business: “Let’s not just daydream here – as a supply management professional, you’re not the centre of the world. Your role is all about enabling profitable growth for your company, and the only way to do that is for you to think in terms of business or customer centricity.”

Think big: “Starbucks’ aspiration is very bold, and very ambitious. If we agree our role is to help the company achieve its aspirations, then it’s up to us to be equally bold, or there will be asymmetry between the company agenda and our agenda.”

Melotte makes the point that thinking big should be inherent in any leadership position: “I don’t think any company would say it’s okay to be a mediocre leader.”

Think people:No matter what your agenda may be, everything starts and ends with people.” Melotte is delighted to see so many young professionals filling the halls of the #ISM2017 conference: “I’m so impressed by young professionals – their ambition, their resumes and their enthusiasm. It’s incredibly energising, and humbling as well.”

Moving between industries

Last year, Melotte took a significant cross-industry leap when he moved from Johnson & Johnson to Starbucks. His advice is that professionals – particularly those with high learning agility – should have confidence about moving between industries.

“There’s no right or wrong career. People have a tendency to stack-rank careers and give advice – ‘do this, don’t do that’. I believe you just have to follow your own passion and keep the fire in your belly lit. For me, this was all about starting a new adventure and seizing an opportunity that allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and grow. Life’s too short to not experiment by stepping off the proven path. I’d rather regret the things I did, than the things I didn’t do.”

The ISM Chairmanship

We asked Melotte why he took on the demanding role of ISM Chair, particularly during a time when he was transitioning his own career from J&J to Starbucks. “There was a pyramid of motives”, he replied. “I’d always recommend that people take on an outside-of-industry role. For me, one reason was that I felt grateful, and obligated to give back to the discipline. If the discipline has been good to you, be good to the discipline. Secondly, it has enabled me to access a lens to the world which allows an incredible amount of learning. The board itself is a wonderful network to be part of. Finally, there’s no denying that trying to be a worthy Chairman grows you as a person.”

What contribution is Melotte most proud of in his tenure as ISM Chair? “ISM is a well-known brand and institution, so it doesn’t need extra polish on the logo. What it does need is constant change and evolution – I took it as a great compliment from CEO Tom Derry when he told me over the phone that I’ve helped ISM think more strategically, and think more about the future.”

Intellectual curiosity

“You really owe it to yourself to constantly invest in yourself through continuous learning and continuous education,” says Melotte. “Learn from others, grow and develop. One of the pitfalls that companies step into is when they make statements like ‘we’re different, we’re unique, this doesn’t apply to us’. No matter how good you are as a company, you can always learn from other industries.”

“Intellectual curiosity means being on a learning journey that never ends. It should have no pause button.”

Image: Starbucks.com

Going Abroad? Tips For Staying Cyber-Safe

Keeping thieves at bay when travelling used to involve money pouches and hidden pockets. These days, the threat has moved into the cyber sphere. Keeper Security’s Co-founder Darren Guccione explains. 

The holiday/vacation period is looming, and many people are making plans for international travel. If you are among them, be sure you have done all you can to take responsibility for cybersecurity when travelling. After all, it’s a dangerous world out there when it comes to the cyber threat environment. Some common sense and preparation will go a long way toward ensuring your international travel memories are of the good kind.

Let’s break down the tips and tricks of cyber safe travel into two categories. The first is basic “blocking and tackling,” which for the most part is done prior to your travel. The second category deals with security tips once you are on the road.

First, a note about U.S. Border Patrol agents

It is important to know in advance that the travel environment itself has changed. While travelling within the U.S., TSA agents at the gates are not allowed to confiscate your digital devices, nor are they allowed to demand passwords to get into them. If such attempts are made, demand to speak to a supervisor.

The rules, however, are different for U.S. Border Patrol agents and for agents in other nations too. Recently there have been multiple news reports of U.S. citizens having to turn over digital devices and their passwords as a condition for entering or re-entering their own country. What can the border agents do with your passwords or data on your devices? How long can they keep that information? How long can you be detained? These and other questions are not easy to answer. But as you will see from the tips and tricks below, there is much that can be done to minimise what might be compromised or inspected while you ensure your trip overall is as cyber safe as it can be.

Before you head out: basic blocking and tackling

  1. Back up your e-files. Just presume you are going to lose everything on your devices. If all data is backed up before you leave, then if you lose your device you won’t lose what really matters most to you.
  2. Don’t carry sensitive data. This is easier said than done if you are mixing business and pleasure, but it is not unreasonable to just leave behind all the sensitive files you are not likely to use. Store them on cloud backup or on removable media. But get them off your devices.
  3. Change all passwords for all devices. When doing this, use two-factor authentication if possible, which most devices have today. Make the passwords eight characters or longer with a combination of nonsensical letters, numbers, and symbols.  Download a free password manager that will do all the work of creating complex passwords and remembering them for you.
  4. If you haven’t checked recently, this is an excellent time to be sure your antivirus software is current. There is plenty of danger lurking in foreign hotels, coffee houses, and even airports, as we’ll see. This software is your first line of defence.
  5. If your smartphone allows, and most do, enable the feature that automatically erases all data in the event of multiple failed password attempts (usually 10 or so).
  6. If available, enable anti-theft software (often through the cloud) that allows you to lock your device remotely if it is stolen. Enable and activate the “find my phone/device” function so if your phone or tablet is stolen, you can track it, disable it, and change all the passwords.
  7. Be mindful of movies, books, and other things you have loaded into your devices that could be considered pornographic and otherwise illegal in certain other countries. Also, some downloads considered legal in the U.S. may actually violate local intellectual property or digital asset rights in other countries, should your device be searched. Just err on the side of caution and store and remove anything that might be construed as such.
  8. Disable Wi-Fi auto-connect options from all devices before you leave, such that you have to manually connect when you think it is safe to do so. The best approach is to buy a subscription to services that only connect to secure Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the world. Rates are inexpensive and getting more so all the time. Just do a search on “unlimited wifi.” If you will need to transfer or access sensitive data abroad, consider getting a highly secure VPN connection on a daily or weekly rental basis. Just search “VPN rental.”
  9. Similarly, disable Bluetooth connectivity. If left on, cyber thieves can connect to your device in a number of different and easy ways. Once they are in, your cyber world is their oyster!
  10. Finally if you do not have an international subscriber identity module, better known as a SIM card or do not have a roaming package on your smartphone, your two-factor authorisation access will be limited. All the more reason to purchase a secure Wi-Fi data plan.

Now that you’ve arrived…

The tips and tricks in this list really won’t take long at all for travellers to put in place. Doing so is great insurance against many of the cyber threats that lurk when your plane touches down on foreign soil. But once that happens and your excitement builds as you head to the luggage carousel, your cybersecurity work is not done. Here are some steps to promote cyber-safety on the ground:

  1. Double check to be sure all of your apps are password protected with fresh, new passwords, ideally stored in your password management system so you don’t have to remember any of them. And don’t use the same PIN for hotel room safes that you use for your device password.
  2. At all cost, avoid using “public” digital devices, such as those at coffee houses, libraries, and bookstores. They are often notoriously riddled with malware lurking to steal your information. If you use them, you should presume that someone other than you would see any information you enter.
  3. Be very careful about connecting to any Wi-Fi network if you haven’t subscribed to a global service previously, per the tip above. These are prime milieus for cyberthieves. Say you are in a train station (bahnhof) in Germany. You scan your device for a wireless network and there are several. A legitimate one might be “bahnhofwifi”—but you don’t know that. A cyberthief has set up his own Wi-Fi trap and it shows up as “bahnhoffwifi,” with but one letter changed. Connect to that and your troubles are just starting.
  4. Don’t charge your devices using anything other than your own chargers plugged directly into the wall or into your adapter. It is easy for cyber thieves to install malware onto hotel and other public docking stations.
  5. Never connect any USB drive or other removable media that you don’t personally own. Again, they are easy to load with malicious software.
  6. This goes without saying, but NEVER let your devices leave your sight. If you cannot physically lock devices in your hotel room safe or other secure place, take them with you. There are no good hiding spots in your hotel room. And, of course, never check your devices with your luggage.
  7. Most social media sites are happy to automatically share your location as you post photos and messages. This also tells thieves back home that you are away, which is a great time to break in. So limit the information you post regarding your location at any point in time.

Bon voyage! And safe cyber-travels.

Darren Guccione is Co-founder and CEO of Keeper Security,  a password manager app and digital vault for consumers and enterprises with 9 million+ users. 

Five Ways Procurement Can Change the World for Entrepreneurs

“Behind every growth story like ours, there’s always a procurement person who has provided an opportunity.” Procurious caught up with inspirational dynamo Nina Vaca at ISM2017 to discover why procurement needs to give entrepreneurs every chance.   

“The unsung heroes of my stories are always in procurement and supply,” says Nina Vaca. The Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group has experienced a roller-coaster of ups and downs in her 20-year journey from a niche IT business that was started on her living room floor to the workforce solutions powerhouse it is today.

“Success is rarely linear,” Vaca says. “Some of the hardest moments of my life were after 9/11, when we were at the brink of bankruptcy and almost didn’t make payroll. But every time, someone in procurement saved the day by providing the opportunity to bid.”

Procurement wasn’t just responsible for pulling Pinnacle Group back from the brink. A series of big breaks, provided by people who saw the vast potential in Vaca’s business, enabled an incredible growth story from a local, to regional, to national, to a global player. “Whether it has been the CPO, or a procurement executive, or a procurement manager responsible for our sector – those are the people who have always given us a shot,” she says.

Vaca gives the example of an RFP from the procurement team at Verizon. “We lost the first, the second – by the time we got the 10th RFP, we asked them for mentoring to discover exactly what we needed to do to win the contract. When we eventually won the contract it had grown from a tiny piece of work to a significantly bigger opportunity.”

“Our next big break came from the CPO of Electronic Data Systems. At that point we were a $40 million company, and we won a $160 million contract. Again, it was because the CPO really believed in us, and mentored us through the process. That contract took us from four states to all 50. That was followed by our biggest contract in Pinnacle’s history, awarded to us by the CPO of Comcast. We didn’t know each other very well initially, but he was willing to take a leap of faith and was very intentional about doing business with us. They were looking for a minority-owned company for a very strategic piece of work. That was a very aggressive RFP process, but winning that contract affirmed our ability to provide service on a very large scale and helped us become the number one fastest growing woman-owned company in the US.”

The result of Pinnacle Group’s incredible growth was that the company found itself breaking through a ceiling that no other Hispanic, female-owned company had crossed before. “When I broke through that ceiling, I found myself to be the only woman, and the youngest, to be in that position. That’s not acceptable to me, which is why it’s so important to nurture hope and inspiration in others to do the same thing. In a way, when the CPO awarded us that contract, the community benefits outweighed business benefits.”

“‘Ambition’ is seen by some as a dirty word, along with wealth creation. That’s how the U.S. has prospered, through people creating wealth not only for their families, but for their communities and the nation. For my daughters, ambition is a necessity, so long as you approach it in a positive way, and not by trying to succeed at the expense of others.”

Five ways procurement can help entrepreneurs succeed:

1. Provide them with an opportunity to play: Big breaks, such as those that propelled Pinnacle into its position as a market-leader, were only made possible because someone in procurement saw potential, took a risk and provided an opportunity.

2. Do your homework: “Look for the best and brightest, not just at the numbers”, says Vaca. Depending on your organisation’s goals, you might be looking for the fastest-growing or most scalable organisation to work with.

3. Mentor entrepreneurs: Contracts are won when someone in procurement is willing to guide you, offer a helping hand, take your phone-call and provide an opportunity. The common thread across all of Pinnacle’s big breaks is there was a supportive CPO mentoring them through the process.  

4. Sponsor wherever possible: Vaca has a very clear definition of sponsorship: “Sponsorship means someone being willing to put their personal brand on you – your success is their success.” How do you attract sponsors? “Be crazy good at what you do, and you’ll become a magnet for people who want to sponsor you. They won’t sponsor you if you’re not bringing your best every day.”

5. Get engaged in the ecosystem: For procurement, this means getting out of your comfort zone and getting engaged with organisations like ISM, or ramping up your online presence to build your network. For Vaca, engagement means philanthropy and providing inspiration and information to people who may want to follow in her footsteps. For this reason, she launched ninavaca.com, immersed herself in promoting STEM education, and takes every opportunity to give back to the community. “We host groups of students all the time at Pinnacle headquarters, and we are the industry partner for Thomas Jefferson Collegiate Academy – an early college high school preparing students to work in STEM fields upon graduation. If you want to do global things, start locally.”

Nina Vaca is Chairman & CEO of Pinnacle Group, and Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.

Networking No-Nos

You only get one opportunity to make a first impression, so don’t blow your chance to make a positive contribution to your personal brand equity by making some classic mistakes at your next procurement networking event.

The way you approach networking in a crowded room depends upon your personality. Is it your first time at the event? Do you stride in like a confident extrovert, or work your way quietly through the room more like an introvert? Does your style of greeting make people feel comfortable, or is it as alien as Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute from Star Trek?

Throughout my career, I’ve seen some career-limiting moves at the dozens of procurement conferences and events I’ve both organised and attended. Fortunately I’ve learnt a thing or two, which has helped me build a very large, healthy network.

So, what are the protocols for attending a procurement networking event? From my experience, you can’t go too far astray, so long as you avoid eight networking no-nos : 

  1. Don’t waste time

Whether you’re at a cocktail party or a two-day conference, every minute counts.  Don’t let yourself get stuck in a bad session or a non-productive conversation. Stay focussed on your end-game and be ruthless with managing your time. Time wasted indulging in idle chat is time best spent elsewhere.

  1. Don’t hang out with people you know

As comforting as it is to hang out with people already in your network, try to resist the temptation! You can have lunch with your colleague any day of the week, but you can’t meet your next employer or source of important market intelligence in the company canteen.

You have made the considerable effort to get into a room with a whole lot of new people, so challenge yourself!  Push outside of your comfort zone and reap the benefits of engaging with someone new.

  1. Don’t be invisible

After listening to an interesting speaker, make sure you ask an impressive question. Don’t be shy – you can bet there’s someone else in the room that is pondering the same question. Make sure you’re the one with the courage to speak up. Remember to start with your name, title and company when you ask a question to ensure everyone in the room knows who you are. It may prompt someone who wants to meet you to come over and introduce themselves.

  1. Don’t shirk suppliers

Great CPOs make sure they work the Supplier Exhibit Hall. Let’s face it; great conferences wouldn’t exist without the investment of these companies. More importantly, suppliers are an important part of your network. If you want to be across the latest market intelligence and product developments, you need to know what these guys are offering. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours trawling through supplier stands. Research prior to the event will make sure you are purposeful and efficient.

  1. Don’t have a social media vacation

You might be working it hard with your face-to-face networking, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to avoid social media!  Posting your thoughts, comments and relevant articles will ensure you become more visible at the event. Your posts or tweets may also be re-posted or re-tweeted by the people you tag, which will amplify your presence. Event Apps, for example, are a fantastic networking aid and the most comprehensive place to find out about fellow attendees – and for them to learn about you! Once they know you’re in attendance, people will hopefully reach out to meet up.

  1. Don’t eat alone!

Event organisers serve food to help grease the networking wheels, not just to feed you!  Pluck up the courage to walk up to a new group and introduce yourself. I always politely request to join a group before quickly insisting. “Please, continue your conversation! I’ll listen while I eat.”  With this approach, you’re not rudely interrupting a conversation.  You will learn more by listening and asking a few select questions. If you’re really keen to make the most of the networking event, you may decide not to eat at all! This keeps your hands free for handshakes and your mouth free for answering questions – not to mention some of those embarrassing food moments where you have something hanging out of your mouth, or drop on your freshly-cleaned suit!

  1. Don’t forget your nametag…or your personality! 

So many times I have turned up at a conference, only to find that I’ve left my nametag in my hotel room, which leaves people questioning me all day: “Sorry, who are you?”

One thing I have never left behind is my personality, but so many people do! They feel like they have to put on a mask and act differently in their professional lives. You’ll look far more approachable if you look interesting and interested.  Smile, laugh, enjoy yourself, have a joke but, a word of caution…

  1. …Don’t fake it

My number one networking tip is to network from the heart and be authentic.

The bottom line to all these networking no-nos is to not be shy. Have the courage to throw yourself into those uncomfortable and nerve-racking situations. Introduce yourself, start a conversation, ask that question and find a new buddy! Who knows, you might even start enjoying yourself!

Tania will be delivering her top tips at ISM2017 on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm. Visit Procurious in the exhibit hall at booth 439!

Getting The Biggest Bang For Your Buck At A Procurement Conference

Game-on! There’s a right way – and a wrong way – to approach a major procurement conference. With your company making a significant investment to have you there, here are five tips to help you demonstrate an impressive ROI. 

 

This morning marks the start of the world’s biggest procurement and supply management conference. Let’s imagine, for a minute, that you’ve hit the fast-forward button and find yourself on the other side – bags packed, standing outside your hotel and waiting for a cab.

How do you feel? Exhausted but satisfied that you’ve made the most of every minute? Or a little bit … guilty? As your taxi pulls away and heads for the airport, will you wonder whether you should have spoken to just a few more people? You’ve attended plenty of sessions, but why didn’t you take more notes?

I know the feeling. It’s so easy to snooze your way through a conference, but it’s crucial that you don’t!

It’s my third year attending ISM’s annual extravaganza, and I’m starting – just a little – to feel like a bit of a veteran. As such, I want to do what old-timers do best, and share some advice to other conference-goers. Whether it’s through attending the best of the best speaker sessions, or through networking like a champion, I’m going to show you five ways to get the most bang for you buck.

It’s not a vacation

Remember the glory days when going to a work conference was, essentially, a bit of a treat? Sure, you had to attend a number of presentations but, in exchange, you were gifted a few days out of the office, possibly at a semi-exotic location, and a few cocktails at the bar with your peers.

Today it’s considered an absolute, and rare, privilege to be selected to represent your company at a major professional-development event. Budgets and headcounts are increasingly slashed, which means getting the approval to attend a conference borders on the extraordinary. As such, you can bet you’ll need to demonstrate a pretty sizeable ROI.

But you’ll only make the most of it if you’ve prepared well in advance and bring your A-game to the event itself.

  1. Have a plan

I’ve been busy interviewing members of the ISM2017 Conference Leadership committee (including  Lara Nichols, Naseem Malik and Howard Levy), and they’ve all stressed the importance of having a plan for the next four days.

It’s absolutely crucial to understand your key conference objectives in advance. What do you, and your organisation, want to achieve? Maybe your employer is keen for you to find new suppliers, gain market intelligence, or benchmark information? You might have some personal objectives such as finding a mentor or even a new job, or want to use the opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader.

The crucial point is that these events are no longer just about the individual attending.  Attendees need to multiply the investment and make sure that everyone in the team benefits from their learning from this event. This is why it is important for you to “amplify” what you learn back into your team. 

  1. Familiarise yourself with the agenda

Depending on the conference’s size, there could be dozens of sessions, many of which will happen in tandem. Take some time to constructively assess the schedule with your own objectives in mind. Select topics and sessions that are most relevant to you, and think about what will be relevant to your company, too.

Prioritise and plan your itinerary, but don’t overdo it! Be realistic about how much you can achieve, how many sessions you can logistically make it to – and how much information you can actually absorb.

  1. Become a social-media anthropologist

Nothing says “conference efficiency” quite like an advance perusal of the speakers and attendees list. It might seem extremely forward, but an invitation to connect ahead of the event via LinkedIn, Twitter or Procurious is actually pretty flattering. And, if you’ve got the courage to go one step further and send a personal message, you’ve got a great conversation starter when you eventually meet in person.

If online meet-and-greets aren’t your style, you can still benefit from researching the backgrounds and careers of attendees or speakers. This will help you to decide who you are most keen to talk to and if attending certain sessions will be worth your while.

Make sure you upload your full biography and a fabulous profile picture onto the conference App so people can find, and reach out to, you too!

  1. What’s your end game?

You started with the end in mind, you arrived at the conference armed with your objectives and a commendable knowledge of the agenda and speakers. Now you need to decide what sort of report you’re going to present back to your team.  A PowerPoint? Notes?  It’s useful to have an idea of this before the conference kicks off so you can simply fill in the gaps because,  let’s face it,  if you promptly present a comprehensive report to your peers after the event, you’re far more likely to be selected to represent the team going forward.

So, armed with this “straw-man” of your report, attend your sessions of choice and take notes. Engage with your peers to learn their views and insights, and include those in your report too. Go directly to speakers and suppliers and ask them for material that you can incorporate.

At ISM2017, don’t forget there’s a group of media professionals (including the team from Procurious) reporting on the conference – keep an eye out for blog articles with insights from the event, and catch the news from sessions that you weren’t able to attend.

  1. Share Your learnings

Use Twitter, Procurious and LinkedIn to share key learnings live from the event. Live updates and posts from the event can make you really popular back at the office and ensure that your whole team benefits from your attendance. Don’t forget the hashtag!

Are you at ISM2017? Don’t miss out on Procurious Founder and CEO Tania Seary’s top tips on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm.

And, when you drop into the Exhibit Hall, be sure to visit The Procurious team at booth 439 for advice on how social media can supercharge your procurement career.  

The Power Of An Online Network

Your online network can give you the edge in procurement – but only if you’re an active, value-generating participant in the community. 

Rising through the ranks of the fast-paced procurement world can be a hectic and sometimes even lonely pursuit.

To counteract this, a growing numbers of industry professionals are actively seeking out online communities of like-minded industry mavens to converse with.

Online communities can significantly bolster your professional standing in the broader procurement sector. Some people post helpful information on a regular basis to online business communities. Others pop into online communities for companionship, as they give people access to a different group of people to talk to instead of the colleagues they see on a daily basis.

Forging online relationships can bring huge value to your position in the procurement world, so make sure you pick a couple of key online communities to focus on. These groups are valuable because they encourage the sharing of content and industry-specific information that can help you in your role.

Professionals often join business communities for support, and people feel accomplished when they contribute useful information to the online community. By helping others, members can gain a feeling of being needed and appreciated by others.

LinkedIn is just the start

Australian marketing executive Jacqueline Burns was an early adopter of business online community LinkedIn. She leaves LinkedIn open on her computer all day and dips into conversations constantly.

As managing director of Marketing Expertise, Burns has been a prolific blog publisher on the platform, creating and sharing relevant information to her industry sector both domestically and internationally on a regular basis. To date, she has published more than 60 articles on LinkedIn – and the benefits have been significant.

“A lot of my work comes through the platform, simply by being present. I’ve secured many clients directly from LinkedIn who have been seeking someone with my services and I’ve been logged on and responded,” Burns says.

“I’ve secured a major client via my LinkedIn community, and also a large software-as-a-service provider from the US whom I’ve never met before,” Burns says.

Online communities add value to your role

Aaron Agius of digital marketing firm Louder Online says there’s been a natural push to use online communities for personal branding among many sectors. However, he’s a much bigger fan of using them for growth and education, with two communities in his field sharing a lot of personal insights that ensure he always walks away with new ideas. “Lately, I’m finding better information there than a lot of the marketing blogs,” he says.

While he could spend all day interacting with fellow marketers, he’s got too much on his plate to make that happen. “There’s definitely a balance between maintaining a regular presence in an online community without spending so much time there that it takes away from your actual work,” he says.

“I’ve found social media communities to be a great place for networking with others in my field. You’d think that marketers would be a private bunch, yet the relationships I’ve built through sites like these have given me great friendships with people I can go to if I have a questions, want to vent about an issue, or need a second set of eyes to help me figure out a solution,” Agius says.

Get started

Look for industry-specific communities that enable procurement professionals to ask questions, seek support and make connections, which can add huge value to your role.

Online communities can be a great tool for shortlisting vendors or to pre-qualify firms. Simply asking industry peers for their opinion is a great validation process for gathering additional intelligence.

Adding value goes both ways, though, so make sure you truly engage with the community, care about what others are asking for advice on, and be the solution to meet their needs when you’re able to.

It’s also important to be consistent. If you can’t keep up with the number of posts, then decrease your posts and pick a couple of key posts to contribute to each day, because quality and consistency trumps quantity. Also, bear in mind that different parts of the world come online at different times of the day, so taking 15 minutes to post in the  evening can offer huge value to an industry peer on the other side of the world.

However, as Burns points out, just having access to an online community isn’t enough – being an active user can bring you so much value. “You can’t just create a profile online and then walk away. Your online community is the place to show a bit of personality, and you need to be interacting regularly to get value from it.”

Don’t Argue With Footballer Daisy Pearce

The “Don’t Argue” is a classic move in the often-brutal game of Australian Rules Football. While we wouldn’t recommend shoving your colleagues in the office, there are plenty of lessons to be drawn from the world of elite sport.   

It’s always interesting interviewing sportspeople for a business-related publication. Before the interview, I usually have my doubts that I’ll be able to find something in their story that is relevant to the audience I’m writing for. Five minutes in, however, I’ve filled pages of notes about the many insights professionals can glean from elite performers.

This was the case with Daisy Pearce, AFLW star and captain of the Melbourne Team. In the space of 30 minutes, she provided links between her on-field performance and business agility, advice on how women can thrive in a male-dominated profession, and finished up with some leadership-related gems.

Daisy and the “Don’t Argue”

The theme of this year’s 10th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum (taking place on 17–18 May in Sydney) is “Pivot”. Why Pivot? Because in an era where flexibility and agility are seen as essential leadership attributes, the profession’s top practitioners must be able to pivot at a moment’s notice to gain commercial advantage from disruptive forces, including new technology. In essence, this means having the ability to rapidly and intelligently adjust short-term strategies to ensure you can achieve your organisation’s long-term objectives.

When I mentioned this term to Daisy, she immediately drew a comparison with the “Don’t Argue” move in football. “When you’ve got the ball and someone comes to tackle you, a “Don’t Argue” is when you send them off – push them away – and keep moving. Basically, you give them a shove with your arm, quickly change direction, and keep going.”

For non-Australian readers (and non-footy fans), here’s an explanatory video from the AFL:

So, what are the parallels between a “don’t argue” and a business attempting to PIVOT?

  • Your short-term strategy may change but the overall goal remains the same: although Pearce may suddenly need to run in a different direction to her original course, she’s still focused on the goal posts at the end of the field.
  • It happens fast, it’s immediate, and it’s often instinctive: CPOs often don’t have much time to plan and react to a disruptive force (an enormous footballer bearing down on you at high speed makes a great analogy). Decisions have to be made fast.
  • There’s no time to argue: Depending on the nature of the disruptive force, you won’t have time to initiate a long, internal debate about what to do. Instead, a fast decision could enable your company to mitigate the damage of a disruptive force, or even profit by it.

Thriving in a male-dominated profession

While the AFL (men’s football) has been around since the 1850s, women’s football in Australia has only officially existed since 2013.

“When I was 14, the rules were that I had to stop playing football with the boys in my hometown”, said Pearce. “I didn’t know back then that there was going to be a Women’s League, and thought my football career had finished. I turned to volleyball instead, before being drafted in the AFLW in 2013.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve had to overcome many barriers to become a footballer. Then main barrier, I’d say, would be that I simply didn’t consider football to be a career choice. The real barriers existed for talented women who wanted to play professionally before 2013.”

Pearce has more than one string to her bow – she’s entered the world of football commentary (also dominated by men), started a career on the speaker circuit, and has also worked as a professional midwife. “The opposite is true for midwifery”, she says. “There may be young men considering a career as a midwife, but are daunted by the female domination of the profession. My advice is to go for it – if you’re passionate about something, and it’s what you really want to do, there’s nothing stopping you.”  

Leadership on the field:

As captain of the Melbourne AFLW team, Pearce has plenty of leadership insights to share:

“My main piece of advice for leaders is to first, have a really good understanding of yourself and about how your behaviours impact others. Secondly, make an effort to understand the people on your team. Appreciate that everyone has different strengths, and will respond to different things.

“Invest in your relationships with team members and build rapport. In the long-term, it will help enormously when you need to have tough conversations. You can be both supportive and tough at the same time – people need to know you’re coming from a place of care rather than disinterest.”

Daisy Pearce will wrap up day two at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

Photo:  Getty Images

The Cabinet of Procurement Curiosities

What’s the weirdest, wackiest item you’ve ever had to source? JAGGAER takes a spooky look into its cabinet of procurement curiosities.

People buy odd things for curious reasons. The same holds true when buying for an organisation – with great purchasing power comes access to some really weird objects.

Procurement Curiosities

We explored our purchasing catalogue to see what we could uncover. Many of these items seem bizarre at first, but they all serve an important purpose for the right person. We bought a few things based on how strange they sounded, only to discover how practical they were.

We’d love to hear about the weird items Procurious readers have purchased or the ones lurking deep within your catalogues. Here’s a sampling of JAGGAER’s collection of curiosities. All of them are real. Some of them are genius.

The Dimensional Lever Punch-Monkey

Sounds like a gag-gift – unless you’re a craft maven or a teacher. The Punch Monkey is actually a tool that punches shapes out of paper – monkey shapes, to be precise. Teachers and crafters use the Punch-Monkey to punch out shapes for projects, borders and other creative pursuits.

Scientific Baby Hippy

We love the mental image this one conjures up – and we have emailed a sketch to the Cartoon Network. But a Baby Hippy is actually a model of a baby’s lower torso, hips and legs that is used to train medical personnel. Ever wonder how paediatric nurses are so good at giving those dreaded vaccinations? Thank the Scientific Baby Hippy.

Rock Crusher

We’re not talking about a monster truck. (Monster trucks are actually one thing we don’t have in our catalog.) But we can hook you up with rock crushers in a variety of sizes. Rock crushers can range in price from $65 to over $30K. They are used – you guessed it – to crush rocks.

Ejector Fork

Sounds like something Elroy Jetson might have used to launch his peas Astro’s way. In real life, an ejector fork has a slightly less exciting existence. It’s a utensil used to transfer and release pipettes containing small volumes of liquid in research labs. If we find a supplier for the Elroy version, you will read it here first. That would be awesome.

Pseudo Drowned Victim Scent

When you need a reliable way to train search dogs, pseudo scent is the way to go. This man-made compound mimics the smell of a human corpse, and maintains its scent for up to 30 minutes in still or running water. But if you spill some on you, and your date likes it, we recommend moving on.

Rat Brain Slicer

Don’t worry: this is not used in the Food and Beverage industry. It’s actually an essential tool for scientists studying the effects of drugs, chemicals and disease on the brain. The brain slicer allows researchers to isolate and prepare sections of rat brain tissue for study.

What procurement curiosities are lurking in your catalogue? Share them in the comments below!

Michelle Douglas is Director of Integrated and Digital Marketing at JAGGAER.com.