Why cross-divisional experience will make you an irresistible procurement candidate.
Rhonda McSweeney, Group Manager of Procurement and Contract Management at CS Energy, tells us why cross-divisional experience and team diversity are so important in the procurement function by drawing on her twenty years of corporate experience.
Considering her background in medical science, Rhonda explains how she has grown to value the transferable skills she learnt in the early stages of her career before moving into procurement roles and how this has influenced how she recruits and builds teams.
1. What were your first 3 jobs?
I didn’t work in procurement at the beginning of my career and, in fact, started out as a medical scientist.
I later took on the position as a regional manager for a global diagnostic firm before progressing, within that firm, to national sales and marketing manager.
My third position was at The Global Travel Group where I was a business leader in acquisition and integration.
2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
I have learnt that medical science, and science generally, as an undergraduate degree wasn’t irrelevant to the GM Commercial roles I’ve filled in the latter half of my career.
The ability to think analytically, understand concepts, and also to understand problems and carry out root cause analysis, is very applicable in a business environment and not unique or exclusive to a career in science!
3. How can CPOs attract and retain millennials?
Millennials need help from CPOs to understand how procurement can provide a very unique and privileged view of a business. Procurement offers insight into to all aspects of a business; from operations and business services, to manufacturing and sales, to marketing, and beyond.
Gaining this insight helps to create a very well rounded business individual. I like to promote it as “free business learning”, being able to have insight into the other divisional areas that you wouldn’t necessarily be subjected to otherwise. I think this is a great fit in the era of millennials who are typically on the “fast-track”.
4. Does the procurement talent gap exist? Or is it just a perception problem?
Depending on your procurement mindset, it could be a combination of the two. I like to attract a diverse team in which there are cross-divisional backgrounds, for example, engineering, operations, or sales to name a few, while also ensuring a mix of individuals with strong commercial, contract, and/or supply chain backgrounds.
I have always tried to achieve this mix and have found that I can up-skill, and cross-skill, when necessary. I look for strong behavioural attributes on all accounts to trump any technical learnings with the firm belief that these can be taught. Having an enquiring mind, grasping concepts, working successfully across boundaries and establishing relationships and strong communication cannot be taught!
5. What’s more important for a candidate – attitude or aptitude?
It is important to have a mix of both. If I had to have a bias, I would sway slightly towards attitude. The ability to ask the right questions, and acknowledge that you do not have all the answers, can resolve any aptitude gaps.
6. What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?
Cross-divisional experience is fundamental in procurement. It is so beneficial for employees to complete rotations within a business, therefore experiencing as many aspects as possible.
This will produce a well-rounded, commercial individual, who will create a compelling candidate for the procurement industry. This experience, balanced with the right behavioural attributes, will be essential going forward.