Tag Archives: career advice

6 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Procurement Career

Should you stay in procurement for your whole career? What skills should you focus on developing? How can you find a work/life balance? Check out these top tips from one of Australia’s leading CPOs, Thomai Veginis.

“The beauty of working in procurement is you can turn your role into anything”, says Telstra CPO Thomai Veginis. “You only limit yourself – people who want to keep the role small can do that, or you can push into other things. If you want to be an administrator who supports the business, that’s okay – or you can be a lot more proactive about how you drive the commercial agenda. Procurement professionals can create the vision for themselves.”

With 20 years’ experience in procurement, a team of nearly 300 people and a total spend of $14 billion, Thomai knows a thing or two about procurement careers. We asked her advice for ambitious professionals who want to get the most out of their current and future roles.   

  1. Move in and out of the profession

One of the reasons Thomai has been so successful is due to the skills she’s learnt outside of the profession. “You can – and should – move in and out of the profession. The skills are absolutely transferrable and personally, I’ve appreciated the profession more when I’ve been out of it.”

“A trait you sometimes see in procurement teams is a lack of empathy for people who don’t follow the process. If you want to develop empathy, go and do a front-line, customer-facing role, and you’ll understand how hard it can be. One of the compliments I receive is that people want to work with me because I understand the sense of urgency for the people in front-line sales. Gaining experience in that kind of role will help you be a better procurement professional.” 

  1. Develop awareness

Anyone going into a negotiation should know what motivates the supplier they are dealing with. “That’s the basis of your negotiation strategy”, says Thomai. “Ask yourself why something happened – what were the motivators? It’s important to be commercial, but you also need to become aware; both of your own reactions and how you influence the people around you. Awareness will help you read the play better for yourself, and your team.”

“There’s no such thing as a deal that’s 100% perfect – people are often too critical of themselves. Do that review at the end of the negotiation, but don’t be too critical on yourself. Everything is a learning opportunity.”

  1. Get Commercial

“Procurement is a great place to build up your confidence in a very commercial role”, Thomai says. “You’re dealing in the millions of dollars very early in your career – very few professions allow you to go into the deep end like that. You’re doing senior things that you’d expect senior people to be doing, which is why your confidence grows fast.”

Thomai also points out that not many other roles will give a junior professional the opportunity to interact with (supplier) CEOs and other C-levels so frequently. But you need to think commercially.

“The best way to get commercial is just finding someone who IS commercial and sitting in on some of the discussions they have with stakeholders. Be aware that sometimes the people with commercial skills don’t necessarily sit within procurement teams. Watch the preparation they do with suppliers and how they leverage relationships to get the outcomes. Observe, then participate.”

Thomai advises her team to draw learnings from the purchases they make in their private lives. “If you have to buy something for yourself (such as a car), what do you think about? What do you challenge? What’s the pressure that the salesperson is under? Try to understand what’s actually going on and take a 360-degree view, not just your side of things.” 

  1. Find a buddy who thinks differently

“It’s a good idea to buddy up with someone in your organisation who may not be your natural type”, says Thomai. “It’s important to have some affinity with a mentor, but a buddy should be someone who does things differently to you. They’ll teach you the lay of the land and show you different ways of doing things you may not have considered.”

  1. Get out there and meet your stakeholders

One of Thomai’s key pieces of advice for professionals starting a new role is to get out there and see your stakeholders as soon as possible. “Make time. Go out there, identify the contracts you’re managing, and understand the key players. It’s hard because we drown in work quickly, but you need to understand what your stakeholders’ imperatives and priorities are.” 

  1. Find a balance

“Over my career I’ve tried to manage my work-life balance. In procurement roles you can balance it better than people in a sales role who need to fit in with their customers’ schedules.” Thomai has worked in project roles focused on delivering to a customer which saw her working in the office from 8.00am until 8.00pm. “As a result of that work I had the opportunity to be promoted but realised I didn’t want to be in that career path because I couldn’t spend the time I needed with my children.”

“Procurement is an ideal career for parents returning to work. Not that you work less – it’s more about the opportunity to work flexibly in ways that work for you. Often leaders are seen as people who will take on anything and be invincible, but I’ve let my team know that I am human, too. They know that it’s possible to do the role and have a family.”


Are you based in Australia? Telstra CPO Thomai Veginis will share her leadership tips in a live interview with Procurious founder Tania Seary at the Sydney Big Ideas Summit on Tuesday 30th October. Reserve your seat now.  

Can’t make it to Sydney? Catch all the action online! Become a digital delegate.

Are YOU The Office Psychopath?

Just how certain are you that you’re not the office psychopath? Perhaps you should review the psychopath checklist.

Image: Rudall30/Shutterstock

The office psychopath is not the bloke found inconveniently near every unexplained axe-murder in your office.  He or she is just a normal person, who just happens to have no empathy whatsoever.  This little deficit means that they are completely incapable of co-operating with others for a common good.

And since modern business depends on groups of people doing exactly that, having them in your office can be seriously wealth endangering.  But are you certain that you aren’t the office psychopath?

Psychopaths are not all the same. Just like the rest of us, they vary in lots of important ways. Some are very intelligent and some are not. Some are good-looking and some are not. Some are men and some are women. Psychopaths are no more immune to cancer than we are and they are no better at football than I am. Well, all right, most of them probably are, but that’s not because they are psychopaths, it’s because I am uncoordinated.

But one handy thing about psychopaths is that their behaviour is predictable.  It’s so predictable that psychologists have developed a checklist which they use to determine whether someone is a psychopath.

The checklist is made up of twenty personality traits. Each of these twenty traits is scored by a psychologist, after a face-to-face interview and review of records, as a 0 (not present), 1 (present but not dominant) or 2 (dominant). The maximum score is obviously 40.

The average person scores between 3 and 6. Non-psychopathic criminals score between 16 and 22. A total score of 30 or over in the United States (or 25 or over in the United Kingdom) is regarded as a positive diagnosis of psychopathy.

Just to give us a sense of how these criteria might be applied, I’ve used my non-existent training in psychology to score James Bond on these criteria and now you can use your non-existent training in psychology (unless you are a psychologist of course) to score yourself.

Case study: James Bond
PCL-R James Bond
Facet 1: Interpersonal
  • Glibness or superficial charm
2 – Is it possible to be more charming than James Bond?
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
2 – A ‘secret’ agent who uses his own name all the time? – yup.
  • Pathological lying
2 – Aside from his name, he does seem to lie an awful lot.
  • Cunning or manipulative
2 – Obviously part of the job.
Facet 2: Affective
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
2 – James has killed over 350 people on screen so far and it never seems to trouble him in the slightest.
  • Emotionally shallow
2 – I’m sure he really does love all those women he sleeps with.
  • Callous or lack of empathy
2 – Has he ever seemed to experience another person’s emotions? There was that one time when he cried in the shower with Vesper Lynd . . .
  • Failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
1 – Every now and then he does take the blame for stuffing up.
Facet 3: Lifestyle
  • Need for stimulation (easily bored)
2 – We never see him sitting around much, do we?
  • Parasitic lifestyle
2 – Everything seems to be on the expense account.
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
2 – Does he have any long-term goals?
  • Impulsivity
2 – He certainly struggles to contain his impulses when it comes to killing and seducing women
  • Irresponsibility
1 – Occasionally he does things for king and country
Facet 4: Antisocial
·       Poor behavioural controls 0 – He is in control most of the time.
·       Early behavioural problems 0 – We don’t know so let’s go with 0.
·       Juvenile delinquency 0 – Once again, we don’t know.
·       A history having conditional release from prison revoked 0 – We don’t know.
·       Criminal versatility 0 – His crimes are sanctioned by his 00 status.
Other Items
·       Many short-term marital relationships 1 – He’s never been married but he has had many relationships that might have ended that way (had the other half not been killed off).
·       Promiscuous sexual behaviour 2 – Is it possible to give more than 2?
Total 27

People who score highly in Facets 3 and 4 are more likely to be found on the wrong side of a prison wall. People who score highly on Facets 1 and 2 are more likely to be your workmate, your partner, a family member or, apparently, a secret agent.

Mr Bond managed a score that makes him a psychopath in the UK but not quite one in the US. The unflappable, focused, but erudite and charming killer that Bond represents is not a million miles from what I would describe as an office psychopath (without quite so much killing).

How did you go?


David Gillespie will present a session on Taming Toxic People at the Sydney Big Ideas Summit on Tuesday 30th October.

If you’d like to join us at the event in Sydney, reserve your seat here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

If you can’t make it to Sydney but would like to follow the action as a Digital Delegate, sign up here: https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-sydney

When The Going Gets Tough… Keep Running!

On the fifth and final day of Career Boot Camp we chat to not one but two Ultra-marathon runners!

Aniwhite/ Shutterstock

Australian ultra-marathon runner Samantha Gash is a true inspiration. She’s run 3253km in 76 days across India, completed a 1968km expedition run along South Africa’s Freedom Trail and undertaken no less than four 250km desert ultramarathons.

But she can still recall the fear she felt when she ran her very first marathon.

“When you train for a marathon you only train to 32km. When I got to that point in the race I absolutely freaked out and wanted to quit because I was terrified. I realised I needed to keep pushing myself into those situations that scared me because running marathons and ultra marathons,  although impressive on some level,  are no where near like the real life challenges you’re going to face.”

Sprinting outside of your comfort zone

For Samantha, who was a “physically dormant” individual during her childhood and adolescence, took up running as a personal challenge “I really believe that we get such personal and professional development and an understanding of who we are when we choose to go into that unknown so I connected to the thing that scared me the most. Running for me became a way of me becoming mentally stronger and then I got the bug!”

Tom Evans , UK ultra-marathon runner, stumbled into the sport after challenging himself to complete the Marathon des Sables (a six day, 251km run across the Sahara Desert) in a faster time than his two friends.  He seems as surprised as anyone that he managed to complete the race in 3rd place, the highest ever ranking for a European entry.

Since then, he says, “lots of amazing opportunities [have arisen] to race all around the world, from Costa Rica to the French Alps. The performance side of things for me is important but what I really thrive on is that mental and physical challenge, you don’t know what’s going to happen. There are so many external factors that can change along the race or during a training session especially in these more arduous environments. For me it’s really humbling and I’ve fallen in love with the sport over the last year.”

Running – it’s (mostly) all in the mind…

Both athletes place huge importance in mental preparation ahead of a big race, “It’s definitely not seen as that important” says Tom. “But it plays a huge part. I try to focus on the process not the outcome.  Some days [of a race] it will not go great and sometimes it will – but if you focus on getting the small things done it will all add up. I’m big on setting goals and have high, but very realistic goals, that i am able to achieve.”

“It also helps to have a strong purpose so you know that when things get hard that you have an underlying purpose and know why you’re doing what you’re doing. ”

Samantha also credits mental perseverance as a key contributor to her running success “The mental component of ultra running really dictates how your physical body tends to flow and respond.

“If you can find ways of being calm when your body is stressed, when conditions are hard you just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore – mental is underrated by many people.”

That’s not to say physical preparation isn’t important too, ultra marathons are pretty far, and that’s an understatement, and often take place in unfamiliar conditions that require a lot of forward preparation.

Samantha has run races in the most extreme conditions, temperatures and altitudes and endeavours to simulate those conditions in her training schedule.  “When I can’t simulate the challenging component of a race I’ll replace it with something else equally challenging or something that pushes me.”

“In 2016 I ran from the West to the East of India,  which was going to be at a high altitude and in really intense heat. I couldn’t be constantly running in the heat throughout Melbourne’s winter so I put a treadmill in a hot yoga studio. I hate treadmill running, which is why I’m a trail runner but I went into a yoga studio late at night when classes were over, cranked the temperature up to 36-40 degrees and then ran on it for hours.  It wasn’t just physical training it was mental training.”

Tom cites similar challenges in his training regime “I’ve just finished [a race] running in the mountains. In the UK there are no mountains so sometimes you have to think outside the box in your physical training.

“Physically there’s only a certain amount of things you can control – the way i describe it is controlling the controllables. Any stone I can overturn and carry out detailed planning for is worth doing – I’ll train really specifically for each race.”

When the going gets tough…

Enduring the seemingly unendurable is part and parcel of ultra-marthon running  life. “You know it’s going to happen” explain Samantha, “and knowing that you’re going to go into a rough place can equip you for dealing with it.

“There is always a very clunky period when you move beyond training, you move beyond adrenaline and the excitement of early phases of something and it becomes really challenging as your mind and body is learning to adjust.” When Samantha ran across India it was tricky to adjust to the extreme heat. “We were running on a road where there was a lot of traffic and a lot of pollution so we were very burdened. And my body started to break down [to the point that] I was struggling to even walk.”

“When you can’t do what you think you could have done it’s natural to freak out and get a bit disillusioned.”

But in that moment it’s important to take control and embrace the unexpected circumstance you’ve been faced with – “that’s the exciting part!”

“Sometimes you have to walk or listen to music or change your pacer – you have to explore and experiment.  We are quite quick to be harsh on ourselves when things don’t go to plan – we need to move away from what we consider to be failure and redefine it as an opportunity.”

Tom agrees with Samantha stating that “things will go wrong but how you deal with these things will make the difference between a good and bad performance.”

Tom maintains his composure and determination by looking both forwards and backwards in time.

“What is the goal I set and how much do I want what I set out to do? I try to think about the outcome – knowing that if I really want this it’s going to be possible and my mind will conquer my body.”

“I also think backwards, thinking about all the process, everything I’ve put into training, all those workouts, the sacrifices I’ve made to get to where  I am.”

That attitude can “pull you out of any hardship to get you to the finish and achieve your goals.”

Samantha Gash and Tom Evans are speaking on Day Five of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.

Your Supply Chain Career: Accelerated

What do supply chain leaders predict for the future of the profession and how do you ensure you’re prepared seize the opportunities and get the most out of your career?

What is the biggest mistake supply chain professionals make?

What are the five key skills you need to make it to the top?

How should supply chain leaders embark on a major transformation?

Will the profession evolve in the coming years in preparation for an AI-enabled world?

We’ll answer all of these questions and more when Career Boot Camp 2018 kicks off at the beginning of October.

This year’s series, Your Supply Chain Career: Accelerated, has been designed to help you sprint outside of your comfort zone and get into the best career shape of your life!

Featuring tips and tricks from some of the best in the business we’ll be discussing how to make it as a Head of Supply Chain, the true value of professional certifications, how to persevere in the face of adversity and what the future holds for the profession.

Sign up here ahead of our launch on October 1st.

FAQs

What is the Procurious Career Boot Camp ?

Procurious’ Career Boot Camp, sponsored by IBM, is a global professional development event for supply chain professionals. The series, features five, fifteen-minute podcasts that have been designed to help you get into the best career shape of your life.

How do I listen to the Career Boot Camp podcasts?

Simply sign up here and you’ll be re-directed to the Supply Chain Pros group where you can access all five podcasts. You will also join a mailing list, which will alert you each time a new podcast is released.

How will I know when each podcast is published?

The series will run for one week, starting on October 1st, with a daily podcast released on Procurious each day. We’ll drop you an email to let you know as each podcast becomes available.

Is the podcast series available to anyone?

Absolutely! Anyone & everyone can access the podcasts and it won’t cost you a penny to do so. Simply sign up here!

When does Career Boot Camp take place?

Starting on the 1st October, Career Boot Camp will run for five days. The podcasts will be accompanied by daily blogs from our Supply Chain Career Coaches plus group discussions and articles on Procurious. When the series is complete, all five podcasts will be available for registrants via the Procurious eLearning hub, FREE of charge.

Why should I do Career Boot Camp every day?

Dedicating 15 minutes a day to developing and progressing your supply chain career can make the difference between standing still, or sprinting quickly into more impactful roles. At Procurious, we firmly believe that daily procurement learning is essential for career advancement. And Career Boot Camp will help you get into the habit!

Speakers

Rick Blasgen, CEO & President – CSCMP

Rick D. Blasgen has been the president and chief executive officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) in Lombard, Illinois, USA since 2005.

Rick Blasgen has responsibility for the overall business operations and strategic plan of the organisation. His efforts support CSCMP’s mission of leading the supply chain management profession through the development and dissemination of supply chain education and research

Ron Castro , Vice President – IBM Supply Chain

IBM Supply Chain Vice President leading a remarkable team through the digital and cognitive journey to an end to end AI-enabled supply chain. Driving adoption of cutting-edge technology and applications inside and outside of the manufacturing walls.

Chris Crozier, Chief Digital Officer – Orica

Chris Crozier is the Chief Digital Officer for Orica International, the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of explosives for mining and civil construction. In this capacity, Chris’ digital teams supports the global footprint of the organisation across Business, Customer and Manufacturing systems, including governance of Orica’s digital ecosystems, architecture, data and cyber posture. Prior to this, he has held executive roles within Orica as Global Vice President Supply Chain, and BHP Billiton.

Tom Evans, UK Ultramarathon Runner

Tom Evans is a 26 year old professional Trail Runner and Red Bull athlete. In 2017 he discovered ultra running and finished 3rd in the famous Marathon des Sables, which was his first ultra marathon. Since then, he has become a full time athlete. He finished 3rd in the Trail running world championships while representing Team GB. He has recently won the CCC – one of the most prestigious 100km mountain races”

Samantha Gash, Australian Ultramarathon Runner

Samantha Gash, as a World Vision Ambassador, ran 3253 km in 76 days across India, raising over $150,000 to fund education programs. Her other achievements include a 1968km expedition run along South Africa’s Freedom Trail and four 250km desert ultramarathons as part of the Racing the Planet – Four Deserts Grand Slam.

Laura Faulkner, Director Supply Chain Management – Nationwide Building Society 

After graduating from Strathclyde University with a BSc in Technology & Business, Laura joined Polaroid as a Graduate Buyer. Laura then spent time with GSK and Ernst & Young before taking a role with RBS that led to her being appointed CPO in 2014.

Laura is now CPO and Director of Supply Chain Management (SCM) at Nationwide Building Society where she has brought together Procurement, Property Services, Third Party Risk, Vendor Management, Accounts Payable and Offshore Operations.

SCM’skey focus is to maximise the value of 3rd Party Relationships across the Society, leading the Supply Chain Strategy to drive efficient, resilient and innovative solutions for the benefit of all Nationwide Members.

Career Boot Camp, Your Supply Chain Career: Accelerated kicks off on October 1st 2018. Sign up here (it’s FREE!)

10 Reasons Why You Should Be A Mentor

Mentoring is quickly gaining recognition as one of the fastest ways to develop talent and accelerate leadership potential. Here are 10 reasons why you should be a mentor…

  • Have you ever considered being a mentor?
  • Do you have a mentor?

These are just two of the questions that are starting to be commonly asked in leadership circles as more people recognise the value of mentorship. Both from the perspective of being a mentor, and the perspective of having a mentor.

Mentoring is quickly gaining recognition as one of the fastest ways to develop talent and accelerate leadership potential. What people are also recognising is the value and development that comes with being a mentor.

So here are 10 reasons why you should be a mentor:

  1. You are supporting a future leader

Seeing a leader developing their skills and knowledge first hand, and knowing that you have played a part in this, can be incredibly satisfying. There is a sense of leaving a legacy and fulfillment when you reflect on what you have given to your mentee.

2. You develop your communication and coaching skills

Your improved skills will allow you as a leader to communicate more effectively with the team in your workforce, making it easier to influence your team. It is important to recognise that not everyone is able to immediately step into the role of mentor. Being an expert in your technical field is one thing, being a mentor is something very different.

3. You build networks and become part of the mentoring community

Relationships are a key to your success in business and your network is a powerful resource as it allows you to share information, insights and provide support. The mentoring community is growing as more and more leaders recognise its value.

4. You gain insights into other industries

There can be incredible learning opportunities when you mentor someone from outside your own industry and you will pick up the nuances of that sector. It is very easy to fall into the trap of always looking at things through the lens of your experience and perspective. There is much value to be head from taking a wider view.

5. You are encouraged to practise solutions-based thinking

All leaders need to be able to understand business challenges as this allows them to make solid business decisions. Understand the problem, then spend more time focused on the solution. The practice of solutions-based thinking is a discipline you will be able to take back into your own leadership and own workplace.

6. Mentoring brings business opportunities

It may be that your mentee brings opportunities to you, or you may simply spot the opportunity as a result of the relationship. Depending how active you are on social media, opportunities might also present themselves as you share your insights along the mentoring journey.

7. Mentoring increases your credibility as a leader

Being a mentor can actually increase your credibility as a leader because it demonstrates that you have the ability to develop others. Employers are looking for leaders who can develop other leaders as succession planning becomes more of a challenge for organisations as expectations grow about career opportunities.

8. Being a mentor becomes a sellable skill

Having your mentoring experience on your resume can add to your leadership credibility, especially if you have been mentoring for a number of years. Leaders who are serious about their careers and recognise the value an external mentor can bring. The value comes in the form of a clear perspective because they are not working for the same employer.

9. Leaders who mentor leave a legacy

As a mentor, it is important to consider the legacy you will leave. You can have a lasting impact on people which goes beyond their working life. This is actually one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a mentor because sometimes just knowing the small contribution you have made to the life of another person is incredibly rewarding.

10. Mentoring gives you opportunities for self-reflection

As you work with your mentee on their career path, their career challenges and anything else which may arise, you will find yourself contemplating your own leadership journey. This can be a powerful experience as you will undoubtedly find lessons in your own development which can, of course, be shared with your mentee.

Mentoring is more than just a fancy word for supporting someone else.

It is a commitment of time and effort that is rewarding and provides a sense of fulfillment that goes beyond leadership and management. It is knowing that you have made an impact on your mentee whilst at the same time undertaking some valuable self reflection, which can only have positive outcomes for your own leadership.

Being a mentor is an idea that I believe all leaders should subscribe to and I imagine what the state of leadership might be like if this were the case.

My book Give Back. Lead Forward: Why every leader should be a mentor and have a mentor is published by Major Street Publishing and is available in all good bookshops and online.

Procurement is Already Awesome – Here’s Why So Many #LOVEPROCUREMENT

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that procurement professionals love what they do. And here’s why….

We have all seen how far Procurement has evolved in recent years. The process has certainly not been easy for some; most of us are still on the journey (after all, transformation isn’t a destination) and others have yet to begin. But one thing is clear, procurement has turned the transformation corner and is speeding forward.

It’s not long ago that procurement departments were shunned and dismissed as merely back office administrators. But a lot has changed and the new terminology used to describe procurement is hardly recognisable; collaborative, innovative, data-driven, agile, change agent, advisor. Much of this due is to the broader realisation that Procurement can add significant value to an organisation. But to me, there is even more to it. I believe that the passion that many procurement professionals have for their work and the fact that many of us love what we do plays a big part.

Over the last year, and before that as an industry analyst, I spent a lot of time listening and talking to procurement professionals and it became apparent that people in this function really do enjoy and love what they do. It may have something to do with the fact that procurement is now exciting and invigorated but regardless, I wanted to investigate further. So, at our annual event we asked real procurement practitioners one question “Why do you love procurement?” and the response was overwhelming and quite frankly, surprising. We received over 120 answers, many of which expressed a great passion and  love for procurement. This was enough evidence for me.

The response was so great that we felt obligated to share a few, in the hope that they:

  • Inspire those in this profession (and maybe others)
  • Show that this is not your parent’s procurement; this is a dynamic, modern and challenging profession
  • Prove that many procurement professionals are excited about their roles, what’s in store for them and the impact they can have on an organisation
  • Drive even more proclamations of procurement love (you can submit your own by clicking on the image below)

I couldn’t help myself, so I threw all the responses into a word cloud tool to highlight some of the most common words used:

Why do you love Procurement?

Above are some of the main words used to describe why people love Procurement but here are some actual responses. To see more please visit this page

My favorite one really captures the dynamic nature of Procurement and the impact:

“It gives me that spiderman feeling- middle of the web with the other players and a superhero when we get the cost out.”

Procurement is about relationship building.

“I do not source goods and services, I source relationships.”

Procurement is fun…

“Involves cost, saving, buying, innovation, suppliers and all the fun in the world.”

Who said Procurement doesn’t care about suppliers?

“I love helping suppliers innovate develop and succeed”

Procurement helps make businesses more agile.

“I’m ready to fully respond and support continuous and radial changes in a business.”

Procurement is an exciting place to be right now. It’s a dynamic function that demands a multitude of skills from the traditional negotiation, relationship management and process skills to the increasingly important sales, communication, analytics, innovative technology and more. Many procurement groups are having to familiarise themselves with emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain and IoT. The rapid innovation in these areas and potential impact means that procurement must keep pace.

Procurement is a gatekeeper to potentially the largest source of innovation any company has – its suppliers. Fostering those relationships, building new ones and becoming the customer of choice is critical in this hyper-competitive age.

All of this makes Procurement fascinating. As such, we will continue gathering these quotes from around the world and hopefully generate more interest and excitement about Procurement.

So, if you #LOVEPROCUREMENT, tell us why.

Four Ways To Cultivate Real Confidence And Supercharge Your Career

Often we think of confidence as something that the lucky few are born with and the rest are left wishing for. But this couldn’t be further from the truth…

Think of someone who you say is confident – your boss, a colleague or a celebrity, perhaps. Chances are you’d describe them as poised, hopeful and positive. They know their strengths and they know their weaknesses, too.

Often we think of confidence as something that the lucky few are born with and the rest are left wishing for. This simply is not true. Confidence is not a personality trait or a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take. Confidence is learnable.

It also isn’t based on our actual ability to succeed at a task but on our belief in our ability to succeed. It is the expectation of a positive outcome – regardless of whether this relates to our belief in our ability to speak in front of a large audience, to learn new technology, to lead a team, to handle confrontation, to change jobs and careers, or to start a business.

With consistent effort, and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence and, with it, our capacity to build more of it. Here’s how to do that in four ways.

  1. Show up as the real you

Having the ability to show up with real confidence means you know yourself, you can be yourself and you show up as the best version of yourself. This is more than getting out of bed, splashing some water on your face and fronting up at your desk hoping you can cope with what the day throws at you.

You believe you can draw on what you are great at. You believe what you’re good at is important, and that it’s aligned with how you are working. You believe that you are valuable and valued.

Showing up as truly confident over a sustained period of time is something that needs to be built from the inside out. ‘Faking it until you make it’ only gets you so far and for so long. Trying to pretend you have the confidence needed to get the job done can be exhausting.

2. Stand up for yourself

At work, especially if you’re looking to get into a leadership position, you need to speak up when no-one else will. You need to be visible, make unpopular decisions and go slow in order to go fast. You must stand alone in a crowd and have the confidence to believe in yourself. You don’t need to be the Dalai Lama, but you do need to stand up for what you deem right, fair and important.

When it comes to building your confidence in standing strong, ask yourself:

  • What do you VALUE? To speak out, you have to know what to speak about. To stand up for your beliefs, you have to know what you stand for.
  • What is your PURPOSE? Steve Jobs once said, ‘Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.’ That’s a clear sense of purpose. He was clear about what he stood for and why, and you need to be too.
  • How RESILIENT are you? Inevitably, when we stand up, we are putting ourselves at risk of rejection. Building your capacity to get back up again is important in maintaining your confidence during adversity and setbacks.

3. Speak up and have a voice

A sure way to fail in today’s demanding business environment is to keep quiet when you should be speaking up!

People often tell me that they don’t speak up because they are not confident and they fear being judged. My response is, ‘So you would rather be judged on just sitting there and saying nothing instead of taking the opportunity to have a voice and potentially getting it wrong?’ The likelihood is that we are going to be judged one way or another.

Many of us also back away from speaking up to avoid conflict. We see conflict as bad, rather than being able to reframe it as healthy debate. As a result, we keep our opinions to ourselves – thinking that if we just keep doing our job and delivering the outcomes, we will get ahead.

Yet we must be willing to speak up, even when it is hard or unpopular or you feel like it will cause conflict. As Martin Luther King Jr put it, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter’. So, use your voice!

  1. Step up your performance

You need to have the confidence and skills, and the ability to take on an element of risk, no matter what role or industry you work in. To step up confidently, you need to master your mindset, build your personal brand and have great sponsors.

Reflecting on your current behaviours and stepping up as required is critical. You often need to do things differently tomorrow from how you are today. You need to take yourself out of your comfort zone – and be confident enough to do this – and be aware of your context and what the environment requires of you because this is always changing.

If you’ve got your ‘head down and bum up’ all day long, knocking off your to-do list, how will you be able to assess what you need to do to influence and ensure the work makes real progress?

Continue to challenge yourself and ask, ‘If what got me here won’t get me there, what do I need to be doing now to step up?’

When you do this in line with all the other confidence skills, then you start to cultivate your confidence and supercharge your career.

Understanding The Shape And Cut Of Procurement Organisations

Elaine Porteous clears up some common misconceptions about the ways  procurement  organisations can be structured, and demystifies some of the jargon…

Sergiy Bykhunenko/ Shutterstock

 Starting a new job can be both stressful and exhilarating. The people are different, the location is strange and the way they work is peculiar to that enterprise. There may be a seven-level procurement organisation chart or a loose, undocumented reporting structure to be navigated.  What is also daunting is the “in-speak”, the specific terminology which may be like a foreign language to you.

Let’s clear up some misconceptions about ways that procurement can be organised, and try and demystify some of the jargon.

An operating model is just the way the procurement function is set up to work.  Most companies start up being decentralised, unstructured and even disorganised until the workload grows.  As the functions expand and mature, there needs to be some form of formalising and centralising of the activities to consolidate the spend. Only then can we expect to make savings and reduce our risk exposure.

Centralised or centre-led?

Centralised procurement does have its benefits. It means more control over suppliers and contracts and it helps drive supplier diversity and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.  The risk is mitigated and skills development is made easier, expanding capabilities.  However, it can become a very bureaucratic and expensive cost centre. Too much data and not enough information can cause loss of focus and poor service to stakeholders.  People at the centre do not always understand regional and local supply markets and consumption patterns.  If “central” means the US and the region is Papua New Guinea, there may be cultural challenges too.   As procurement organizations move on and mature, over time, many of them become centre-led, taking some time to decentralise personnel and day-to-day operations.

Figure 1: The procurement journey

Image:  www.zycus.com

Wherever your organisation is on this curve, it is helpful to know what it means to be where.  There is no one best structure. The way your organisation works is influenced by the external supply market, the end-users needs and the overall company strategy. You just have to ride the wave.

Centre-led procurement organisations concentrate on defining strategy and policy for both their direct and indirect procurement.  Corporate spend can be fully leveraged on strategic commodities and services which are well-suited for centralized sourcing.  Non-strategic categories not suited to centralized sourcing can be handled by the individual business units or regions.

Centre-led procurement uses a category management structure which supports the rollout of sourcing and contracting plans to business unit and regional level.  The type of set-up is often called a hybrid model.

Category management means the bundling of third-party spend into buckets to extract more value.  The main aim behind category management is to aggregate the internal demand and achieve economies of scale by contracting the best suppliers at the lowest price.  In its best form, it involves an active category manager to roll out category plans, strategic sourcing and supplier management initiatives.

In a centre-led organisation, a global category manager would set the strategy for the category group, e.g. transport logistics, and for the sub-categories (also sometimes called commodities) within that group:  road, rail and air transport, freight forwarding, port activities and courier services.  At regional or divisional level, the category plans are followed and executed locally to achieve the best results for the organization.  This is the ideal but it is rarely implemented in full. Some categories are really challenging. Marketing services, technology and professional fees come to mind.

Cross-functional teams (CFTs)

To be effective, a category needs to be managed using one or more cross-functional teams.  A cross-functional team comprises representatives of key divisions and business units that work together, with procurement, to achieve the best results for the organization in that category or commodity. Although extensively used in strategic sourcing, CFTs are being used increasingly and successfully across process improvement, product development, quality assurance and the assessment of suppliers.    

The benefits are well-documented:  a more robust outcome, transfer of skills and learnings, improved internal cooperation and sustainable relationships.

Global organisations that run virtual CFTs have special challenges.  With the application of innovative methods and up-to-date online technology, it is now easier and more effective.

Whatever the operating model or the make-up of the CFT, the satisfaction of stakeholders and end users is paramount.  A stakeholder is anyone that has a vested interest in the outcome of your project or action.  He or she could be any one of these:

  • An internal departmental executives, manager or end-user
  • Another procurement team member
  • A co-opted subject matter expert
  • A supplier or a subcontractor
  • A member of the media or a regulatory body

Stakeholders are capable of influencing the success or failure of a project.

The model is not cast in stone

As a procurement organisation matures, it is likely that executives will revise and adjust a hybrid or centre-led structure so that it stays aligned to corporate objectives and continues to deliver value.  The best model is always the one that delivers results through open lines of two-way communication and uses processes that are flexible enough to take into account regional and cultural differences.

Where Are All The Great Procurement Jobs? Broaden Your Vision

Looking for a new procurement job? The good news is that there are a whole load available that are yours for the taking… you just need to broaden your vision!

Do you have your eye on an exciting opportunity in international category management, predictive data analytics, or do you have a passion to make sourcing more sustainable?  The good news is that new job roles like these are emerging in procurement and they are waiting for you.  Conventional manual processes are disappearing as we automate routine tasks, even contract management is deemed at risk: artificial intelligence and algorithms are already being used to draw up “smart” contracts.

Where are all the great jobs?

Corporate companies

Traditionally the most desirable careers were to be found in the big multinationals that have mature procurement organizations; this still holds quite true.  Some of the companies in the fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) sector are leading the way in strategic procurement.  Unilever, P&G, Amazon and Coca-Cola are listed in Gartner’s Top 25 companies in supply chain.  Any one of these companies may be a good place to get a foot in the door and gain solid early experience.

Procurement solutions providers and consultancies

With the development of software solutions for procurement functions such as strategic sourcing, contracting and supplier management, many companies are outsourcing some functions to technically proficient service providers.  These problem solvers service a range of industries, locations and functions. Spend Matters publishes a list of the top 50 solutions providers To Know and another top 50 to Watch.   This list includes some consulting firms, both big and small.  Phil Ideson of the Art of Procurement says that this type of experience can be valuable if you want to go back into a corporate leadership role.  He says “I am a believer that procurement is a service provider to our stakeholders and not a function. Being with a solutions provider really helps you experience the need for customer centricity.”

Not-for-profit and Public Procurement 

Public sector procurement is a real job option.  Don’t disregard the experience that you can get from working on big-ticket items and major projects that positively affect your region or your city. It may not seem as cool as working for Apple Inc. but it may be more rewarding.  There is some perception that working for a non-profit organization means a drop in pay, not so.  Love to travel?  Opportunities to work abroad abound in the many divisions of the United Nations, the World Bank and the Red Cross, at market-related salaries.

Should you get certified or get a degree?

Unlike in finance and legal, there isn’t a license to practice in procurement. However, most employers prefer candidates with a least a bachelor’s degree in business or a professional certification in supply chain or procurement. Which one depends on whether your targeted employer has a preference for certification over a formal degree and what your desired end-game is.

1. Getting certified

Many of my colleagues without a professional certification have never felt that that impeded their career growth or work opportunities.  However, in the early stages of a career, it may be useful especially in locations where professional certifications are held in high esteem. CIPS, CAPM, IACCM and ISM are examples of certifications and affiliations that you could follow. In the UK and in Australia the push for certification and affiliation is stronger than in some other parts of the world.

2. Educational qualifications

Formal degrees in procurement are actually quite rare but there are lots of possibilities in supply chain management (SCM), of which procurement is a key element.  Leading employers source their talent from the best-ranked colleges internationally that offer supply chain advanced education and from the top UK universities with registered supply chain degrees.  If you are thinking it is too late to start, it really isn’t.  Many of these degrees are available online. Always take advantage of an offer of financial or other educational assistance from your employer.

Sometimes it’s all about the piece of paper, sometimes it’s about the affiliation.

“If I knew then what I know now”

I asked some mature and experienced colleagues what they would tell their 21-year old self and this is what they said:

  1. Be curious

Soak up everything. Read widely to stay on top of new trends, changes in regulations and advances in technology.   Don’t always accept commonly held positions, beliefs or strategies as absolute truths.  Question what you see and what you hear. You can look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes.

  1. Get wide exposure

Take advantage of any job rotation that you are offered,  opportunities to get exposure to many industries and many categories don’t come along every day.  Be open to change and chances to diversify your skills. Transitioning between functions helps you build your knowledge and helps you to better understand your stakeholders.

  1. Find a mentor

It may be useful to get guidance from someone who has been through a similar experience.  A well-chosen mentor provides advice and helps navigate you through the trials and tribulations of your career.  Gordon Donovan (FCIPS), of Epworth Healthcare, says a mentor can come from anywhere, even another industry.

  1. Ask for feedback (and act on it!)

Actively seek feedback on the things that you do well and things that need improvement. Sometimes it’s hard to take criticism but it can help develop both your technical and behavioural skills.

  1. Network

Networking does not come naturally to everyone but it is worth developing some skills in this area.  Meeting new people is so important because you never know when it’ll be someone who can help you to open doors or change your direction. Tanya Seary is a champion of networking, you can follow her example here. 

6. Job descriptions are not cast in stone

Many advertised jobs that you come across may be cut-and-pasted from descriptions used in previous recruitment activities.  Too many times employers and recruiters look for what they looked for last time, not what they need now.  If you think you would fit their needs, go for it, there’s nothing lost.

What the under 30’s say

Most under 30’s surveyed agreed with the boomers talking to their 21-year-old selves.  They suggested working hard to keep learning and gaining new qualifications and ask lots of questions.  As Christina Gill, one of the “30 under 30” stars with over a decade of experience in supply chain, said, “This is an exciting time in your career. Be open, be adventurous, be a sponge, listen, learn, and take risks in your career.”

A final thought: organisations that focus on supplier collaboration, unlocking innovation and making the best use of their precious data make attractive employers.

Gaining Entrepreneurial Experiences In An Enterprise Environment

Look out ‘blockchain’ and ‘transformation’, there’s a new hyped word quickly rising through the ranks – and it may soon eclipse you both: ‘intrepreneurship’.

Intrepreneurship is a philosophy or set of experiences that allow a professional to combine the authority and accountability of entrepreneurship with the (relative) safety and job security of a corporate gig.

There is nothing easy about being an entrepreneur, despite the glamor assigned to meteoric success stories like Apple, Tesla, Uber, and Facebook. The high point and low point of entrepreneurship are actually the same: at the end of the day you are responsible for everything that happens – good or bad – even if it seems beyond your control. This accountability drives healthy risk-taking and builds a sense of ownership that is often missing in corporate roles that provide a soft landing.

Being an entrepreneur sounds like a great idea, but what if it were possible to get that experience without taking on the risk of leaving a position with a guaranteed salary and benefits? That’s where intrepreneurship comes in. Functions like marketing, sales, and operations seem like a natural fit for the intrapreneurial movement, but so is procurement! We just have to be prepared to either seize the opportunity or create one of our own.

Build a better mousetrap…

“…and the world will beat a path to your door” as the aphorism attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson goes. No one has built more ‘mousetraps’ than procurement, nor have they contracted for mousetrap maintenance services or optimized relationships with mousetrap manufacturers. This knowledge and perspective is priceless to a company trying to create something new that they can introduce to market. The right incremental improvements can turn whole markets upside down. Procurement should have a voice on every corporate innovation council or ‘lab’ and should participate in those experiences as an absolute equal – not a courtesy invite. Realizing how valuable our perspective is, and putting that into words, becomes a ‘business’ plan that procurement can use to drive top line growth.

Identify unaddressed needs

“Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” Procurement spends so much time trying to fulfill defined business requirements that we can often spot unaddressed needs before the company and its suppliers do. Many times, these needs are just to the right or left of current supplier offerings. An intrepreneurial procurement professional will seize this opportunity and partner with a supplier to make it happen – taking on both risk and vision definition and seeing the R&D process through. Procurement’s company is then the first to benefit from the new offering, and may have a stake in the associated intellectual property.

Look, learn, and listen

Procurement’s mandate – in the broadest conceivable sense – is to ensure that the company derives the greatest amount of value, and assumes the lowest level of risk, from every dollar they spend. The projects that might fall under that sort of an umbrella are far more expansive than traditional spend analysis and strategic sourcing. Anything unique going on at the company should include strong representation from procurement.

That includes mergers and acquisitions, new product development, strategy planning, etc. Depending on the project type, there may be an ‘organic’ beginning. Procurement should always be on the lookout for opportunities to take on more responsibility and join in on unique projects – without waiting for a formal invitation. After all, very few people are ‘invited’ to become entrepreneurs. Most chart that path forward on their own.

Once you’ve walked a mile in an entrepreneur’s shoes, it is hard to imagine ever going back and working in a traditional enterprise setting again. And who knows? Maybe the next round of wildly successful, disruptively innovative startups will be founded by former procurement professionals.