Tag Archives: women in procurement

Fortune Favours the Bravest Procurement Professionals

Don’t let a lack of confidence hold your career back- Sometimes it pays to throw yourself into the riskiest of situations.

Procurious recently launched Bravo, a new group seeking to address gender disparity in the workplace, and celebrate and empower women working within procurement.

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be interviewing a number of high profile leaders and seeking their advice on how we can help other women to get ahead in their procurement careers.

Deanna Lomas is the Chief Supply Chain Officer at Super Retail Group, one of Australasia’s largest retailers. Headquartered in Brisbane, Super Retail Group has over 630 retail stores and almost 12,000 team members across Australia, New Zealand and China. SRG provide solutions and engaging experiences that inspire their customers to live their leisure passions. SRG is the owner of iconic Australian brands including Amart Sports, BCF Boating Camping Fishing, Supercheap Auto, Rays and Rebel.

In this interview Deanna discusses her greatest achievements, gives her tips for reducing gender disparity in organisations and explains why confidence is so crucial.

How can procurement motivate more women to join the profession (and stay with it!) ? 

As procurement leaders, we have a role in advocating for the profession and showcasing possible career paths. Procurement and supply chain professionals do not always get a strong voice in the external environment so it’s important we proactively engage and participate in the conversation. Procurious is a great example of this!

We also have an obligation as leaders to support women entering into procurement, specifically to coach and encourage them. This takes a personal commitment of time and effort but we just simply need to do it.

What have been the most successful approaches organisations you know have taken to decrease gender disparity?

Organisations have to be brave and articulate some target aspirations. This focuses leaders on a goal that, with reporting and measurement of progress, has the best chance of success.

The biggest challenge is to ensure that, once you get momentum on increasing the representation of women, you also work to create a culture that welcomes them. This might mean improving and developing the inclusion behaviours in your team members.

Pay equity checks by organisations are a powerful way of reducing gender disparity.  I have worked for organisations that have made commitments to pay equity across the board and this reassures me that I am an equitable and valued team member.

What has been your most rewarding experience and greatest accomplishment to date? 

My greatest accomplishment was paying my own way through University to complete three Bachelor degrees and a Masters qualification. However, my most rewarding career experience was a being a leader of a large team that I had the opportunity to reshape and create, the best team I have led so far!  A big part of my approach was focusing on a ‘service of others’ model in the leadership brand for the team. This enabled us to attract and retain fabulous people that gave their best to the business.

What do you see as being the emerging trends for procurement?

Technology enablement continues to be both a challenge and an emerging opportunity.  Too few organisations have been able to create processes and systems that make procurement efficient, collaborative and real-time.  It’s easy to default to complex process, controls and governance that can restrict the ability of the business to be agile.

The other emerging trend I see is the move towards the creation of genuine collaborative eco-systems between multiple external partners and the organisation. The greatest opportunities will come from cross industry collaboration with the beneficiary – the organisation – who is at the heart of the value realisation. I see this as a reduction in traditional “two-party” partnerships and an increase in “multi-party” commercial partnerships.  This might be seen as an increased complexity level for the profession to manage, but I think it would, in fact, drive simplicity and a true focus on relationship management.

If you could offer your younger self two pieces of advice, what would they be?

Have the confidence to give things a go and find ways to help reduce the fear of failure. My confidence has grown as I have gained experience. However, early ison in my career I know this was something I struggled with which can hold you back at times. Be courageous and step into “risky” situations or opportunities as it can be highly valuable.

At Procurious, we want to make it easier for women to get into, stay in, and thrive in the procurement profession. This is why we are launching Bravo – a Procurious Group celebrating and promoting women in Procurement. Join the conversation here.

Nobody Said Procurement Was Easy

Are you ever tempted to give up on your career aspirations at the first hurdle? Tania Seary explains why you’ll thank yourself in the long run for sticking it out!

What is the hardest job in the world? This newspaper job advert has, in fact, awarded the title to motherhood! 

We recently launched Bravo – a Procurious Group addressing gender disparity in the workplace through the celebration of women.

As part of Bravo, Procurious will be asking a number of high profile procurement leaders their advice to other women in Procurement, and how we can help them to get ahead in their careers.

We’re kicking things off with our founder Tania Seary. Tania is the Founding Chairman of three companies specialising in the development of the procurement profession – Procurious, The Faculty and The Source. In this interview, Tania shares her thoughts on what makes a great leader, how we can motivate more people to join the procurement profession and her advice to the next generation of rising stars.

How can procurement motivate more women to join the profession (and stay with it!)?

A career in Procurement offers fantastic and diverse opportunities, which are not always readily, or well, conveyed to budding young professionals.

In my opinion, the function could be doing a lot more to engage with universities, both to encourage the development of the curriculum and to educate undergrads about what constitutes a career in procurement. Several global companies have integrated procurement rotations into their graduate schemes and I would love to see more organisations following suit. Not only has this proven successful in terms of recruiting the hottest new talent but it also gives the business as a whole the chance to see what valuable and interesting work procurement is doing.

Finally, as always, I would encourage and urge procurement professionals to share, share, share! Become an advocate for procurement by sharing your stories, experiences and insights to encourage the best talent, both male and female, to join our profession.

What tips/advice would you give to Procurement rising stars?

Stick it out!

One of life’s greatest achievements is making it across the finish line to collect the medal, or at least the participation award!  In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to give up at the first hurdle and pull out of the race. By abandoning your plans you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Those who are ambitious, push through in tougher times, keep working hard and are able to bounce back onto the career track after a knock back are the ones who go on to the greatest successes.

Of course, this can be easier said than done, especially when it comes to juggling family and working life. Women are under so much more pressure to balance the two and it’s this that I believe explains the gender disparity at the top of organisations.

What has been your most rewarding experience and greatest accomplishment to date?

Being a full time working woman and a mother presents a whole host of logistical and emotional challenges. It’s even harder without a strong support network. I’ve been so fortunate to have had some inspiring female mentors and colleagues who supported me through the early stages of my career and when I was setting up my own businesses

It’s extremely rewarding to now be in the position to pass on some of the things I’ve learnt. I’m always keen to mentor, inspire and, of course, employ fantastic women in procurement!

My three companies (The Source, The Faculty and Procurious) have helped to connect thousands of procurement pros. It’s exciting to see how Procurious has helped to shape the careers of procurement professionals globally and in so many different ways.

What 3 attributes make a great leader?

1) Accountability – The best leaders will take full responsibility for their mistakes as well as their successes. They can look in the mirror, own their decisions, embrace the outcomes and be proud of what they see.

2) Vision – This is what separates leaders from managers. A manager simply does the job they are tasked with. A true leader has vision and, as such, a passion (that they can hopefully make contagious) for what they are trying to achieve.

3) Empathy – Understanding the motivators, drivers and feelings of those around you is so important when it comes to unlocking the power of the people in your organisation. Solid, working relationships make the world, and business go around.

Why is procurement the perfect career for you?

As someone who get bored easily, the variety of possibilities within procurement was initially a big drawcard. I love to continuously learn, problem solve and bring people together.  Procurement has allowed me to do all three of these things on a global scale.  

What are three pivotal things that have brought you to where you are today?

Working hard, never giving up and continually learning.  There’s always a lot of discussion surrounding the first two points but I’d really like to stress just how important it is to keep learning, no matter what stage you have reached in your career.  We’ve made eLearning a huge part of Procurious and in the work we do in my other companies so it is easy for procurement pros to learn quickly, any time and on the go!

Take every opportunity you can to learn from your colleagues, managers and even your employees. Make sure you work for “learning” organisations that are likely to support your ongoing career development.

At Procurious, we want to make it easier for women to get into, stay in, and thrive in the procurement profession. This is why we are launching Bravo – a Procurious Group celebrating and promoting women in Procurement. Join the conversation here.

Women in Procurement – An International Survey

Gender imbalance in business is clear to see. But, in procurement, how do professional associations stack up in terms of percentage of women members? 

Women in Procurement Study

Procurious recently launched Bravo: Celebrating Women in Procurement. Join the discussion here.

It’s well documented that females represent less than 5 per cent of CEO positions in S&P-500 companies, but organisation with greater diversity have enhanced business results.

Less described is the status of female participation across the procurement profession. So I decided to explore this using data from international Purchasing Associations (PAs).

Feedback from 22 PAs having a subscription base of around 230,000 members was received. I found that, on average, women accounted for 41 per cent of the membership base. However, the figure is skewed because the largest association is close to 50 per cent.

In reality, the majority of the other associations are in the 20-35 per cent female membership range. This also makes them a long way from gender parity.

PAs also reported that typically only 30 per cent of females attend their conferences and events, and that, correspondingly, a little under 20 per cent of women present at them.

There are also considerable differences between the national PA’s on how they are currently addressing the topic. Barring a few exceptions, most of them having no active forums.

Recent Procurement Studies

Various aspects of this topic have been outlined via a variety of different media. The most notable ones include:

Nonetheless, so far gender participation from a PA perspective has not been explored.

Methodology

Over 30 national PA’s were approached for their participation in a “Women in Procurement” survey. The following 22 replied: Australia, Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, UK, USA and Vietnam.

The PA’s were sent a survey that had a combination of quantitative and qualitative questions.

Women in Procurement – The Findings

The percentage of female members from the individual PA’s has been clustered and summarised into four groups. Of the 22 respondents 21 of them provided relevant data.

This identifies that the majority of the PA’s have considerable opportunity to approach membership gender parity:

The consultancy named “Catalyst” reports gender participation at different organisational levels in a pyramidal format. Unfortunately, despite trying to explore role level with the PA’s, they did not have enough data to be able to compose any related trends.

One exception, CIPS, the UK purchasing association, has a variety of member levels, differentiated by certification. The highest, most senior level (called Fellows) had 17 per cent women (despite being a cluster 4 PA).

Nonetheless, an interesting trend was noted in the decreasing differences between percentage membership, percentage event attendance, and percentage speaker/presenters.

For the PA’s as a composite group the trend was 40 per cent, 30 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. Not quite the pyramid, but certainly a trend with procurement women having decreasing visibility.

Furthermore, it does beg the question why is there a decreasing participation, and, what can PA’s do to achieve enhanced parity?

Maintaining Highest Level of Inclusion

Despite being informed by the MD of one PA that they “simply weren’t interested in this topic”, the survey research has been able to collate snapshots from different global PA’s and related associations addressing the Women in Procurement opportunity.

This includes:

  • CIPS-MENA (Middle East and North Africa) branch hosted a “Women in Procurement in Saudi” in May 2016. It is the first of its sort in the Middle East.
  • Procurement Leaders have launched in September 2016 an interesting microsite.

When talent compares a prospective career in Procurement with Finance, Marketing, Sales, IT, etc., our track record as a profession might be a problem. And it is hardly enough just to be aware of the issue.

Procurement Associations have an obligation, not only to their members, but to the organisations and communities that engage them, to maintain the highest possible standards and society inclusion.

Enhancing the Profession

What should Procurement Associations do to enhance the attractiveness of the profession…?

On 5th October 2016, CIPS-Switzerland held a “Women in Procurement” evening event. Over 80 participants enjoyed presentations from three great speakers. We now have plans to start a CIPS-Switzerland WiP forum.

The first letter of the word inclusion is “I” – what can “I” be doing about a topic of interest or an arena that needs addressing? It’s your turn now…!

John Everett is the CIPS-Switzerland branch chairperson as well as the EMEAI regional purchasing director for The Dow Chemical Company. His 30-year career spans product innovation, business development, procurement and business services leadership.

Women and Indirect Procurement – A Perfect Fit!

Indirect procurement is a perfect fit for women. And women in indirect procurement are a perfect fit for a company.

women indirect procurement

At a recent fantastic CIPS CH event on ‘Women in Procurement’, it got me thinking about why indirect procurement is a great function for women.

My path to leadership in procurement happened by accident. In the late 90s, when indirect procurement was emerging as a strategic sourcing function, I joined the corporate sourcing team at a large Swiss bank.

The team had been formed specifically to implement ‘strategic sourcing’. I got my first taste of the three things that make women in indirect procurement such a great combination.

  1. Indirect procurement is results oriented

One of the realities of being a businesswoman is that the range of acceptable behaviour can be pretty narrow. Being clear about your opinion in a meeting easily becomes being ‘too direct’.

But the great equaliser is delivering financial results. Everyone wants to hear more, especially senior executives.

But not just any numbers will do…

  • Clear financials – Focus on savings that bring the cost base down and have P&L impact via a tight link to the budget process (see my previous article on this topic).
  • Long-term savings commitment – The first time we committed as a team, I was nervous presenting it to the executive committee. But after we delivered the first year, my nervousness was gone.

Women who advance into leadership roles in corporations are all results oriented and tend to be super exact because the winnowing out process is earlier and harsher.

Mary, the leader of the US professional services category was exactly this kind of woman, delivering business innovation and significant numbers every year.

As part of our strategy for breaking through on more difficult categories, she led a new approach by working across regions. I also gave her a leadership challenge to think bigger on the numbers. She did. And the team delivered some great innovation to the business and tripled the savings delivery.

  1. Indirect procurement is flexible

One of the greatest aspects of being measured on results is that it makes space for flexibility between work and home time.

After some years in consulting, I was back in industry with a full-time role, and two small children, leading a big team for the first time. There were several other women with children in the team trying to manage work and home time. We needed to do something.

There were two things going for us.

  • A results oriented CPO even though he was an old style German man!
  • Procurement is in the ‘client’ role so sales people try to match your schedule.

This combination equals control of your agenda and gave us a chance to organise time differently.

  • No meetings after 5pm, but with the expectation of being online post bedtime.
  • Working fewer hours than the men just by being more focused. There’s nothing like needing to be home to get focus.

There’s no pretending that this was easy to do. But in addition to being able to balance work and home time, there were two side affects of this way of organising things.

  • The leadership team was young. And the men also started to organise themselves this way after they had children.
  • Talent retention and growth of women rising on the organisation.

Isabelle, a young woman in my former team recently had her second child and had the chance to take over a regional head role. We met for coffee and discussed her fear of taking the role with young children.

She made a clear plan on how she would manage her work and home time, including how many late evening conference calls she was willing to make, and went for it.

Great for her and great for keeping and developing talent in the company.

  1. Indirect procurement has P&L impact

Women continue to be underrepresented in senior management, and the ones there, are often in non-powerful functions like HR.

One of the key ticks in the box for advancing is P&L responsibility. Indirect procurement can have high impact on the P&L and therefore crucial ‘visibility’ to senior management. Keep in mind:

  • Senior management cares about the P&L. You need to not only deliver the numbers, but make sure you are up there presenting to them. And it’s a chance to show you can handle the pressure of executive level presentations and questions sessions.
  • Know your numbers inside and out. This means being aware of the status of all material projects driving delivery on a monthly basis.
  • Can you measure and track it – proof! Have a clear report that is linked to the budget cycle

The more visibility women have, the better their chances to advance. This naturally adds to the pipeline of women for a company – the lack of which is the eternal topic in every article about why there aren’t more women in senior positions.

The bottom line is empowered women deliver.

Pauline King is the CEO of Heykins GmbH, Rapid Results Procurement, focused on working with clients’ existing teams to deliver tangible financial results.

She is a recognised expert in indirect procurement with deep operational experience in procurement transformation. Pauline also works closely with The Beyond Group AG where she heads up the Indirect Procurement Practice.

Inspirational Words from Women in Procurement 2016

The Faculty’s Hugo Britt shares some inspirational words and thought-provoking ideas from the 2nd Annual Women in Procurement conference. 

Women in Procurement 2016 Inspirational Words

Back in March, I attended Quest Event’s 2nd Annual Women in Procurement conference in Melbourne, representing Procurious as the event’s media partner.

Literally within minutes of the conference being opened by NBN Co’s Chief Procurement Officer Coretta Bessi, I was scrambling to keep up my note taking as a flood of ideas, inspirational words and thought leadership came from the podium. And this pace didn’t let up over the two days of the conference.

Why run a conference exclusively for women in Procurement in Australia? Because the numbers are dire.

According to Jigsaw Talent Management’s Trends in Gender Diversity, the average split in the Australian national workforce is 54 per cent to 46 per cent in favour of men. But in the Procurement profession specifically the numbers are much worse – 63 per cent to 36 per cent in favour of men. Let’s not also forget the widening gender pay gap – currently averaging 17.1 per cent.

All of these figures point to an urgent need to drive change through a gathering of minds such as that seen at Women in Procurement.

Rather than try to summarise the content of the key speakers’ presentations, I’d like to share what I took as the most inspirational words and thought-provoking quotes from the conference.

Coretta Bessi, CPO, NBN Co.

“Ask yourself every day: ‘What am I doing today that will make me better tomorrow than I was yesterday?’”

Kelly Irwin, Head of Procurement Australia and NZ, Holcim

“Have the courage to leap out of your comfort zone.”

“A boss depends on authority, but a leader depends on goodwill.”

Jonathan Dutton, Director, JD Consultancy

“The secret to success in procurement is staying relevant to the vision.”

“Corporate Social Responsibility has the potential to change the fabric of our decision-making in procurement.”

Dutton’s four big critiques of modern procurement:

  1. An unproductive focus on cost
  2. Organisational isolation with no customer focus
  3. Glacial pace of procurement processes
  4. Acting without enquiry and not asking WHY.

Margaret Ruwoldt, University of Melbourne, speaking on the “Working out Loud” movement

“Hierarchical boundaries are much more permeable in a networked world. You have personal development opportunities that didn’t exist five years ago.”

“’Working out Loud’ is ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ meets the internet”

“Don’t wait to be plucked from the crowd – make yourself stand out.”

Jackie Aggett, Head of Procurement, Laing O’Rourke and The Faculty Roundtable member

“Courage, for me, means believing in myself, and believing my ideas are worth sharing.”

Sharon Hoysted, Procurement Manager, Supplier Management, Boeing Aerostructures Australia

“Diversity and inclusion are key to fostering a culture of innovation in your business.”

Nelli Kim, Senior Supplier Management Specialist, Telstra International Group

“If you can get through the self-doubt and give something a try, it’s a win.”

“What are YOU doing to personally manage your development?”

Professor Margaret Alston, Monash University

“Australia’s gender pay gap has grown to 17.1 per cent differential. This is simply not equitable. To achieve the same wage in Australia, women would have to work 64 days extra per year.”

Jennie Vickers, Director Australia and NZ, IACCM

“Don’t be defined by your job title or you’ll find yourself disappearing.”

“Make the case and articulate the benefits of supplier relationship management.”

Honey Meares, Procurement Manager, Supply Strategy, Genesis Energy

On clarity of purpose: “It’s important to know what you are trying to achieve.” 

Sarah Collins, Chief Procurement Officer, NSW Roads and Maritime Services

“Don’t try to change everything at once – rather, concentrate on starting the momentum.”

You can check out the full programme for the event here.

Hugo Britt is a Research Consultant at The Faculty, helping to support The Faculty Roundtable, an influential group of Australian procurement leaders, who gather to share their experiences and insights. The Faculty will be hosting their ninth Asia-Pacific CPO Forum, the region’s premier procurement event dedicated to accelerating commercial leadership at the highest level.

For more information on The Faculty Roundtable or CPO Forum, contact Program Manager, Belinda Toohey.

Overcoming Gender Bias in Procurement

Jackie Aggett, Regional Commercial Manager at Laing O’Rourke, discusses the gender bias she has come up against in procurement, and how she has overcome it to get to where she is today.

Overcoming Gender Bias

Jackie Aggett hadn’t been in procurement long when she needed to spend weeks preparing a major annual report about the procurement of earth moving tyres.

She handed it over to the site manager and watched him hurl the report angrily across the room. It hit the wall and fell apart.

“What would you know about earth moving tyres?,” he bellowed?
The slight blonde 28-year-old calmly walked over and picked up the report, and told him again that there were going to be changes. Like it, or not.

“Every part of me wanted to turn around and run out the door, but I’ve always found ways to overcome challenges in the workplace and turn them into opportunities,” Aggett says.

Finding a Voice

The experience did nothing to dampen her conviction. She has worked in male dominated roles for 25 years. She started out in a supply cadetship at BHP Billiton and then went on to work in rail, construction, marine services and a seawater desalination plant.

“I learned a lot in that cadetship. My boss at the time gave me the cadetship because he saw me as being very courageous, which was part of my upbringing. He sent me straight to Port Headland, where I was the only female.”

Her colleagues weren’t used to working with women. The only uniform available to her was the men’s trousers and shirts. “They were ill-fitting and very uncomfortable. Procuring some clothes to wear to work was high on the list in those early days,” Aggett says.

If anything, her presence among the male workforce was seen perhaps only as a novelty. But that all changed once she began finding her voice in the business, and began offering new solutions to old problems.

“I had a good work ethic and believed in what I was doing, and hit the ground running. But the team weren’t engaged when I started to suggest change, and that was a difficult process to go through. However, I didn’t give up. I continued to speak up and stand up for myself.”

Creating Trusted Advisors

Aggett’s depth of experience covers roles in commercial, contractual and financial management from project start-up through to close-out. This includes all facets of tender preparation, negotiation, contract award and subsequent on-site contract administration, claims, project controls, forecasting, financial reporting and risk management as the client asset owner or contractor.

Six months ago, she was tapped on the shoulder and offered the role of procurement head with international engineering enterprise Laing O’Rourke, which took her across the country from Perth to Sydney. She jumped at the chance.

Her focus in her role has been creating a vision – working to transform the procurement function from spend managers to trusted advisers, firstly among her team of 35 people.

“It is imperative we move beyond being seen and acting as a governance compliance function. We need to understand the business strategy and align our objectives to deliver sustainable value,” she says.

Challenging the Norm

Aggett has implemented a supply relationship management programme among other initiatives, which has been a big step forward for the procurement function within the business.

“A key part of this has been challenging the way in which we engage with the supply chain. The supply chain has a wealth of knowledge and capability which, if tapped into, can provide value creating solutions for our clients, ourselves and our supply chain partners.

“Unfortunately, the construction industry does not often afford the supply chain the opportunity to bring their knowledge and capabilities to the table. Our supplier relationship management program seeks to change this.”

Aggett wasn’t specifically chasing roles in such large corporate organisations, saying one thing just led to another.

“It certainly wasn’t planned that I’d work in male-dominated industries. I had four brothers and a working mother, and was raised to believe that girls can do anything.”

Overcoming Roadblocks

She admits that early on in her career, she came up against road blocks, but didn’t for a moment consider that had anything to do with gender bias.

“I definitely came up against a lot of unconscious bias in my early roles, and at times doing my job took some courage and self-belief. Being female has definitely been a challenge in the roles I’ve held.

“I’d wonder why someone wouldn’t listen to me, or how I could better showcase my skills. I’d work very hard to win someone over, and go through the problem solving process to try and work out why I wasn’t getting the result I wanted. The fact that I was a woman was always at the bottom of the list. Now, after 25 years working in the industry, I arrive at that conclusion a lot quicker and obviously have a lot more confidence in the role.”

Aggett hopes times have changed and that young women entering the procurement industry don’t come up against the gender bias she experienced.

“Saying that, I have been fortunate to work with individuals and organisations that have encouraged me to take opportunities, to believe in my abilities and to reward me for my efforts. I have experienced many organisations that have allowed flexibility in my working week, as I’ve raised two daughters as a single parent.”

While there are no requirements to do so, she advocates the importance of having a degree behind you for anyone working in procurement. Her law and finance degree has stood her in good stead, she says.

“It has absolutely served me well to have the formal qualifications behind me. When people are passionate about procurement and they’ve got the formal education, it gives them a seat at the board table in any situation they’re in.”

Jackie Aggett
Jackie Aggett

Jackie Aggett was one of the keynote speakers at the second annual Women in Procurement 2016 event. Catch up with what happened at the event here.

Transforming the Procurement Function from Within

It’s a tall order to come in and completely transform the procurement function within an iconic global company.

Kelly Irwin - Head Procurement Function Holcim

But Kelly Irwin didn’t beat around the bush when she started as Head of Procurement at the Australian subsidiary of Swiss group at Holcim (which has since merged with the French group LaFarge) five years ago.

The company, which is a leading supplier of aggregates, concrete and concrete pipe and products, had plenty of room for improvement. In fact, the company’s procurement department was mostly handling complaints, rather than handling strategic buying for their future.

The 20+ year procurement industry veteran soon realised the magnitude of the role, so set about implementing improved systems and processes for the procurement function. The first step was to establish a centralised purchasing model, then build a talented procurement team to support her role.

“It was a very dysfunctional team that had little direction, that wasn’t aligned with the company’s strategic directions,” Irwin says.

Building an Effective Team

Today, Irwin heads of a team of 34 people and manages a mind-boggling AUD $900 million budget. She has implemented and centralised structure and processes within the procurement function. She has previously worked in procurement for Qantas and building firm Boral, though this role with Holcim Australia is her first where the procurement buck stops with her.

With those changes bedded down, her remit is again broadening, and she will now handle all buying across New Zealand for the company, with a recent trip across ‘the Ditch‘ to establish processes there.

Not only this, Irwin has developed a highly effective procurement team, which has been awarded the Internal Customer Excellence Award for Holcim Australia for three years in a row.

Her approach has transformed the procurement function for the company, with her team has an 80 per cent engagement score, which was the highest in Holcim Australia in 2015.

Irwin has strong capabilities in building effective working relationships with teams, development of Procurement strategy, management of supplier and keyholder expectations, highly developed negotiating skills, contract management, risk management and compliance expertise and operational experience through the implementation of change initiatives and process improvements.

Irwin was also recently awarded the CIPS Procurement and Supply Chain Management Professional of the Year.

Building Individual Engagement

Irwin keeps staff informed on all aspects of the business, has an open door policy, and doesn’t mind being contacted after hours.

“I recently read that people play harder when they know the score. This is something Holcim Procurement do well. Not only do we have clear goals, (quantitative, savings targets), but we have the measurement tools the accountability element to keep score on how we are tracking.

“I believe this shared goal, as well as individual accountability to reach this goal builds individuals’ commitment to team uniformity direction, and overall engagement,” she says.

To emphasise her point, she recalled talking to someone in procurement who had major issues trying to speak to the head of the department. This was slowing down their ability to tackle their own role.

“This person would need to book a meeting with their superior two or three weeks ahead, and it was usually a walking appointment as he was always in between meetings. I honestly don’t know how someone can be that busy, that they’re practically unavailable for their own staff. You’ve got to make sure your staff feel engaged and supported, and that you’re a team.”

Nearly 70 per cent of her team is degree qualified, though that wasn’t a prerequisite when she entered the industry more than two decades ago.

“I always look to hire people that complement the skills we have, and find people who have talents in areas we need to improve in.

‘Be Inquisitive Problem Solvers’

Like so many working in procurement, it was never a deliberate decision to follow this career path.

Irwin deferred university and entered the workforce before stumbling into a procurement role, with the sound of buying things for a living appealing to her. She’s since completed a number of qualifications, certificates and management courses that support her role.

“Procurement is one of those professions that you’ll excel in as long as you’ve got the right soft skills.”

Irwin describes herself on being approachable, down to earth and honest. And she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

“Though depending on where you’re standing, that can be a bit rough as well,” she admits.

Procurement professionals need to be inquisitive problem solvers with strong communication skills, she says.

“While your superiors might be great at what they do, with all due respect, they don’t necessarily know more than you about your function within the business. Realising that you could well have a far better idea of the best approach than other senior people within your business can be professionally liberating.”

As far as the future goes, Irwin says the procurement function has an increasingly broadening remit.

“Procurement was entrenched in a brown cardigan mentality in the past, but that’s changing, and we’re now a business function that’s well respected across the globe.”

Kelly Irwin is one of the leading Australian professionals to speak at the second annual Women in Procurement 2016 event, which inspires leadership, advances careers and drives innovation in procurement, and supply chain function and practice. The event will be held in Melbourne in 21-23 March. Book your ticket here.