Future of Sourcing Digital's series, “Rising Stars of Sourcing,” recognizes individuals newer to the industry whose thought leadership and expertise have shown promise that is likely to have a lasting impact on the industry. We are thrilled to feature Conor Quarry this week, of IBM.
Rising Stars of Sourcing: Conor Quarry
Tell us about your career path and how you got into this field – was it purposeful or by accident?
My career path seems to be becoming more of a common one as the years go by. I attended Penn State University, and knew that I wanted to be in some type of business role for my career. I had a supply chain introductory course and really enjoyed the concepts, theories and problem-solving opportunities the major provided, so I decided for that to be my major! Also, the job placement for supply chain management (SCM) roles was 100 percent in 6 months after graduation, so I figured there was significant demand in the job market (which is never a bad thing).
If you didn’t work in sourcing, what career path would you have chosen?
If I weren’t in sourcing, I would probably work as some other type of business analyst. Finance, sales and marketing all appeal to me. Outside of the business world, I would be a teacher as I really enjoy helping people learn and feeling that I’m playing an integral part in someone’s growth as a person.
What do you feel sets you apart as a rising star of sourcing?
Everyone who is reading this right now undoubtedly shows up to work every day to do good work, feel valued and make a difference for their company. I agree completely with each of these sentiments, but I would say the thing that sets me apart is that when I achieve one of my goals, I am not completely satisfied. Although I feel a sense of accomplishment and enjoy performing up to my standards, I am continuously striving to be more efficient with each of these goals, adopting the newest technologies, reading and researching new ways of working, etc. in a never-ending quest for perfection. I believe it is that focus on always “staying hungry” and never being satisfied with the status quo that sets me apart.
Do you have any mentors who have helped you in your career?
I believe that behind every successful person is a group of people pushing them to achieve their goals and giving them career advice, guidance and new perspectives to tackling different issues. My most recent manager has had a significant effect on me professionally, as she has shown me how much change can be enacted with a great attitude, innate curiosity, willingness to collaborate and break down barriers, and strong belief in your goals.
Can you share any professional goals you’ve set for yourself for 2019 and how you plan to achieve them?
My main professional goal for 2019 is to collaborate with others more, both within my company, as well as with other industry professionals outside of my company. With the amount of information and resources available to the average person these days, there should be no more excuses about not being able to solve complex issues!
What do you think will be the big trends in sourcing and procurement this year?
Data will become the most important precursor to procurement success in the short- and long-term futures. There will be much more of a focus on spend and opportunity assessment data in the short term. Pricing insights, statistical negotiation tactics, supplier consolidation within similar items in tail spend and strategic supplier alignment are all opportunities for short term “quick wins” in procurement. But the focus and data collection on traditionally “soft” measures (headcount/productivity/supplier value/etc.) are all coming to the forefront of organization measurement. Extracting insights from each of these, benchmarking and assessing, aligning all data points together, then analyzing unseen gaps and risks in the process all enable procurement to create a new way of measuring the true value it creates for an enterprise.
Similarly, what or who are the disruptors you think will have the biggest impact on the industry?
I believe one of the biggest disruptors to the industry will be the adoption of augmented (cognitive) intelligence in decision making for procurement. It lowers the barrier of entry to procurement strategy development. Cognitive computing allows data-backed decision-making that is continuously evolving and ultimately more current and precise than the best procurement handbooks out there. Plus by compiling many successful strategies from different industries quickly and with few errors, it is constantly learning, ingesting new information and iterating.
What tips do you have for maintaining a work-life balance?
I think there are two separate perspectives to really unpack this question accurately. First is more a direct recommendation, and second is more of a philosophical approach to the question. The direct answer from me is more about completely compartmentalizing work and life. There is increasing evidence that people are more productive with a rested mind and performance increases when stress levels are reduced. I equate work-life balance to be synonymous with happiness in both your job and in your life. You should enjoy the journey of working towards succeeding because the journey should be what’s bringing you happiness.
What advice do you have for those who are new to the profession or considering entering the industry?
Always be open to new opportunities, new technologies and new methodologies for completing your job. The industry is changing so rapidly and keeping up with the newest technologies is essential to competing. Always be moving forward—know that change happens no matter the job and how you deal with change and adversity is what determines whether you become successful.