Women in Global Sourcing: Jane Zhang

Posted: 02/05/2019 - 02:58

Future of Sourcing Digital is thrilled to launch a new series titled “Women Global in Sourcing.” This series strives to highlight, celebrate and acknowledge women who are pioneers and leaders in the industry and who have been influential in moving the industry forward. Future of Sourcing welcomes Jane Zhang to the series.

Jane is the Co-Founder of ETCH Sourcing, a Canadian-based consultancy that provides strategy and execution services in the sourcing, procurement and category management space. She loves people, solving problems, and has years of expertise working throughout the entire sourcing spectrum, from building and executing multi-million-dollar tactical strategies, to being entrusted with some of the most complex and strategic contractual negotiations involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tell us about your career path. How did you get into this field? Was it purposeful or by accident? 
Like many others in this profession, I stumbled into Sourcing while I was trying to drive value elsewhere. When I started my career, I certainly never imagined I’d be running a consultancy specializing in Sourcing, Procurement and Category Management while teaching a course on Contract Negotiations at the same University where I obtained my Masters of Business in Finance focusing on Global Energy Management and Sustainability!  
I first discovered Sourcing when the company I was working at started down the path of building a Sourcing team. I was working as a Business Architect desiging processes that facilitated collaboration, and knew Sourcing as simply “those guys in suits who showed up one day.” One of my first memories of being exposed to Sourcing was actually sitting in a room as an internal proponent on a project while the new Sourcing team educated us on the need to work together to allow for a proper supplier evaluation on a project that was almost at kick-off. 
After that meeting, I knew I needed to find out more about this profession, what they did and how they would fit into the processes I built. I locked myself into a room with one of the new Sourcing team members and had them draw out the entire Sourcing process from end-to-end. At the end of the session, I not only knew exactly where this new team fit into the process, but I also knew that I wanted to be a part of it.  
Would you follow that same path again if you had the choice? 
Absolutely, I love Sourcing and driving value back into an organization through true cross-collaboration – so much that I co-founded a consultancy specializing in this service. No other profession lends itself to as much creativity and impact as Sourcing does when it comes to establishing innovative solutions to complex problems.  
I attribute a great deal of my initial success in Sourcing to my strong background in business development. My time spent as an internal proponent gave me a huge advantage when it came to taking on the challenge all Sourcing people face – selling internally to obtain buy-in and alignment, while managing suppliers externally. In addition, my work as a Business Architect made me an expert in designing efficient processes for completing the workload and coordinating cross-functional and cross-level projects, which was absolutely critical when faced with outdated or non-existing procurement processes.  
What has been the single most significant development to impact your profession or area of business during your career and why? Do you feel being a woman had an impact on this development? 
The most important development is rooted in the growing discussion around the importance of relationships, and the focus towards putting people at the center of problem solving. Business has always been based on relationships, but somewhere along the way we stopped teaching that and the image of the cold, money-hungry corporations came along. I find that in recent years, we’re reconnecting with that original value, and bringing it back to the idea of – “When my phone number appears on my supplier’s caller ID, are they willing to pick up the phone without rolling their eyes?”  
For me, the turning point in my career was when I realized I always had a natural inclination towards people, getting to know my colleagues as people, and embracing this to build real relationships. Perhaps this shift was made easier for me because I was a woman, but I believe it was because of the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and work with over time.  
What do you think are the best characteristics of a strong leader? 
A healthy balance of confidence (to know where you’re steering the ship), and humility (to listen when your crew tells you that there’s an iceberg to the left). Add on top of it all the ability to empower people with a voice for their opinions, and you have the foundations for a strong leader. But as we know, the path to leadership is never ending…  
What’s the biggest mistake, workwise, you’ve ever seen – and what were the consequences? 
Organizations becoming so wrapped up in their own worlds, they stop seeing the bigger picture. I’ve seen it time and time again when projects or technologies are rolled out without considering the opinions of one of the key departments or teams that will be using it, and the deployment teams are always shocked when the new tool or process is not nearly as effective as they originally projected it to be. 
What three words do you think your colleagues and peers would use to describe you? 
I’d hope they’d say these three: 
Overachiever: this word has become negative over the years, but I personally think it’s a wonderful thing to strive for more in all that you do – as long as you remember that taking care of yourself is also an area to overachieve in. 
Joyful: If I can brighten a moment in another person’s life through my words or approaches, or even simply if my counterparts can walk from a tough negotiation with a small piece of joy, I consider it a personal success.  
Ambitious: I’ve avoided this word over the years, but I look at what we’re trying to achieve at ETCH Sourcing with driving a different approach to Sourcing, and pushing for better sustainability practices in the profession, and I realize that to achieve what we want, we must be ambitious.  
Do you think it’s possible to “have it all”— e.g., career, family — and be successful everywhere? How do you make it work? 
Absolutely. I believe anyone can “have it all” if they are willing to bend the mental barriers we place on ourselves just a little. For example, the idea of “work/life balance” is so commonplace today that it is generally accepted. However, simply the word “balance” implies that in order for one party to take, another one must give. How is this different than positional bargaining – which, as Sourcing professionals all know, is the easiest way to dead-lock a negotiation? Personally, I think its possible to adopt “work life harmonization” to unlock more personal time while accomplishing more at work as well.  
As the co-founder of a consulting firm, I certainly put in far more than a standard 9-5 day. In addition to that, I teach at and sit on multiple boards with my alma mater, started a not-for-profit dedicated to developing creativity in children through play-based learning with a friend, and have several other projects on the go. I also love to go home and spend my lazy Sunday afternoons with my parents now that they’re empty nesters to keep them company, and maintain a diverse circle of friends who help me see the world through different lenses. I think all of this, and more, is not only achievable, but also maintainable, by discarding the old-school teachings of give-and take in “work-life balance.”  
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to young women starting their careers in the field of sourcing, outsourcing and procurement? 
The amazing thing about this field is its diversity. You will always need to deliver results no matter where you go, but when you stop focusing so much on the results themselves, you can look at the broader picture and find opportunities where you may not have seen them before. Know who you are, and know what motivates and excites you – then use that to fuel your actions and you will see the results come in. 

About The Author

Jane Zhang's picture
Jane is the Co-Founder of ETCH Sourcing, a Canada based consultancy specializing in providing strategy and execution services in the sourcing, procurement and category management space. She loves people, solving problems, and has years of expertise working throughout the entire sourcing spectrum, from building and executing multi-million-dollar tactical strategies, to being entrusted with some of the most complex and strategic contractual negotiations involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Graduating from the Haskayne School of Business twice over with a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing and an MBA in Finance with a focus on Global Energy Management and Sustainability, she has returned to build and teach Business Contract Negotiations with her Co-Founder as a part of giving back and elevating her alma mater.
Jane is passionate about education is a member for multiple boards, most notable is her role as Board Director and Chief Operating Officer for Define the Future, a non-profit designed to connect children aged 8-13 with industry learning and development through play.
Jane’s latest passion is to champion the role of sustainability in procurement and is celebrating the launch of ETCH’s Sustainable Procurement offering, which integrates the UN SDGs as a measure of sustainability into the procurement process from an end-to-end perspective.