Tell us about your career path. How did you get into this field? Was it purposeful or by accident?
There is always a certain amount of serendipity in any career path. I am lucky when I look back over my career because I could not be where I am at without each of the building blocks. First, I am lucky that I actually work in an area that I studied in college and now ultimately teach! I definitely am a better researcher and educator because I have been on the buy side (Microsoft), sell side (RR Donnelley/Modus Link) and the consulting side of outsourcing (Accenture and Supply Chain Visions). Being able to see the world of sourcing and outsourcing from all three perspectives definitely enables me to see the bigger picture of how people buy and sell from a different angle. I don’t think I would have been able to do the work I am doing on Sourcing Business Models and the Vested model if I had not actually lived and breathed in all three roles.
Would you follow that same path again if you had the choice?
Yes, most definitely! But you have to realize I never planned out the path, it just kind of evolved and I am where I am at today because of that path.
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?
Globalization is probably the most important development, because it meant that sourcing and supply chains had to work efficiently worldwide all the time. For me personally, our research at the University of Tennessee (UT), which was funded by the Air Force, studied the most successful aspects of global sourcing relationships and led to development of the Vested sourcing business model
, six books and comprehensive courseware to spread the word on the Vested model of collaboration for win-win relationships.
On the second question – the impact of being a woman – probably had little to no impact on globalization. It’s not really a gender thing except there is still a lack of female involvement in top-level sourcing businesses – although that is changing. Every year we are graduating more women from our undergrad and grad supply chain programs at UT. It is just a matter of time before these wonderful women work their way to the top.
Similarly, what one factor has most profoundly changed the way you personally work since your first day in your first job?
Personal computers and the internet have radically changed the way we work. The good news is that I have had a PC from my earliest college years, even though it was Lotus 1-2-3, Word Perfect and Harvard Graphics. But seeing the progress and the ability to have instant communication and real-time data analysis is truly amazing. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years brings!
What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today – and how would you solve it?
and the political era of Donald Trump represent a challenge to globalization that will require new approaches to collaboration and instilling trust, which I believe makes the Vested business model more vital and necessary than ever. Regardless of whether or not you like the outcome of these decisions, they will have a lasting impact on globalization.
How do you define success?
Success is a true win-win solution to just about anything. One-plus-one really does equal more than two! I personally enjoy winning with others because the celebration is so much more fun. Whether a win-win is collaborating with a co-author on a book or seeing buyers and suppliers applying the Vested model and having amazing success, seeing the power of true collaboration at work makes me smile.
What do you think are the best characteristics of a strong leader?
I believe the characteristics of a strong leader include perseverance, endless communication of the common group goal larger than yourself, and the willingness not be afraid to try new things.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement career-wise?
Having the opportunity to teach the benefits of collaboration and relational contracting has been life changing for me. It was fun to have “a real job” as a practitioner, but it’s really fun to educate others and see the impact one can have on our research and teaching. Developing the Vested sourcing business model and seeing it grow as a movement has been very rewarding.
What’s your biggest (as yet) unfulfilled ambition – and are you going to achieve it?
Through my research at UT, I have truly come to love writing books. One day I want to try to tackle a non-fiction book. I have no clue what the topic will be, but I am sure it will just come to me when the time is right.
Do you think it’s possible to “have it all,” e.g., career, family, etc., and be successful everywhere? How do you make it work?
I think that depends on how you define success and set expectations with yourself and others. Regardless – it takes a balancing act.
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to young women starting their careers in the field of sourcing, outsourcing and procurement?
I love some advice I got from an executive when I was a college student: Everything you do that is new is a pilot or draft. Calling something a pilot or draft gives you permission to get feedback and fail. And you can only get better with feedback and trial and error.
I would also say don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t and be ultra-prepared when you go into meetings with higher-ups so you can shine.
Read more of Kate Vitasek's ingisht into the sourcing world.