Tell us about your career path. How did you get into this field? Was it purposeful or by accident?
I started my career in an entry level role at Fidelity Investments in the Real Estate division. Fidelity was growing rapidly, and the real estate division maintained a formal procurement organization to manage the construction and furniture buys. Young and curious, in addition to typing and amending the contracts I started to read them to better understand what they were and how they were structured. Over time, all of the other Fidelity division’s procurement resources were centralized under the real estate team. With a strong understanding of the contracts and processes I jumped at the opportunity when an entry level procurement role became available. This was my first step into my procurement career and I kept on going.
Would you follow that same path again if you had the choice?
While there are certainly many things I would have done differently along the way, I’ve loved my journey. I feel incredibly fortunate to have broadened my knowledge and competencies in each role, building on the past, and learning as I go.
What has been the single most significant development to impact your profession or area of business during your career and why?
Information and technology. When I first started my career, there were no market intelligence resources or search engines. Requests for quotations, purchase orders, and payment processes were on paper delivered by mail, and contracts were stored in file cabinets. It’s so exciting to see the evolution of Procure-to-Pay solutions that are truly user and supplier-centric, making it easy to do business, driving compliance, and transparency. There are market intelligence sources, analytical engines for aggregating opportunities across businesses/functions and regions, and P2P technologies that finally are Amazon like. These enabling technologies result in transaction efficiencies and speed to opportunity assessment. Reductions in transactions costs can be reinvested in strategic resources with broader impact. This is transformative.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today - and how do you plan to solve it?
Reputation. Procurement functions have evolved, but unfortunately many remain non-strategic. Our ability to deliver value to the organizations we support is predicated on being respected and proactively engaged. I am passionate about this and have authored whitepapers and spoken many times on this very topic. Poor stereotypes derail our positive impact we can make internally and externally. If you survey a room full of buy-side and sell-side participants and ask them what negative perceptions of procurement exist. Here’s what you will unanimously hear. Procurement:
- Focuses solely on reducing unit price
- Holds rigidly to a process, making us “bid everything” and “commoditize everything”
- Operates in a silo, doing “procurement stuff”
- Is late to the engagement, “slows us down”
- Maintains inadequate subject matter expertise, “doesn’t know our business” and/or “doesn’t know or understand our market
These perceptions exist for a reason. It’s important to understand why, and what we can and should do differently as a function to eliminate or transform them. I have a point of view on this concern and would love to share.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement career-wise?
My organization and those whom I have helped further their careers. This includes those that are with me today, and those that may have left to pursue their careers elsewhere. I try to remain in touch with everyone personally and professionally. Mentoring or guiding them through their careers has been incredibly rewarding. I am grateful to have near zero voluntary attrition and many of my team members have followed over my 20+year career. My team members are smart, dedicated, strategic professionals that I consider them my “professional family”.
Work is just one part of everyone’s life. While critical it should never be everything. As a manager, remember that you work for your employees as much as they work for you. I afford everyone in my organization flexibility to work remotely. As a single mom, I did not have this opportunity afforded to me when raising my two girls. While recognizing that working wasn’t an option, I still have deep regret for the time I was away when they were young. I don’t want anyone on my team to have these regrets.
What’s your biggest (as yet) unfulfilled ambition - and what are you doing to achieve it?
I can’t really say that I have one particular ambition that is unfulfilled. I think my answer is the same answer I provided at the dawn of my career to the question, “Where do you want to be in five years?” It has always been “making a difference.”
What three words do you think your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?
Insightful, supportive, strong.
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to young women starting their careers in the field of sourcing, outsourcing and procurement?
Probably the same advice I give everyone.
Have integrity – beyond telling the truth:
Treat people the way you want to be treated. Pronounce and take responsibility for your mistakes, (they are not bad – they are learning opportunities). Say what you think, not what you think people want to hear.
Have a strong work ethic:
Work above and beyond your current responsibilities without complaint.
Love and be inspired by what you do: Take pride in any job you do and seek to be the very best.
Positive learning can be realized from even the worst environments and jobs. Ask questions.
Think “what if”… not “can’t because”
Other thoughts that may not seem so evident:
- Start saving for retirement as soon as you start working
- Always live within your means, there are very important professional reasons why this is important
- Say thank you when you receive feedback (good or otherwise)
- Say thank you when you receive a raise
- Maintain contacts in the industry—networking is the best way to stay relevant and also find the next job