Tell us about your career path. How did you get into this field? Was it purposeful or by accident?
I’ve been very fortunate to have a truly satisfying and rewarding career. My work is intellectually stimulating, relies on a broad range of expertise, experience, and skills, and signed me up for lifelong learning. When I found this profession, I found my passion …. and never looked back.
Although it may look deliberate, the journey from where I started to where I am today was purposeful but definitely not a straight line. Amazing opportunities, professional relationships and little luck and good timing.
Never finding exactly the right fit, I alternated between front office roles as a banker and roles in corporate headquarters. I chose roles that offered an opportunity to be successful, leveraging what I had to offer combined with a chance to learn new skills and gain expertise and experience. In short, building on prior successes and expanding my horizons.
Over time, I came to realize that I love the intellectual stimulation of designing a successful strategy, the orderly execution that is inseparable from solid planning, and the sense of satisfaction that comes with achieving measurable goals. This sent me on a path to find the right fit for my career path. I was looking for some way to do a lot of what I like doing best, but not by looking for a specific job.
Having an open mind led to the opportunity to become one of the first CPOs to ever exist in a bank. This sounded like a great fit, so I jumped at it. Turns out this was more the a good fit. It was a great fit!
I loved the work. It hit all the right notes to keep me happy and engaged. One CPO role led to another, until I reached the point where I felt confident enough to leap out of the corporate safety net, leaving behind a steady paycheck and all the perks that go with being an executive in a mega corporation. It was time to build my own consulting business, my secret dream that was years in the making.
Would you follow that same path again if you had the choice?
Absolutely! It’s hard to imagine that if I had taken a different path or been more risk averse, that I could be happier than I am today.
What has been the single most significant development to impact your profession or area of business during your career, and why?
There are two: 1) A couple of “game changer” roles and 2) having the courage to follow your my chosen path.
The first “game changer” role was heading up learning and education for a trans-national North American bank. The CEO’s vision was realized in a brand new corporate campus, but it opened with virtually no curriculum. I was thrilled and a little worried about taking on this role, it was hard to see the connection with prior successes. It turned out to be the most intellectually stimulating role I’ve ever had, and forced me to quickly build learning strategies, lead program development, and build execution plans in a very meaningful way. Definitely a test by fire, and I loved it!
In my first few months, I designed a multi-year, multi-faceted learning strategy for 25,000 employees across key job families, a vast geography, and multiple time zones; sold the strategy internally and negotiated a new multi-million-dollar budget; attracted support from senior managers that resulted in filling up the beautiful live-in corporate campus with employees from every corner of the bank throughout the year and keeping the campus fully utilized; and having the pleasure of watching the learning strategy gradually blossom into business results. It was a truly unforgettable experience.
My second game changer role was becoming Chief Procurement Officer in a super-regional U.S. bank, After being the first CPO in a major global bank just prior to this role means that this role may not sound like a game changer to you. It was. The more “traditional” scope of my first CPO role, also in a global bank, left me feeling a little boxed in.
Taking on the same role in a super-regional bank gave me a genuine “seat at the table.” Leveraging my banking experience and with a penchant for enabling strategic relationships, the scope of this role was every conceivable type of third-party relationship – vendors, joint ventures, resellers, etc. I became part of the senior leadership team, gaining insight into how decisions at that level, and another awesome opportunity to deepen and broaden my experience, expertise and skills.
Similarly, what one factor has most profoundly changed the way you personally work since your first day in your first job?
A true appreciation of the value of diverse thinking in highly productive teams.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today – and how would you solve it?
Intense activity and task management that masquerades as adding value. This is best solved with a laser focus on achieving the highest and best business value for what you’re doing, then finetuning processes through thoughtful use of technology, aligning activities with business needs, simplifying complexity and eliminating low value activities.
How do you define success?
Adding value, being valued.
Who has been the most influential female figure in your professional life, and why?
I’m a member of two professional women-executive networks – one domestic and one international. It’s wonderful to have the chance to form personal and professional relationships with a diverse group of women executives from a wide range of industries, professions and geographies. No matter what I need – inspiration, ideas, courage, role models or help – I can count on informed, experienced advice, willingly given.
What’s the biggest mistake, workwise, you’ve ever seen – and what were the consequences?
Behaving as though your success is entirely your own doing. You can’t be a great leader if you’re a one-person band.
What’s your biggest (as-yet) unfulfilled ambition – and are you going to achieve it?
Forming a select few long-term relationships as a strategic advisor to the board and/or senior leadership team in a mid-sized company. One with big ambitions. A relationship that draws on my expertise and experience, helping them achieve their strategies and goals.
The book led to my role as an Educator. In partnership with SIG University, I authored and am the Professor for the Certified Third Party Risk Management Professional
. The book also led to the distinct honor of lecturing in Wharton’s Advanced Risk Management Program.
I’d like to do a lot more in the education field. Stay tuned!
What three words do you think your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?
Survey says…“strategic, confident and generous.”
What three words do you think your friends and family would use to describe you?
Survey says…“smart, talented and loving.”
Do you think it’s possible to “have it all”—e.g., career, family—and be successful everywhere? How do you make it work?
Yes, it really is. I have an amazing husband and a happy marriage, a delightfully close relationship with my daughter and her family, lots and lots of friends and work that’s exciting and rewarding in every sense of the word.
I try to make good choices – personally and professionally – ones that are beneficial for my health, my spirit and my relationships; to take on only those roles and pro jects that leverage my abilities and allow me to grow; and to consciously decide who I want to work with and for. I’m pretty good at these...but hey, perfect!
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to young women starting their careers in the field of sourcing, outsourcing and procurement?
Don’t look for the “right job.” Instead, think about which aspects of things you’ve done excite you; and what skills, abilities and experience you’ve acquired at work, school, volunteering or through personal interests. Then think about what you don’t like doing or think you’re never going to be good at.
Once you have a good picture of the “real you” look for a role that hits the highlights and minimizes the low ones. Finding the right fit may not be easy – it takes a combination of luck, timing and relationships.
When you think you’ve found something that is a good fit, go for it! But only if you really believe that can add value and be valued. Keep looking if one or both of these conditions are absent.
This is how I found strategic sourcing, third party risk management and my first CPO role. Every time I’ve made a move or taken on a consulting engagement, I mentally apply the “adding value, being valued” litmus test. And I keep testing as time goes by because there have been times when the role/engagement failed the test. So I wrapped up and moved on to something new that was a better fit. This is my happiness equation, and it has proven itself time and time again.
I love my work, it never gets old. Lucky me!