Future of Sourcing continues our popular series, “Women in Global Sourcing", with Stephanie Leduc. 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.
Stephanie Leduc is a sourcing expert with more than 20 years of experience in contract negotiation, outsourcing, business development, vendor management, governance and category spend management. In 2018, Stephanie joined IGM Financial Inc. as AVP Corporate Services & Strategic Sourcing, with the primary responsibility to build a strategic sourcing team from the ground.
Tell us about your career path. How did you get into this field? Was it purposeful or by accident?
I started my career as a lawyer on a corporate legal team for the Bank of Montreal. I worked with different teams and corporate business lines, one of which was the sourcing team. It was my first experience with sourcing and seeing how business decisions interacted with contract requirements. After a few years, I realized that I was so passionate about the business law aspect of my work when I was assigned sourcing cases, that I moved to the sourcing team to pursue this passion. Six months after I moved to sourcing, the financial institution and the CEO I was working with at the time decided to put more of an emphasis on real estate and strategic sourcing best practices. They then staffed accordingly, with highly skilled VP’s and subject matter experts.
This was my first step into the procurement world. I learned so much from these experts and leaders on how to implement a best practice supply chain organization and build a sourcing team from the ground up. My legal background helped me a lot in terms of contract negotiation but more than that, I knew I had found my passion and it has not stopped since.
Would you follow that same path again if you had the choice?
I would definitely follow the same path. I wouldn’t change anything. During my career, I haven’t hesitated to take on new positions or move to another company to learn new things about strategic sourcing and supply chain. For example, I took a position in the marketing business line to implement a governance team and process related to vendor management for a specific business line. I have a passion for this type of hands-on collaborative and cross-functional approach.
The goal is always to have a better understanding of each perspective of the sourcing practice. In other words, it helps me to have a 360-degree view and understand each party’s side. I strongly believe that this diversified approach has helped me to develop strategic visions and strategies, in addition to honing my experience as a leader in procurement.
What has been the single most significant development to impact your profession or area of business during your career and why?
Technology. Today, there is more than one technology solution on the market to accelerate the access to data, machine learning and artificial Intelligence. This evolution is making improvements for sourcing teams in terms of a better understanding of the current situation and to facilitate the future vision. More importantly, it is helping to speed up the decision-making process by providing easier access to background information and with a higher degree of accuracy. It has changed the game dramatically from a sourcing perspective. Access to data and information will always be one of the keys to our success.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today and how do you plan to solve it?
Unknown change, unforeseen market drivers and how business units see procurement and strategic sourcing. It’s an area where businesses units do not fully understand how purchasing can help. There is a tendency to oversimplify the procurement function. It’s part of our challenge to educate and socialize the organization on the value that sourcing can bring and the value it can provide.
Part of my procurement strategy and roadmap plan is to communicate, educate, and socialize procurement’s role and plan for the organization. One of my goals is to make sure that each team in the organization can see the added value of procurement beyond just providing purchase orders. It’s also my role to deliver the procurement strategy plan and show the different lines of business that our vision is to put the company’s interests in front and work as a team with each line of business. This is achieved by working in an integrated supply chain fashion across finance, business lines and other affected departments. Success is measured by overseeing spend management as a whole, negotiating the best deals for the company, making sure we mitigate any risk and managing the lifecycle of the contracts.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement career-wise?
I can’t say one thing in particular. I am proud of my whole career so far. I have always wanted to be part of the success of the company and make a difference and I am certain that sourcing can be a huge player in that way. So far, in every step I have taken, my sourcing team has brought a lot of value.
Also important are the strong professional relationships I have built with my previous colleagues and employers, and I know that I can always count on them if needed. We have fun at work and my team reflects the passion for my profession.
I have always been a transformation visionary. My actual mandate is to put in place a procurement strategy and roadmap for the next few years in a transformation world. It’s going to take years to achieve and I strongly believe that it will be a success that I look back on and am proud of.
What’s your biggest (as yet) unfulfilled ambition and what are you doing to achieve it?
As I mentioned, I always wanted my team to be part of the success of the company. For me, sourcing is an important contributor of the success.
My actual vision is to build a strategic sourcing team in a transformation environment. I have been working on procurement strategies and a roadmap that my team and I are going to implement. I am confident that at the end of the timeline, it’s going to be a real success for the team and the company as a whole. I am so thrilled and passionate about it.
What three words do you think your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?
Team player: I have always been a team player. This is the key to the success of a project.
Ethics: In our world today, it’s so important to have ethics in our work, especially in the sourcing world. We manage suppliers, negotiate and are responsible for governance. Ethics is a value that I look for in each of the employees that I hire.
Courage: I have the courage to stand up for what I believe and in the interest of the corporation I work for. Most importantly, I seek to earn the respect of my stakeholders and peers every day.
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to young women starting their careers in the field of sourcing, outsourcing and procurement?
Be curious. Ask to be part of a strategic sourcing project. It’s the best way to learn and don’t be too shy to ask questions along the way. Learn how to use critical thinking by constantly asking questions in a proactive fashion.
Do not hesitate to take risks and learn new things. There are so many areas in sourcing that you can learn from.