It is with great pleasure that Future of Sourcing welcomes Susan Feiner to participate in the “Women in Global Sourcing" series. 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.
Susan Feiner is an experienced sourcing leader with over 25 years of experience in Global Supply Management and transformational leadership. Most recently she spent 5 years as Vice President, Enterprise Supplier Management at Capital One Financial Corporation. In this role she was also responsible for developing strategic sourcing strategies and partnering closely with business owners and supplier management teams to ensure all vendors were fully compliant with the company’s third-party management polices and procedures and contract negotiations were well managed.
Tell us about your career path. How did you get into this field? Was it purposeful or by accident?
It was definitely by accident. I took an entry-level job out of college in the Administrative Services department at Thomas Cook Travelers Cheques. It was a support role to the VP of Facilities and Purchasing. During my interview, I asked him what I would do when I was finished buying? Somehow, I still got the job and the rest is history.
Would you follow that same path again if you had the choice?
I would. Even though my path was a lucky accident, I love it and feel very fortunate to have had such a rich career in the field. Sourcing and procurement have evolved significantly over the years, given all of the technology and data that is now available to us. Our ability to add value has increased tremendously, and it is an amazing time for our industry! If I were to go back in time though, I might have taken some different turns along the way. I would have made more lateral moves early in my career to take advantage of some of the amazing opportunities that large, global corporations have to offer. I might have adjusted the path, but not the journey!
What has been the single most significant development to impact your profession or area of business during your career and why?
Robust technology and data. With information at our fingertips, our ability to provide relevant insights to the business continues to grow. It is becoming increasingly important to ensure that we have talent on our teams who are analytical and consultative to partner with the business to drive optimal results.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today and how do you plan to solve it?
The regulatory environment has made it challenging to move quickly and deliver a competitive advantage. Managing risk is a critical part of a sourcing professionals role but doesn’t align with the need to go fast. Business partners understand the need for control, but are getting more and more accustomed to a consumer buying experience that is immediate. I don’t know that I can solve it, but I will always look for the opportunities to simplify the experience through technology, automation and process improvements.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement career-wise?
Without a doubt, watching my teams grow and thrive in their careers and personal lives. Team is everything to me, and I spend a great deal of time getting to know my staff and understanding what’s important to them (both personally and professionally). Being a leader, mentor and being part of their journey has been the most rewarding part of my own career. I have led multiple teams over the years, and nothing makes me happier than to get a note about a promotion, a wonderful trip or a new baby. Having an impact on their lives is incredibly special.
What’s your biggest (as yet) unfulfilled ambition and what are you doing to achieve it?
I don’t know that anything is unfulfilled. I have had a long, wonderful career with no regrets, and continue to look forward. One thing that I have not done, although it hasn’t necessarily been an ambition, is to have an international assignment. I do have more flexibility in life than ever before, so we’ll see what the future holds.
What three words do you think your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?
Authentic, passionate, hardworking.
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to young women starting their careers in the field of sourcing, outsourcing and procurement?
Be passionate about your work, take pride in what you do, and have a strong work ethic. People ask me all the time about how I was able to fulfill my career goals, achieve work-life balance and “have it all” as I juggled a career, motherhood, a marriage and life itself. The best advice I can give is keep working hard and remember that it’s not a balance, but an integration. You won’t do everything well all of the time. There will be times when something will suffer, so understand your priorities at that particular moment, and don’t strive for perfection. Know your non-negotiables and have confidence to articulate them. And don’t beat yourself up over it.