Nancy Kallusch: Women in Procurement

Nancy Kallusch

Nancy Kallusch has more than 15 years of procurement experience. She also has a law degree. How she went from legal to procurement has been an “evolutionary” experience, perhaps even unexpected. Yet she feels her career has also developed organically and landed her in a position that, similar to legal practice, involves working with clients and engaging with people. However, unlike her personal experience in law, she feels her role in procurement allows her to have a greater impact on the business.

Nancy currently leads the contingent workforce program for Genentech, a biotechnology company based in South San Francisco, California. When she joined Genentech, in June 2010, the company was in the midst of transformation. The spring prior, Genentech had been acquired by Roche, the Swiss global healthcare company. That meant Genentech’s programs, departments and overall reach were expanding.

In her current role, Nancy said she feels very connected to the business, as she is bringing in talent that the company needs to help deliver medicines to people with serious diseases.

“What I enjoy most is supporting the business,” she said. “With the contingent workforce program, I find that I can really do that directly — engage with the managers to ensure they are getting the labor they need to get the work done, which for me is always the bottom line.”

Nancy also feels passionate about Genentech's medicines and her role in helping produce them. The company focuses on developing treatments and drugs for people with serious diseases who have few options. These medicines are vital — getting them to patients may help extend lives, Nancy said.

“Being close to the client and being able to drive the product line — and again the product is one that is significantly impacting our patients’ lives — that is what is important to me,” Nancy said.

Professional Background

June will mark Nancy’s six-year anniversary with Genentech. Previously, she has worked in financial services and consulting. The first job that connected her to procurement was a role at the Federal Reserve Bank for the Western District in San Francisco, where she served as a link between legal and the district’s procurement organization. There she helped procurement establish policy, procedures, contract boilerplates and helped set up its overall contracting system.

“I really just bridged the gap between what was their purchasing unit and legal to create a fully functional procurement division for them,” she said.

It was also a job she took after realizing a career in law wasn’t what she wanted. After a year living in San Francisco and working in maritime law, Nancy discovered fairly quickly law wasn’t for her for a number of reasons.

“I didn’t love having to bill my time in 6-minute increments,” she said. “I didn’t love that there was really more writing than there was client-facing time.”

Law: A Solid Foundation For Procurement, Contingent Workforce Management

Nancy’s law degree has, however, served her well in procurement and especially contingent workforce management.

“I think law is as good if not better of a foundation than an MBA for some areas of procurement,” she said. “For procurement, a lot of what we deal with is, of course, contracts, relationship management, negotiation, risk mitigation, all the sorts of things that you learn in law school.”

Nancy pointed out being familiar with labor law has also been important in contingent workforce management. This knowledge is something that makes her unique in the procurement field as well. She said having the ability to “speak the language” of the legal department has proven useful.

There are still challenges Nancy, and likely others managing a contingent workforce, faces on the job, specifically regarding worker classification. She pointed out how the “gig economy” is growing — more people are choosing to do freelance or contract work and remain independent rather than become employees of a company. These workers can provide valuable skills and knowledge a company may not possess internally, but knowing how to classify independent workers and most effectively engage with them can be challenging, Nancy explained.

“We need them as a resource,” Nancy said of the contingent workforce, “So how do we engage with them safely? That is the challenge.”

A Difficult Balancing Act

Nancy’s career prior to Genentech includes previous experience in contingent labor management as well as in the financial services sector. She has led a successful career while also raising three children and learning how to perfect the work-life balance. The challenge of being equally present in your career and your family life, if you chose to have one, is one many women face. There is also a widespread belief women have more responsibility in family life than men do, Nancy said. It is perhaps one of the reasons too few women are in leadership positions.

“I think that is really the nexus of the issue and that is a cultural problem to solve and not a procurement problem. It’s not even an industry problem, it has to do with our culture, particularly in the United States,” Nancy said.

However, it is important for women realize they can balance both work and family, she added. And, when both men and women begin to equally share their work and parenting responsibilities, women will start to see more equality in the workplace, Nancy said. That is when “things will start to shift,” she said.

Her advice to other women: “Start your family when you are ready. Don’t delay having children because you think it will hurt your career. At the same time, have a good partner in that, so that both of you will share equally in your parenting responsibilities, and therefore, you will both equally be able to do what you need to do to move your careers forward.”

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