Terry Applegate: Women in Procurement


Like many others working in procurement, Terry Applegate didn’t necessarily intend on spending her entire career in the field. But one of her first jobs out of college as a buyer for a small electronics company was enough to spark her interest in procurement.

“That’s all it took, that entry-level job,” Applegate said. She realized she was learning and refining new skills, which could help her continue to climb the procurement career ladder.

Another job that made an impact on her was again early in her career when she worked in hospital purchasing. Though it was an lower-level position, she said the work was linked to patient care at the hospital and she felt like she was doing something that was valuable.

“From a very early entry into procurement, that was like one of my first experiences that I thought, ‘Gee, this is pretty neat,’ because overall, you are really in a position where you can make things happen,” she said.

After nearly 35 years in the field, Applegate has gone from entry-level buying positions to higher roles like serving as managers, vice presidents and directors of procurement and sourcing organizations at multiple companies. She now serves as vice president of global contract operations for the global procurement department at Deutsche Bank.

Applegate has an impressive resume, and one that shows her commitment to the procurement profession. It includes 20 years in procurement at American Express, including serving as senior manager of global procurement at the company. She has a Certified Purchasing Manager certification from the Institute of Supply Management, a Lean Six Sigma certification and an MBA in International Business. Despite all of her success and professional accomplishments thus far, Applegate still has one more career goal: to serve as a chief procurement officer (CPO).

I still want to be be a CPO of a company, and I am determined I will get there,” she said. “And I’m close, but I’m not there yet.”

Applegate has demonstrated perseverance in her procurement career, as well as patience. It’s something she thinks others can learn from her — that it takes hard work to reach your goals, and if you don’t get there right away, that’s OK.

Throughout your career, Applegate said, you will likely deal with people you don’t like, work for companies you don’t love, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting to where you want to go. And in every job experience — good or bad — you learn something new to take with you. Take, for instance, the fact Applegate was laid off at American Express during the recession after working there for two decades. It came as a blow at the time, but looking back, Applegate said it was one of the best things to happen for her career — it led her to work at different companies, meet different people and have new experiences. It also taught her how to bounce back from unexpected or negative experiences.

“I’ve done well, but I haven’t met my goal,” she said. “In my mind, getting people to understand that it takes a long time sometimes to get somewhere is really the lesson.”

Applegate has other advice for women, specifically. For instance, Applegate said she has often been her own biggest challenge, stopping herself from doing certain things in her career because of a lack of confidence, like asking for that raise or promotion.

“It’s a female thing,” she said. It’s a thing many women struggle with for fear of being too pushy or forward. But Applegate points to two popular motivational quotes that have helped her continue pushing forward in her procurement career: one is the Winston Churchill quote, “Never, never, never give up,” and the second is from Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” They are words of wisdom other women can use as motivation, too, Applegate said.

Leading ISM’s Women Group

A major achievement of Applegate’s career was when she was elected chair earlier this year of the ISM Women in Leadership group. She was honored when she heard she had been chosen to lead the group, and sees it as one of the most fulfilling accomplishments yet.

In my opinion, this is one of the best things I can do for my career,” she said.

Other than being rewarding personally, Applegate said her work with the ISM womens’ groups is important for other females in procurement. She has led a successful career and wants to give back to the field and to women working in it.

“I think women can help women a lot, and I think women need to help women a lot,” she said.

Applegate and others on the board for the ISM Women in Leadership group are currently working to develop a three-to-five-year plan to move forward and create unique opportunities for women in procurement to network and support one another.

Supplier Diversity Experience

Applegate is also proud of her work in supplier diversity at various companies throughout her procurement career. First, at American Express, she led supplier diversity globally for six years, bringing total spend on minority owned businesses to more than $1 million from $16,000. Later in her career, she served as supplier diversity manager at Johnson & Johnson VisionCare, and created and implemented a supplier diversity program at Sage, a provider of business management software.

Supplier diversity has been a passion of Applegate’s throughout her career, and she believes it’s important for procurement buyers to focus a percentage of spend on small and minority-owned businesses. It’s effort that could help these smaller companies compete, grow and be successful, she said.

Looking Ahead

In addition to achieving her goal as a CPO, Applegate knows she wants to continue working in procurement in the future. She wants to continue working with women, too, helping those who need advice or are seeking mentorship. After all of these years in procurement, she hopes others can learn from her experiences and that she can teach younger professionals a thing or two about perseverance and resiliency.

“It’s something, right now, that is really important to me, and I want to make sure I stay connected,” she said. “It’s my life. I have put my life into this.”

First Voice

  1. Terry Applegate:

    Thank you Kaitlyn!!!!

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