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Women in Procurement Wednesday: Katarzyna Fonteyn on procurement as a science and trusting yourself

07/07/2021 By

Katarzyna (Katy) Fonteyn never planned to have a career in procurement. In fact, she started work as a researcher. After obtaining her PhD in electromechanics, she decided she wanted to work in a business environment — which led her to apply for a job in procurement.

“It was a global position in indirect procurement,” she said. “And it looked very interesting.”

Needless to say, Fonteyn got the job. The position entailed a lot of negotiation with suppliers, which illustrated for her the importance of data and being able to analyze spend — certainly an important concept still today in her current role as the Director, Procurement Solutions at Basware, a provider of procure-to-pay technology.

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“I really see procurement as a science,” Fonteyn said, “because procurement uses a lot of data. … You really need to look upstream and downstream. You need to know who your customers are and you also need to know who your suppliers are, and you need the data to connect those dots. Having a very good understanding of the data — spend data, mainly … is what I see as being the core science.”

Fonteyn’s research roots still come into play often as she works with the R&D department at Basware. Together, they review incoming customer requests, and she often takes afternoons to meet with customers directly.

In that regard, Fonteyn also recognizes the importance beyond data of soft skills in procurement. You need to be able to talk to people and negotiate, for example, to realize the total ROI of your work as a procurement leader.

“We are human beings, we need each other,” Fonteyn said. “We need to understand where we can automate and where we need to have the human interaction. New technologies are there really to help people make better decisions, to make knowledgeable decisions. … At the end of the day, negotiations happen through the way you look at others, the way you talk to others, the way you walk your way through the negotiations. And that’s still today something that you cannot really automate.”

Such soft skills have come even more into play over the past year or so as a result of the Covid pandemic. It has allowed companies like Basware to be able to interact more with clients and development teams across the globe.

“There are no more borders,” Fonteyn said.

I asked Fonteyn how else the Covid pandemic has affected the world of procurement. She noted how many organizations now recognize that procurement must become more agile as a function.

“The companies that have managed the best are the ones that have emphasized procurement and innovating with suppliers, being close to suppliers and valuing them,” she said. “They are able to react because they are partnering with someone they can trust and can immediately reach out to them.”

Throughout our discussion, Fonteyn also emphasized that having that close relationship and trust is not only important with suppliers. It’s even more important to have a strong sense of trust within yourself — for women and men alike.

Fonteyn trusts that she is exactly where she needs to be right now in her role at Basware. She also hopes to inspire young people — especially young women — to get into science, as we all grow stronger out of the pandemic and look forward to a better future.

“The world is shifting very much and has been shifting over the past years,” Fonteyn noted. “The message I would like to give to all those young ladies is that it’s not about being a man or a woman. It’s really about believing in yourself, trusting in your own capacities, trusting that we can do something.”

Read about other professionals featured in our “Women in Procurement Wednesdays” series. 

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