Women in Procurement Wednesdays: Julie Brignac on the importance of culture and diversity of thought in the workplace
In more ways than one, the pandemic has affected the world of work for countless professionals across the globe. With many still working remotely from home, there are new opportunities — like using the time saved without a commute to pick up a new hobby or to work more flexible shifts to accommodate a positive work/life balance.
Julie Brignac has a good deal of experience in mastering that balance. Having been based in Tucson, Arizona, for several years, her workday rarely starts after 6 a.m. Mountain time to accommodate colleagues and clients in far-reaching parts of the world.
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Brignac has held a variety of positions in her professional career, from being the CPO at Brambles to the Vice President, Managing Director of Procurement at Accenture, and various roles throughout almost a decade at DuPont.
Now, Brignac is the Corporate Senior Vice President, Client Services & Delivery at WNS Denali, a provider of strategic procurement BPM solutions.
With all of her experience and the recent pandemic shift, she recognizes the importance of breaking up your working hours.
“I thought that I couldn’t put any more hours into work when I was traveling all the time, but I was wrong,” she said. “I feel like I actually put more hours in because I’m working different hours now and different shifts to accommodate where our clients are. But, I also expect people to take back their time.
“What’s worked for me is breaking it up.”
As a mom, daughter and wife, she may start her day as early as 5 a.m., but makes sure to take breaks in the afternoon. She understands the importance of needing to move around and leave your office space — as well as to “shut it off” in the evening to avoid mental and physical exhaustion.
Part of the ability to break up your workday into chunks comes from having a good workplace culture. This is something Brignac sincerely emphasized during our conversation. She talked about the “very connected” culture that is important to her and her team at WNS Denali.
With Brignac’s contributions, it’s undoubtedly also a culture of inclusion.
In her role, for example, Brignac doesn’t “see a lot of difference advocating for women versus men.” It comes down to diversity of people and diversity of thought.
“That’s what you want to strive for,” she said. She acknowledged that “wherever the diversity lies, there are people who run into challenges.”
But putting measures into place to get past that, focusing on diversity of thought at a leadership level — this will help create a culture where people can feel free to have open discussions, she said.
When it comes to being a woman in procurement, Brignac also commented on how workplace culture plays a big role.
“I’m really happy to say that I didn’t encounter challenges because I was a woman in procurement. I know that that happens, and I think that we all encounter different challenges,” she said. “There were a couple of times earlier in my career to where I was judged because I was a woman. … It was so shocking to me to experience that mentality from people.”
In terms of advice for any woman or man experiencing that type of judgment at work, Brignac shared some encouraging thoughts.
As with each of the women we’ve spoken with for this series, I was interested to learn how Brignac first got into procurement. As she puts it: “It didn’t happen by accident. I was exposed to it and thought it was cool.”
In her start at DuPont, Brignac was in the field finance program, during which she relocated every 12 to 18 months. She would locate near the manufacturing plants to learn more about the capital and supplemental maintenance accounting side of the business.
For one relocation, she was near a plant outside of New Orleans to learn about contracts. At that time, there was some merging in the businesses themselves to combine the materials management and supply chain (called purchasing at that time) with labor. Brignac thought to herself, “This is fascinating, I love this. This is where I want to spend my career.”
Ever since then, outside of a brief stint in Six Sigma, Brignac has worked in the fields of procurement and supply chain.
She has seen a variety of trends in procurement — and has an idea of where it’s headed.
“In procurement especially, you see things cycle,” she said. “The same things kind of come back around. They come back around maybe in a little different format.”
For example, the current labor shortage existed in a similar cycle for different reasons more regionally focused a couple of years ago, Brignac said. Now, procurement organizations are needing to focus on “the right things to be able to bring in the talent.” Important to this trend is career pathing for team members, as well as continuity for clients.
Brignac also talked about the obvious supply chain challenges we are facing now, noting that it will take creativity and thinking outside of the box to solve for them. In doing so, “that’s going to create some trends that we’ve never seen before.” When it comes to digital transformation, she noted that it’s “all about efficiency and speed,” and commented about how exciting that is.
In addition to the earlier advice she shared for those struggling in a toxic workplace culture, Brignac often brought the conversation back to culture and emphasized its place in the professional world.
In all, Brignac hopes that “some of the foundational things that I’ve talked about that have been very impactful for me will be impactful for others.” At the end of the day, loving your role and being happy in what you do “is some of the best advice I can give someone.”
Read about other professionals featured in our “Women in Procurement Wednesdays” series. Are you a woman in the procurement space who has a compelling story to tell? We’re all ears. Send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
AP/I2P EPRO P2P03/24/2020
AP/I2P EPRO P2P03/24/2020