IWD: Women in Procurement – what makes it an attractive career?

In supporting International Women’s Day and in conjunction with Carina Hoogeveen, senior director of marketing EMEA at Icertis, we have gathered the thoughts and insight from a number of women working in procurement: what attracted them to the career, why they think it might be a good career choice for other women, and the challenges and opportunities they have faced. Yesterday we heard from Warda Allaoua from Celgene and Celine Arquizan from Sanofi, today let's hear from:

Katie Tamblin, Chief Product Officer at Achilles Information

What attracted you to procurement as a place to build a successful career?

“I fell into the role of supporting procurement professionals by accident, really. I was hooked, though, by this dynamic and complex field that was undergoing rapid transformation. I started work as an economist, analysing labour markets and the costs of goods and services across a range of countries. It turns out, our forecasts for how costs change over time were extremely useful to procurement professionals. I learned how to craft the data into insights to enable procurement professionals to make data-driven decisions about contract structures and indexation, to negotiate the best deal, time purchases, and budget. I found that by applying a data-based framework to procurement decision making, we could unlock incredible cost savings, and teach procurement teams how to make strategic decisions that elevate the profession as a whole. The impact data-driven decision making can have on procurement is what has kept my interest in the industry: there is always an interesting and unique challenge to be addressed.”

What opportunities and challenges have you experienced in the profession?

“Over the past 20 years, I have seen incredible opportunities to shape procurement - the profession has matured dramatically. When I started working with procurement, there was no such thing as a “Chief Procurement Officer.” Now CPOs are key stakeholders delivering competitive advantage to the businesses in which they operate. Working with data has put me in a position to be an early adopter of new, transformative methods of analytics for procurement.”

How do you think the increased use of technology is affecting the role of procurement and the people attracted to it?

“Some procurement professionals feared big data and analytics – I suspect even more fear the looming implications of AI to the profession. This is completely natural and part of the change process. It is important that we help all members of the profession find their place in these new ways of working. In such periods of transition, there will always be early adopters and detractors; this curve of adoption creates challenges for innovators. It is a natural part of the process that can be managed effectively if given appropriate focus.”

What do you think are the key skills/attributes required for success in this industry?

“Be able to execute. You must have a track record of execution and strong performance doing the task at hand before expecting or reaching a position in which you would then manage someone else performing that task as a leader. In short – be prepared to work your way up. It is hard to build credibility if you haven’t walked in the shoes of those you are seeking to manage. The trial and error process through which you learn what makes a “good” decision and what contributed to failures is a critical skill set that makes a stronger leader.”

“Be an innovative problem solver. Procurement is an extremely complex field. It requires that skilled practitioners be able to consume massive amounts of input and settle on wise decisions that provide the best outcome for internal and external stakeholders.

We can approach many difficult procurement challenges as problems to be solved. They have multiple complex inputs, and the output is an appropriate outcome that provides the greatest overall benefit to stakeholders. Often the optimal solution is forward-looking. Draw on trends from other fields or industries that are leading the pack. Look for ways to apply their teachings to your challenges.”

“Be able to listen and evaluate input. In most teams I’ve worked with, there are complementary skills at play. Some members of the team are great at details; others focus on the big picture. Some are great at proposing solutions, others are great at critically reviewing those propositions but less forthcoming with solutions. Successful professionals can distil competing points of view into an effective solution. To manage this, seek input from players that have different skill sets when faced with difficult challenges. With multiple points of view, a solution can become clear.”

Many thanks to all the inspiring women who have shared their thoughts with us. For further reading, we met with John Everett, the CIPS-Switzerland branch chairperson and EMEAI regional purchasing director for The Dow Chemical Company, at eworld last week. He has been actively involved in WIP and has investigated the level of female participation across the procurement profession. Read his findings here.


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