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Next Generation Leaders: Meet 3 Rising Stars of Procurement

2 October, 2020 | By Matthias Gutzmann

DPW stands for the future of procurement. One of our goals is to find and foster the world’s best new procurement professionals and give them a stage to showcase themselves. We reached out to 3 rising stars of procurement who have been nominated for “The Future Leader Award” at the upcoming World Procurement Awards, hosted by Procurement Leaders to understand what they love about procurement, why graduates should consider procurement as a viable career option, and why they were nominated for the Future Leader Award.

Here is what they said.

#1: Mariya Tsantikos, Senior Procurement Manager, Marketing, BT Group

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in your career to date?

Tsantikos: That there are always ‘People behind people’ and that you are only as strong as the individuals that you have around you.  This applies when you’re managing a team, working with your peers or dealing with external parties.  Building strong relationships is critical and you cannot succeed without taking your team ‘on a journey ‘with you. Individuals are just that ‘individual’ and each person has different strengths and weaknesses.  The key is understanding these and leveraging them across a team to the maximum effect; everyone had something to add. I think that it’s also important to invest time in coaching and supporting people even if you know that as a result of their progression they may then move on out of your team.  I feel strongly about developing young talent and I am proud to have coached and supported the development of a number of graduates who have gone onto have successful careers both within BT and outside.

What do you love about your job, and why should graduates consider procurement as a viable career option? 

Tsantikos: Procurement represents a fantastic choice for graduates looking for a varied and exciting role. I personally love its complexity, variety and challenge. There is never a dull moment and you never stop learning. It is a core function in most businesses that contributes directly to business results and has become increasingly more and more important in recent years.  It really helps develop strong commercial acumen, innovation and forward thinking as well as the much needed softer skills such as emotional intelligence and ability to manage conflict. These are really valuable, key skills that help build a strong foundation enabling you to progress further within procurement or other commercial functions in the business.  In addition to gaining an understanding of the end to end procurement process you also get the opportunity to become a category expert for your area of spend.  I have enjoyed building up a detailed understanding of various categories for example advertising and creative to become a category expert within the Marketing Procurement team understanding the marketplace, key trends, key suppliers, commercial models etc.

Why were you nominated for the Future Leader Award?

Tsantikos: My nomination reflects the strong Procurement Leadership behind one of the biggest strategic projects for BT Group since 2003 – the refresh and repositioning of the BT Brand, a ‘symbol of change’ for BT Group. The magnitude of scope and activities was huge: in ensuring the best creative execution and positioning of BT in the external marketplace it was essential for strong and effective leadership to manage and mitigate the risks around activities critical to an effective launch, and closing gaps spotted to protect the future of BT Brand and its assets. This included dealing with a fast pace of change and ambiguity, managing risk for the business and working closely with wider procurement function. Through this strategic project I was able to demonstrate my leadership of the end to end delivery of incredibly strategic and complex commercial contractual negotiations, through to pivotal smaller contracts, pushing to get the very best position for BT while not compromising or risking quality of creativity or delivery to the launch dates.  I had to cut through the complexity, coming up with innovative solutions and lead my team to remain focussed amongst the constant flurry of requests continually coming from the business.

#2: Richard de Bree, Global Procurement Category Lead HR, Professional Services, Legal and Payments, Booking.com

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in your career to date?

De Bree: To listen. There is a difference between hearing what someone has to say and listening. When you are waiting to talk, you are more likely to miss an opportunity to learn, gain new insights or you may miss crucial information. Whether it is managing a team or leading a negotiation, you will enable yourself and others to get better results when you listen. When you improve your listening skills you will also identify new opportunities. It is important to ask questions as well. When you train yourself to listen you will get better at asking the right questions.

What do you love about your job, and why should graduates consider procurement as a viable career option?

De Bree:
Procurement is at the heart of the organization, where decisions are made, and runs through all departments. When you position yourself as a business partner you can have a positive impact on your companies’ decisions, prevent failures and enable success. There are always opportunities to improve, whether it is via savings, process improvements, compliance or lowering risks.  The procurement function is very diverse. You can add value to the procurement function, regardless of your background. Myself, I started my career in sales and I still benefit from those learnings in my procurement role today.  If you like marketing, you can support different marketing categories, if you are into tech you will love tech procurement. You will work with different finance and legal functions and you’ll be able to go beyond procurement and learn as much as you want. When I joined procurement I learned so much more about many different areas of the business than I would have learned in most other functions. In procurement you also have the opportunity to work with different vendors, and you will meet many interesting people inside and outside of your organization. And of course it is very exciting to be in the lead of negotiations.

Why were you nominated for the Future Leader Award?

De Bree:
When I joined Booking.com as a Procurement Manager, procurement was still gathering its momentum within the company. For me, the nomination is a recognition that I went beyond my responsibilities and that I took a leading role in the professionalization of the department. I started new procurement categories from the ground, even where procurement is not common, like Payments and Fraud. Instead of being satisfied with the low hanging fruits, I focused on structure, strategies and building valuable partnerships that will benefit the company in the long term. At the same time, I’m convinced that helping others to succeed is real success and therefore I’ve mentored others in the team to reach their goals and full potential as well. My development has been recognized within the company and today I am managing the team responsible for procurement in HR, Professional Services, Legal and Payments. Apart from a personal recognition, this nomination is a recognition for the whole Booking.com procurement team. The team and the company have always supported me in my development and enabled me to be considered as a future leader.

#3: Cecilia Paparella, Procurement Innovation Manager, Roche S.p.A., Italy

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in your career to date?

Paparella:
You always have to look forward when you succeed because the success will not last too long, as well as when you fail because you will have to do better. I think I am lucky because, over my twenty-year career, I have never done the same job for more than one month. I have constantly looked to improve and reengineer my tasks, learn as much as I can and collect and embrace feedback to grow as fast as possible. Nowadays, technologies and events are speeding up the improvement of processes and approaches. Keeping up with this fast-paced world is part of the challenge for us as professionals, and it’s important to never give up!

What do you love about your job, and why should graduates consider procurement as a viable career option?

Paparella: I really love the positive energy I experience any time I work for or with my colleagues, as well as the enthusiasm we share, because our actions and outcomes can really affect and make a difference in patients’ and their caregivers’ lives. Those who work in procurement have a natural aptitude for managing complexity, handling processes, and dealing with pressure while supporting internal business functions and dealing with both internal and external stakeholders (customers, suppliers, etc.). Procurement facilitates networking, helps develop cross-functional skills, and brings great value to projects and initiatives by supporting the sharing of knowledge, competences, and ideas as a bedrock to reach common goals and business outcomes. Working in procurement, even for a short period, is a great opportunity for career development.

Why were you nominated for the Future Leader Award? 

Paparella: I think the jury appreciated my attitude towards empowering transparent and open collaboration and encouraging a positive change management mindset by acknowledging each person’s contribution in terms of soft and hard skills and knowledge. In 2018, I was working as sourcing manager and procurement business partner, supporting six departments and more than 120 internal stakeholders in the entire demand-to-pay process. To be more effective, efficient, agile, and adherent to my stakeholders’ needs, I decided to spend most of my time next to their desks. I started a pilot in the Market Access Department because of its complexity and its need to be more reactive toward external stakeholders and the health economics environment. Creating a common background of knowledge and intent with my Market Access colleagues, both managers and assistants; being involved from the beginning in the co-creation of various projects with them; offering procurement expertise in terms of market knowledge; and connecting the dots with other functions were key. After six months, I was ready to apply this new approach to the other departments. I could deeply understand their needs and shape a personalized approach to support each of them. Therefore, I created dedicated time slots for each department and opened my calendar to let everybody in the company know where I was at any time. By offering such a transparent view of my daily work, I could prioritize urgent matters across the company and share them but also plan activities and be there to meet stakeholders’ needs. Stakeholders themselves started to organize their activities according to my calendar to foster our collaboration. My stakeholders and I spoke in “one voice” to our external stakeholders and engaged in strategic and win-win solutions and negotiations. We focused on outcomes; savings objectives were achieved as a natural consequence of teamwork. Email reminders and pending approvals completely disappeared. I empowered a culture of feedback and created a climate of trust and respect. I fostered transparent relationships that allowed cross-fertilization and enabled co-creation of strategies through an integrated approach. 

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