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In this guest post, Electrolux's Gregoire Letort reflects on a career in procurement: the opportunities it presents and the skills that make for a successful procurement leader.
A job for life is something that many people find quite scary, especially in a modern world that is characterised by freedom of movement and job flexibility. But can a career in purchasing really be a job for life?
I never envisioned a career in purchasing at the beginning of my professional life but that quickly changed when I came into contact with the function for the first time some 15 years ago. Buying professional services was my first role and, looking back at that opportunity now, after having held so many different positions since, I would definitely say that purchasing can be a job for life. Purchasing offers diversity in day-to-day activities where you can get involved with commodity negotiations, new transformation projects, cost-out engineering, direct spend, indirect spend, as well as posing opportunities to work abroad. It combines that with being a function that touches almost every area of the business, making it both an exciting area of work and one that is central to success.
It is also a place where people can evolve. You can rotate into and manage different commodities, build up general management skills and also get closer to engineering projects and product development.
However, I have also noticed over the years how purchasing is a place where people can learn skills that they can take into roles in other functions such as supply chain, engineering or more business-related ones such as product or project management.
Learning to be good with financial numbers, negotiating effectively, influencing people and working closely with engineering and manufacturing are all essential in purchasing and are easily transferable into skills that are sought after elsewhere in the business.
Purchasing is also a place where your network, both internally and externally, makes a big difference in your ability to succeed. I'm always excited when I see team members moving to other roles in other functions because I know that what they've learned in purchasing will stay with them for the rest of their careers and make them a great advocate of the function.
Beyond being a great place for people to learn and develop, the success of the function is also making it more of a draw to people and means that it is much stickier in terms of keeping them in.
That does, however, put pressure on us as purchasing leaders to better explain the important role of the function, both in our companies and externally. We need to highlight the different career paths people can take within purchasing and how that will help them develop. It ultimately comes down to us to make the function an exciting place to be doing business and developing the skills necessary to make a great career.
But, I think we are getting there. I was at a school recently, speaking with students during one of their economics lessons and I was surprised to see how much they were interested in this ‘little-known' function. This might have stemmed from the cost breakdown I gave them of an iPhone, but what seemed to fascinate them most was how global the function was. They were fascinated by the fact that purchasing strategies could be so different depending on the country or the product bought and how they were also influenced by factors as vast as protectionism measures in Brazil, currency volatility in Argentina, labour cost increases in South-East Asia and automation of production, among many other things.
I hope the seed has been planted in these youngsters to seriously consider purchasing as a fulfilling career, one that they can stay in for many years.
I never regretted taking that first opportunity when it was presented to me and I'm sure after a successful career, many of you feel the same. Now it's time to share this experience with others and attract more people to have successful careers in purchasing.
Gregoire Letort is CPO, Electrolux. This is article is an extract from Issue 55 of Procurement Leaders Magazine - to find out more, click here.
This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.