Women in procurement: challenging the status quo

Article by Achilles

To honour International Women’s day, we spoke with Katie Ferrier, Senior Vice President Customer Engagement and Quality Assurance on challenging the status quo when it comes to women working in the male dominated world of procurement professionals.

What is it about the procurement function that attracted you as a place to build a successful career, and how does this reflect your role in customer engagement now?

Procurement is a really exciting space to be in. Up until the age of 18 I was sponsored by the Royal Air Force to join them as a pilot – however nature was against me and unfortunately my height didn’t match my high-flying aspirations. So, I studied law at university and maintained my military interest by joining a commercial graduate scheme with a large defence company. It was here that I first got introduced to the procurement function and set the foundation of my future career that has spanned professional services, capital project delivery and now technology. I loved the dynamic nature of what was involved and knew that this was the place I wanted to be. Collaborating across all functions – bringing stakeholders together to ensure that we negotiate and manage supplier relationships that deliver on requirements whilst driving continuous improvement and innovations across the supply chain. What I really enjoyed was working with people really listening to what their challenges are, what they define as success and then delivering on that. These are solid foundations when working with customers at Achilles, as I have sat on the other side of the table with Achilles as the customer. I therefore understand what the complex customer challenges are and try to bring that focus and customer lens to everything we do as an organisation.

What one piece of advice would you give to women looking to build a career as a procurement professional?

Whether you’re a procurement manager, a category manager or a buyer, it’s our job to bring teams together, listen, collaborate, and find solutions. In my experience women are naturally talented in these areas. Diversity of thought really does matter in business – those businesses who think and operate in this way are more successful. Recent years has seen massive improvement in minority groups being represented at senior levels in organisations. So many people have fought hard throughout the years for these opportunities, so now really is our time to shine.

My advice would be to have confidence in yourself and your capabilities then you can really make a difference. You have earnt a place at the table – make sure you use it.

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

I see procurement as an organisations conscience, setting the standards that we expect the rest of the business and supply chain to adhere to. It is therefore important that we act with integrity. We must be honest and transparent in our actions, focussing on collaboration to improve whatever we do, whilst balancing the need to deliver on our commitments.

This year’s International Women’s day theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ – what does this mean to you?

This is such an important focus this year – the challenges we have faced as individuals, businesses, communities and globally have been unprecedented. It is no longer possible to just accept the norm – there is no norm! We can challenge the status quo and establish a new normality. Never before have we had such an amazing opportunity to effectively hit the reset button on our society. Its important that we rise to this and really challenge ourselves, to redefine the way that our businesses operate, to be more sustainable and create a business, community and even world that we are all proud of.

 

About Katie Ferrier, Senior Vice President Customer Engagement & Quality Assurance

Katie has been working in major project delivery, transformation, and procurement for over 15 years. Starting her career at BAE Systems then Network Rail, Katie held a number of roles including Head of Supplier Engagement, and Senior Programme Manager for Electrification, when she was accountable for over £500 million of capital projects.

Katie is now focussed on delivering against our commitments and driving value for customers as Senior VP Customer Engagement and Quality Assurance.



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