Senior buyers offer mentoring tips

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
30 April 2013

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30 April 2013 | Paul Snell in Grapevine, Texas

When looking for a mentor, identify individuals who are influential in the business and passionate about what they do, and try to find a connection with them.

This was the advice from a panel of mentors and mentees in purchasing and supply at the Institute for Supply Management annual conference in Texas.

According to Bill Dempsey, vice president of global procurement at Shire Pharmaceuticals – who has been both mentored, and a mentor in his career – the important thing is to find someone you can make a connection with.

“One thing I say is find people who are influential in the business. I don't necessarily mean chief-level or senior vice presidents – there are influential people who are managers, specialists, directors and vice presidents. Find people who have a passion for the company and where it is headed,” he said.

He advised being informal when considering how to approach them. “I tell my team not to approach them by saying ‘I want to establish a mentor/mentee relationship with you’. If it is someone who is influential, see if they will meet you for a coffee or lunch and spend half an hour talking about career development and then see if you connect. If you just don't connect at the end of the half an hour, it's easy to say ‘I really appreciate it’ and you can walk away.

“To me, to ‘connect’ means you have some mutual interests and the conversation flows pretty easily. Maybe it is a similar ‘outside of work’ activity or passion for your area. You sort of know when you have it,” he added.

Dempsey's mentor – Ron Schnur, vice president dairy supply and operations at WhiteWave Foods – said mentors themselves should not necessarily be trying to achieve something from the relationship.

“I don't go into it with goals,” he said in response to a question. “I have enjoyed a great career in supply chain over the past 25 years and part of it is giving back to the profession, organisation and young people. Back in the day when I started at Chrysler, I stood on the shoulders of a lot of people, and one of the things I have to do today is allow people to stand on my shoulders.”

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