I entered the purchasing and supply profession only a few months after graduating with a degree in economics from Queen Mary, University of London
Initially I was interested in a career in finance, but I realised I wanted something more dynamic and strategy orientated than just numbers. Purchasing appealed to me as it used a variety of skills such as working with different types of people (suppliers as well as internal stakeholders), negotiation, contract management and so on.
While my degree in economics was not directly related to procurement, I have found many of the analysis tools that I used at university are useful when analysing spend and developing strategy. Tools such as SWOT analysis
and Porter’s five forces
are always useful in managing your supply base.
An aspect that surprised me was the fast-paced environment procurement sits in. I’ve found there are constantly contracts which need extending or going out to tender and always savings to be achieved within half-years and at the end of the year in particular.
The aspect I found hardest was how quickly you have to become an expert in your area; knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your key suppliers, knowing your numbers (costs) and quickly being able to manipulate them during negotiations. All of this while having to keep a strategic working relationship with suppliers.
Given we are entering an era where cost cutting and savings are a necessity, purchasers are increasingly being sought after and looked to, to help reduce costs and generate savings.
Although procurement can have an important impact on the profit and loss, it is important that this does not become the one and only objective and purpose of the profession. Areas such as innovation, sustainability and supplier performance should also remain on the radar.
For a graduate coming from a business/economics background unsure about the career path they want to take, I suggest procurement is a good place to start. Not only do you dip into finance, legal, possibly even service and project management but you can also help shape strategy.