Annabel Barry is Global Head of Digital and Production Procurement at IPG.
Annabel’s biggest fear is mediocrity, and endeavours to make sure whatever she does adds happiness to her life and/or challenges her in a positive way.
Professionally Annabel enjoys supporting business visions to develop global high performing Procurement teams, which feel inspired, energised and are seen within the industry as best in class.
She wants to see people view Procurement as a commercial asset and develop a team environment where individuals thrive in challenging environments and become the best versions of themselves.
She spoke with James Dobbin about her career and what advice she’d give other women looking to go in procurement.
How did you get into procurement?
I was actually going down the path of becoming a Clinical Psychologist however I wanted to explore other options outside the world of academia
At this point, my mum gave me the best advice, which I still use to this day: “Network network”.
The best platform for this I found was LinkedIn and I reached out to random professionals high up in their company, CEOs, COOs, Directors etc to gain advice on what I could do with a Psychology degree.
One individual, Andrew, was incredibly helpful and was the first to introduce me to the world of procurement.
He asked if I would be interested in understanding more about what a career in procurement would look.
At one point I thought I misheard him say recruitment, as at that point I had never heard of procurement.
Upon speaking about what procurement involved it was the first time I had this energy and passion that enabled me to develop the courage to insist someone senior meet me for a coffee as I was super keen to get as much direction as possible.
When we met for coffee I was asked an array of questions about who I was, what gave me this energy about wanting to learn more about procurement and why I wanted to potentially digress away from the academic world.
Little did I know that the questions were Andrew’s way of understanding whether I had the personality and drive – as opposed to qualifications – to fill in a Procurement Officer role.
By the end of the coffee, the answer was yes, and I have Andrew to thank for the entry point to a really amazing career in procurement.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry?
Having a voice at the table, especially in situations where I have been the only women working within a Senior Management Team or Leading significant projects.
In the past, I have often felt this need to almost work harder and develop a mentality that if I become more hard-headed and cut-throat then I would be more respected at the table, and have the ability to influence business decisions.
It almost got to a point where I lost who I really am.
I made it my decision to always be myself and ensure I have the confidence to speak up, even if it felt uncomfortable.
How can we encourage more women to choose procurement as a viable career?
I would love to see more companies do what Procurement Heads is currently doing and to create platforms to showcase success stories of Women in Procurement.
I feel there needs to be more emphasis on how this industry, in my opinion, and experience, is supporting to ensure that women are treated equally and how there are so many opportunities that will allow any women to blossom and showcase their true potential.
On a more general note, I feel there need to be more events that portray the real diversity of procurement in regards to the roles you can come across and also the never-ending skills you acquire.
Procurement is still seen within companies as this transactional function but in fact, we are now seeing procurement as a strategic function that influences overarching business decisions.
To summarise, I feel there needs to be more platforms and events to educate women about the opportunities within procurement and demonstrate that it is one of the industries that is actively working on ensuring women are treated equally to men to allow a career path that they can be extremely successful in.
What advice would you give women setting out on the profession?
I’ve four top points of advice.
Regardless of the challenges you will come across as a woman in the business world, staying true to yourself and being aligned with who you are will lead you to be successful in anything you do as you showcase your value most genuinely. When you live authentically, you will feel more aligned with your success, embrace who you are and all the gifts that come with it.
Empower the women around you.
Don’t be scared to have a voice and finally, surround yourself and network with women who inspire you and those you can learn from who will have likely experienced challenges themselves as a woman in business.
Who has inspired you throughout your career?
From day dot she has imprinted in my brain those four tips, be true to myself, driven, ambitious and to challenge others respectfully when you feel something is not right ensuring the intention of a positive outcome.
What is your view on how women are represented across the profession?
I feel there need to be more opportunities to demonstrate the success of women in the industry.
There needs to be more emphasis on how this industry is supporting ensuring that women are treated equally and how there are so many opportunities that will allow any women to reach their full potential and beyond.
Is there anything you would have done differently during your career?
I wish I networked with more women in the industry early on in my career, which I feel would have helped me understand how best to manage situations where I was in challenging environments that come as part of being a woman in the business world.
What skills are essential to be a good procurement leader?
Being able to communicate in various ways to influence people’s attitudes and behaviours in positive ways. I believe that to achieve this you need to be somewhat emotionally intelligent/aware and authentic.
The more authentic you are I feel the more trust you develop.
Portray courage rather than avoiding problems or allowing problems to fester and treat people with respect regardless of their background.
Being inspirational through a commitment to make positive change, regardless of the challenges and conflicts ahead.
Having a natural drive and desire to make positive changes.
Being democratic – you have this willingness to listen and learn from different types of people to ensure they can make the best decisions for the majority, without this need to portray a competitive nature where one would make a decision, for example, to make a power statement.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement to date is landing myself in a role with IPG which is an incredible company who have honestly created this environment for me that has allowed me to become a better procurement professional and to have been given the flexibility and trust to showcase how procurement is a Commercial Asset to any business which has always and will forever be a goal of mine as I continue my procurement career.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love exploring the National Trust sites and ticking them off the endless list of sites that I have yet to visit.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Life is too short to moan.
Own your world in a way that you truly understand that it is you, and only you, who can make the changes you need in your life.
Don’t just create long-term goals as you sometimes don’t take or appreciate the opportunities and moments in front of you.
Tell us some interesting facts about yourself
I am always experimenting with and taking part in independent projects outside of work to teach me how to become self-sufficient, more entrepreneurial and more conscious of my impact to the world ensuring I contribute in making it more of a healthier and beautiful place to live!
I religiously live by three things in life: nothing is impossible, life is too short and Guinness is truly the drink to happiness.
But probably the most interesting, and unusual, fact about myself is I have an obsession with Marmite and one of my bucket list things to do is travel across the UK in a campervan and sell all things Marmite!