For the first of our Procurement Heroes blogs, Hayley Packham caught up with Michelle Jones to hear how she has used her Procurement skills to help out during the pandemic.
How did you get into Procurement?
Like a lot of people, I fell into it by chance but loved it so much I made the conscious decision that it was going to be my career.
After university, I joined a Procurement graduate scheme. Having never heard of it and not really understanding what it was, I was just happy to have secured a graduate job at a well-known company.
The scheme lasted two years and consisted of several placements across different business areas, which enabled me to try out a wide range of business areas, but it was the Procurement placement I was drawn to.
What does your typical day at work look like?
No two days are the same.
One day I might be reviewing and negotiating a contract, the next I might be running a tender and the following I might be in the warehouse checking stock – some days all three!
What do you love about Procurement?
I love that it touches most parts of the business and you work with many different external and internal stakeholders, adding value to their projects.
Are there any aspects of Procurement that you find challenging?
I aim to work collaboratively with all my stakeholders; however, it can be challenging working with stakeholders who don’t understand your value and see you as a hindrance.
I have heard Procurement called everything from “order processors” to “the sales prevention department”.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
To have confidence in yourself and surround yourself with positive people who you can trust and bring something to your life. This combination has gotten me to where I am in my career.
What are your greatest strengths?
I pride myself on adding value, exceeding stakeholder expectations while ensuring efficiency and compliance. I am a very organised and structured person with a strong moral compass. I generally build good relationships and like to think I am enjoyable to work with.
What has been the best lesson you’ve learnt in Procurement?
To be open, honest and ask for help when you need it.
It is much better to lean on those people who can provide support than to try and blag it and struggle alone, I have found that this will often also earn you more respect and get better results too.
Who has had the most influence over your Procurement career?
I am really lucky to have worked for several great managers in my career. My first manager had joined the organisation at 16 as a shop floor apprentice and had worked his way up to Head of Procurement. He made me realise that it doesn’t matter your background if you work hard the sky is your limit.
I have also worked for another manager early on in my career who would often give me projects that pushed me outside of my comfort zone, ones I would never have volunteered for. He gave me the confidence to say yes and take opportunities that would stretch me, enable me to grow and develop.
Tell us about you – what do you like doing in your spare time? Do you have any favourite books/destinations/sports etc?
I love the outdoors and regularly run ultramarathons, my last was 100 miles up and down across Snowdonia, which took almost 41 hours non-stop.
I also really enjoy travelling and try to immerse myself into the local culture, staying at guest houses and hostels where possible, eating street food and taking part in traditional activities.
My favourite place so far has been Belize, the highlight was joining a tour that took us caving in the jungle – after swimming across a river and passing fresh jaguar droppings! – to a place called the Crystal Cave, where Mayan pottery and skeletons were still in-situ where they had fallen.
To get so close to something so old and preserved in its natural environment was amazing.
Is work/life balance important to you? If so how do you achieve it?
Absolutely! I work very hard, but I also value my non-work life.
I think that is why I have hobbies that take me off the grid so much. When I am in the mountains running, or on holiday backpacking I am completely switched off from work.
What role have you and the Procurement function played in enabling the company to face the pandemic?
I was furloughed early on in the pandemic, so I threw myself into volunteering my skills and experience to organisations that needed it.
I helped several companies, from providing pro-bono Procurement consultancy and advice on specific issues, to leading the Charity PPE Group created by Novo-K Procurement Solutions to help charities source PPE.
The Charity PPE Group was made up from a group of furloughed Procurement professionals and proved to be a great success. A lot of the charities that we helped were small organisations that didn’t have their own Procurement departments and struggled to know where to source and meet minimum order quantities.
My team and I were able to apply our vast Procurement skills and experience to help around 40 charities navigate the ‘wild west’ of PPE and to utilise collaborative buying power to secure the best prices from the best sources.