Danielle Douglas is Global Head of Procurement at Clifford Chance, one of the world's pre-eminent law firms.
She also Co-Chairs the UK Reach Network and for Procurement Heads‘ latest Big Interview, Danielle spoke with Rupert Gaster.
How did you get into procurement?
Like most people, I fell into procurement.
I worked for a private international university in London, it was my first job after graduating from the University of Nottingham and I was responsible for looking after the course directory.
I would order a lot of books and course materials for the students and that is actually what sparked my interest.
From then I started exploring purchasing and the different career avenues I could get into.
What are the roles and responsibilities that the procurement function holds at Clifford Chance and how do you split the function out?
We are responsible for the procurement of strategic purchases and what that means for us is anything that is high value, high-risk, third-party engagements.
When I say high value, I mean typically a spend of more than £200,000 per annum, high risk involves things such as critical suppliers or services that require us to share personal or special category data and any cloud or outsource services.
As far as the split of the function we have four main areas, sourcing – a mix of Procurement Managers and Advisors across Germany, London and Delhi.
We also have a supplier relationship management and risk team, this looks after all the due diligence, mitigating risk, sustainability and our supply code of conduct and is also across London and Delhi.
Thirdly, our procurement operations team covers our spend analytics team, information-sourcing and general procurement support and that team is based in Delhi.
And lastly, there is the travel team, which looks after travel and sits under procurement and that team is split between Newcastle and London.
We are doing well and we have an aspiration to be the leading procurement team in the legal industry so that is something that we keep at the heart of any agenda.
A lot of how we are structured and what we do is based on best practice and is focused on that goal.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to procurement?
If I think about what I am most passionate about in my role today it is more about people development.
So, creating an environment for people to succeed and achieve their career goals is what most motivates me in my job.
I guess before being a people manager I would say delivering a good outcome for my stakeholders, reaching either that savings target or achieving the commercial deal they wanted to achieve felt good especially when I saw the response from my stakeholders.
“But, since becoming a people manager that has shifted quite a bit, and nothing makes me prouder than seeing someone reach their goals.
Who has been your greatest role model?
It would definitely be my parents, my dad in particular, who has now retired but was a Detective Chief Inspector for Scotland Yard has always had such a great work ethic and has faced a lot of challenges, especially when it came to race.
He was one of the few black police officers in the Met police many years ago and actually he is extremely resilient and has always kept extremely focused, I have definitely taken that on and used that as motivation for me to achieve my goals.
What do you look for when hiring?
What is really important is a team player, someone willing to learn and be pushed out of their comfort zone as well.
I am also looking for someone with emotional intelligence and someone who can flex depending on the stakeholder.
I believe procurement is less and less about making that big saving and more and more about business partnering and delivering that value.
So, someone who can see the bigger picture and can think outside the box does extremely well in that capacity.
What skills do you think are important to be a procurement leader?
Aside from the ability to flex and emotional intelligence, someone who is aware of their blind spots and can adapt.
I would say somebody in a managerial position needs to be ready to open the door for members of their team to provide opportunities.
What have been the major challenges that you and your team have had to navigate during the pandemic?
First and foremost, it was keeping that team feeling, I think it was quite easy to feel isolated and for many of us, it was quite tough.
We ensured we met up via Teams, not just about work, but also to check-in. Many lawyers are very paper-based individuals who are used to coming to the office so I think the switch to working from home was a real adjustment for many of them.
We really had to offer support in moving to digital and leveraging those platforms but they embraced it quickly and well hence why we are still operating that hybrid model now – and it is working.
Our policy requires us to go into the office at least 50% of the time, however, you are still encouraged to go into the office when it makes sense to, we have really great platforms that enable us to operate and work efficiently.
Also, with our science-based targets initiative, having those meetings digitally rather than hopping on a plane is helping us reduce carbon emissions.
All in all, it has become the new normal, productivity hasn’t waned, and we have had a really great year as a law firm and that in itself shows and proves that it is working.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love netball, I haven’t been able to play it as much since having my baby but I enjoy watching it as well as playing it.
I am a centre or wing attack and for those that know netball, you can probably get a good idea about my personality from that information alone!
I also co-chair my firm’s race and ethnicity network which is called REACH, which stands for Race, Equality And Celebrating Heritage. there are various different things we do from events, engaging our members, working with clients and consultation with management to look at our diversity stats and assess where we need to effect change for the greater good.
Participating in the network really does keep me going, there are days when the day job of procurement can be tough or tiring, but I get that respite and I get a different focus through my work with the REACH network.
Recently I created a LinkedIn group called ‘Black Women in Procurement.’ This is a group dedicated to black women working in procurement and supply chain. It’s an opportunity for us to network, share job postings, and our experience and provide guidance on climbing the ranks in the world of procurement.
Do you have a personal motto?
I think for me what I tell myself is that good things in life are either inherited, gifted or earned and either way the ownership is mine.
So I will always go out to get that thing I set my heart on, that is something I live by, I tend to not let anything stop me from achieving my goals – and that is because in some shape or form it has my name on it.