Futureheads: Abdul Ahad

Abdul Ahad is an Indirects Category Buyer at De La Rue.

For Procurement Heads’ latest Futureheads profile, he spoke with Dan Goodson about his procurement career.

What made you want to get into procurement as a career?

I enjoy solving problems methodically and optimising existing processes.

Procurement is an invaluable function to an organisation, combining my passion for mathematics and business with my work.

Growing up I had no idea what procurement was, which is perhaps not a great surprise.

During my second year at the University of Surrey, studying Economics and Finance, I was applying for internships which had some connection to my degree when I landed a role at Philips as a Procurement Intern.

My placement year at Philips not only provided me with exposure to the corporate environment but also gave me the chance to see how big and vital procurement is.

My career goal is to become a professional consultant who is recognised as a trusted advisor, with the reputation of delivering meaningful value to both organisations and to society.

For a long time, I have been a firm believer in being open-minded to opportunities when they are presented to me and evaluating each opportunity to see how well it fulfils my career goal, hence why – amongst other factors – I am currently pursuing my career in procurement.     

How much was your procurement internship at Philips responsible for driving your passion for procurement?

My year in industry at Philips can only be described as an eye-opener.

Working within Philips’ Health Systems business area, they supplied medical-related equipment and solutions to both the NHS and to private hospitals.

This created a sense of reward for the work I was doing, seeing the way in which the impact Philips has on patient care.

Furthermore, I gained exposure to the support the procurement department provided to the wider business.

Products and services sourced by the department were instrumental to the business’s operational activities, which made it an enjoyable experience that I’ll never forget!

Following the completion of my studies and with my internship experience in my pocket, I have continued in my procurement journey and currently work as an Indirects Category Buyer at De La Rue.

Earlier this year you were awarded your CIPS Level 4 Diploma in Procurement and Supply Chain, how much work had to go into achieving the qualification and why do you see it is valuable to have it?

Studying while working was not easy that’s for sure.

Discipline was key to ensuring I remained consistent with my studying, especially during the busier periods at work.

Social life also had to take a backseat but with the value provided by the CIPS Level 4 Diploma, I was certain the investment in studying would prove to be fruitful in the long run.

The qualification itself has benefited my knowledge of procurement both directly and indirectly.

An understanding of the theory of any topic provides a solid foundation for the practical implementation of the process it relates to.

This theory helped fill in gaps in my knowledge of other areas of procurement while improving my knowledge of existing areas of expertise.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend classroom lessons during my studying and it was here I was able to pick the brains of my fellow students.

In contrast to myself, there were a number of procurement professionals from the public sector which allowed me to better understand public procurement-related topics through discussions with others.

To further my interest and understanding of procurement, I attended the Game Theory Meets Digitalisation event organised by Supply Management in collaboration with TWS Partners.

As well as reigniting the buzz I get from networking with like-minded professionals after what we as a society had to endure during the Covid-19 pandemic, this event comprised of a lecture on what game theory is and of its applications in the procurement world.

Following this, we had a panel discussion, which was something I very much enjoyed the experience of participating in discussions by giving my own perspectives on various points.

From a career perspective, I have seen a growing need from employers for individuals to have MCIPS or be working towards this thus opening more doors and providing greater scope for career progression and flexibility.  

What does your day-to-day role as an Indirects Category Buyer at De La Rue look like?

De La Rue provides governments, central banks and other organisations both currency solutions, producing banknotes with polymer substrates and holographic features, and authentication solutions such as digital tax stamps to allow governments to mark products like alcohol and tobacco as a means to authenticate, validate and trace them.

Within the procurement function, I am in the group procurement team which facilitates De La Rue’s operational activities in order to allow the business to maintain its market position in successfully delivering its solutions to its clients.

As an Indirects Category Buyer, I lead and support a number of sourcing activities across different categories within the scope of indirects procurement at De La Rue, working on a variety of projects including polymer waste management and IT software tail spend management.

And why would you encourage others to consider a career in procurement?

For those deciding on a career path after education or transitioning from a different field, procurement is certainly worth consideration.

In procurement, you get to work with a wide array of stakeholders with different levels of seniority and can form positively meaningful relationships across different areas of the business such as sales, marketing, finance, and HR.

In doing so you are broadening your perspectives on various matters and honing your skills, all of which can be transferrable in some way or another across different categories and projects.

Dan Goodson