The Big Interview with Denzyl Siaw

Denzyl Siaw is Senior Category Manager at Heathrow Airport, Europe’s largest airport and one of the top 10 busiest airports in the world.

In our latest Big Interview, Rahim Ali Ahmad spoke with Denzyl about how he got into Procurement and the sustainability agenda at Heathrow Airport.

How did you get into Procurement?

I would love to say it was something I dreamt of doing as a kid but that is not the case! I literally fell into Procurement which is probably the same for quite a lot of people.

I started off out of university on to a Graduate Programme, and on the Graduate Programme I did different rotations in different functions of the business. Having done a rotation within the Procurement team, I really enjoyed it and asked the Head of Department if I could come back on a permanent basis.

They were more than happy for me to join and that is pretty much how my journey into Procurement began. I am 8-9 years into Procurement now and I have not looked back, enjoying it every day.

What are the roles and responsibilities the Procurement function holds within your organisation and how do you split the function out?

Here at Heathrow Airport, the Procurement function is responsible for all of the sourcing activities for the Airport as a whole and our task predominately is to engage and put contracts in place with our key Supply Chain Partners. The Procurement department as a whole is separated into 4 different functions:

1). The Operations Procurement team – this is the team that I sit under, and this captures everything from Civil Engineering, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, the Airport Baggage Systems and Security Systems. We also have an Airside Operations function, who work closely with Air Traffic Control, so anything you can think of that keeps the Airport running, functioning, and operating sits under the Operations Procurement team.

2). We have an Infrastructure Procurement team, who are responsible for large capital projects.

3). We have the Technology and Corporate Services team which covers your Indirect Procurement, mainly IT and Professional Services.

4). Then lastly we have the Portfolio and Supplier Management team, who support with governance training, contract drafting, data management, along with management of the various procurement systems and dashboards. They essentially manage everything that goes on behind the scenes and help keep the procurement team grounded.

What are the challenges that you and your team are currently facing?

I think the challenges in Procurement are probably not just applicable to Heathrow Airport, there are massive pressures and challenges across the board.

One of the main challenges of which we are seeing is an increase in prices across the supply chain for both labour and materials.

We have also seen over the past few years an increase in material shortages, which leads to very long lead times on certain key critical products. This has been felt on a global level and has had a massive effect on operations, especially here at Heathrow Airport. You have to make sure you’re demand planning and procuring items well ahead of time.

We have also felt the impact of Brexit and Covid, which we are thankfully now seeing the end of. However, during its peak, we had to mitigate and navigate through it by building more closer and strategic relationships with our supply chain partners. We had to learn how to work smarter and more collaboratively in order to ensure we were seeing the value and benefits from the contracts with our supply chain partners.

What are you most passionate about when it comes to Procurement?

I would say I am very passionate about sustainability, in terms of where things are sourced, how they have been sourced and the labour that is involved in its production.

There has been a real drive and focus around it and it is something that is at the forefront of what we do here at Heathrow. We have recently rolled out what we call our Balanced Scorecard and it is a subset of Heathrow’s sustainability strategy and objectives.

The Balanced Scorecard provides a tool in which we can put tangible targets in place for our supply chain partners to be measured against in areas such as environment, social and economic impact. All of which forms part of Heathrow’s drive to be NetZero by 2050.

So, sustainability is something I am very passionate about and I am excited to get involved with the suppliers within my portfolio in terms of ensuring they are engaged and supporting Heathrow in pursuit of our sustainability objectives and goals.

Is there anything else the team and wider organisation are doing around that sustainability piece?

There is a lot of activity going on in the airport around sustainability, carbon emissions and cleaner resources. This will result in a lot of exciting Procurement events and projects over the next few years to support us in that step change to becoming NetZero.

I am really excited to see what is to come and be actively involved in it, so I would definitely say to watch this space…

Tell us about your biggest achievement in your Procurement career.

I feel fortunate to have been involved in a lot of exciting procurement activities and projects that have yielded good benefits both in terms of value and cost savings.

My biggest achievement was at a previous company where I was supporting on the COVID response project. At the time when the whole pandemic started, I was managing the organisations Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) contracts.

The company I was working at was a critical service provider, so things didn’t stop when COVID came. The world stopped but work for us continued, so I was tasked with trying to source a wide range of PPE from your masks, to your coveralls, to sanitisers, pretty much everything needed to keep the company’s operatives safe.

It was a very challenging project because it was at a time where demand completely outstripped supply and everyone globally was trying to source the same products. This made it a difficult environment to navigate, often having to rely on your network of connections and relationships.

On that project, myself and the team were successful in our sourcing activities, which led to my role expanding where I led the task force on the COVID resilience project. This centred around making approx. 100+ sites COVID safe and secure for staff to return back to the office.

I was recognised at the Company’s annual awards for the work that was done during that time, so it is definitely my biggest achievement and one that I am very proud of.

What skills do you consider to be essential to be a Procurement leader?

I think there are a number of skills needed. There are the more general ones required such as being a role model, being a motivator, someone that leads by example, someone your peers can look up to, and so forth.

Those are all very key but if we are looking specifically with a Procurement lens, I think one of the key skills is definitely around being a good communicator. We often find ourselves facing and dealing with both internal and external stakeholders, a lot of the time we are trying to persuade people to get on board from a Procurement perspective, so being able to communicate and articulate yourself well is key.

Being interpersonal, as well as someone who can not only build relationships but also maintain them is very important. These are some of the key skills I feel are important as a Procurement leader.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy sports, pretty much every sport! I love Football! I am a big Arsenal fan and try to get to as many games as possible. I love Cricket as well as Formula 1. I am a bit of a sports fanatic; I spend a lot of time either playing or watching sports.

Aside from that, another hobby of mine is music. I am someone that at every concert or festival, you’ll likely see me there. I also DJ in my spare time and I took it upon myself to learn during lockdown, so tend to find myself doing a lot of that when I can.  I try to keep myself active and busy but you will find me either playing or watching sports or on my DJ decks messing around.

Do you have a personal motto that you live by?

I would say if there was a single motto I live my life by it would be …” do what makes you happy.”

That is something that I began to live my life by a couple of years ago and it is the best thing I have done. I feel like it can be very easy to become burdened by life but amidst all of the mess and franticness you have to try and cultivate happiness by doing what makes you happy, brings you peace and gives you purpose.

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