Posts Tagged ‘procurement’

I love a good meaningful conversation.  If you give me a choice of ten casual acquaintances versus one single dinner companion with an open heart and soul, I would pick the latter, any time of the day.

You may find it as an obvious fact, but in a heavily condensed urban city where physical proximity does not equal to emotional availability, we should count our blessings whenever we have the opportunity to enjoy a nice, candid, no-agenda exchange.

Those of you who have read my earliest posts would remember how difficult it is to explain my profession.  It’s not in one’s normal vocabulary, and it’s not something that you can describe in one sentence before you completely bore your partner to death.  Yet if someone is curious enough to probe, I am more than happy to act as an ambassador for my professional community, or more selfishly, for my own reputation.

I’m always happy to reciprocate, of course.  Last night I was introduced to a field called Occupational Therapy.  I have heard of Physiotherapy, or Vocational Training, but shamefully not the former.   As my friend explained, the Chinese translation of the field is more than misleading, and I conveniently blamed it on the same.  After hearing his line of work, and learning about the lack of professional resources particularly in the mental practice area in this city, I find his profession fascinating both in terms of technical knowhow, and of its limitless possibility.

I can’t help but compare what we do as a living, as I always strive to keep myself grounded by not taking myself too seriously.  The following conversation never happened last night, but in my imagination, part of which could go something like this:

What are you most proud of with the work that you do?

My friend:  The ability to see my patients recover and adapt to the desired state according to prescribed progress.

Me:  My stakeholders giving me 30 minutes to convince them that I’m not wasting their time to help them save half a million dollars.  Oh, also, to finally get my stakeholders know what it is that they truly want to buy.

Who do you constantly work with in your everyday work life?

My friend:  Patients who have a certain disability to achieve the daily “occupations” of life, and their loved ones who see the need to seek professional help for subject’s adaptation and recovery.

Me:  People who hate me, underestimate me, abuse me, and set me up as scapegoats for one or more of their supply chain problems.

What is the demand like for your profession?

My friend:  There is a growing lack of professionals in our field.  The demand is constantly surging and we find it difficult to keep up with the relatively long accreditation process.

Me:  Demand? What?

What is the one biggest challenge that you see in your profession?

My friend:  The lack of awareness of what Occupational Therapy is.  We hope the Health Department could educate the public more so that patients can seek treatment earlier on, and more resources can be injected for those who are very much in need.

Me:  To make the case for department heads that the half million dollar savings we achieved for their business equate to jobs saved for their employees.

What are you most frustrated about your work life?

My friend:  Below-par recovery progress due to resources insufficiency or uncontrollable physical complications.

Me:  Incredibly idiotic, egoistic and insecure morons.  And they’re not even mentally handicapped.

What is the one question that you get the most from people about your profession?

My friend:  What’s the difference between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, or Vocational Training?

Me:  Why are we stuck with this crappy ball point pen at the office?

 What is the outlook of your profession?

My friend:  Instead of containing within the public healthcare sector at present, we see the growing need of increased specialized care that warrants investments from the private sector.  Wages and recognition will be on the rise.

Me:  Ultimately, we will be helping our companies achieve more cost savings by outsourcing our own jobs. 

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It’s not an easy word, or at least it’s not a word that you will use in your daily life.  I do not hear friends saying “I’m going to procure for furniture tomorrow for my new apartment.”  So it’s not surprising when it was like 17 years ago when I just started working as a distribution officer for the China lubricants team in Shell, my colleague had to look the word “procurement” up in his Oxford dictionary.  Yes folks, there wasn’t Google then.

Turned out there was this young (but still older than myself at the time) executive whose title is procurement manager.  My colleague was embarrassed to go to this manager for a description of his title so he started to make fun of his search results.

“Hey it is something about prostitution!” 

Well we shrugged about it because we both knew Shell wasn’t into the China prostitution business, but it shows how alien we were to the word particularly as a second language.

I still remember my boss at FreeMarkets (now Ariba, a spend management consultancy) talked about increasing the awareness of our profession by putting more spotlight on the buyers.  Why? 

“Who wants to grow up to become a Buyer?”  The teacher asks.

I cannot imagine anyone would have raised their hands.  We are no policemen, firemen or doctors.  No one studied or aspired to be one of us, at least in my time.

I had been working in the oil and chemical industry for about 6 years after school and my last job was a regional business planner for the adhesion industry business unit of ExxonMobil.  I was working 16-hour days crunching reports, tabulating stock inventory while heading the Hong Kong office safety committee which was a very worthy cause but extremely time-consuming.  I was too stretched and wanted to try something new.  I naturally looked at similar business analyst jobs and applied to a few from the weekly Classified Posts. 

The interview was smooth but I didn’t expect to get a call from HR a few days later saying that the lady whom I interviewed with had me in mind of another post in her department.  HR told me it was actually a more senior post.  Sensing my hesitation and disbelief over the phone, I was invited to go for a second meeting with the lady boss.  Turned out she was the Asia head of operations procurement, and she wanted to mentor me as the next strategic procurement manager in her team.  The business analyst role that I applied for was already out of the picture.

“Why me?”  I obviously had no prior experience of the subject and the words strategic procurement meant nothing to me at the time.  I only remember one of the reasons she provided was that she thought I was very “articulate” and would be a perfect candidate for the role.  It was like riding a bicycle, or learning how to swim.

I have to say, now that I am 10 years into this,  it’s not exactly rocket science either .

And that was the beginning of my days with Agilent Technologies (a spun-off from Hewlett-Packard), the birth place of my procurement career.  This Director still remains to be one of my most respected mentors to date.

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