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Insights Why procurement is a great career path

Are you thinking about a career in procurement? We caught up with Rachel Collins to find out about the twists and turns she's taken to get where she is today. 

Read on to find out what she thinks it takes to be successful in procurement.

Tell us about yourself, your role, and your journey to Head of Procurement.

I was born and raised in Preston, in the North West of England, UK. My career path has taken me through procurement in various settings: the prison service, a national housing provider, and several housing associations which evolved to become developers in the UK. 

Along the way, I took on business development roles, studied to become chartered as a member of CIPS, and my work increasingly focused on procurement as a strategic function rather than its traditional operational role.

I have reached a senior level in my last UK role, but I’ve always been keen to work and live abroad. When I was approached about joining AtkinsRéalis, I could see the huge potential for a great career development experience, while working on ambitious projects. 

I joined the business in October 2018 as Head of Procurement, and I’m proud to be among a talented and passionate team in AtkinsRéalis, Saudi Arabia. 

Since joining the business, I have helped to shape supply chain strategies, collaborate on innovative international solutions and support future sustainable project delivery. All of which push the boundaries of traditional practices and call for new ways of working to deliver ambitious programmes in the Kingdom and across the Middle East region.

What are the main objectives of your team?

Our primary objective is to be a leading provider of strategic procurement services in KSA. Shifting the procurement function from its traditional operational position into the strategic domain. By enabling our clients to maximize value throughout every stage of their project lifecycle. 

By positioning this new service line alongside our existing core functions, we’re able to strategically differentiate amongst our peers.

How is the new service line delivering value to the business and to clients?

As the region continues to diversify its economy, procurement will play an increasingly critical role in enabling the delivery of business objectives. 

Through the creation of effective strategies, ways of working and solutions, we’re able to support the evolution of procurement and supply management to deliver value throughout the supply chain. 

Embedding best practice procurement principles and applying lessons learned from across the globe will be key to successful project delivery.

In your opinion, what are the key factors for success?

Building skills, knowledge and capability within procurement and supply chain teams through alignment with global best practices and partnerships with leading professional bodies. As we work to realise each opportunity we build our client’s team to maintain the procurement benefits over the long-term. 

Future sustainable project delivery will hinge on innovative solutions that push the boundaries of traditional practices and harness new ways of working. There are increasing opportunities for the Kingdom to benefit from alternative construction technologies—modularisation and offsite prefabrication results on average in an 18 per cent reduction in schedule duration.

A procurement strategy developed at project inception allows time to explore these options and to develop the conditions needed to make them work: global partnership opportunities, inward investment, relevant skills and manufacturing infrastructure. An optimal procurement strategy is tailored to the individual client, is aligned with the project aims and outcomes, and balances opportunity and risk against the cost, time and quality objectives. 

Supply chain insight is crucial. Digital tools will ideally be used to collect and analyze market intelligence, identify trends and opportunities, and determine supply chain performance, capacity, interests and commitments. The resulting data should underpin the search for the best procurement solution for each individual client.

What are the main risks and challenges that you and your team face?

Procurement and supply chain integration represents a substantial challenge, which is set to intensify as the market responds. However, there is a real opportunity to develop a strategic, cohesive procurement approach that has become the norm in more mature construction markets.

Ambitious timescales are in place for this multi-sector surge of construction activity, much of which is expected well before 2030. And whilst mature entities with solid experience in project delivery operate across both public and private sectors, there are also newer entrants, who face significant challenges.

Also, timing is critical, as procurement and supply chain opportunities begin at project inception, to realize maximum value.

What is your advice to young people considering a career in procurement?

I think it is fair to say that procurement hasn’t previously been a ‘chosen’ career path and the transition into the role is usually an organic one. My advice to any young person getting ready to join the workforce is that procurement could be a great fit – I would fully recommend it.

Working in procurement and supply-chain offers a wide range of opportunities. Across your career, you’ll switch between a variety of positions. It gives you the flexibility to learn about a lot of different things, very quickly, which builds a great foundation. There are so many different projects to work on and it’s possible to move up the ladder but also to move laterally to widen your prospects.

Aspiring procurement professionals should make the most of and nurture their relationships, whether it’s networking, managing supplier relationships, finding a mentor or being a mentor.

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Image of the procurement team at the middle east supply management awards