Procurement never came across to Linda Lin as a career. She had never even taken a single module relating to procurement at university, neither was it offered as a major/function during her business school education. Linda’s heart lay with the world of marketing or strategy.
But that was until Linda joined Unilever as an assistant procurement manager. Three years later, Linda, now leading a market-based procurement role for Diageo in Southeast Asia, shares some learning and opportunities she would never have imagined…
“It was not until my second job that I came to know more about procurement as a function and what it stands for.
People have different perceptions about procurement: some see it as a tick-box function to get vendor accreditation or budget approvals, but stakeholders with more advanced mindsets engage their procurement business partners earlier and access their capabilities together. Even still, the past three years have taught me that procurement is more than just that.
An analogy that explains how procurement is placed within an organisation, is to say procurement is a bridge. As procurement individuals, we serve as a face to the external world.
Having a deep understanding of the available solutions and players in any specific industry and bringing the right solutions to your internal business partners is why organisations pay us as procurement professionals.
Serving as the bridge between business and the outside solutions
While the standard assessment matrices commonly used by today’s organisations involve cost reductions and other compliance-related KPIs, procurement is much more than just savings and vendor accreditations. In my view, procurement should serve as the function offering the most suitable solutions to fulfill any business requirements and needs.
Power plays exist in every aspect of my job. Most of the time, I negotiate with external vendors on what the organisation demands or requires, but occasionally I negotiate with internal stakeholders on the wishes and requests from procurement or suppliers. I constantly need to balance the powers of both parties.
The act of balancing sits in the negotiation rooms too. Managing expectations is a constant. Power-plays exist between suppliers and internal businesses, as well as different business units within the organisation. The art of balance to achieve harmony and peace is what I see as the skill set most important among them all.
Ultimately, procurement is actually a sales job
Whenever people envy the position that I have in procurement, and those who are anticipating the number of people queuing behind me for businesses, I say they probably hold the function in too high esteem: I must often ‘sell’ to my suppliers why I deserve that competitive price among all other customers. Resources are limited and competition is fierce, so if I cannot demonstrate my ability to help elevate their position, be it revenue or possibly prestige, then I will not make the sale.
Currently based out of Singapore and Philippines, Linda Lin leads a market-based procurement role for Diageo in Southeast Asia. With a passion on procurement, she constantly strives to elevate the perception of procurement function both internally and externally. Prior to joining Diageo, Linda managed the logistics category with Unilever Asia Pacific. In that role, she was busy negotiating with the top 3PLs and bringing disruptive innovations to the businesses.
Graduated from National University of Singapore, Linda loves travelling, travel blogging and pottery.