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ASCM Insights

Is Procurement the Right Career Path for You?

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In its 2019 global chief procurement officer (CPO) supply chain survey, Deloitte found that 54% of surveyed CPOs believed the skills and capabilities of their current teams were insufficient to execute their companies’ procurement strategies. This figure is up from 51% of surveyed CPOs the year before.

Companies need skilled procurement professionals to fill these gaps. To learn more about this rewarding profession, check out ASCM’s new Supply Chain Procurement Certificate. The certificate program includes 18-20 hours of education and a comprehensive final exam, all available online.

And here, read ASCM’s interview with Mike Bunge, CPIM, CSCP, A.P.P., C.P.M., director of global sourcing and materials planning at Libbey Inc. Bunge shares great advice about his own career path and why procurement is such an exciting field.

This is the third article in a three-part series. The other stories are available here and here.

ASCM: What led you to a career in supply chain and procurement?

Bunge: After earning an associate degree in physics, I landed a job in aerospace, but it was too introverted for me. I switched to finance, which I loved, and earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.

While working as a manufacturing accountant, my company went through an enterprise resources planning system install. I was responsible for the accounting and finance portion of the install, but I learned about the whole system. In the middle of the install, our plant purchasing manager retired, so I was named purchasing manager to complete the install. I realized that my purchasing skills so far were learned from shopping malls and grocery stores, so I knew more education was needed. I earned my Accredited Purchasing Practitioner (A.P.P.) and Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) designations through the Institute for Supply Management to learn more about purchasing. Because the supply chain profession also was growing at the time, I also turned to ASCM for education and earned the APICS Certified in Planning and Inventory Management (CPIM) and Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designations. I kept studying and ultimately earned eight different supply chain certifications and designations.

I’ve been with Libbey Inc. for 29 years, and they’ve offered me many opportunities to change and grow — both personally and professionally. My current role is director of global sourcing and materials.

ASCM: In previous articles, you talked about why procurement is an important strategic function within a company. But why do you think it is a fun supply chain job?

Bunge: I’m one of the luckiest people on this planet to have the career I do. I’ve had amazing opportunities to stay in the learning curve for most of my career. It’s such a cool feeling to look forward to completing the next assignment, sharing that assignment with others, and adding value to the organization so we can win new customers or orders or just do better than our competitors.

Procurement specialists work cross-functionally with all areas of an organization. We need to work with health and safety, engineering, legal, finance, human resources, sales, marketing, and more. We interface with the entire organization and have a chance to be a part of what is going on at all levels of the organization and in all areas.

Plus, you get to work with outside organizations and see how different people do work differently. You get to be the eyes and ears of your company, benchmark your company’s practices against other company’s practices, and bring back improvement ideas — even for areas outside of procurement. Most people inside your company won’t have the same opportunity. This kind of learning opportunity makes the job fun.

My firm has allowed me to go beyond the traditional procurement role and participate in our challenge to continue to innovate in a mature product market. For example, we became the first company to offer antimicrobial dinnerware, which can stop the growth and reproduction of bacteria like E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. It was a fun and rewarding opportunity to play a leadership role in this product development.

A procurement role is for someone who is a little bit extroverted, likes learning new things and likes engaging in new stuff.  It can be a very, very fun occupation. 

ASCM: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to work in procurement?

Bunge: Education is key and can still set you apart from peers — or at least make sure you are properly prepared to compete with your peers. Hard work alone will not lead to success; there are strategic and tactical sides of procurement, but also a psychological side. This means there are many different skills to master. 

Education can start with university programs and continue through certifications and specialized study. It also helps to study negotiation, foreign languages and the types of materials your company uses.

To help myself keep learning, I’ve never said no when my company asked me to change roles, relocate, take on new responsibilities or just refocus. Even if I was not completely qualified for a role, I would make certain that I studied to be completely qualified quickly. For example, I was transferred to China as part of a greenfield build and became my company’s Asia Pacific supply chain manager. So that I could communicate better, I did an immersion program in Mandarin just before the relocation. I also decided to live in the small town near the factory rather than in the Beijing community where most other expats lived. I was about one of six foreigners living in this small town of 4 million people, so I really became immersed in the local language and culture.

In addition, our China operations were relatively small, so I had a very broad influence there. Because I was a native English speaker, I had opportunities to go outside of the supply chain function to help with sales, marketing and legal. It was an amazing learning experience.

Remember, procurement is a wide field, and it keeps growing. Learn and keep learning in order to grow with it.

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