A procurement specialist has many tasks to carry out each day. These include negotiating deals, learning about the latest innovations, overlooking business operations and building relationships with stakeholders and suppliers. Contrary to common perception, procurement is about more than just spending money and purchasing. It is a strategic function that helps to streamline procedures, cut down material costs, negotiate prices, and source reliable suppliers which improve an organisation’s profitability.
A career in procurement proved very satisfying for Nicola Or and Yumi Chan, graduates of the Global Supply Chain Management programme at PolyU’s Logistics and Maritime Studies Department (LMS). Or and Chan both work at Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO), in the non-aviation stream for IT and services.
Chan works as a procurement executive, and says the ever-changing nature of her job keeps her on her toes. She has been working at HAECO since she graduated in 2014, and her job mainly revolves around corporate servicing. “My job allows me to be involved in different areas of the company, including catering, transportation, human resources, and corporate identity,” she says.
Or is the assistant procurement manager, and also acts as Chan’s supervisor. She says her interest in the field results from a procurement course she took while studying for her supply-chain management degree. “Most of LMS’ graduates choose to work in logistics companies, but I wanted to try something different,” says Or, who graduated in 2010. “I like working as a procurement specialist because I believe it has value for a company in all circumstances. The job demands that I constantly adapt to changes so that I can help companies operate effectively and efficiently. This is challenging, and that’s what I enjoy most about my work.”
Or and Chan agree that an education in supply chain management has benefitted them greatly in their careers. “Even though I’m working specifically in procurement, there are things I learned at university that are highly relatable to my current job,” says Chan. “For example, when I took part in our company’s international relocation services, I was able to make the most out of the logistics knowledge, the terminologies, and the charge mechanisms. This was a result of the classes I took at university. Multiple areas of knowledge are needed in this industry so the more you work, the more relevant your knowledge becomes,” says Chan, who was recognised as one of the Top Performers in the department in 2017.
Carrie Lau, general manager of HAECO’s strategic procurement department, says she has been impressed by Chan and Or’s capabilities. “PolyU’s extensive network allows employers in the industry to track graduates easily. It also provides on-the-job exposure at a young age,” says Lau. “The LMS department also actively encourages its students to take part in various industry events.”The international exposure and practical experience that Chan and Or gained at PolyU makes them stand out from other members of the industry. “I’m impressed by the amount of international exposure that students of PolyU LMS are given. A lot of the students I met had the chance to live abroad as part of an exchange programme, and that has made students well-connected and confident,” Lau says.
Due to the rapid growth of technology and the rise in digitisation, the procurement industry is continuously evolving and improving. The ever-changing nature of the field requires professionals who are highly adaptable and keen to face unchartered waters. “The scope of knowledge that I acquired along the way just keeps expanding. Each project is different to the previous one, and gives me an opportunity to approach my job in a new way,” says Or.
Chan says that developing a humble character is important, and adds that this quality is probably necessary for employees to succeed in any industry. An inquiring mind is also a positive attribute, she notes. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A university degree is merely an ‘entry ticket’ to society. Your attitude and commitment to your work are the things that will sustain you and make you grow,” she says.