I studied International Management with American Business Studies at UMIST, which also involved me spending a year at the University of Massachusetts in New England. As a result I had been exposed to many different areas of business during my degree from accounting to sports economics, but in my final year I found that my interest erred towards the supply chain modules that I took.
After university I went travelling for five months, but either side of that I worked in the purchasing department of Eaton Aerospace working on their intra-company desk. This gave me a flavour of what purchasing was about and even though my experience was initially at a low-level, I quickly became exposed to higher-level analysis.
On returning from my travels and entering into the graduate job market, I decided to pursue a career in purchasing and supply based upon my experiences at university and at Eaton. I actually found the company that I work for, Proxima, through Inside Careers.
What drew me to the company were their obvious credentials and the promise of many challenges and opportunities working across a wide variety of sectors. The main advantage of working within consulting is that you get exposed to many different businesses. We work with a multitude of blue chip clients across many sectors from financial services firms Man Group and BDO, to household names like British Airways, Universal Music Group and Siemens to charities and the public sector.
They all have their own ways of working, so this means that your working environment is constantly changing and you have to be able to quickly adapt to meet your clients’ needs.
The learning curve for any graduate is steep, but as well as learning by actually doing the job, I am surrounded by a wealth of talented and experienced people who are able to guide and support me every day. Alongside this we are given internal and external training on the many features of procurement and general skills sessions on consulting and presentation skills to name a few.
The variety of projects may at times be daunting, but Proxima places a high price upon your work/life balance.
The two main aspects of my job that I enjoy the most are the variety of projects that I work on and learning so much from the people that I’m working with. At one point I was working on a facilities management review for a major airport retailer, a courier project for a well-known supermarket and I was reviewing an outsourcing proposal for a renowned entertainment firm. I could give many other instances where I have been exposed to situations and people from major businesses.
The quality and knowledge of the people that I work with at Proxima have helped me to develop and continue learning on a daily basis. Their experience, from such a wide variety of backgrounds, has meant that I am able to always draw on their knowledge to help me in whatever I am doing.
The most stressful experience I have had has been managing the workload of multiple projects. When you are reporting to and working with many different people it places great emphasis upon your ability to manage your time and work quickly and effectively. This is a skill that you can only really learn by actually doing it, so it took a lot of work to make sure that I kept on top of my workload and ticked off items on the ‘to-do’ list and not just added more to it.
A valuable lesson that I have learnt since graduating is to not be intimidated or daunted by the challenges that you face. It is easy to place people on pedestals just because they have ‘Chief’ in their title and think that they are almost superhuman in being able to do their job.
What you have to remember is that almost everyone started out where you are now and they faced the same challenges and made the same mistakes. If you learn as much as you can from these people, but always have confidence in your own ability, then you should continue to develop and maybe one day someone will be looking up at you!
The best way that I can give you a feel for what I have done within the company is to provide a brief summary of some of the projects that I have worked on. This will highlight the diversity of challenges I face on a daily basis.
World leading information provider – travel management review
This project provided me with the greatest challenge I have experienced to date at Proxima. Our client was in the middle of integrating their services after a merger and travel was a key category. Their business is truly global and the scale of the tender encompassed 34 countries across five continents.
We faced many challenges, firstly the timescales for such a large exercise were tight which meant that managing the project timescales was of paramount importance. Secondly, the size of the contract meant that it had exposure up to board level.
This meant that we had to actively manage communication both internally and externally. We completed the project in a timely manner and delivered the client a double digit savings %.
Leading music entertainment company – merchandising project
Proxima was asked by a long-term client to review, identify and deliver savings within a new acquisition. The acquired company is a specialist provider of merchandise for the music and entertainment industry and provided an interesting setting for the project. I was working on one of two workstreams and was tasked with delivering savings for t-shirt printing and packaging.
This project involved the dual challenges of identifying savings with the production of the product whilst balancing the requirements of the retailers who would ultimately sell the product.
I ran multiple exercises simultaneously to ensure that we were able to deliver the savings options in a timely manner. This lead to us being able deliver savings on each category to the client who has taken a number of our solutions into their business and are benefiting from reduced costs.