Up and coming procurement professional: BP's Thandeka Ndlovu | by Kate Ferreira

Thandeka1 61218With her MCIPS level 6 newly under her belt, and growing experience in procurement, sourcing and commodities, BP South Africa’s Thandeka Ndlovu is a rising procurement star.

A varied background
Currently Thandeka holds the role of strategic sourcing specialist at BP Southern Africa. She got her start seven years ago – after completing a BCom Marketing degree from the University of Johannesburg – as a commodity specialist at Standard Bank. Since then she’s covered IT facilities management, recruitment and consulting services, and travel, among other things.

This versatility and broad experience is one of the things she enjoys most about a procurement career. “It's not just one function,” she says. “As a procurement professional you take on many roles and skills, as needed. Sometimes you are a marketer, a financial analyst, a negotiator, or your job is to influence and develop strategies for projects. In this way, I'm also a project manager. All of these different skills come into play as a procurement professional, which means that I have become adaptable to the situations that I face. That's the nature of our jobs, and something I appreciate and enjoy that about my career.” She also enjoys flexing her negotiation skills, and dealing with suppliers.

The power of procurement
Additionally, Thandeka appreciates the real difference she knows she can make to a business as a procurement professional. “In procurement, we are invested and instrumental in company operations, and ultimately how the company spends. We also play a role in the nation and the economy. Recent news in the country has highlighted the role that procurement plays and the effect it can have when there is not proper governance processes and what the consequences of this can be.

Even though the ‘admin element’ of the role is not her favourite, she argues for its importance, especially in terms of strengthening the culture of accountability and good governance.

“This is important also when recruiting procurement officials,” she says. “How do we assess if they are ethical people to be put in these roles? Ultimately the company is trusting procurement professionals with how the organisation runs. This is why it is so important to have a governance framework in place and to ensure that people adhere to it through ongoing monitoring.” Another tactic is rotating professionals so that we don’t allow people to become too entrenched in their niche with suppliers. “It allows a fresher set of eyes to see what is really going on, and ensure governance is actually upheld.”

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Network of peers
As an up-and-coming procurement professional, cultivating a network of peers around you is vital, says Thandeka. In addition to her new skills, this is a major bonus to her time in the MCIPS programme.

“One of the most important thing that I have gained from that is my relationships with peers and professionals within the procurement profession. You develop a network and have an ongoing platform for sharing ideas for improving processes, as well as providing us with the tools to actually carry out our jobs in the right manner.”

Thandeka and her MCIPS peer network are invested paying it forward too: “This speaks to the next project that I'm working on with some my colleagues which is about how we take this knowledge that we have gained from MCIPS and extend it to young professionals joining the industry, upskilling those young professionals and enabling them to uphold the ethics that we subscribe to as CIPS members.”

Personal career aspirations
The next step for Thandeka, she says, is to further grow in her career – she has her eye on a senior position within her company in the future. Beyond that, in the long term, she also sees herself as potentially heading up an organisation or company that consults on procurement and supply chain matters.
When she’s not at work, she spends all her time with family, and likes to travel whenever possible. The benefits of travel – such as understanding new places and cultures – are equally important in her work, she says. “Understanding people and having a relationship with your suppliers ensures that you can go beyond delivering the product or service, and towards asking how they can add value to your business and vice versa.”

“Suppliers are only willing to give more of themselves when you have that good relationship in place. The more I put into relationships, the more I get out.”

Kate Ferreira is the Contributing Editor of Bespoke Bulletin - www.bespoke.co.za

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Posted on December 06, 2018