Over the last decade, Elizabeth Skipor has distinguished herself as a uniquely flexible and collaborative Procurement professional. With a diverse background and an uncommon ability to drive savings in the Marketing category, she's emerged as an asset to Source One and the consulting space as a whole.

Recently, Elizabeth's expertise helped earn a pair of prestigious awards. In February, she was named a Procurement Pro to Know by Supply and Demand Chain Executive. Just a few weeks later, she earned a coveted spot on the Institute for Supply Management's 30 Under 30 list of Supply Chain Rising Stars.

She sat down with the Source One Podcast to discuss her journey from purchasing to consulting and offer some of the advice that's proven especially meaningful over the years. Subscribe on iTunes today or check out a transcript of the conversation below.

Bennett Glace: Hey everybody, welcome back to the Source One Podcast. I'm here today with one of ISM’s 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Rising Stars - Elizabeth Skipor. How's it going, Liz?

Elizabeth Skipor: Good, how are you?

BG: I'm not too bad. I’m glad to have you on the podcast and super excited that Source One earned not one, but two spots on the 30 Under 30 list this year.

ES: Yeah, it's definitely an exciting time.

BG: And even more exciting with the ISM conference almost underway. So, to jump right into things, the theme for this year's ISM conference is ‘Spark.’ I'm hoping you could speak to a few of the sparks from your career in Procurement. When did you determine that this was the field for you.

ES: Of course. My career started in retail and I quickly grew interested in getting to the bottom of how and why consumers purchase their products. I thought the best way to do that was to explore things from the retailer’s perspective, to learn how and why they provide what they do. To get these insights, I transitioned into the role of a buyer.

That’s when I started to get a taste of supply chain management. Following my interest in apparel, I joined a private company that sourced fabric from designers. I got to travel the world sourcing for a lot of major brands and, from there, I moved into category management. That enabled me to handle the actual purchasing while gaining a more holistic look at our supply chain.

I found that I was pretty good at identifying what our clients needed, how to make those purchases, and how to market these products effectively. It was a constant learning experience, but it only made me want to learn more. 

BG: I’m also interested in the moment that spark really started to become a flame. Is there a key milestone or big win from early in your career that sticks out as formative?

ES: So, that was probably when I was traveling for work. You have a lot of time to think when you’re on a plane flying over to China. I don’t know if I can explain the feeling, but I felt that I was on my way to being where I was meant to be. I wanted to keep following the path I was on. More specifically, I wanted to broaden my expertise and learn more about purchasing products other than apparel.

I started moving into more CPG categories and I think the experience played into a natural interest of mine. I really love examining why people do what they do. That passion has been a real asset. I think it provides fuel during the information gathering process and it encourages me to consider multiple perspectives. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment, but flying to China was when I realized I had a passion.

BG: And could you relate any advice, any words of wisdom, that have helped shape your approach throughout your career?

ES: The best advice I’ve ever gotten is just be honest. If you’re honest with your work, if you’re honest with your suppliers, if you’re honest with your team, then can you collaborate to drive the results you need and sustain mutually beneficial relationships. Without everything on the table, you can’t expect to find success.

BG: So, as part of our Communications team, I’m often writing about the changing face and shape of Procurement. In your decade in the space, I expect you’ve seen a lot of those changes and maybe played a role in bringing some of them about. In a nutshell, how would you say the Procurement space has evolved throughout your career?

ES: Sure. Simply put, I think people are purchasing on a more holistic level. They’re looking at the full picture and seeing things from the top-down rather than the bottom-up.

We’re starting to apply more strategy to purchasing rather than just purchasing and dealing with the repercussions later. Professionals are going into engagements with a clear plan and a definite goal in mind. That’s been a huge change.

BG: Is there anything you would credit with bringing about those changes? What’s encouraging organizations to think differently about how they source and procure their products?

ES: I think a lot of it is just simple economics. A lot of organizations have seen the commodities they need get more expensive. They can’t afford to just reduce headcount or ship labor overseas either. The best companies are responding to changes by nurturing the talent they’ve got and encouraging them to approach purchasing more strategically. They’re recognizing that cutting costs isn’t just about identifying a lower price. It’s about seeing things from end-to-end – identifying the best suppliers, carrying out effective events, and working to enforce compliance.

BG: Have changes in the Procurement space helped change the definition of what it means to excel as a Procurement professional?

ES: Yeah, I think it’s only become more important for Procurement professionals to stay ahead of the trends and keep their eyes open to whatever’s coming next. You’ve got to have that vision in you’re going to adapt to disruption and set your clients up for success in the long term.

BG: And are there any new skills you see becoming more important as Procurement continues to evolve?

ES: Obviously we all know that Procurement professionals need to be well-versed in math and finance, but I think the human aspect of Procurement is becoming more and more important. You’ve got to be able to interact with people and communicate expectations and recommendations effectively.

It’s especially important for consultants in the space. Assessing the client’s needs and delivering on their objectives involves a ton of communication and people skills.

BG: So, as we’ve sort of implied, it’s a particularly exciting year to discuss the future of Procurement and its professionals. 2020 is right around the corner. For what seems like forever now, we’ve been talking about ‘Procurement 2020’ – it’s come to represent our idea of the future. I’m interested in learning how you’d advise a professional who’s just getting started in their career during this exciting time. In your opinion, how can an emerging professional set themselves up to mature into a rising star of the profession.
ES: Earlier, I spoke to the importance of staying ahead of trends. I want to reiterate how important that is for emerging professionals. You want to make sure that whatever recommendations you’re providing to clients is informed by what’s going on today as well as your expectations for the future. I’d also recommend they make an effort to attend presentations and industry events that are relevant to their category or vertical. That’s the best way to make yourself a part of the conversation. It’ll also give the next generation of professionals an opportunity to make connections and start to broaden their expertise.

BG: And what can organizations do to ensure they’re nurturing these rising stars?

ES: I think they should do everything they can to encourage their employees to attend these kind of conferences and give them every opportunity to learn from veterans within the organization.

BG: Well that covers it for my questions. Congratulation again, and thanks for taking the time.

ES: Thank you. 

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