Source One Consultant Kaitlyn Krigbaum recently earned Supply and Demand Chain Executive's Pro to Know award as well as a spot on ISM's 30 Under 30 list. She joined the Source One Podcast to discuss the professional journey that's taken her from a career in mental health to the heights of Procurement and Supply Chain Management.

Here's a transcript of the conversation:

Bennett Glace: Kaitlyn, the theme for this year's ISM Conference is Spark. I'm hoping you could speak to a few sparks from early in your career in supply management. When did you first determine that this was the field for you?

Kaitlyn Krigbaum: That's a great question and - interestingly enough - I don't think I had an epiphany-type moment or really a traditional career path at all. After graduating from college, I found myself as a second-generation mental health professional. I was helping design and execute treatment plans for patients in a counseling capacity.

After some time in that field, I grew a little bit more interested in transferring that skillset. I hoped I could transfer my ability to build trusting relationships from the counseling environment into more of a business environment. I was particularly interested in finding waya to employ that empathy and advocacy in a new setting.

I first transitioned into more of a recruitment-focused role and eventually found that Consulting was sort of a dream career. I was able to parlay the skillsets that I had built upon as well as some of the things that I possess innately - curiosity, the drive to solve challenges, a solution-oriented outlook. They all helped me find my way into the profession, and I haven’t left since.

BG: Is there a key milestone that sticks out from your time in the consulting space as especially formative. Maybe something that helped this spark become a flame?

KK: Those sparks probably started in the recruitment portion of my career. I was actually recruiting within the supply management function, placing people in Procurement and Strategic Sourcing positions. I started to hear the same compliment again and again. Peers told me I was starting to get good at asking the question behind the question. I think hearing that enough times became formative. It was what made me start to think that Procurement consulting was where I was meant to be. My insatiable curiosity really lent itself to making discovery calls and taking deep dives into spend to develop strategies.

BG:  Could you share a piece of advice or a piece of wisdom you received that helped shape your approach?

KK: Coming out of college, my background was in psychology and English. I always felt like I sort of geared more towards the creative realm as opposed to that highly analytical space. When I thought of something like consulting, all I could think about was spread sheeting and interpreting data.

I held this self-conscious, limiting belief that I wouldn't do well in that type of environment. It was a former mentor who got me to start thinking differently. They talked to me and basically said that sometimes experience can impede creativity. Sometimes you need somebody who’s as an outsider to take out-of-the-box approach and maybe identify solutions that other folks are missing. I truthfully think that advice helped give the confidence to pursue a career in business. actually that experience impedes creativity and you need somebody who has sort of that out-of-the-box ability to think through something strategically without to be able to see a solution that wasn't readily available wasn't on the table. I think truthfully that advice kind of helped give me that confidence to pursue a career in business.

BG: Another area where you’ve supported Source One is as a member of our Communications team. I think you and I both would agree that we've written a lot about how the face and shape a procurement is changing. As a provider in the space, I expect you’ve witnessed some of those changes and played a part in bringing them about. I'm wondering, how would you say this space has evolved throughout your time in it?

KK: Honestly, this is one of the things I get most excited to talk about. You’re right that Procurement evolution has been a popular topic for a while, but I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

As far as the nature of that evolution is concerned, what interests me most is the humanization of the function. At one time it was widely acceptable to beat down suppliers and deploy strong-arm tactics to accomplish results. Today, however, I think there’s been sort of a paradigm shift. We’re seeing companies place an emphasis on getting to know the wants and needs of their suppliers. More and more, they’re pushing for bi-directional, win-win scenarios.  

Encouraging a more collaborativeapproach typically yields stronger, less transactional relationships and typically leads to the greater, more sustainable results overall. I’m really interested to see how the function continues to humanize itself and evolve

BG: And what do you think is bringing about these changes. Do you think it’s an influx of professionals like yourself who’ve come into the Procurement world with a different perspective?  

KK: Yes, I think that’s a lot of it. I think it’s a matter of promoting a diversity of thought based on differences in experience.

Within the last few years, Procurement has really been able to gain a seat at the c-suite table and I think it’s getting the exposure it needs internally. So, you’ve got folks from Finance, HR, and other integral functions who are starting to think, “Procurement seems interesting.” Many are even transitioning into Procurement roles. It’s all contributing to a more diverse and more impactful function.

BG: How has a new, more humanized function changed the skillset an effective Procurement professional has to call on?  

KK: I think nowadays a rising star in Procurement has just as high an EQ as an IQ. In the past, it was enough to know your categories front-to-back, but now that subject matter expertise is just one part of success.

Emotional intelligence has become indispensable. It’s so important for assessing situations and promoting collaboration. Oftentimes, it’s the difference maker in moving from a biased, intuition-based approach to more fact-based decision making.

BG: How do you see the definition of Procurement excellence continuing to shift over the next several years? Do you see that EQ becoming even more important?  

KK: I do. Absolutely. I think you’re already starting to see that in some of the unique roles and titles that are popping up. Some H.R. folks, for example, are calling themselves Happiness Managers or leaders calling themselves Innovation Managers.

I see a similar mentality starting to permeate Procurement. I think we’ll see roles start to blur as Procurement starts to call on data management, project management, and people management skills. It’s going to be an exciting couple of years for the function.

BG: So that brings me to my next question. It's a particularly exciting time to be discussing the future of Procurement and its professionals. 2020 is right around the corner and with it we're going to see what we've considered ‘The Future’ for so long. There’s been so many white papers so many books about what Procurement will look like in 2020. I'm interested in learning how you would advise a professional who’s just getting started during this kind of potentially epochal period. How can an emerging professional set themselves apart and start to mature into a rising star?

KK: You’re definitely right about it being an exciting period. Procurement is starting to get more traction. At the simplest level, more people are realizing this is something they can major in. There are so many more Supply Management programs at universities.

The first piece of advice I’d give anyone starting out is to be intentional about their career and their growth. Honestly reflect on where you want to take your career. That answer might change a million times, but it’s important to have that north start to guide you.

Developing a professional brand is essential too. That could mean getting involved in committees like ISM. Those give you great exposure to other professionals and their perspectives. Getting involved internally, too, with mentorship programs or shadowing always a provides a good segue to the next level. Identify a mentor or role model early on and commit to learning as much as you can from them. Those are the big ones for me – investing in your professional brand and identifying a mentor.

BG: So, obviously taking an initiative is important, but what can employers do to nurture their rising stars?

KK: I think a lot of companies are doing a good job in developing their rising stars. In developing training programs or career paths, though, I think organizations sometimes forget how important it is to collect data and plan. Before embarking on any talent development initiative, they should reach out to their team and try to understand their perspective.   

Developing talent is a lot like Procurement in that sense. You can’t develop a category strategy without data to drive it. Companies need to understand the needs and wants of their stars if they want to develop them, retain them, and even attract more.

BG: Well, that wraps up it up. Thanks again, Kaitlyn. See you in Houston.

KK: Thanks Bennett. See you soon.

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