Case study

Jennifer Duffy — Capital expenditure category manager

British Sugar

Jennifer studied BA International Business and Economics at the University of Strathclyde before joining British Sugar’s graduate scheme

How did you get your job?

I went through British Sugar’s graduate scheme and came off this after two years straight into my current role. However, I believe having relevant work experience prior to British Sugar enabled me to be successful in the application process.

How relevant was your subject of study in securing your job?

The knowledge that I developed through studying economics gave me a good foundation to do my job. However, understanding market movement and how this impacts a business and its buying strategy is only one part of my role. I need to take this information and build a picture to help me make informed decisions, or sometimes influence the attitudes of others, for example convincing key stakeholders of the viability of a project. This is far more about soft skills which my degree certainly touched on however there is nothing that compares to learning on the job.

Describe a typical working day…

My role allows me to be involved from the very start of a project right the way through to seeing the final installation of equipment. This in itself provides a great deal of variety however when you consider that my projects range from upgrading of electrical systems right through to purchasing packing lines - there really is no such thing as a typical day.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

When I first started my procurement placement I sat in on my line manager’s negotiations. Within four months of being in the team I could comfortably review a contract and negotiate one-on-one with suppliers while consulting the relevant internal stakeholders to ensure the best deal for British Sugar.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the combination of long- and short-term strategy work that procurement offers. I manage my category in the long term with Framework Agreements and investigating market trends. However the short-term strategic work is just as important - interactions with suppliers, maximising value driven from a 30-minute negotiation and obtaining buy-in from the internal stakeholders who all have their own motives.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

The most challenging but rewarding part is managing and aligning internal stakeholders’ views. As a buyer, it’s my responsibility to ensure we’re purchasing the right specification (not going for the gold standard when an off the shelf model would do), we are looking at the right suppliers (are they competent to deliver the project) and we are not paying over the odds. All of these can be subjective and I need to convince the business that I’ve come to the right outcome.

What advice would you give to others who would like to get into this career?

To work in procurement you need critical thinking, negotiation and communication skills. Therefore, obtaining experience in a working environment as early as possible will certainly help and getting involved in even the most basic supplier relationships will stand you in good stead for a career in purchasing.

Find out more

Take a look at the opportunities on offer at British Sugar.