13 Jun 2019
Cate Warman-Powell recently won the Future Leader Award at the World Procurement Awards. We caught up with her to find out how she got the award and the future of procurement at BT.
Please provide a short summary of your background since joining BT?
I joined BT as a graduate after completing a degree in Business and Languages. During my career here I’ve been able to take advantage of the many opportunities offered to me, buying everything from tools and test equipment, networks, software, IT hardware and, more recently, consumer technology, (our broadband hubs, set top boxes etc). My current team and I support our Consumer and Enterprise divisions with a supplier base spend of c.£300m per year.
Today I’m a senior leader, but my career journey has also included a number of roles at the same level. For me, it was really important to span the horizontals to gain greater insight, knowledge and breadth of experience before aiming higher – and of course trying to become a great leader.
You recently won the prestigious Future Leader Award at the World Procurement Awards. What was it like?
This was by far the proudest moment of my career. Within the procurement world, this is like winning an Oscar and it really meant a great deal to me and for my colleagues within the wider procurement community.
For me, leadership is not about being the best person, but more about taking people collectively on the journey with me, investing time in their understanding and development, encouraging ‘out of the box’ thinking in order to deliver.
What did the submission involve?
New into my role, my vision and strategy involved taking a new and different approach to the way in which BT sources the technology allowing us to bring new and exciting TV and Broadband propositions to our customers. The work that my team and I have performed is transformational putting ‘strategic sourcing’ at the forefront of what BT Procurement does. This resulted in significant challenges in terms of scale, scope and product design, which took quite a bit of courage, but the results were well worth it.
Have you got any other recent highlights?
Yes, last November I was also recognised with the Future Leader award at our own BT Procurement Awards, 2018. This was the springboard for me to make the submission to the World Procurement Awards 2019 along with 5 other BT procurement nominations across award categories for CSR, Team and Collaboration!
Why is Procurement the place to be right now in BT?
For me Procurement plays such an important role in BT’s success. Using our commercial skills and our expertise means we are sourcing from the best suppliers and partners around the world, negotiating the best deals, with the optimal terms and conditions whilst at the same time protecting BT’s brand. We are looking to the future with long term strategies and being a force for change in terms of sustainability.
It’s great place to develop and showcase many different skills; building strong relationships with stakeholders and suppliers, being innovative, business and commercial acumen and, of course, the art of negotiation.
Putting all of those capabilities together, this is why Procurement is the place to be in supporting BT’s growth and investment for the future. Being part of a high performing team is very motivating and inspiring – and we’re able to see the impact that we’re making.
What’s the vision for the future of Procurement?
To be world-class - and in many respects we’ve achieved that. Our transformation programmes are helping us to be world class. They don’t just focus on this year, but over multiple years. Our digitisation transformation programme will also help to achieve that. I think it’s one of the most exciting times to be in Procurement.
Tell us about how BT has supported you to have the career you hoped for?
What is great about BT is that if you’re passionate, committed to doing your best with a willingness to try different things, opportunities will come your way. For me, it is all about seizing those opportunities to reach my potential. Being sponsored to go on BT’s TechWomen leadership programme has also been a major help in networking, growing my confidence and having the empowerment to make change happen. I would also say flexibility. As a mum of two boys, BT really helped me by enabling me to work flexibly whilst bringing up the young family whilst pursuing my career aspirations.
What advice would you give someone considering for applying for a role at BT?
BT is a big place – you will never know every part of it but that means the opportunities are endless. Be prepared for lots of change and be resilient to those changes to deliver on your promises. Talk to a lot of people and take their perspectives. The capabilities and skills that BT provide you with is an amazing springboard to help you get to where you want to be.