Introduction: This blog has been written following a presentation that Caroline (Amici’s CEO) delivered at the West of Scotland Science Park titled, ‘Women in Leadership’. The presentation will be broken down in to a series of blog posts
BLOG #1: WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – THE JOURNEY TO AMICI
People who know me, know that I get great pleasure from helping other people. I hope this series of blogs which Carly, our Marketing Manager, is bullying* me into writing, provokes some thoughts and gives an insight into some of my experiences. Before we launch into what I’ve learned, the first post in my Women In Leadership blog series is the story of my journey to Amici…
At school I was absolutely mad about being a Forensic Scientist. I wanted to solve crime and make the world a better place! I couldn’t wait to get to Strathclyde University in Glasgow where I studied Forensic and Analytical Chemistry. The degree required a sandwich year, which I spent at Abbott Laboratories doing stability trials of a phase III HIV medication using HPLC and GC testing. It was important work back in 1995 – patients were literally breaking down the gates to get early access to these new medicines.
I didn’t really understand myself at 21, but I did know that this kind of job didn’t necessarily suit my personality. I’m quite gregarious and outgoing and I wanted a more people-based role.
As a result, I tried out for the Police, and they may have detected something in my personality when they asked me how I would react if I was given an order I didn’t agree with…hmm… So I decided that it was the pharmaceutical industry for me!
I was really fortunate to get a place on Zeneca’s (now AstraZeneca) Graduate Programme and I’m still grateful to this day for the investment in training and opportunity they gave me. Zeneca believed in giving people a job a bit outside of their comfort zone and provided support to fast-track learning. I believe the philosophy is an excellent one and I try to replicate this at Amici.
If you want to reach your full potential, you need to carry on learning, every day, forever. It’s got to be healthy for the brain – surely!
At Zeneca I had cut my teeth with Business Development and Operations Management. I thought the job was really very sexy; flying all over the world, going to conferences and chatting to people. As part of a development review I was encouraged to try purchasing. I didn’t think this would be as exciting a job and was pretty dismissive. However, my best friend lived in London and worked for SmithKline Beecham. She highlighted a job in purchasing at SB and persuaded me to apply, offering to split the £500 Find A Friend bonus with me! I landed the job and she gave me the £250. It was only later that I realised she would have been taxed on the whole bonus and would have been lucky to have £100 in hand! Oops!
I’ve always been incredibly good with money management and through my new procurement role I realised that I’m good at taking care of the company’s money too. Clearly, I had found my calling! I’ve spent my life weighing up ‘value’ in order to make decisions. My bolshie nature has proved to be a great fit for a purchasing person and I’ve had a great career path from it.
SmithKline Beecham became GlaxoSmithKline, or GSK, in the days where it was joked that you needed to stick the company logo on with Velcro it changed so often! GSK provided many different opportunities and a different environment. I thrived on the challenges and I flew all over the world looking at low cost sourcing, site procurement and global category procurement. SB and GSK were at the forefront of the procurement revolution, moving the profession from a tactical role to a truly strategic, highly valued one. They offered lots of training and consultancy support. There were templates and processes for everything. Yet equally, I was completely empowered to undertake global multi-million pound deals. It was a fantastic learning environment for me so early on in my career.
But there came a point when I wanted to test myself. I didn’t want to follow the template anymore. I wanted to make my own ways of working, tailored to the situation. It was time to try a different environment and a great opportunity came up for me, back in Glasgow, at Invitrogen (now Life Technologies).
The procurement revolution hadn’t quite hit there yet. I had the enthusiasm, the confidence and some of the skills to shake it up. The missing skills I had to learn on the job. It felt like a blank canvas and I threw myself and my team into strategic global procurement. We launched procurement to the company, running campaigns and training courses to get people to negotiate and think about value. We ran supplier days focused on improving supplier performance, saving money and helping them to understand the needs of the company. The results were great. I really enjoyed my time there, but it was time for me to spread my wings. I’d moved house for jobs a few times and wanted to stay living where I was, in Glasgow. It was time to set up my own company…
Aged 29, and probably with more confidence than skill, but with a lot of good experience and some naivety thrown in, Amici Procurement Solutions Limited was born! I never imagined it would be what it has become today! I didn’t have a credible long-term plan – does anybody?! To start with, I was going to be a one-woman band, providing training and consultancy for biotech companies. However, I soon realised that this was a hard gig and wasn’t a great business model either. I had a flash of inspiration from my best friend’s dad and realised there was a better model to be had.
14 years later, and with plenty of challenges along the way, the Amici team has reached 50-something lovely people who I would class as my friends, as well as fantastic colleagues. We provide digital procurement, inventory and operational management solutions to inspirational biotech companies in the UK and the US.
I love this industry. Everyone has a real sense of purpose, drive, challenge and a great positive culture. Operational processes are something I care passionately about. I embrace LEAN and continuous improvement daily, from helping customers, to designing new software, to providing a sounding board for a colleague’s development.
Talking of continuous improvement, the biggest job has been my own development. The challenges of an entrepreneurial company are ever changing. As the company grows, my role changes too. As they say, do a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. For me that is true (most days anyway!).
*Note from Carly : Encouraging