What is a typical day like in your job?
In the morning, one of the first things I do is look at the workload of the purchasing department by buyer and make sure the workload is balanced and take the opportunity to shift the workload if someone is overloaded.
Since I’ve been in the job, a good portion of time is spent reviewing e-procurement contracts – we have several in review and negotiation. Another large part of my day is dealing with vendors and a lot of unsolicited vendor calls. Though I’m not personally using the products they sell, it is helpful for me to know who the major players are in commodity areas that support the University. This knowledge helps me guide the University towards more efficient and effective buying decisions.
I sometimes refer vendors to the campus customer to pitch their products. However, if that department wants to work with them, we still have to follow the state procurement regulations and processes. We try to maintain as much competition as possible to ensure we are getting the best price.
We also consistently meet with vendors to review performance and discuss what we’re seeing from a customer base. They can fill us in on any innovative product lines they are rolling out and their delivery. We are trying to grow more partnerships with key vendors and we’ll be reinitializing a vendor scorecard system, where we rate them, and they rate us.
Why are contracts so important?
We need to have valid contracts in place in order to ensure University interests are protected and that we are getting the goods and services for which we are paying. Contracts also establish competitive pricing agreements and define the relationships between vendors and the University, so we know what to expect from them and they know what to expect from us from a billing, freight and shipping perspective, etc.
How does your job support Carolina’s mission?
We look at the dual mission – education and research. Our office is very heavily involved in the support of campus. Our buyers have specialties depending on the commodity or service being bought. In a single day, we buy everything from grass for a field to AI (artificial intelligence) robots. Because all the contracts run through us, we touch what is happening throughout all of the schools. We are enablers and facilitators to get them what they need to be successful.
What purchasing projects are happening now?
Right now, the provost is running an Operational Excellence project and one of the first two early impact studies is looking at how the University handles its low-dollar spend. We are very involved in giving a central perspective of what items and services we buy for less than $250 and how those items are being purchased. Ideally, we would have an eprocurement (epro) system that is robust enough to handle 90 percent of that low-dollar spend. Long range plans include revamping that spend process and onboarding a new vendor quickly.
We are also looking at the policies that drive P-Card purchases. Jessica Hwang-Strickland’s team lifted the restrictions on conference registrations and catering using a P-Card. We want to continue to encourage low-dollar spending using P-Card and the epro system and not the purchase order or voucher system. The beauty of that for my team is that it will free up buyers to start thinking more strategically about how we spend across the University, which is where we want to go as an organization.
What do you like most about your work?
I enjoy interfacing with people. One of the nice things about coming over here from the service center, is I’m dealing with a much larger cross section of campus — lots of people and lots of customer groups. It is amazing to see the professionalism across the University. I’ve always been customer service focused, even when I was in the service. If I leave at the end of the day and feel like I’ve helped someone move the needle an inch, that’s where I find my biggest reward.
What’s something people probably wouldn’t know about you?
Most everybody knows I was in the service for 20 years. I was a U.S. Navy Commander. I never lived in the same state twice as I moved from duty station to duty station. Along the way, we collected four kids, all born in different states. I was a logistics officer for pretty much my entire career and served on two ships.