Bringing ProcureCon Canada to life
What is the aim of ProcureCon Canada?
Frank Musero: We’re aiming to bring together leading practitioners and senior level procurement professionals from Canada’s largest companies for two days of learning, networking and strategy sharing.
Alex Chard: It’s a one-stop shop for procurement professionals across the Canadian market. The idea is not only to bring peers together to address the challenges they face day in, day out, but also to provide them a forum where they can air their grievances, and share different ideas, best practices and lessons learned.”
What was the key focus in organizing this event?
Alex Chard: First things first, make it Canadian-driven and Canadian-led. The idea is to really engage the Canadian market and the people doing the work on the ground. All of the major companies that are based here in Canada, whether Canadian companies or multinationals that work here, as long as we’re bringing those players in, we can really find success.
What challenges were involved?
Frank Musero: The biggest challenge is trying to figure out the topics that are more important to the practitioners, because when we build an event, we build it eight months before the event starts, so we need to plan to make sure that the topics will be relevant eight months in the future and not just when we're doing our research.
Alex Chard: For me, the biggest challenge was probably identifying the right players here in Canada. Oftentimes, individuals can be a little siloed within their industries or markets, or even their geographies. So really trying to engage them and bring them in was probably the biggest challenge – but that wasn’t a big hurdle to jump over. There’s quite a bit of recognition for ProcureCon here in Canada which really helped.
Why was it important to get the right speakers on board?
Frank Musero: This is the one time of year that all of these practitioners can be in the same room together and learn from leading minds. It is good to have a variety of industries here because these people don't interact with each other on a daily basis – some are competitors, some are in industries that may not interact day to day. Having that variety of companies allows them to share and exchange ideas.
What have been some hot topics at this year’s event?
Alex Chard: One is talent: that seems to be a big issue, especially when it comes to succession planning and ensuring you have continuity. Often, with new employees taking on roles and the old guard starting to retire, you lose a lot of that knowledge base that perhaps hasn’t been digitized, for example, or isn’t in a format that is readily available to new employees.
Another key topic is change management: really driving that internally and ensuring that you have buy-in at all levels of the organization in order to ensure that you’re making headway.
One of the biggest challenges that we have seen has been about supplier diversity. We had two conversations about that at this event: companies are trying to build out supplier diversity programs where previously they may not have considered that as an important aspect in their supply chain.
How has the event grown since it started?
Frank Musero: This is the sixth year we’ve done ProcureCon Canada and we have doubled the attendance from when we started – it has grown leaps and bounds as more people know about us.
Alex Chard: One of the big things we’ve noticed is not only the breadth of the audience, but breadth in terms of industries represented: we’re seeing more heavy industry, mining, oil and gas as well as a broader geographic spread across Canada.
Does this reflect the increasing importance of procurement?
Frank Musero: One of our speakers said that procurement has changed more in the past five years than the last 100, and it’s totally true. Some of the sessions we hold today weren’t even a concept five years ago when we started this event. Procurement has moved from a tactical purchasing operation to really being a strategic part of the organization.
Why attend ProcureCon Canada?
Frank Musero: Across the 10 events in our portfolio, ProcureCon is one of the only events that is peer-led. You’re hearing from other practitioners that have shared the same problems you have, and they’re on stage talking about those problems and how they’ve solved them. You can then come back with a nugget of good advice which you can implement back in the office.
How can attendees make the most of ProcureCon?
Alex Chard: Engage. Be engaged. Participate. If you are sharing ideas and asking panelists questions, you’ll walk away with a ton more information that you would otherwise. Being a wallflower at these events does not serve you at all. Learn from your peers and make some friends. You can call them up when you go home and really try to understand how they can help you out. It’s about building a community at the end of the day.
Frank Musero: Our mobile app has the most up-to-date agenda and lists all speakers and attendees who you can message. The best way to take advantage of that is onsite: build your custom agenda, look at who is here… take advantage of everything in that app because that will help you customize your experience and make the most of the event.
ProcureCon Canada is definitely going to be bigger next year.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.