We spoke to a senior procurement manager to find out what procurement is, and how you can go about getting a job in it. As with all those weird job names that you don’t understand, it’s actually a pretty cool career option and basically involves spending billions of money that isn’t yours.

Cameron Holder, the senior procurement manager at O2 Telefónica, explains more…

WTF is it?

Procurement is basically large scale, really clever, pre-planned shopping. “My job is to make sure that we spend our money well, and so any time we’re looking for a supplier to work for us, I’m here to make sure we get the best rate we can,” explains Cameron. “We also work with them to see if we can make any extra savings while they work for us, as well as making sure it’s all working properly, and ethically.” Last year he went to Hong Kong to literally ask a company to show him their monkeys – he was procuring for a kids’ toy brand and wanted to make sure they weren’t getting the monkeys made anywhere unethical/dangerous. “That’s another side to what procurement is, and not one that people know about. It’s making sure there’s no child labour, and that everything is cost-effective but ethical.”

It’s pretty varied, too. One day you’re working on an advert, the next you’re working on music sponsorship, and Cameron spends two days a week going out to the different agencies and suppliers to work with them on their projects. “This morning I’m looking for an agency to help us market music events at the O2, so I’ll be negotiating with them and picking the best one,” he says. “The first thing I worked on, and I didn’t even realise I was working on it at the time, was putting together the deals for the advert O2 did with Beyoncé. It was great seeing it on TV and knowing I was a part of it.”

Is it for me?

If you’re good with numbers, can think on your feet and able to negotiate the crap out of people – then yes. “You need to be fairly confident and assertive because you’ll be negotiating a lot. It’s also important to be organised and good at maths – when you’re negotiating, there are a lot of numbers juggling around in your head.” Being a people person is also pretty important, considering your powers of persuasion (and getting people to show you their toy monkeys) are integral to landing the best deal.

“The most challenging part of the job is having to look at someone who has a relationship with a supplier and, even though nothing’s wrong with that relationship, we could still get better rates. Any kind of change is difficult and takes a lot of work!” Which is where your communication super-skills would have to go into overdrive.

Oh, did we mention the salary is great? £42k average, which is pretty sweet.

How can I get into it

Doing a maths, business or accounting course will help – so hang onto that Maths GCSE and take it into A Level if you can – and there are also quite a few procurement courses you can do at various unis. “The usual way people get in, is via an entry level job in a large company – people will start in the position and work their way up. If someone is commercially oriented, maybe in sales, they could jump over to procurement because we’re the other side of the coin: the buy-side to sales’ sell-side.” he says. “The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply has lots of information on its site, as well as courses you can take.” So check out the site and make sure your mental arithmetic is up to scratch.

It’s also, you’ll be pleased to know, a good time to get into procurement right now. “It’s been very good over last few years because of the cyclical nature of the job – every time there’s a recession, everyone focuses on procurement.” Cameron adds.

If you want to know more about how procurement works, then sign up to this insight day held in London at O2′s swanky Hoxton hub..

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