Five minutes with…Kevin Davies, Supply Chain Director at Veolia UK&IRE

Five minutes with…Kevin Davies, Supply Chain Director at Veolia UK&IRE
Published: 3 May 2022

In our latest ‘Five minutes with…’ interview, Head of our Procurement team, Richard Guest spoke with Kevin Davies, Supply Chain Director at Veolia UK&IRE. Together, they discussed Kevin’s career to date - from university lecturer to Supply Chain Director, his passion for sustainability, as well as the wonderful opportunity he currently has in his team.

Tell me a little bit about your career to date.

I’ve worked in Procurement for c.15 years and have been fortunate to work across a variety of sectors and for several large blue chip organisations including TNT (more lately Fedex), Interserve, Aldi, Finning Caterpillar and now, Veolia. This has given me exposure to a diverse range of stakeholders, categories of spend and diverse business cultures. I view procurement as an extremely transferable skill set which has allowed me to move from one sector to another. Yes, there are clear differences and approaches, but nothing insurmountable. I have learned something positive from each career move.

In terms of a career trajectory, I have worked my way through the Procurement ranks and earned my stripes. This gives me a broad appreciation for procurement roles and processes. Over the past 7 years I have been largely focused on strategy and leadership roles with an emphasis on digital transformation, target operating model design and maturity growth of functions. In this time, I have been successful in a greenfield implementation and a turnaround venture. 

Prior to my Procurement career, I was a university lecturer/researcher in Sports and Exercise Science and an Applied Sports Psychology Practitioner. Although the transition from Sports Science to Procurement is not an obvious one, my education and prior work history gave me a great grounding for a career in Procurement with many transferable skills and I actually made a purposeful decision to enter Procurement as a profession. 

You recently joined Veolia, what attracted you to the organisation?

I have a passion for sustainable procurement practices and Veolia's ambition to be the global benchmark organisation for Ecological transformation really resonated with me. Veolia has real purpose at its core and the passion in the people around me is evident. The climate emergency is very real, and Veolia is a progressive and innovative organisation offering solutions to tackle the crisis. It also has tremendous diversity in operations which I found particularly interesting, and it has been described by many as a lifetime of learning.

I also relished the opportunity to take the Veolia supply chain team to the next stage of maturity and could see an opportunity to make an impact with my experience and skill set.

Is there a role in your career which has been pivotal to your success?

Each of my previous roles has taught me something different and I have made logical moves to expand my skill set and experiences. A few highlights are below:

My career really accelerated at TNT/ Fedex. I developed strategic procurement skills in that role and had the opportunity to take on challenging projects. I was a raw talent and fortunate to have an inspiring leader that empowered me to grow and shine. I was subsequently promoted several times in a 3-year period.

A skill set which is perhaps most pivotal was gained at Interserve where I was responsible for procurement policy, operating model design and digital transformation. I joined Interserve from TNT to help my transition to a leadership role and to broaden my skill set beyond Category Management and the role allowed me to do just that.

More laterally, the Head of Procurement role at Finning Caterpillar taught me a lot about my leadership style. I was able to apply my humanistic values and successfully lead a team through the Covid epidemic whilst delivering targets and maturity growth.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received? (And how has it shaped you both as a leader and person)

I was part of a leadership programme and was working on my leadership brand and how I wanted to be perceived by others. I discussed this with my leader at the time who is someone I respect immensely, and she told me to just be my authentic self. She explained that I already displayed leadership traits even if I didn’t recognise them in myself. I have stuck to this mantra, and it has stood me in good stead so far. I uphold this value as a leader by ensuring that the team environment is both inclusive and diverse and that people feel comfortable bringing themself to work and be their authentic selves. I recently passed on the same feedback to a member of my team also on a leadership programme at Veolia

I once heard the expression - “Where do you need to be, on the balcony or on the dancefloor?” The metaphor explains how leaders need to step away from the daily work and have a look from afar to get a different perspective on what is happening. It is all too easy to be caught up in the day-to-day noise and lose sight of the bigger picture. I use this metaphor to remind me to take a step back and evaluate what is happening and to see whether we need to change things. 

I also like the saying that “You can’t pour from an empty pot”. You have to look after yourself to be able to give and I embody this by promoting a positive work-life balance. I also adopt a humanistic leadership style to ensure that my people are happy and energised. I do this through providing trust, being ethical, having compassion and looking at the person as a whole. 

Tell me about the Regional Procurement Manager Ireland vacancy you have in your team?

This is a region of our business where the Supply Chain function can have a real impact!

The Regional Procurement Manager will report to the National Supply Chain Manager for UK & IRE and will be instrumental in supporting the delivery of the Supply Chain Strategy in Ireland. This includes promoting the use of preferred suppliers as well as ensuring that local requirements are met. 

The person will be part of a small team and will need to work collaboratively to develop the Supply Chain function in Ireland. The position necessitates the successful candidate to have strong interpersonal and relationship building skills to raise the profile of Supply Chain in the region. This will involve influencing and negotiating with stakeholders and building trust and confidence. 

It would be useful for the person to have an understanding of the dynamics of the Irish market, and they will need to stay up to date on any changes that may affect the supply and demand of required goods, materials or services in the region. 

The role has a bias towards:

  1. Operating Supplies, Materials and Equipment
  2. Industrial, technical, and service subcontracting due to the nature of activities and as such would be ideal for an experienced procurement professional with a background in utility operations, or mechanical engineering or Facility Management procurement.

Alternatively, a Mechanical Engineer or Quantity Surveyor with a strong grounding in procurement could also be considered.

For more information, please contact Richard Guest is an Associate Partner in our Procurement and Supply Chain practice.

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