Rising Star Interview: Toni Tran

Posted: 09/13/2019 - 01:41
Rising Star Interview: Toni Tran

This October, the Future of Sourcing Awards will celebrate individuals newer to the industry whose thought leadership and expertise have shown promise that is likely to have a lasting impact on the industry. Below, read about Rising Star Finalist Toni Tran, who leads a Sourcing team at Pacific Gas and Electric Company dedicated to IT. She was recently recognized by Gartner for negotiating best-in-class, top-decile contracts with Salesforce and Microsoft. 

How did you get into this field – was it purposeful or by accident?

I purposefully chose a career in sourcing over a legal profession because I value collaboration over adversarial transactions, and I enjoy many aspects of sourcing including: (1) negotiating; (2) supplier relationship development; and (3) problem solving.  In law school, I interned at two law firms, a consumer rights agency, and a Vendor Management Department at a large corporation.  Although I was offered several legal positions upon graduation, I accepted a position as a contracts manager in the Vendor Management Department, which launched my sourcing career.     

In what ways do you hope to influence or transform the industry?

As digitalization and globalization changes the sourcing landscape, I believe that sourcing leaders will be negotiating larger deals in scope and complexity. In response, I hope to contribute to the industry by shining a light on the need for more effective negotiation skills; one where corporations must better understand supplier’s goals and motives (both stated and unstated); know supplier’s pressure points; be able to identify key players and decision makers  in the sales organization; and know the escalation path for the key players.  Strong agreements are the result of a good negotiation and win/win agreements create value while building business partnerships.  Understanding how to navigate through sophisticated deals will become more challenging and therefore superior negotiations skills are needed.   
When I applied this negotiation approach in two recent large deals, it resulted in first quartile pricing for Pacific Gas and Electric Company while meeting the needs of the suppliers – a win/win negotiation for both parties.  Knowing that the supplier needed a signed deal to achieve its fiscal quarter end goals (unstated needs and pressure point), I identified key supplier stake holders that understood the overall value of my counter-proposals, I was able to reduce overall cost by 19% below the supplier’s best and final offer.   
A leading research and advisory company stated that in addition to the first quartile pricing,  
“Toni reduced the Salesforce best and final offer by an additional 19%.  Toni was able to negotiate best in class commercial terms (discounts, price caps, product swaps, price holds for future products…etc.) while mitigating risk over the long haul of the investment. I was impressed by Toni’s ability not only to manage her internal stakeholders, but also manage the Salesforce team that was aggressively pursuing PG&E Executives.   
Gartner reviews 1000s of Microsoft and Salesforce Contracts from around the globe annually and Toni has negotiated some of the very best we have seen.   
Her unique blend of in-depth legal background coupled with her broad experience of negotiating highly complex multi-million-dollar IT investments make her stand apart from all others in the Sourcing Field.”  

Who are the mentors or role models who have guided you in your career?

My professional mentor at work is my Sourcing Director.  For the last four years he has coached me in strengthening my relationship management skills, modeling effective communication, and advancing my career.  Improving these skills elevated my performance significantly. 
Relationship Management:  My director helped me understand power dynamics within a complex structural corporation through his consistent feedback on organizational changes and how they impacted our team.  Through his insights on each executive involved, and the motivations behind the structural change, I identified areas of support to improve value-added relationships.  This valuable skill could only be absorbed through mentorship.    
Effective Communication:  As my career advances, I am consciously aware that influential leaders are more effective communicators.   Dave’s ability to influence others is a direct result of his ability to reframe concerns into shared goals while remaining compassionate. In a short period of time, Dave has been able to become a trusted advisor to the Chief Information Officer at Pacific Gas and Electric Company.   
Career Advancement:  Under Dave’s leadership, I was promoted twice and nominated internally for Role Model several times.  During his management Dave has guided and coached me through each promotion.  He offers me highly profiled projects and challenges that and highlights my accomplishments to leadership both within Supply Chain and with my clients.  His has consciously and consistently developed my career.    

What is something you wish more people knew about the sourcing and procurement industry?

What I wish more people knew about the sourcing industry is that we have directly elevated the lives of individuals locally and globally through sourcing programs such as supplier diversity and outsourcing.  As a minority woman, I value and support programs that create inclusivity and opportunities for underprivileged and challenged communities. Nations that embrace diversity and inclusion create a more sustainable world where innovation thrives.   
Supplier Diversity: I am proud to support PG&E’s inclusion of diverse suppliers (business owned and operated by minorities, women, disabled veterans and LGBTQ persons).  It has increased economic opportunities in local communities while enhancing the quality of service that PG&E provides to its customers. In 2018, PG&E spent over $2 billion with diverse suppliers for the seventh straight year accounting for more than 40 percent of its total spend. For more than 40 years, PG&E has trained, developed, coached, and fostered diverse businesses to become more successful businesses.     
Outsourcing:  Outsourcing strategies has affected developing nations like China and India and raised them from poverty to middle class.  Through this strategy, outsourcing has lifted an entire generation out of poverty.  According to IMF’s Anne Krueger, First Deputy Managing Director, “…the impacts of globalization have benefited both India and China by lifting millions of people out of poverty since 1980 and putting tens of millions of people firmly into the middle class.  In addition, China has seen their extreme poverty rate fall from 84% to about 10% largely because of trade….” The Economist, Dawn Tiura, President and CEO, SIG.   
Impact Sourcing:  I am also delighted to share that and a new program coined “Impact Sourcing or Socially Responsible Outsourcing” has emerged where companies deliberately employ socio-economically disadvantaged individuals in some of the “world’s poorest places to provide not only jobs but education, training and career counseling needed to support a thriving middle class in their country.”  Impact Sourcing is viewed as an effective market-based solution to poverty alleviation and shows the potential to create millions of jobs for the young and those living in poverty.  Studies indicate that impact sourcing employees benefit within income increases of anywhere from 40% to 200% and leads to valuable job experience that help workers pay for their education and help to improve their socioeconomic status.  Impact sourcing also benefits the service providers who are seeking alternate lower-cost talent.  These types of programs are a win/win strategy for corporations and disadvantaged communities.   

Looking ahead, what trends do you think will emerge in the sourcing and procurement space?

The emerging trends that have impacted sourcing at PGE include adoption of digitalization such as Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing.  The combination using artificial intelligence to analyze big data is accelerating the delivery of business needs.   
As an example of the use of these technologies, the 2017 and 2018 wildfires have caused catastrophic destruction throughout northern California forcing PGE to implement cutting edge technology to quickly inspect 2.4 million power poles; 5500 miles of transmission lines and 50,000 transmission structures (including towers and poles) within its 70,000 miles of service area.  To accomplish this goal, PGE utilized drones to capture millions of photos to assess damages to its structures that could potentially cause fire hazards.  Each pole or structure could receive 20-30 photos and angles to determine potential damage to a structure.  The effective use of machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data allowed PGE to complete the inspections within months instead of years. 

What advice do you have for those who are considering a career in sourcing or procurement?

I would highly recommend a career in the sourcing industry as it is one of the fastest growing profession worldwide and the variety of positions within a supply chain is vast with great earning potential with the ability to be a major contributor to a company’s growth.  As more organizations recognize the value of supply chain and spend management, more skilled procurement professionals are needed. 
Additionally, one gains valuable skills that can be applied in the personal domain.  The industry has matured significantly as markets globalize and technology advances.   Corporations are purchasing more complex products and services.  Organizations need professionals with the ability to review, negotiate complex agreements, and implement cutting edge technology such as artificial intelligence and big data analytics.     
Finally, with a career in sourcing, one has the ability to impact the communities locally and globally through support of supplier diversity, sustainability and impact sourcing programs. 

About The Author

Toni Tran's picture

Toni Tran leads a Sourcing team at Pacific Gas and Electric Company dedicated to IT. She was recently recognized by Gartner for negotiating best-in-class, top-decile contracts with Salesforce and Microsoft. Toni reduced wireless and wireline service rates from 4th quartile to 1st quartile and her leadership style encourages and motivates her team to reach their full potential. This has resulted in enhanced team performance, cultivating vendor relationships, improving cost-effectiveness and customer satisfaction. Toni is dedicated to several social causes and recognizing that underprivileged girls are at risk, she created a grassroots event to help them live a more powerful life.