Future of Sourcing Digital's series, “Rising Stars of Sourcing,” recognizes individuals newer to the industry whose thought leadership and expertise have shown promise that is likely to have a lasting impact on the industry. We are thrilled to continue this series with Gavin Hough.
Rising Stars of Sourcing: Gavin Hough
In Gavin's second year as Product Owner, he is driving an initiative to engage sourcing professionals on their pain points that can be alleviated using data and automation in order to increase efficiency of the organization.
Tell us about your career path and how you got into this field – was it purposeful or by accident?
I absolutely found a career in sourcing by accident!
Like many, I joined the Marine Corps after high school because I wasn’t confident in the career I wanted to pursue. I still did not have much clarity at the end of my enlistment, but I knew that I would give everything to whatever opportunity came my way. Shortly after, I began driving a delivery truck for an electrical wholesale company, which provided an intro to supply chain and sourcing as a career.
After three years with the company, I had progressed through sales into sourcing, and eventually began managing a location. I experienced tremendous value in every aspect from contract negotiations with suppliers to cycling inventory levels. After a few years in the role, I began applying to graduate programs to pursue an MBA, concentrating on Supply Chain and Marketing Management.
In the fall of 2015, due to my position as a Supply Chain Scholar with North Carolina State University, I was afforded an opportunity to attend a SIG Executive Round Table. It was at this even that I was introduced to Patrick Curry with IBM, which ultimately turned into an internship with IBM Procurement. I am still within IBM Procurement as a Product Owner of an enterprise procurement analytics tool suite.
If you didn’t work in sourcing, what career path would you have chosen?
I feel I would have likely ended up in sales. I really enjoyed providing solutions as a subset of my responsibilities in my prior position.
What do you feel sets you apart as a rising star of sourcing?
A main differentiator would be experience. Being able to utilize diverse past experiences has been an absolute asset. Perspective is everything. Being able to relate with another party during negotiations or empathize with someone who is working on your team allows you to open your aperture in order to optimize the outcome. Along with that, I have a heavy tie into the development and roadmap of analytics within IBM Procurement. Having direct involvement with this development and catching a glimpse of how data is going to revolutionize our industry allows me to better prepare for the future.
Do you have any mentors who have helped you in your career?
First, let me lead off with EVERYONE needs a mentor! I am a huge proponent for mentors, and feel the insight provided by experienced professionals is vital to both personal and professional growth. At current, Marco Romano and Jason Mudd are two mentors that I can always count on to provide perspective, growth opportunities and objective critiques.
On the other hand, being a mentor to a recent college graduate has provided me with immeasurable benefit. I doubted this early on when I heard that mentors take as much, if not more from the mentees, but there is absolute truth in this.
What professionally motivates you and gives you drive?
My grandfather provides me with work ethic. He never attended school past the third grade, worked as a farm hand, lumberjack, fought in the Pacific during WWII, and then managed an oil lease in Oklahoma until he was 85. He turned 98 in September and is thoroughly enjoying retirement. He told me when I joined the Marines that regardless of my career, my job is to provide my children with a better opportunity than was afforded to me.
Can you share any professional goals you’ve set for yourself for 2019 and how you plan to achieve them?
I would like to begin taking steps to achieve a few professional certifications. CSP, CSMP, PMP, there are a ton of options! I am a firm believer that you’re either moving forward or losing ground.
What do you think will be the big trends in sourcing and procurement this year?
It may be due to the constant exposure of my role, but I feel that with data utilization taking off in the industry that organizations are going to start looking at inserting technical developers on their teams in order to drive automation to remove redundancies from the sourcing process.
Driving efficiencies will become a major differentiator in the industry and the capability to insert cognition to the process will allow for sourcing professionals to focus on more strategic tasks.
Similarly, what or who are the disruptors you think will have the biggest impact on the industry?
I feel the biggest impact in the industry will be by those sourcing organizations that are creating strategic partnerships with their vendors, rather than beating them up for the best price. Being able to minimize risk is key, and having a stable, mutually beneficial relationship with a reliable source will be critical to maintain leading-edge effectiveness.
What advice do you have for those who are new to the profession or considering entering the industry?
Don’t think that the role is limited, as a career in sourcing is rarely redundant. We are a lynchpin in a company’s drive to success, and you will have tangible deliverables that make that success possible. Also, reach out to professionals in the industry. Most of my interactions with members of the sourcing community has been very fulfilling.