In this episode, Dana Small, the Senior Category Manager, Head of Global Commercial Strategic Sourcing at BioMarin Pharmaceuticals, and procurement blogger join us to chat about how women in procurement can thrive in the profession and the category management must-knows for biotech procurement leaders.
Speaker: Dana Small, Senior Category Manager at BioMarin Pharmaceuticals & Blogger at Ms. Category Management
Dana Small is the current Senior Category Manager, Head of Global Commercial Strategic Sourcing at BioMarin Pharmaceuticals. Dana has over 13 years of experience in finance, with 10 supporting the sales and marketing function including FP&A and Global Category Management Procurement/Sourcing, and over 17 years of experience within the Pharmaceutical / Biotech (BioPharma) Industry. Also known as “Ms. Category Management” on LinkedIn, Dana is also a blogger and public speaker who is passionate about sharing her learnings with the audience. Please visit her on her website at – https://mscategorymanagement.com/
Listen to the Episode Here:
Producer’s Notes – Please note that during the recording session, the WIFI went off for a few minutes, which means we failed to record the first few minutes of the podcast. I’ve re-recorded an introduction to Dana manually to make up for the mishap – apologies if this episode had a rough start! (The pain and beauty of remote work.)
It’s wonderful that you are such a supporter of other fellow women in procurement. You know, finance and procurement are both functions that are primarily dominated by men. How can organizations attract more young women in procurement?
Don’t Be Scared Just Because You’re Outnumbered
Yes, what’s interesting, I think for me, being in finance and enjoying analysis and numbers is one thing. I read today on LinkedIn about getting young girls and women in science and STEM and just motivating them to do things of that even if they feel like they’re outnumbered, to just still go ahead and do it! You know, it’s tough to be outnumbered. But at the same time, it’s a nice little niche you can find for yourself, which is kind of nice, too, right?
Procurement – A Field That Stays Exciting and Interesting
So in motivating women to come into procurement, something that they might enjoy is negotiations. It’s the fun of being able to get the best deal, or it’s feeling like you’re a shopper all the time. You’re buying things constantly as a procurement person – that’s kind of some of the things I like and can relate to in everyday life. But I definitely think the younger generation will really like the differences between all the projects and how it all can be different. So I think if you’re able to just show some of the aspects that it’s not one of these jobs where it’s the same thing over and over and over every day, it will attract younger people. There is always something new, whether a new supplier, a new project – it’s always a challenge. Having that ongoing challenge and dealing with changes can really be attractive, I think, to a lot of women and young people.
I’ve personally found biotech to be a really interesting sector because, you know, you spent a lot of money. Right. And sometimes, depending on the R&D and how it goes, the product might not actually work and hit the market. That’s kind of the reality of the situation. So what are kind of the main categories of spend that you were in charge of? And how does this kind of sector affect your decision making?
Larger Biotechs Have SOPs and Procedures, Smaller Biotechs Are Like the “Wild West”
Sure, so the main categories I’ve had are pretty much everything now under sales and marketing, so advertising, media, call centers, market research, data, events, sales, support…basically everything under the sun. I’ve also done some professional services, management, consulting things, and supporting finance. But for me, it’s interesting. In biotech, the sales and marketing function has a lot of regulations, so you have to be very thoughtful when you go through fees to make sure there are no conflicts of interest. You have to think about all of the different provisions that will go through with regulatory and having suppliers who can do things of that sort.
I will say it is very different depending on the biotech or pharma company you work at. The larger ones have great procurement and sourcing groups and they’re robust, have great SOPs in place, and just really robust and big teams. Whereas some of the smaller or newer companies that I’ve been at recently, it’s kind of like the Wild Wild West. I mean, people are like, oh, I’m going to buy this, so I’m going to just go buy it. And there’s nothing stopping them, so it’s a whole different set of challenges when you’re at a big pharma with huge budgets and everybody’s knocking on your door compared to a smaller biotech.
Biotech Marketing & Sales Spend – Full of Regulatory Requirements and Procedures
So it’s interesting to kind of see across pharma how that all the regulations and things that can happen, black box warnings, new packaging inserts, they have to update labels. How that comes through with the commercial. I’m always wondering, like, why do we spend so much money on print? And the answer is “oh yeah, we had X label changes and updates and after we print everything, you know, for the sixth time this year due to legal.”
The focus really, for the most part at the places I’ve been at is on the patient. And so majority spend and time is focused on the patient and not as much as a group like a different brand of alcohol is going to be considered for something else. We really care about people’s lives. And at the end of the day, it’s about science. So it’s an interesting field and I enjoy it. I think because of my background, right in biology that it’s a great place for me.
So a lot of the listeners of this podcast are in smaller organizations, so they might not be in a big pharma organization like yours. So how would you suggest for them to really build up a healthy spend culture if they’re kind of a little bit smaller? Maybe they just started looking for a procurement leader to lead all of this strategic side of procurement – how can they start?
Flexible and Adaptable – Two Traits That a Great Procurement Leader Must Have
Yes, I think it’s super important to be someone who is flexible as a procurement leader. if you get somebody who’s rigid who has the mindset of “this is how we’ve done our job before”, and they are prescriptive as in “this is how you have to do it” – it doesn’t always work out. I think what I’ve learned in my past experiences when you go from a company to a company, everyone is different and you really have to be open to understanding what’s going to work there and what’s not. Just because it worked at Amgen and Gilli, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work right at BioMarin or AstraZeneca or wherever it is. So you really have to take a look at the corporate culture and make sure, one, that person kind of fits into that. You have to make sure they are flexible enough to say, hey, it’s not just this is the way it has to be.
Be Able to Sell Yourself, Get Other’s Buy-In, and Be Proactive!
I think the last thing you want to do in procurement is to be a bull in a china shop and just kind of force-feed people things because that never goes over. Well, I don’t think a lot of people appreciate that. So just having somebody who really is open, flexible, you know, will listen and can come up with good ideas and get people’s buy-in is so important. Part of succeeding as a procurement leader is also about selling yourself. So people who enjoy talking with other people and networking, I think is something definitely needed in a procurement leader, versus not that introverts can’t do a job because there are tons of them. They can still do fine, but you know, you’re somebody who is super proactive super who can sell themselves, that is going to be your advantage and that’s how you can truly build your impact.
This interview is taken from an episode of the Spend Culture Stories podcast.
If you’re interested in hearing more stories from procurement business partners like Karthik, you may enjoy these Spend Culture episodes:
Nakita Gates of Executive Search Recruit on how to hire your first procurement executive
Daniel Barnes on Procurement and Contract Management Horror Stories
John Evans of Procureability on how high growth startups can best create their first procurement strategy
For more tips on streamlining procurement processes and spend management:
6 Ways Procurement Can Get Ahead of a Recession
4 Procurement KPIs You Should Know Immediately
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