Procurement leader spotlight with Jocelyn Stahl

October 14, 2020

We chatted with Jocelyn Stahl for our next Procurement Leader Spotlight blog series. She spoke about how she used her technical knowledge to land a role in procurement, how critical the function is to organizations today, and her thoughts on the importance of emotional intelligence as a key element for success in procurement and supply chain.

Jocelyn Stahl has over twenty years of experience in leadership roles across indirect and direct procurement. Currently, Stahl is the Senior Director of Manufacturing Alliances at Hershey which encompasses contract manufacturing and contract packaging.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you got into procurement? How did you get to where you are today?

I entered the workforce in an analytical chemistry laboratory where I was testing finished products and incoming raw materials with a pharmaceutical company. I realized very quickly that whenever there was any type of discrepancy or issue with incoming raw material, what I enjoyed the most about the role was working through the challenges with the buyer. I would serve as the technical liaison who would explain what we were seeing and what the issues were with the supplier. I ended up finding that I enjoyed that role more than I enjoyed the hands-on analytical chemistry component of the role.

Over time, that morphed into a quality associate where I spent time in a manufacturing facility. When there were issues with supplies that would require discussions, I excelled at that role. Eventually, I then moved into a role in the procurement organization procuring packaging and raw materials for that particular organization. I started out on the direct side of procurement and spent a number of years determining packaging for raw material and then had an opportunity to jump into the indirect procurement space, which was a complete white space for me—I didn't know anything about it.

I found that the fundamentals that I applied within direct were very much the same skills needed with indirect and I ended up really loving the indirect space. I learned to work with stakeholders, applied best practices, and applied simple things such as supplier-relationship management and negotiation tactics.

From there, I was afforded a broader opportunity to lead the indirect procurement organization managing everything from marketing services, human resources, capital equipment, transportation, and logistics.

Currently, I'm leading our manufacturing alliances organization, which manages all of our third-party manufacturers and co-packagers. While it's very much a supply chain and operations heavy role, it is also very much a procurement role in that I'm managing third parties on behalf of the organization. While I began my career with a technical background, I have been able to successfully apply my technical knowledge to the business space.

Q: Over the last 5-10 years, what are the most impactful changes you have seen in procurement?

I think the biggest change is as companies are looking to balance their top line and bottom line, procurement has become much more relevant at the senior leader level. Years ago, procurement or purchasing was very much a tactical function that might have only been considered if you're making a large buy to assist you with negotiations or contracts.

But now as we look to manage our businesses more holistically, we're making and balancing decisions within our organizations based on both top line and bottom line. Obviously, technology, systems, and integration within an organization gives us more visibility. Many people focus on advances in technology and how data enables us to be more agile. However, I really think philosophically what's helping us and is fair recognition that the work procurement does is incredibly critical and without it, we struggle to ensure a balanced organization.

As we all know, our roles are no longer just all about cost-cutting. During this pandemic especially, supplier-relationship management is more relevant than ever. We're leveraging our strategic suppliers to help us to do things that, without them, we wouldn't be capable of.

Q: Where do you see the procurement industry going over the next five years?

I continue to see significant advances relative to data, whether that be in source-to-pay data, procure-to-pay, or master data. Many organizations really struggle with their master data and really getting to the crux of it.  I see simplification and data management being the fundamental key to continued success. But again, I really believe that as organizations continue to mature, the role of procurement continues to be more relevant than ever. I believe that it's no longer about getting a seat at the table. I feel that it's now a core function within an organization similar to finance.

Q: What skills do you think the future leaders of procurement need to be successful? And what advice would you give them to get in a position like yourself? How can young buyers work their way up?

To be successful, particularly in the early years of procurement, you need to be very inquisitive and curious. Be willing to ask the hard questions and willing to have conversations with individuals at all levels and be comfortable with that, whether it be your peers within your own organization or senior leaders within your supply organization.

You need to be able to relate to people in a way that you understand their challenges and their needs while you understand what your needs are from a business perspective. A procurement professional must balance both of them. At the end of the day, everybody leaves feeling as though they've achieved what they need, and it's not ‘I win, you lose’. Because that's obviously not going to be successful.

The people that have been the most successful in procurement have a high level of emotional intelligence and just overall curiosity and desire to learn. They tend to be much more successful versus somebody that might not have those skills but might have more of the hard skills.

Q: What is one thing that you think most procurement professionals or leaders aren't doing well today that they could start doing better immediately? 

I think procurement professionals usually do a great job in negotiating arrangements and creating supply agreements documenting all of the aspects of the agreement. To continue to support our complex and diverse categories, I think we need to pursue continuous education category-specific as well as conducting regular benchmarking with peers and industry experts to ensure we are constantly challenging ourselves and our organizations.

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