Lauren Gill (Prager): Keelite of the Month February 2017

2005 American Studies & English

Lauren's Keele Braduation 2005 What am I doing now?

Working in Procurement for Sony Electronics. I have commercial responsibility for our Third Party relationships across Human Resources, Property and Customer Services. Very briefly that means sourcing and negotiating contracts with new suppliers as well as managing ongoing partnerships. I live in Berkshire with my husband James Gill, another Keelite (2205 Management Science & Finance), and we’re expecting our first baby in April. At Keele I was Lauren Prager.

Photo left: Lauren's Keele Graduation 2005

How did you get to where you are now?

I graduated from Keele with a 2:2 and not a clue of what I wanted to do next or how to make it happen, so I ended up taking a few temporary jobs that led me to a supplier management role within the now defunct 4U Group. From there I took on a lot of contract responsibility and decided to enrol in a post graduate Law course during the evenings at Staffordshire University. After graduating from my Law degree I had an opportunity to move out to New Zealand and then Australia where I picked up interim roles in Procurement and gained a lot of travel experience both for work and leisure. On my return to the UK I completed a Masters in Strategic Procurement Management to get my professional accreditation (MCIPS) whilst working full time. I’ve had a number of different roles in the UK before joining Sony, most notably at the mining company Anglo American (parent company of De Beers, for those that like a nice diamond) in a global role that gave me plenty more opportunities to continue indulging my love of travel.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

I’ve had some great professional accomplishments such as leading a successful tender for over $100M of global travel spend, but completing all my studies was really a huge achievement for me personally. I’ve never considered myself to be particularly academic and also didn’t have a very good study ethic so putting myself back into higher education twice really felt like it might be a terrible decision. My husband can vouch for the fact that I don’t suffer quietly either so the process was painful for us both, but graduating with an MSc a week after getting married was a great experience.

And your biggest mistake?

Not taking advantage of the many opportunities at Keele to help decide and plan for my future, and not getting more relevant work experience whilst I was there. I did a lot of bar jobs during my undergraduate years which was great fun, but never even thought I could get a part time office job instead and gain some valuable corporate skills. Having said that I have absolutely no regrets about the life I’ve had so far and have had some absolutely amazing experiences, so I can’t say that the mistakes along the way were necessarily a bad thing.

What are your ambitions now?

To get the baby’s room ready! We’re desperately trying to de-clutter the house and make some space but somehow we seem to end up with more things.

Lauren and James at Staffordshire Graduation Professionally I’m trying to prepare myself for the shift change I’m about to go through after more than 10 years in corporate life to becoming a mum. I’ve always been very passionate about my work and it’s a bit of an adjustment to realise that I’ll be taking a step back to make time for parenting, although I couldn’t be more excited for the baby to arrive. Luckily Sony have been fantastic and are really committed to giving working parents the best support and opportunities.

Photo Right: James and Lauren at her Staffordshire University MSc graduation ceremony 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?

It’s still quite common for people to say they “fell” into Procurement rather than planning a career in the field, despite most organisations having a Procurement and/or Supply Chain function. It’s possible to get qualifications in this area but usually not necessary for that reason, so it’s a fairly easy career to get into at entry level. Typically we have responsibility for everything from financial analysis and planning to contract drafting and negotiating. We also do a lot of relationship management both within the business and externally with suppliers. This makes it an incredibly diverse and interesting area to work and also offers numerous transferable skills. If anyone was interested in getting into this field I’d recommend looking for companies that offer graduate schemes in Procurement and Supply Chain. Unlike roles in Finance or Law there is no established way of “doing” Procurement yet so a good graduate scheme will really help in shaping your understanding of the basics. If you can connect with any Procurement professionals to hear their experiences that’s also a really good way to help decide if it’s the right path for you.

What made you choose Keele University?

I actually knew very little about it before visiting the campus but Keele offered the course I wanted so I put it on my UCAS form. It was only when I visited the campus that I totally fell in love with the whole environment and eventually chose it over other universities that also offered me a place.

What kind of a student were you?

Not a very good one, much more likely to be found in one of the many campus bars or sleeping until mid-afternoon than in a lecture hall. Once I got back from study abroad in my 2nd year I also decided to move out of home permanently and needed two jobs to cover my rent and bills, so my focus was probably not as much on my studies as it should have been. I even had a dissertation tutor hunt me down at Rugby 7’s in my third year to strong arm me into actually showing up to one of our sessions (sorry about that)!

How has Keele influenced your life?

‌I think any university can be a fantastic environment to help young people transition from home to independence, and has the potential to teach some really valuable skills along the way. It’s about more than just a good education because we also have to learn how to be responsible for our own schedule and well-being. For me Keele was a perfect place to really grow up in a safe and supportive community, establish some lifelong friendships along the way, and start to figure out what I might want to do with the rest of my life.

Lauren and james Wedding What is your favourite memory of Keele?

I had a lot of happy times at Keele so it’s hard to pick one moment that really stands out. The most significant memory was easily when I worked behind the bar at the Golfer’s Arms and met my future husband for the first time, although it was a while before we actually became a couple.

Left: Lauren's and James'Wedding

What is your impression of Keele now?

I’m always really proud to say that I graduated from Keele and have been especially gratified to notice how well recognised it’s become over the years. I always recommend it to anyone thinking of going to university.

Anything else you would like to add?

Just that I’m contactable via LinkedIn if anyone thinks they might be interested in Procurement and wants to discuss it further.