In an industry that has been historically male-oriented, Kerry Anne explores her impressive career path to her current role as Head of Procurement and demonstrates how women can be a success in the industry through hard work and opportunity – exactly the same as their male counterparts.
Please provide us with a summary of your career background.
I studied Marketing and International Politics at university followed by an opportunity at Tesco to work in a role, which has since become their graduate scheme. I worked my way across the different departments within the real estate, maintenance and engineering divisions so I have always been in FM and real estate.
After Tesco I worked for Mitie as a Business Development Director. It was a fantastic experience but it made me realise my heart was with procurement.
Do you think your success at JLL was attributed to hard work, your natural ability or, the sponsorship?
To be honest, I think it was down to all of those things - it was hard work and determination, it was making sure I got under the skin of the business as quickly as I could. I wanted to understand what JLL represented, what they did as an organisation, and I made sure I understood the full life-cycle of what it meant to be in corporate real estate and outsourcing.
I also made sure I built really strong relationships, both at a senior level and across the business. I never just achieved, I exceeded, to the point where I was continually put forward and recommended for business development pursuits, for engagement with major clients and programmes in the business.
I was then lucky enough to be headhunted by CBRE. During the last four years in the ‘Head of’ role, it almost felt like I changed job every two years - it was very transformational which is why I feel I’ve been successful.
Did that give you an interesting insight into other parts of the business?
It did. I worked on the retail side at Mitie, who were our supplier when I was at Tesco and I was able to see the reverse of the deals I had put together. Then, in 2006, I started working at JLL as the EMEA Sourcing Manager for Sun Microsystems. I had an absolute roller coaster of a ride at JLL! I was always sponsored at a very senior level within the business so I was really lucky. I’ve held EMEA roles and global roles; I was made Associate Director, Local Director and then National Director (equivalent of senior Vice President), which made the Wall Street Journal.
So you’re not necessarily a ‘business as usual’ person?
No, I’m not. I’m about strategic planning, transformation and putting in initiatives to be able to build a programme and understand the moving parts to make it happen.
I think those are the strengths I bring to the business. It’s about relationship building, communication, strategic thinking but, also about the ability to implement.
Do you think men build relationships differently than women?
No, each relationship needs to be approached differently. You must understand what’s important to people and take the time to listen to them to get their drivers. That has been key to my success: building those relationships, making things happen and having the ability to engage.
Do you do anything about upcoming talent?
We do. One of our aspirations for the department is nurturing talent.
We have an intern programme run by our L&D team. We’ve had two interns this year, one man and one woman and we are just about to secure two women for 2018.
It is quite unique to having two senior women working together, how does that work at CBRE?
Rachel and I have very similar views on a number of things, which is why I think it works so well. We are being pulled in multiple directions, so we’ve created a structure that works well for us across EA (Enterprise Accounts), LFM (Local Facilities Management) and DCS (Data Centre Solutions), which are our three main areas. I work on the EMEA transformation, focusing on structure, transformation, leadership changes and making sure we have client connectivity all the way down to contract delivery. Rachel is the GWS (Global Workplace Solutions) lead, coordinating platform and strategic planning with the US and Asia Pacific.
Does that play to your strengths?
Yes, absolutely. I think Rachel and I both have different levels of global and regional experience and we can feed off each other to get positive outcomes for the business. We are translating across to EA a lot of the processes that are in the LFM business so, we really complement each other.
Do you think more women are now coming into real estate?
When I started at JLL, real estate was a very ‘male pride’ environment. Women were typically working in HR or occasionally in FM and they were sitting across from a man in a negotiation.
But, in the last decade, I’ve noticed that the negotiating dynamics have completely changed - it is no longer real estate, it is procurement. You see a lot more women in that environment.
How does that dynamic work, procurement negotiating with procurement?
We don’t just go in as a procurement organisation, we are generally sitting across from a strategic sourcing professional or a Head of FM Procurement along with some other operational ‘Heads of’. Our business development, creative and procurement people enable us to talk to them about outsourcing, from concept of delivery through to procurement or health and safety.
That market has shrunk because of so many acquisitions, so if you can be different you can really stand out.
If I look at some of the programmes here, the investment in people was never previously as much as I’ve seen in this organisation. As a result, we’ve been able to attract some real talent that has supported such innovation in our business.
We are going to be running what we call ‘The Great Idea’, it’s our equivalent of Dragons Den. The winners receive a mentor from our business in supply chain, who sponsors them to deliver and execute their innovation. There are also the supplier events - we ran our first event in Germany recently and are rolling it out across the Netherlands, as well as continuing in the UK. I don’t see any of our competitors doing these things, certainly not to the extent CBRE does.
That is a real level of investment and ensures you can continue to take market share in the future.
Indeed. All of this has come through the investment structure that Rachel has driven alongside Ian Entwhistle, our CEO. He is a real sponsor of procurement and supply chain as well as of the diversity of women in the workplace. I’ve been lucky enough to join the company at a leadership level and to get sponsored by the CEO, who is also my mentor. I’m also on The Impact Programme, a women’s development training course, which is a 18 months’ investment in my education, promoting my standing in the business.
That’s great. Companies are looking at diversity, it’s on the agenda but actually doing something that costs money and time, is rare.
At CBRE there is a real push for diversity in the workplace, coming from the top of the business.
The Impact Programme is an 18 month programme, which is purely for women leaders in CBRE. It’s all about how they profile us: how they raise our profiles, talk through key areas of development and engagement and provide an opportunity to maximise on some key people in the business who can add value to our careers and promote us throughout.
CBRE are really investing in women leaders in the business, in an industry that has historically been very male-oriented.
What advice would you have given yourself before you joined your first role at Tesco?
It would be to understand how to brand and position myself much earlier on in my career. I feel I learnt that a little bit later on because I was too busy doing and getting results. I would have advised myself to get a mentor to help me work on this. I would definitely go back and pick good mentors early on and really understand where I wanted to be. I’ve always had a 5, 10 and 15-year plan and always achieved everything I wanted to.
It’s important to get to the right place at the right time through hard work and capability.
I’ve worked across buying and procurement, as well as in business development for a supplier.
The JLL role followed too, I was back into business development but as procurement, to focus on our value proposition. I then became the ‘Head of Procurement’, a role that enabled me to restructure the business. Coming to CBRE and getting the chance to do it again, on a much bigger scale, is phenomenal.
What would you say to women coming into this industry?
To women, I’d say that I’ve had an amazing experience and lots of opportunities to travel the world and be exposed to so many areas. I wouldn’t have had this had I gone a different route. To anyone coming into this industry, I’d recommend they embrace it, network, promote themselves, understand their brand and get engaged.