Michelle Wang is the Global Head SCM Contracting and Partner Management at Hitachi Energy in Zurich, where she was recently part of a leadership development programme. She has been an active committee member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) in both Switzerland and the UK, having spoken at our co-hosted 2022 event in Switzerland.
What excites you about working for Hitachi Energy?
What excites me most is the relevancy of what the company’s products and solutions do to improve our daily life and future. I am happy to collaborate with my colleagues toward Hitachi Energy’s purpose of advancing a sustainable energy future for all.
It’s absolutely inspiring to think that what we are doing every day positively impacts the company's purpose of a sustainable, flexible and secure energy system for today’s generations and those to come.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for a) your business, and b) your own role over the next 12 months?
The biggest challenge and also opportunity in our industry is accelerating the global energy transition. We are championing the urgency, pioneering technologies and solutions that are helping to accelerate the carbon-neutral future, improving quality of living for today’s generations and those to come. Together with our customers and partners, we are collaborating to deliver innovative solutions. We believe that collaboration plus diversity equals great innovation.
And, for my role, the biggest challenge is to support business growth within dynamic environments, while continuing to successfully manage the contractual risk profile.
You are very passionate about contracting and the value of the best-in-class approach to what contracting can bring. What are the main considerations Procurement professionals should be assessing? What are the most common pitfalls you see?
Every clause is worth something, so make good use of them. The most common pitfall is to treat the contracting process separately within the overall sourcing process. Early engagement is key here to understand each parties' respective positions, and, if needed, the contract can be used as a way of managing trade-offs during negotiations.
As the Head Supply Chain Management (SCM) Contracting and Partner Management, you have a lot of touchpoints within the business. Who are the main stakeholders that you deal with internally and what is the biggest value you feel your department brings?
Within my role, I am supporting all types of sourcing activities, ranging from large Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) projects, sourcing direct material and services, to indirect, and transport and logistics, too.
As the function lead, it is important for me to stay connected with each business unit, so everyone that comes across contract at some stage in their work, is my stakeholder. Of course, the heads of SCM for each respective business unit are my main advocates. I also have a reference team set up within each business, who function as my eyes and ears on the ground and my communication channel to reach everyone in the organisation.
As a function, we bring consistency in how to contract, we bring control when it comes to risks, we bring expertise when there’s difficulty during negotiations, and we provide trainings for all of them.
I understand that you are working on a number of automation projects currently. How will digital transformation change the role of Procurement & Supply Chain and what are the areas that you see are the highest potential in?
The digitalization of the Procurement and Contracting function will be revolutionary, and is going to be one of the key differentiators and enablers for the future supply chain. Of course, there are lots of things which need to be in place first to make it happen, such as data quality, training and change management, to name but three, but, eventually, this is the trend that we are foreseeing, and we need to be adequately prepared for it.
Digitalization would not only impact the operational side of Procurement, such as order processing, invoicing, etc., but it would further create a level of visibility and transparency that was not there before. It will also change how we manage supplier relationships, risks and even contract negotiations in the future.
What is a memorable moment from your career and why?
When I got the Fellowship from the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS). I have spent probably most of my spare time involved with all different kinds of CIPS activities. I have done every single role at the branch level; I was Congress Representative and later had my three-year tenure in the Board of Management, as well as being the Trustee to CIPS Foundation.
So, I was over the moon when the Institute granted me such an honour! It’s also the same year I had my first daughter, so I will always remember it.
Having moved from the UK yourself, what advice would you offer to someone moving to Switzerland?
There’s absolutely no problem in getting by in Switzerland - especially big cities like Zurich, Basel - if you do not speak German, as most people living here speak good English. However, if possible, try to learn the German language as early as you possibly can. It will help your integration and, the sooner you start, the easier it should be (I’m talking from my personal experience and something I haven’t done myself, which I deeply regret!).
How did you plan out your career development path?
I planned and didn’t plan, in a sense. I knew I would like to stay within the Supply Chain function and to explore all the different supplier-facing activities. I spent time consciously at the early stage of my career moving around in different roles to really understand the different functions within the business and to gain a breadth of knowledge.
I then focussed on the commercial and contractual management aspect, and have recently taken on the additional responsibility of strategic partnership management, which is a nice combination of my past experiences added together.
You have been an active member of CIPS for a number of years. What is the secret to building a strong network?
CIPS is a great place, where you meet like-minded Procurement professionals. I don’t know much about secrets, but I just simply put my heart and soul to serve the Institute, be present, be supportive of its members, communities, and activities. The more you put yourself out there, I believe, the more people will get to know you. A network is just the secondary result of these actions.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in Procurement & Supply Chain?
Don’t be afraid of trying different roles within Procurement & Supply Chain. This is the golden time where one can afford to undergo trial and error. Explore more before deciding what role suits you best. Don’t worry too much about job grade, organizational ranking or salary - do a good job in whatever role you do, and the money will come afterwards.
What are the biggest challenges for a leader in an international business/overseeing a global team?
Not being able to physically interact with your team members. The importance of personal touch and rapport-building is not being able to be replaced by Teams or Zoom meetings.
At Hitachi Energy, we have a very good flexible working arrangement, which benefits both the employee and the company. I certainly hope, with the opening up of international travel, there will be the possibility for more face-to-face touch points with the team and stakeholders.
What do you think makes for a great leader?
The first few key words that come to mind are: Being trustworthy, a good listener, enabler, competent, and strategic thinker.
What are the current recruitment challenges that you face?
Finding the right calibre of person and being able to execute the recruitment process in a timely manner, as good candidates always get snatched up quickly, if we don’t move fast enough.
What is your favourite business motto and why?
"Trusted to Deliver Excellence" is my favourite business motto. I learned this from my previous employer, Rolls-Royce plc. This motto applies equally to a company, to teams, and to all of us as individuals. I believe, with the right attitude, the willingness to take the lead and the determination to do good things to the best of my ability, I can be the trusted business partner to deliver business results.
Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.