Nicolas Passaquin - Senior Director, Head of Sourcing & Supply Chain Centre of Excellence at Telia

Procurement & Supply Chain,Sourcing
20 October, 2023

Nicolas Passaquin is the Senior Director, Head of Sourcing & Supply Chain Centre of Excellence at Telia in Stockholm. He started his career at Air France in 1998, before working around the world for Numico, Thomson Reuters, and Refinitiv.

EMEA Recruitment is proud to work closely with the international medical charity Operation Smile. What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’m relatively easy; I think just a sunny day in Stockholm would be enough and we haven’t had that for a long time!

Jokes aside, I like to mentor and help develop others. I had a lady I’ve been helping in Asia for several years who came back to me recently and said that she got promoted.

That made me happy, because she definitely deserved it, and she was obviously quite happy about the mentoring and coaching. But what made me smile was that she acquired confidence, she’s got expertise, and just needed that boost of mentoring to get to the next stage. When she confirmed she got the role she was expecting, that made me smile and really happy. I’ve always enjoyed trying to help others.

What does it feel like to be the Deputy Chief Procurement & Supply Chain Officer at Telia?

It is an incredibly rewarding role. Being part of the leadership team in Procurement & Supply Chain in Telia brings a lot of challenges, but - at the same time - a real sense of responsibility and excitement.

I’m really proud of leading a team of talented professionals. They play a crucial role in Telia’s success. We have great collaborations with our stakeholders, and we can definitely feel how much we contribute to the efficiency and sustainability of the organisation. That’s something I enjoy very much.

Plus, every day, we have the opportunity to drive innovation, foster supplier partnerships, and contribute to Telia’s success by making sure we have the right delivery model in place. That has been a journey, but I am very proud of where we are today and happy about how much we have done.

I know sustainability is a passion and driver for you, and you are part of a sustainability group. Can you tell us more about that?

That group is really about exchanging, sharing knowledge, and helping each other and building our role towards sustainability; that can take different forms depending on the industry you work in and your maturity level.

It goes back to that mentoring and coaching I mentioned before. It’s about helping each other to reach the next level of expertise so we can bring it into our company’s plans.

In Telia, obviously, there are a lot of discussions about energy, child labour, forced labour, etc., because of what we buy.

We hear from different companies in different sectors and pick up from them, as well. We are moving with science-based target initiatives, and we share that with others. So, that community helps with disseminating that knowledge and making us all more professional in how we approach it.

How will the impact of artificial intelligence and data affect the roles and responsibilities of people in Procurement & Supply Chain in the future?

I think we will be heavily impacted, but in the right way. What’s in front of us is incredibly exciting; the technology will help us automate, enhance decision making, and streamline some of the operations.

We will need people even more than we do today - people to use those data-driven insights, to be able to think strategically, build relationships, and actually use their brain instead of just typing on an Excel sheet. I think that’s going to be a fundamental change that will enhance our Sourcing and Supply Chain Managers’ knowledge, not replace them.

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg right now, but in front of us are massive changes that will make our roles more interesting going forward.

What is one key bit of advice you would give to someone looking to get into Supply Chain or Procurement as a career, knowing these changes are around the corner?

There are several things. First, you have to have a deep understanding of your business. All industries are different, so you need to be interested in the area you are in, along with your stakeholders and what they are expecting.

For me, it’s crucial to have that understanding and view Sourcing, Procurement or Supply Chain as an integral part of a company’s success.

Then, you need to be curious, and that goes back to the conversation about technology, automation, etc. You need to search for information, embrace change, and stay updated on industry trends and technologies.

Also, connect yourself to peers. I’m part of that sustainability group we talked about and I’m a member of other groups, too where we build common knowledge together. You need to do all of that to first enter the career, and then prosper.

Why did you decide to follow a career in Procurement & Supply Chain?

Sourcing and Supply Chain are one of those few areas where you can be in touch with any part of the organisation. So, you get exposure to all of the groups, from Marketing to Product, to R&D, Logistics, etc. It’s one of the few functions that can give you that broader understanding, and that’s what I find fascinating.

Plus, I like the idea of optimising complex systems and processes, and I think you are in the right place to do that if you go into Sourcing and Supply Chain. For me, it’s a unique blend of strategic thinking, operational responsibility, and a chance to make a tangible impact on the organisation. It was that mix that I found extremely interesting.

Over time, I grew passionate about creating value through efficient procurement and supply chains. That’s why it has been an extremely rewarding career, because you have all those touchpoints, and you know how you make a difference in your job every day.

Can you tell us more about the regular newsletter you release on LinkedIn?  Why did you start it and what outcome do you have in mind with it?

I started it for myself to dig into different areas, then converted that into blogs and newsletters afterwards.

Initially, I was picking a subject trying to understand what I knew about it, then researching it and talking to people to see if I was staying up to date. When I was doing all of that, I thought I could start sharing it, because, if it’s useful for me to stay up to date, then it can be useful for the community, as well.

That’s when I started to write some of those articles in my French-English, to share those trends and reach a wider audience. The benefit for me (beyond the work I was already doing) was that it created interactions. I’ve had conversations with a number of people at all levels in P&SC or outside in different industries where we exchanged on different subjects. It has enriched me and at the same time helped others.

So, I think it’s a win-win situation – I get a lot out of it, and others hopefully get something out of it, as well. Also, in that community, they interact with each other, and sometimes I bring people into conversations and say, “Reach out to X, because they have the same challenges.”

Ultimately, it’s about contributing to professionalising our function and knowledge sharing in Supply Chain & Procurement.

How do you manage your time to do all this?

I am actually extremely disciplined and organised, and I publish every two weeks. Generally, I spend the first week while on public transport doing research, reading articles, and consolidating ideas here and there. Then, during the weekend, I will structure that, and then, the following week, I will spend time rereading it and polishing it before publishing.

So, I use transport time when I can’t do anything else to be able to build those articles. But I’m trying to be efficient, and not going on social media, for example, because I want to have time for things that bring something to me.

The key point is that I’m doing it because I love doing it. Initially, I tried to do a YouTube channel, where I was producing videos, but I wasn’t very good at that. It still exists and I spent a lot of time on it, but I lost the pleasure of doing it, so I parked that.

It took me some time to find the right model. Now, I enjoy putting it together and learning something from it. It took me a couple of years to get to that place.

What is one mistake you have made and what did you learn from it?

I’ve got a tendency to be a bit impatient. Once, I have rushed too quickly into a decision. Early in my career – I was a Sourcing Manager at the time – we went through a request for proposal and there was a debate about one supplier versus the other. I just pushed for a decision. We could have done additional due diligence, but I was pressed for time.

The mistake I made was rushing into it, which cost a lot more energy to make the solutions work. It was just the wrong choice. A little bit more time into due diligence would have led to a much better decision. There was no harm done, but it was still an imperfect solution that we struggled with for a little bit of time.

The learning was about just sitting down, thinking about it, and ensuring you have the strategy, the risk assessment, and you collaborate across the teams to get to a point where the decision seems to be the right one – sometimes, a week more isn’t going to change anything. So, I’ve learned to be a little bit more patient now.

That came with maturity; I don’t think you can fully change your personality and that’s how I am, but I was 25 then and now I’m 40-something, so I’m definitely more mature.  

Sometimes now, I try to step away and say, “Let’s pause the meeting for two minutes to breathe, have a coffee, and think about it.” It’s better than rushing through. That’s the best technique - step away to get a wider holistic view of the decision you are about to make.

Conversely, what is the best decision you have made?

Investing in building high-performing teams, from attracting, hiring, mentoring, and coaching people. It’s extremely rewarding.

I have a passion for sharing and for people, as well. The best decision I made was to make sure I had the time to share expertise and build the right team. When you build and nurture those teams, you are successful in the end, you leave a legacy, and - at the same time - when you need help and support, you can reach back to people.

That entire people and development aspect is something I’m happy to have invested in and keep learning from, as well.

What process do you have that is efficient and effective to find good people for your business or team?

Try not to recruit a clone of myself. I think we all tend to like people who are like us, but that’s something we should fight against.

You can learn core expertise and skills; I’m never that worried about that piece. I’m more worried about the person and the soft skills: how you interact, build relationships, and learn, and if you are happy to fail, as I think failure is learning, as well.

I don’t like people who say, “I have never made a mistake and I am quite proud of that.” I say, “Well, if you haven’t made any mistakes, maybe you didn’t take any risks.”

Generally, I try to split interviews, where there will be a conversation dedicated to content expertise and what you are going to bring from your past experience, then another that is actually a chat about who you are, and how you will fit within the team.

Usually, you spend much more time on senior hires than junior ones, but - with senior hires - it’s definitely a good investment to spend time to build that profile, not just recruiting clones of yourself, but people who are going to be able to work together and bring something to each other.

If you get into Sourcing, Procurement, or Supply Chain, I think you should have that change management, transformative mind, and eagerness to learn. If you have that in you, you will be able to build the expertise and the experience. It is really more a mindset and a profile than core expertise.

We are not mathematicians; you don’t need core skills that are extremely difficult to acquire. You need common sense and the right attitude.

Thank you to Nicolas for speaking to Paul Toms, our Founder. 

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment