A day in the life of Natasha Stephenson

  • Collaboration is key to success for former graduate trainee
  • Procurement function responsible for tender process up to contract award
  • Team also responsible for managing subcontractors and other stakeholders

Can you describe a typical day in your role at the project?

I arrive between 8:00-8:15am, and on a daily basis I work on getting packages of work out to tender. This involves tracking down key pieces of information from the project team, such as data and drawings to form the scope of works, and also liaising with our subcontractors prior to issue. I also work with the team to ensure we control and mitigate risk at the earliest possible stage of a project. All of this work assists us at the negotiation stage once we have bids returned from our subcontractors, and we’re working towards selecting the tender that works best with our approach as a business. 

Every week the procurement team have a meeting and look to address any concerns, while all of our work packages are reviewed. I’m also managing the procurement process for three sections of the project. For that I attend weekly meetings with the relevant section team and also conduct weekly procurement meetings to ensure we are on track with our programme, updating the teams on progress and identifying any key issues. I’m really just getting into the cut and thrust of this new role as previously I worked for Laing O’Rourke as an Assistant Procurement Manager on projects such as Elephant Road and South Quay Plaza - either side of these projects I have worked on a number of tenders such as Brighton 3Ts hospital. 

What are your key responsibilities?

We are responsible for the full-tender process of the project up to contract award – tender package formation, tender issue, tender analysis, post tender negotiations and subcontract formation. Outside of the day-to-day role, procurement also manage relationships with our subcontractors which lasts through tender to the completion of works. 

We tend to work roughly on a 3-4 week tender period per package, and as a procurement manager, the aim is to choose the most desirable subcontractor to tender. The price is the main deliverable, but there is also quality, technical ability and Health & Safety practices to be considered. Once the subcontractor is chosen, then we work with the various teams on getting the contract approved and signed.

How long have you worked at Laing O’Rourke?

I have been working full-time at Laing O’Rourke for four and a half years, after enrolling on the Graduate Development Programme in 2012. 
Prior to that, I was a scholar with the company while studying at University, formally joining when I was 18. While I was out on university work placements (broken into two 6 month periods over the course of 2009 and 2011), I worked on Cannon Place and Canary Wharf Crossrail, as a Temporary Works Assistant and Trainee Site Engineer respectively. 

How does your job relate to the success of the project?

A key part of my job is to obtain the best possible price I can. In addition the team play a role in carrying out the due diligence of the subcontractors working for us. Procurement are also responsible for managing the process to ensure that the works required are tendered effectively.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your role?

I really enjoy collaborating closely with all of the different stakeholders involved on this project, whether that be suppliers, project directors or my closest peers. It’s important to me that I understand what their requirements are. Every project presents a different challenge and different approaches are sometimes needed in procurement to solve those. I consider myself lucky to have a job with such variety, as it keeps the job enjoyable.

What other parts of the business do you have regular contact with?

I have regular contact with the relevant Package Managers and and I also need to communicate with our Project Manager so that he/she is aware of progress and any potential challenges with any of our work packages. A good relationship with our Quantity Surveyors and Commercial Managers throughout the tender process is also helpful as they will be managing the subcontract. 

If you had one piece of advice for people considering a career in procurement, what would it be?

Learn as much as you can from those outside your department as this will give you transferable knowledge to assist you drafting packages, but also to help you establish the role these packages play in the entire project. Working in procurement is so varied that it’s important to demonstrate a strong, well-rounded awareness of delivering projects, so taking on lessons learnt from previous work is vital. 

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