Women's Agenda interviews Visna Lampasi, CPO of Leighton Contractors

Published: 09/08/2014

Travel, hard hats and managing hundreds of projects at once: Life as a CPO

/ JUL 30, 2014

Travel, hard hats and managing hundreds of projects at once:...

As Leighton Contractors’ Chief Procurement officer, Visna Lampasi is responsible for the supply chains of 200 projects around the world. Recently named The Faculty’s CPO of the year, she also oversees a supplier diversity network, seeing women and Indigenous-owned businesses access more opportunities for work. She’s a Real Role Model and answers our questions about life and work.

What is your job now?
I’m Leighton Contractors’ Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) responsible for our company’s procurement and supply chain strategy. My continual focus is to deliver value across our company’s procurement spend and supply chain network by creating efficiencies, executing our cost reduction program, and creating sustainable and ethical supply chains through our Supplier Diversity Program.

I was recently awarded the title of the 2014 CPO of the Year by procurement advisors The Faculty, which is a great honour in recognition of the commercial and social outcomes my team has achieved. I was also recently elected by my peers as a member of the Global Board of Trustees for the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) for a three-year term commencing in November 2014, with a seat on the CIPS International Congress representing Australia and New Zealand until then.

Describe an average day for you.
It’s varied. And, in fact, you’ll often find me in my PPE and hard hat! My team is responsible for overseeing effective and efficient procurement and supply chains across our 200 diverse projects geographically spread across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and in Botswana, Africa. It involves travel – often to project sites to build a better understanding of the needs of our projects, and ultimately our clients.

My job also requires a lot of stakeholder interface with project directors and general managers running the business. I have regular ‘check-ins’ with the leadership team to establish and clarify current and future risks and opportunities for the work we have underway that may have an impact on procurement and supply chain – to work effectively, we need to be across what’s going on in each region we operate in, what our clients needs are and how we can best respond. I’m also coaching and mentoring the team which is a role I relish. I am an official mentor to some and offer advice to others to support their personal and professional development, both internally and externally.

How did you get there? (Did you wing it or plan it?)
I am definitely a planner, which is a core underlying strength, but I actually fell into procurement and supply chain by simply being open to opportunities. I’ve always been an all round business person with an appetite for doing more, and characterised by never saying no! Even if I didn’t have technical competencies or experience, I went out and sought the knowledge I needed to fulfil and exceed the expectations of the role. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by male champions of change who believed in me, created opportunities and helped remove any barriers to enable gender diversity. Procurement & Supply Chain is an area that’s enabled me to apply my business nous, to drive enterprise-wide commercial and social outcomes. Most importantly, as I’ve progressed through my career, I think I’ve largely got to where I am by having the right can-do attitude, a thirst for knowledge and a personal desire to make a difference.

How do you manage the logistics of your career and your life outside of work?
You just can’t do this kind of job sitting behind a desk. You have to get out there to understand the business’ and clients’ needs, and the associated travel does mean I need to be flexible and work longer hours. I have a very supportive partner and family network which facilitates me being able to do this job. I still don’t have anywhere near a perfect balance though, so I’m sure like many others out there, I need to work more on that.

What is the easiest and/or hardest part of your working week?
The easiest part is definitely getting up in the morning. I love what I do. I’m self motivated and have the persistence to make a difference. The hardest part is on the occasion that you need to restructure or resize an organisation to realign with its strategic direction.

How do you think your younger self would view your current career?
My younger self would probably be impressed that I’d said yes to so many opportunities, but on the other hand, would likely say I need to try and strike more of a work-life balance.

If someone else out there wants to develop a career like yours what advice would you give them?
Be true to yourself; use integrity; and be professional. Embrace change, and when faced with challenges – have perseverance and resilience to carry on and resolve it. Always maintain a positive attitude and a thirst for knowledge. And finally, leverage the expertise of peers around you to get the desired outcomes.

Have you got any anecdotes about your career or daily life you’d like to share?

I’m the supplier diversity champion driving the engagement of Indigenous suppliers across Leighton Contractors, which aligns not only with our company’s Indigenous engagement and participation commitment, but my personal vision that each and everyone one of us can make a difference and help an organisation, community or country, move from diversity to inclusion, respect and connection.

In the first 3 months of this year, Leighton Contractors’ expenditure with certified Indigenous suppliers was double the entire annual spend with certified Indigenous suppliers in 2013. Often people say to me, “my company doesn’t have a position on this, so I won’t be able to get the use of these sorts of suppliers approved”. In these situations, I always try to encourage them to take the initiative to influence a positive outcome, as each person can make a difference. I think it’s important to give the opportunity to Indigenous suppliers, as well as other underrepresented areas of the supply chain, the opportunity to be part of the procurement processes. They deserve a chance to participate. I’m committed to leading this change across our industry, and ensure that our employees, clients, suppliers and subcontractors have an opportunity to fully participate in our procurement and supply chain in a way that is sustainable and beneficial for all.

Leighton Contractors’ Supplier Diversity Program, which I oversee, creates opportunities to engage underrepresented areas of the supply chain including Indigenous businesses, Women Owned businesses, businesses owned by migrants from non-English speaking background countries, and businesses owned by the retired workforce.

Link to story online