James has worked in the automotive industry for the past 11 years and is currently based in Paris working as a Regional Procurement Manager at Nissan-Renault Alliance.
What does your job involve and how did you progress to your current role?
I left Bolton School in 2002 to study Business at Northumbria University in Newcastle; a four year course with the third year in Industry which I spent in procurement at Nissan. I joined their graduate program after graduation and two years later was expatriated to Moscow. There I spent three years establishing a new joint purchasing office with partners Renault & Avtovaz before returning to the UK to focus on a capacity expansion activity in the Sunderland plant. For the last two years I have been based in Renault Headquarter in Paris, moving with my wife Eugenia and two children Amelia and George.
Today I am responsible for all equipment purchasing for production plants and R&D sites in the Renault Nissan alliance. I have a team of around 200 people and we cover around €7 billion annual spend across almost 100 different sites and 29 countries around the world.
Who/what influenced your career choice?
I had always been passionate about cars but had never really thought of a career in automotive let alone purchasing. That all changed after my year in industry. It enabled me to see the product from concept to mass production which is something I still find interesting and hugely motivating today.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
I would say the essential skills would be ability to analyse quickly, listen, communicate clearly and adapt or react. As an industry we are not very well insulated from major events. As such we tend to move from one crisis to another be it the financial crisis, Tsunami, Japanese Earthquake and dare I say it BREXIT. This not only impacts our business but often the entire supply chain and as such we move to managing very short terms issues to keep production lines moving whilst in parallel adapting and setting longer term strategic direction. Finally I spend around two or three weeks of the month travelling often different continents each week. The most essential skill for this job is therefore the ability to sleep anywhere!
What do you like most about your job?
Well firstly I don’t just like my job – I love it. I would never have imagined staying almost 11 years in the same company. Of course negotiations with suppliers are often tense, fun and get the adrenaline flowing but the global scope, cultural diversity, and the need to understand different points of view to adapt direction and culminate in a decision that adds value, is hugely rewarding.
What is your biggest challenge in your current role?
It’s well documented that the automotive industry is entering a period of extreme change. There are predictions that in the next five years the industry will change more than has in the last 100 years. The advancement of technology is driving a new industrial revolution and this will not only impact the way consumers will buy but how we will manufacture. So the biggest challenge for me is making sure that all the decisions and strategic planning we are making today for our future models, is compatible and relevant for when they go into production in three to five years' time.
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?
Being a Brit in an French Japanese Alliance is not easy, especially one where age vs seniority play an important cultural role. However I would say my biggest achievement is actually more a team achievement and covers my three years in Russia. Building a team from one buyer to almost 20 in the space of 16 months and then delivering the huge results, in some of the most difficult circumstances I think I will ever see, is something I am really proud. Even more so now as the team I left has gone on to become a benchmark within the alliance.
How did Bolton School help you to be successful in your chosen career?
I really believe that Bolton School allows us to develop into well rounded, thoughtful and confident individuals who are not afraid to ask questions or challenge status quo. I was never particularly academic but the advice and guidance I got from Mr McNeil my year head in 2001/2 about playing to my strengths and to which universities I should apply, within the context of what I was studying and wanted to do, was some of the most important and accurate advice I have been given. It led me to Northumbria University which led me to Nissan and ultimately where I am today.
What career advice would you give to our current pupils?
- Very cliché but do something you are interested in and love.
- Work hard and build a network of people who will support you.
- When you make a mistake hold your hands up; but not before you have worked out how to fix it.
- Ignore the ‘we have always done it this way’ mentality by challenging and asking why.