Calligraphy for London ceremonies

Case Study

11 September 2017

Category manager for City of London Corporation

Jade is a category buyer in the facilities services team. She buys calligraphy services for Freedom of the City scrolls. She also has responsibility to check the tenders are compliant with the latest regulations – the Official Journal of the EU, or OJEU, and develops procurement strategies within the team.

How did you get into this job

I was 17, and had done hairdressing, but wanted to get into an administrative role. I started as an apprentice at Essex County Council, as an administration assistant, then became a support officer in the commercial department, working for contract managers. I progressed to become an analyst where I learned about category management, and delivered my own tenders, and after 18 months I became a category manager. Then I moved to City of London.


What skills do you need?

My list includes, in no particular order: commercial awareness; organisational skills; time management and planning; communication skills and IT skills; and procurement knowledge, such as understanding the procurement cycle, rules and regulations.


What’s an average day like?

I always start my day by reviewing my calendar and plan for the day – I diarise my activity to focus my time each day. Most days there are project meetings with key stakeholders and if I am not attending or chairing project meetings I am working at my desk on the various tenders I am managing. I love that the job is varied and I am continuously learning every day.

Tell us about procurement at the City of London

The City of London Corporation provides local government services for the ‘Square Mile’ – the financial and commercial heart of Britain. Our procurement department buys all sorts of goods, services and works. The category management team alone is split into three areas: facilities, construction and corporate, with a range of sub categories such as repairs and maintenance, IT, social care and building/property construction and refurbishment.


What is the most unusual thing you have bought?

Pest control services – we are working to pull together all our various contracts for our buildings, covering all sorts of pests, to avoid any breakout of rats or birds – the worst offenders in London.


What is the most difficult thing you have bought?

I worked on an HIV/Aids community support service. We were looking at support groups, interventions to help sufferers support themselves, and as part of the tender we had to get service users in to evaluate the bid. It was sensitive, and difficult. But you feel good about your job afterwards – you actually feel you are really helping people in need.


What is the worst thing you have bought?

Renegotiating a contract for meals on wheels services, when we were working with a reduced budget. It was highly political, with very detailed supplier negotiations.

It’s really interesting working on the various buildings
and premises that we own and maintain,
like the Barbican Centre, Tower Bridge and Mansion House

What is the most interesting thing you have bought, and why?

What I do now – calligraphy. It’s an ancient custom from the 13th century. We buy services to write up to 1,800 Freedom of the City scrolled certificates on parchment a year, which are given to people who are authorised to trade within the Square Mile. You need a really high standard of calligraphy – it’s more symbolic these days, but it is great PR for the City.


What’s your advice to someone considering procurement?

Understand the basics of procurement and the principles of category management, and take every learning and development opportunity – don’t be scared to be chucked in the deep end but always ask questions. Utilise and share your team’s knowledge and experience – I always find communicating and meeting with others the best way to learn. Be organised and project plan, and start to undertake the MCIPS qualification early on in your career.


What are the salary and career prospects in this job?

You could be looking at anything from £25k – £40k. Career development opportunities are good, and varied, with category management and contract management options.


Where next?

I am studying the CIPS corporate award through the Local Government Association scheme, where you do assignments rather than exams. I‘ve completed level 4, and hope to do five and six next year – and then I’ll become MCIPS. I’ve found it really helpful. I’d like to progress to a senior category management role – hopefully within the next five years.

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