Safety gear for National Grid

Case Study

2 October 2017

Graduate buyer for National Grid

Amy moved into procurement after graduating in law from Newcastle University. As well as giving her a chance to flex her legal knowledge, this role fits well with her interest in the energy sector.

What do you do in your job?

Everyone in the business uses the procurement department to buy goods and services. We are responsible for engaging with suppliers and making sure they have a fair opportunity to bid for the jobs we need to be completed.


How did you come to this job?

I studied a four-year law degree at Newcastle University, with company and contract law modules, as well as international energy law. I was interested in a commercial role in a business with great influence in society. In procurement you see the challenges of the business and are trusted to work with suppliers to deliver good value for money. It is people facing, and allows me to use some of my legal knowledge when we’re negotiating or drafting contracts. And with my interest in the energy sector, I figured National Grid was a great fit.


What skills do you need?

We need a variety of skills: the ability to work independently and with others; project management to do everything from market research to working with your contract managers who will ensure the supplier delivers; interpersonal skills and enthusiasm; and legal knowledge and awareness of business risks.


What’s an average day like?

A buyer’s day can be really varied. We usually have a team meeting to discuss priorities and any help we may need. Then, I could be helping to determine what we need to buy and when or be working with suppliers to negotiate prices and terms and conditions. We also work with the contract management team who assess supplier performance and make sure the work is completed as agreed.

Tell us a bit about your company and what you buy

You see the pylons going up and down the country? National Grid is responsible for their maintenance and making sure customers always have gas and electricity when we need it. It owns and operates the gas and electricity network. We buy everything from pylons, overhead lines, pipelines for the flow of gas, to helicopters, safety workwear and stationery. Circuit breakers, hard hats and professional advisors are just some of what I’ve bought so far.


What is the most unusual thing you have bought?

I was involved in negotiating a contract for gaskets – mechanical seals that prevent leakage. We use them in our refurbishment centre to maintain items and make sure they last longer. It is quite specialised and not many suppliers sell the particular gaskets we needed.


What is the most difficult thing you have bought?

The professional advisors to help National Grid become more efficient. The project was a fantastic insight into purchasing across UK and US businesses where different rules apply for approaching suppliers.


What is the worst thing you have bought?

A train and ferry journey from Denmark to Germany when I was travelling during the summer. It was supposed to take five hours but ended up taking 10 hours. There is a procurement lesson here – we have to balance hard/fast cost savings with value – I think I got the balance too far in favour of cost in this instance!

When I graduated, I was interested in a commercial role
in a business with great influence in society.

What is the most interesting thing you have bought?

Circuit breakers, which prevent an electricity circuit overheating by stopping the power flow. It was the first time I had worked with engineers in the business to buy a replacement asset. I also saw how National Grid decides which assets are going to be replaced and the investment process – which was fascinating.


What advice would you give someone who wants to do your job?

People skills are key to procurement. To be a successful buyer, you need to be able to work well with your stakeholders and external suppliers. It’s always good to have a sense of humour too.


What are the salary and career prospects in this job?

The starting salary is £27,500 for a graduate buyer at National Grid, which is quite high compared with other graduate employers. We get reimbursable expenses, pension and benefits. Career prospects are great in procurement – the company invests in you as a person.


Where next?

As part of the graduate programme, every graduate completes a six-month position outside of procurement. I am going to the parliamentary affairs team. When I come back to procurement, I start a permanent position and will start on the National Grid CIPS course.


Tell us something interesting about the energy industry

It is changing rapidly and so are consumer expectations. There is a growing focus on green energies and National Grid is right up there helping with the change by ensuring wind farms and solar farms can connect to the grid.

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Working with National Grid

Our global procurement team is responsible for £4.3bn worth of goods and services each year that drive our innovation and improve our supply chain performance. From connections for new offshore wind-farms to ink for thousands of office printers, we aim to deliver best value to the business

National Grid is at the heart of UK’s energy, connecting the nation, getting power to work, homes and schools. From environmental services to seabed surveys, scaffolding to electrical testing, telecoms to car fleets, it’s vital we keep on improving the goods and services National Grid buys.

Joining the National Grid Global Procurement team will give you access to a wealth of training resources, to learn from a team with expertise in sourcing, managing and delivering high-profile, high-value, highly complex contracts.

We are boosting our team with bright, enthusiastic recruits to replace our talented professionals as they move up in the ranks.

Join National Grid, and develop your skills – and your career.