13th June 2023

(3-minute read)

Gavin Phillips, Category Manager

Here, SUPC Category Manager and host of the SUPC Library Group Gavin Phillips shares his career journey as a librarian and the shift to procurement. In a podcast for UKSG, he explores how there is no single approach to managing a career and highlights how career paths are often ‘squiggly’ and can include detours and pitstops.

I was approached by Kevin O’Donovan from LSE, who is also part of the Outreach and Engagement Subcommittee of UKSG – a key international association connecting information communities and encouraging the exchange of ideas on scholarly communication. The Subcommittee were introducing a series of Podcasts called Knowing me, Knowing UKSG: Scholarly Comms Journeys looking at the career paths, motivations, and personal stories of prominent individuals from the knowledge community. The purpose is to help demystify career journeys for early career librarians, exploring how there is no single approach to managing a career and that – as UKSG put it – career paths are often ‘squiggly’ and can include detours and pitstops. I was asked to take part as someone who has become quite well-known in knowledge circles and has made a career shift from academic libraries to procurement in a way that brings the two together.

Thinking back on the experience, the first thing that springs to mind is that I didn’t want to do it. I’m quite happy talking to members about frameworks and library purchasing but felt uncomfortable talking about myself. It helped that I’ve known Kevin for a good few years but in the end, I decided that not wanting to do it was actually the best reason to do it anyway. This took me back to my own salad days when doing the things that scared me (public speaking, anyone!) really paid off. It’s interesting that years later there are still times when I need to steel myself.

I think the difference is just experience. I know how confidence-building it can be to approach a scary challenge and succeed but I also have my share of failures under my belt and understand that they aren’t the end of the world, providing valuable learning opportunities more often than not.

Something else that I was able to reflect on was that communities should not just be encouraging early career professionals to take leaps of faith, we should also be looking to create opportunities where they feel more comfortable doing so and try to develop the opportunity around their goals. This is something I have brought from my previous life at Imperial College London Library and tried to instil into my work at SUPC. We’ve been able to work with both established and developing professionals from both libraries and procurement in the management of framework agreements and the administration of the SUPC Library Group and found that talent abounds regardless of experience. For me, it isn’t just an investment in the future because it pays off today and just as importantly, I really enjoy it.

Finally, I think the glue that has stuck together my ‘squiggly’ career path has been connecting with peers, sharing best practice and finding opportunities to work together.

Participating in communities of practice, perhaps joining the committees offered by knowledge organisations such as UKSG and NAG or getting involved in the frameworks or commodity groups offered by SUPC and other consortia really grows experience and perspective as well as making valued colleagues and friends along the way.

If you are a procurement professional or librarian from the SUPC membership you may be interested in joining our own community, the SUPC Library Group where we work via formal meetings and informal coffee mornings to share experience, solutions, and challenges. Of course, we welcome both experienced and early career professionals!

About SUPC

At Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC), we help universities and colleges buy smarter. Members use our frameworks and support services to make sure their procurement activities deliver value for money to students, staff and wider communities.  Visit our member resources page to learn more about using frameworks with us, including our Pocket Procurement videos series.

We are part of the SUMS group, which also includes SUMS Consulting and the Procurement Shared Service.  The SUMS group provides procurement and consultancy solutions to the higher education sector.

Explore more benefits of SUPC membership, here.