Alumni Success Story: Ifeanyi Obijiaku, ZLOG Alumni 2017 and Head of Procurement West Africa at Reckitt Benckiser Nigeria
You are currently Head of Procurement West Africa in Reckitt Benckiser (RB), a British multinational consumer goods company with well-known brands such as Strepsils, Veet, Air Wick, Calgon, Durex and Scholl among others. What have been the most significant achievements in your procurement career?
While it is common for procurement professionals to base their achievements on hard facts, I would say my most significant achievement is building capability in people to deliver business objectives. I currently manage a team of procurement professionals whom today have deeper insights in the analytics of relating to their roles and how their actions impact business results as evidenced on the P&L and Balance Sheet. To achieve this, I have employed a variety of methods are used which includes setting clear business objectives, regular team meetings and most important, rolling up my sleeves and walking my talk. It is all in a bit to build capability, confidence, trust and mutual respect and ultimately deliver business results through people. Overall, we have all learnt, grown and achieved together on the job especially in a challenging business environment.
You have beaten a steady career path in the procurement field since joining RB in 2010. What do you like the most and the least about procurement?
This is very interesting as it is hard to pin point what I like the most or least in procurement, however, I relish the opportunity my current role offers as it enables me to interact with diverse stakeholders with different racial and cultural background– ranging from global procurement teams, commercial team, other supply chain functions to legal and external regulatory bodies. At work, there are very interesting days and also very challenging days, I keep my energy levels up by enjoying both.
After 6 years working in RB and previously 4 years in PZ Cussons, you decided to have a break enrolling as a ZLOG student. From Nigeria to Spain, from Industry to Academia. How was the experience of being back to school?
My time at ZLOG was quite a humbling experience in spite of the fact I did not resume same time with my classmates. However, they provided me with a lot of support to catch up in class. Overall, I would say the classroom work brought to fore other aspects of supply chain I did not know and how a logic can be applied to it. The case studies provided valuable insights in seeing supply chain as an an integral part of the overall business strategy and not just another function. More so, the curriculum which is a blend of academic work with industry speakers helped portrayed how academics is being matched to industry and practice (I still remember Pedro from Sonae’s presentation on measuring supply chains which was very revealing). Lastly, my experience was enriched with my classmates and today I have friends from almost every continent on the globe outside of mine.
Did you have a clear path back then of where you wanted to go, or did you simply grasp the opportunities as they came your way?
Yes I did – first my immediate ambition was to get into a senior management role and this came fortuitously, the same month I graduated because RB Nigeria hired me back to head the procurement team in Nigeria. I would also mention a previous good track record proved invaluable. Medium term would be to test my leadership skills in heading a team in a different supply chain role so as to widen my experience. Ultimately, I would like to make it to be on the board of the company.
Fortunately, you were granted a scholarship for African Supply Chain professionals to study the master degree. How important was this scholarship your received from ZLC when enrolling in the program?
Oh, what can I say here other than a show of gratitude and appreciation… and yes the scholarship was very helpful. It couldn’t have come any time better as I went to school at a time my country went into a recession after more than 3 decades. It was therefore a great enabler and thankfully it helped me concentrate well on my studies and also cater for my wife and two kids back in Nigeria while I did the program in both Spain & the US.
What is your main message to those African candidates who are thinking about embarking on the ZLOG adventure?
First, I will recommend the ZLOG program to anyone who wants to get a world class education in supply chain regardless of ethnicity or race. And should the person be coming from Africa, I will say same thing I will any other person. Ten months fly by so fast and the program demands everything from you within this period. Hence, try to make the best out of it by keeping an open mind to learning new things, making new friends, networking during the SCALE Connect at MIT and sparing some time to enjoy the beautiful scenery Spain offers.