Best Practices from SIG University Part I: Why SIG U?

“Education,” wrote John Dewey, “is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” That’s a philosophy that SIG has from its inception held very close to its heart: the idea that throughout our lives and our careers we should continue to learn and develop, not simply for the benefits that learning brings us – and our community – professionally but also because education is a good in itself. Hence the strong focus at SIG’s Summits, Symposiums and Roundtables, in our webinars and our Student Talent Outreach program – truly, in everything we do – on growing our members’ knowledge and understanding of the practice of sourcing and the environment within which we work.

The creation of SIG University was, therefore, a logical – perhaps even inevitable – step (and one which for quite some time our members had been urging us to take): a learning institution which formalises and places into a set of structured and progressive frameworks the knowledge which our students require to help them excel within their chosen profession, and which aims to elevate that profession to the point where its members can deliver genuine strategic value to their organisations. Drawing on the combined experience of many of the most respected thought leaders in the global sourcing space, the curricula offered by SIG University’s Colleges of Sourcing and Governance provide perspectives on their respective fields of a breadth and depth to which no other qualification in this arena comes close – and are delivered via a virtual classroom environment which ensures that our students don’t simply learn from the SIG U curricula, but also from each other, sharing their own perspectives and collaborating to create a genuinely global experience. From this combination of formal learning and intra-class discussion, SIG University’s students emerge certified and equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to take their careers to the next level – and to help do the same for the entire sourcing profession.

It is, of course, easy for us as an organisation to make such claims. However, just as SIG University has been built from the standpoint that our students have much vital information to teach and learn from each other, so we’d like our own messaging around SIG U to be combined with the perspectives of the students themselves – for only those who’ve walked the walk can truly talk the talk. With this in mind, at the end of the very first semester of the Certified Sourcing Professional course earlier this year, we reached out to some of the first batch of graduating students to get their take on the program – to share their experiences with the wider world and to offer first-hand accounts, rather than mere advertising, to those considering signing up for future courses, or simply wishing to find out more about what really goes on behind the virtual doors of SIG University…

Why SIG U?

The first thing we wanted to find out was, why were our students our students in the first place? What were the drivers behind the decision to “go back to school” at this point in their careers, and why had SIG University – at that point, an entirely new and untested venture – ended up being their learning institution of choice?

For Allison Brown, a ten-year procurement and vendor management professional working for Florida Blue, the Blue Cross Blue Shield entity for the state of Florida, the decision had its grounding in the strategic needs of her organisation: “The procurement industry as a whole is an evolving industry and therefore it is difficult to find talent that contains the past experiences with the innovative thinking of where procurement should be headed. In the search for that talent we often find ourselves in situations where we are able to locate people willing to learn but do not have all the skill sets we need for the role. Therefore, we have been in search of a training program that would provide foundational procurement knowledge to provide to either current staff or future staff. When SIG University came out, we decided to have a leader in the department take the course to identify if this is something we could indeed use for that purpose.”

Meanwhile, for Esteban Valenzuela, working as a project manager with Honda North American Indirect Procurement in the Strategic Inventory Management team, “the decision to attend SIG U was easy. I have always been and continue to be a lifelong student. I am always looking for opportunities to expand my knowledge base.” Again, Esteban’s enrollment resulted from future requirements from his organisation – this time, however, more immediately focused on training: “The opportunity to attend SIG U came to me as an offering from my department management team. This was to be a pilot program, to evaluate future associates attending the course.”

It was the breadth of the curriculum which first attracted Tammy Way – Sourcing Consultant for Generation at PNM Resources – and her colleagues to SIG U, and which in her mind differentiated it from other certifying institutions in the procurement space: “I received an email advertisement regarding SIG University’s certification program and was immediately excited to find a program that focused on something other than public buying and logistics! As it turned out, my co-workers received the same email and were pursuing their own applications. Three of us completed the program together.”