The Procurement Interview with René Kling
Picure of René Kling

René Kling (CIPSA) has more than 40 years of experience gained in procurement, logistics and supply chain operations. He lectures at Central Queensland University, has published papers in professional journals, and presents at conferences throughout Australia and overseas. René facilitates CASME events in the Asia Pacific region. Here he reveals his unexpected journey from aspiring photographer to seasoned procurement expert with five Masters’ Degrees, and his satisfaction of sharing his wisdom with thousands of aspiring procurement professionals.  


How did you get into Procurement?

A funny thing really – at the age of 19 I decided to join the Royal Australian Air Force. I wanted to be a photographer, as I’ve always had an artistic bent. However, they said there were no vacancies for that; although I could be a Supply Clerk, then change later on. I ended up procuring all sorts of things over my nine-year stint, from catering supplies to aircraft parts, among a number of roles. I subsequently worked in the oil industry, the car industry and a range of other private and public organisations, as well as running my own business – training and consulting in procurement and supply chain related areas. I’m now also a Senior Lecturer at a university, where I can teach others about my procurement journey!


What has been the biggest challenge of your career?

One of the biggest challenges has been dealing with marketing and sales people. It’s never easy deciding how much to order, in general or for a campaign, without ending up with a lot of surplus stock at the end of it. Unfortunately, sales and marketing people are more highly regarded in organisations, so their sales projections hold more sway. Procurement and supply chain people are then left to try and clean up the mess!


What has been the most significant success of your career, and why?

My biggest success has been to impart some of the knowledge I’ve gained over 40 years to others working in Procurement. This has included training literally thousands of people throughout Australia and even overseas, and this now includes lecturing at university to those undertaking more formal qualifications. My other significant success has been to further my studies - from someone who didn’t finish high school to now holding five Masters’ degrees and working on my PhD. I hope this also encourages people who don’t believe they can study to further their careers.


What advice would you give to someone starting a career in Procurement – especially a younger person?

It sounds a bit corny but listen to those who have been involved a long time; pick their brains, ask for input and advice. Learn to improve your interpersonal skills, as you will need to use them with stakeholders within the organisation and suppliers external to the organisation. Be someone who people can trust to keep their word and find solutions to whatever problems come up. If you can, visit as many suppliers as possible to understand the issues that they face and look at things from their perspective.


How do you think we could get more young people interested in Procurement?

Procurement professionals and organisations need to sell the function almost like Defence sells military service. Concentrate on some of the interesting aspects of life in Procurement, such as dealing with a wide range of people internal and external to the organisation, working with complex contracts, contributing to your organisation’s financial and commercial success, opportunities for travel, opportunities to advance and so on. Procurement can be a varied and fulfilling career for someone, regardless of what they studied.  


Finally, putting Procurement aside, what inspires and motivates you?

What inspires me is seeing people who want to learn, and never stop learning or improving. It doesn’t matter how long you do something, there is always more to learn. What motivates me is when you know you’ve achieved something for your organisation that you’ve personally had a hand in creating and developing, and seeing the fruits of that labour – it keeps you going!


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