Howard is regional director at Michael Page Hong Kong and oversees a number of disciplines including sales, marketing, digital, procurement & supply chain, retail & sourcing, finance, and HR.
How do I go from purchasing to operations manager?
I’ve been working as a purchasing manager for a men’s casual wear brand for four years now, and am looking to take the next step up the ladder. I would like to get into operations management (not necessarily in fashion) and eventually work up to being an operations director, as I think my current job has helped me develop some of the skills required for this role. How might I go about making this progression? What key skills would I need to add to my portfolio and what are the chances of a company in another sector taking a chance on me?
It is great that you are constantly thinking about taking your career further, especially since you have gained four years of solid experience in your role as a purchasing manager.
To take your skills to the next level, you need to aim for a particular role within the realm of operations management.
Are you interested in the day-to-day operations of a business in the role of a purchasing manager, or would you rather function as an operations manager that oversees a business, which is similar to a general management role? If your answer is the former, and your industry of interest is outside fashion and retail, you should start by researching the entire supply chain and logistic flow managed in a purchasing role in various industries. You can then think about where you could best make a contribution.
This will be a good time to identify your strengths, as well as areas that you need to develop in order to manage the daily operations of a purchasing function within an organisation.
You will also need to assess your leadership capabilities to ascertain whether you have the soft skills required to run a larger team in product categories you may not be familiar with.
If you are looking to take on a general operations role, you will need to build a much broader skill set to manage multiple divisions within an organisation.
Typically, a general manager will need to oversee the following business units: finance, accounting, human resources, sales, marketing, procurement and supply chain, merchandising and sourcing, and possibly legal or IT. This level of expertise will require you to gain exposure and make effective contributions in the aforementioned areas.
As such, if you decide to pursue a general management role, I recommend that you work in a start-up or a smaller-scale operation where your job responsibilities will be broader.
Most general managers in such business environments have an entrepreneurial spirit and pay great attention to detail, which will be beneficial for your career development.
Whichever path you choose, be sure to find out about any existing internal opportunities for promotion and also tap into your network to get a sense of the salaries and benefits available in the field.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as How do I go from purchasing to operations manager?