How I Work: Amy Tejirian Procurement Officer at BCNET

We’re sitting down with procurement professionals in different organizations to hear about how they approach their work, how Bonfire fits into their day-to-day, and the resources and tools that keep them on track.

This month’s guest is Amy Tejirian, Procurement Officer at BCNET. Amy collaborates with BCNET’s 25 member colleges, universities, and research institutes across British Columbia on a diverse range of sourcing projects. Needless to say, she gets things done! Here’s more on how she does it.

Tell me a bit about your role, and how you got there?

I’m the procurement officer here, so I’m involved with anything to do with procurement. We’re a collaborative sourcing organization, and my role involves working together with the 25 different colleges and institutions in BC on procurement. Each of them is very unique—we work with different types of institutions, in different locations.

Once an opportunity has been identified, I start off by engaging with the working group on what they’re looking for, and what kind of procurement it will be. I work closely with them to facilitate the evaluation, and then once there is a successful proponent, I will engage in negotiations and draft the contracts.

I’ve been here for a little over a year. Prior to that, I drafted and negotiated contracts for Vancouver Coastal Health. Before that, I was a contracts lawyer in Florida’s Department of Health for ten years.

What do you like about procurement?

I like working in groups and hearing what each different person brings to the table. Everyone on an evaluation committee has different expertise and experience.

I also enjoy that when you’re doing procurements, you become a mini-expert on all of these specific topics. We’re procuring a broad range of goods and services, and it’s never the same thing twice. All of a sudden, now I know so much about things I would never have known about otherwise, like elevator maintenance and computer networking and custodial supplies. I like that aspect of it.

Take me through a typical day.

There’s no typical day—it changes day-to-day depending on what projects are on the go and which stage I am at in the procurement.

Usually there are many projects going on at once. For one project I might be at the drafting stage, for another it could be pre-evaluation workshop, and for others I’ll be in contract negotiations.

With so many projects on the go in different stages, how do you keep track of it all?

I write everything down in meetings, or my co-op student helps me with that. I’m taking notes a lot, so I review those every day and refresh where I’m at in my to-do list, what’s next, and what has the soonest deadline and needs to take priority.

How does Bonfire fit into your day?

I use it on a daily basis—I’m a power user.

In the posting phase, I can see who’s pulling up the documents and see the vendor Question and Answer. In the evaluation phase, I can check to see the progress of the evaluation groups, the discrepancies in scores. Today we’re having an evaluation meeting, and we’ll use it to go over their comments.

I also use the reports when I’m compiling recommendation reports.

How is the process different now as opposed to before you used Bonfire?

Prior to using Bonfire, it was all done by paper submission. People would have to arrive to submit by 4 o’clock, and you’d see people running to get there on time. And then all the paper! One project could have boxes and boxes of binders if you’re asking for multiple copies of proposals.

I like that everything is received electronically and scored electronically in the same place: the NDA, the conflict of interest, and all the documents. It’s great for record-keeping. I don’t have to have a hundred Excel worksheets. Everything is all there.

How does Bonfire help facilitate collaboration?

We have working group members from across the province. It’s easy to share proposals with the working group, because they can access them through Bonfire. Previously it would require either taking the documents to evaluators physically or having a courier take them. Then you had the added worry about them disposing of the documents or returning them.

During the evaluation meeting, it’s all on Bonfire. We pull it up, go over the comments, and discuss any discrepancies. If the evaluators need to adjust their scores, they also have their Bonfire account open, and they have the opportunity to do that in real-time so the score updates immediately.

As a Bonfire power user, working on the platform every day, how have you found the support from Bonfire team?

The Bonfire support is very responsive.

Another thing we noticed after attending the BC User Meetup is that Bonfire is open to user experience and how to improve it. It’s nice to know that a platform is listening to the people that use it every day.

What resources/websites/publications do you follow for industry info?

There are two organizations I follow: The Procurement Office, with Paul Emanuelli, and NECI with Maureen Sullivan.

They’re on top of procurement changes, and they offer good procurement webinars and seminars.

In your experience, what are the key skills for procurement professionals?

To listen to what the working group and what the organization really needs and wants.

They’re relying on you to facilitate the process so that they get the goods and services that they need: to facilitate their discussion, help them move forward if they’re at a standstill, and be a guide through the process.

What is some advice you have to offer for a career in procurement?

Don’t take anything personally. During negotiations or difficult parts of the processes, remember it’s not about you. Focus on the process.

In the legal field, a lot of things are very adversarial, but procurement is not like that. You’re working towards a mutually beneficial agreement. In the end, you want to be on the same page.

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