Inspirational Woman: Melaye Ras-Work | Vice President & Co-Founder, Efficio Consulting

Melaye Ras-WorkMelaye co-founded Efficio in 2000 after beginning her career at A.T. Kearney in London.

Melaye has an MBA from INSEAD, a Double Bachelor in Materials Engineering and Economics from Brown University, USA and an Economics Diploma from the University of Geneva. At Efficio, she oversees projects spanning several geographies to deliver breakthrough transformations of clients’ procurement and supply chain operations. Melaye also oversees Efficio’s HR and People Development functions, ensuring the firm continues to attract the industry’s brightest talent.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am an Ethiopian who grew up in Switzerland / France and pursued my engineering studies at Brown University in the United States after which I obtained an MBA from INSEAD. Internationalism is a key tenet of my upbringing and is something I have sought in the work that I have pursued throughout my career. Working across functions and countries to drive meaningful outcomes has been a key focus of my career.

I am a co-founder of Efficio which is the largest global consultancy focused exclusively on procurement. I lead our work in Francophone countries as well as our Healthcare practise.

Within my role at Efficio, I have developed strengths in procurement transformation, managed services, strategic sourcing and organisation design and the purchase-to-pay cycle. I currently oversee projects across several different regions to help my clients transform their procurement and supply chain operations. Another area of the business that I’m proud to be a part of is overseeing Efficio’s HR and people development functions. It’s really exciting to see the industry’s brightest talent grow and develop, and work to get them involved with Efficio.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I don’t think there are many of us who can say, with complete confidence, that their careers have all gone accordingly to a regimented plan. That certainly was not my case. We all have certain motivations that drive our decision making and chance happenings and meetings which will lead us down different paths. I learned early on that I enjoyed working in a consulting environment as I thrive working with concepts and people to deliver tangible outcomes. I also am extremely interested in people development and mentoring and witnessing the increasingly rapid pace with which talented individuals succeed in their careers.”

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Founding Efficio with my fellow co-founders was an extremely challenging journey in the early years. It was our first attempt at entrepreneurship and we were doing all of this during the 2000 dot com crash during which there was very little appetite to fund a professional services start up. We learned through trial and error how to modulate our cash flow, costs, sales and recruitment to ensure survival as we grew organically client by client, employee by employee.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Working with my colleagues to build a talent pool of 500 experts who serve clients across 4 continents. I am also particularly proud of the culture we have created which is unique to Efficio.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed building and nurturing long-term, multi-year relationships clients globally. Working with organisations to drive procurement transformation programmes that involve building capability, optimising costs all the while building excellence has been a fascinating journey. A few stand out engagements have involved working with one global client over a 5 year period across a variety of topics ranging from supply chain opitmisation, post merger integration as well as procurement optimisation. The relationship spanned multiple countries and was modulated over time to increase or decrease Efficio’s support to best allow the client to achieve their objectives. I am very proud of this highly successful partnership.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

When starting out in any new role, it’s essential that you take the time to understand its workings inside and out. When I work with a new client, in order to be effective and credible as a consultant, I must learn to speak the industry language – so translating why better supplier relationships meant cost savings and the need to then reinvest that money in the business. I needed to assist clients in talking about optimising supplier relationships and value for money whilst delighting customers, and they needed to position supply chain as an enabler for this.

Additionally, from a personal point of view, diversity has played a really important role in shaping who I am, my outlook both personally, educationally, and professionally. Having come from one nationality, growing up in another, studying in another, and then living in another, my experience has been far from monocultural. Diversity allows people to be more versatile and open minded. It provides a sense of humility and a belief that there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way – people think different things and are equally justified in their points of view.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I highly value the practice of mentoring and believe it’s fundamental to helping individuals in their development and career progression. At Efficio we have set up a very strong and structured mentoring network.

In addition, we have our own Women’s Network, which was established by women as a forum to discuss topics that are important to them – in a nurturing environment. The network continues to grow, and it currently has over 100 members worldwide.

Until recently the events were run as small group sessions of maximum 12 attendees, to encourage the sharing of ideas and opinion.  With the pandemic forcing us to move all meetings over to Zoom, the Women’s Network has been able to run global events rather than local events only. This has allowed people to build stronger bonds with their colleagues from other geographies and learn from each other’s shared experiences.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Whilst we are seeing gradual steps towards greater diversity, real change will come from a deeper education around the benefits a diverse team can bring to a business. For instance, research suggests that a diverse workforce is a more productive one, and therefore diversity should be seen as a strength. Diverse organisations can be better, stronger and more resilient.

Having an objective to work towards is a good first step to driving real change. Unfortunately, when it comes to diversity, relying on good will and good intention simply won’t cut it. Targets force you to act – they force people to be challenged and as a result they become more resourceful. After all, what gets measured, gets done.

Quotas, on the other hand, often get peoples hackles up. Organisations need to broaden their definition of successful profiles and redefine what talent looks like to truly redress the balance. It’s not about filling quotas, it’s about actively changing your practices to find those of equal talent.

The key, however, will be effectively communicating this message and making sure businesses understand the true value diversity can bring. Rather than supporting diversity because it seems like the right thing to do, businesses must see diversity as a fruitful investment.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Use your unique background, perspectives and skills to build your career. As a woman working in a significantly male skewed environment, I have a viewpoint and approach which can bring a fresh angle to an issue. As a gross generalisation, women and men have different attributes when it comes to working styles. In consulting these attributes are very complimentary as to be a strong consulting team, one needs to drive results all the while ensuring effective change management and engagement. Teams of diverse skills sets and personalities are instrumental in creating a successful business.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My main focus moving forwards will be to continue to drive and develop a successful and diverse business. Our industry is rich with talent and I’m dedicated to helping individuals hone their skills and get involved in the exciting opportunities around each and every corner. We pride ourselves on our Efficio Academy that has industry leading professional development curriculum essential for employee development and continuing success. It is my view that everyone should be given the opportunities to excel in what they do, and it’s because of this that I will continue to work to make these options readily available to those trying to find their way into our industry.

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