By Hailey Eisen
When Jackie Wang was 19, her father encouraged her to leave China and move to the United States for college — something that was far less common in the early 1990s than it is today. In order to get a visa to study in the US, Jackie had to secure a full scholarship, which she managed to do at a small college in Boston.
As she was deciding if she had the courage to leave home, her father offered some sage advice: “If you choose to stay, what is in front of you is your world; but if you choose to leave, the world will be in front of you.”
With that in mind, Jackie packed up two suitcases and took a leap. She’s been taking risks and making big moves ever since.
After one semester at school in Boston, Jackie realized that she’d need to make a transfer in order to get the education and exposure required to secure a job in the US upon graduation. She got a partial scholarship to a more well-known school, the University of Houston, and then made a final transfer to complete her degree in Consumer Economics and Policy Management at Cornell University.
From there, Jackie went on to work for Procter & Gamble (P&G), the Coca-Cola Company, and Rio Tinto — living in Ohio, Germany, Switzerland, Atlanta, Utah, and Montreal. In 2018, she moved to Toronto for a job with Scotiabank. In her role as Senior Vice-President & Chief Procurement Officer, she has been championing an overhaul of the Scotiabank procurement process to be more effective and inclusive — increasing diversity, and tackling bias.
As a leader, Jackie is working on developing and nurturing soft skills — the skills that she believes real success comes from. “The higher up you are, the less it is about functional skills and the more it’s about people skills,” she says. “How you listen, communicate, build and manage relationships, resolve conflicts — all of these are critical for career success.”
But she wasn’t always this confident in herself or where her career would lead her. Looking back, Jackie says none of her many pivotal career and life milestones were planned. Each one came about almost by chance — coupled with a lot of hard work — and led to the right experiences and opportunities to propel her forward.
Her first job was the hardest to come by. “As an international student, options for work were limited. I was introverted, lacked confidence, and was competing with an outstanding group of Ivy League classmates,” she recalls. “I didn’t fit the profile of a consultant — so that wasn’t an option.”
Jackie’s boyfriend at the time (now her husband) had interned at P&G as an engineer the summer prior to her graduation, and he’d loved the work and culture. There were two jobs with P&G that Jackie applied to, one in sales and one in procurement.
“I knew nothing about procurement, but it was the first job I was offered, and so I accepted it.” Little did she know that this decision would lead to a rich and diverse career in the field. At the time, she was glad to have a job.
“While I prayed that my assignment would be in marketing procurement, the job P&G offered me was in chemical procurement,” explains Jackie. “As an economics major who chose to go into arts instead of sciences because of my inability to excel at chemistry and physics, suddenly I was in charge of buying chemicals for billion-dollar brands.”
The learning curve was huge, but turned out to be exactly what Jackie needed. “There could not have been a better category to learn about strategic sourcing than chemicals, which was a dynamic and challenging market with dominant suppliers and complex supply chains. It was also a white male-dominated industry — which posed many challenges and taught me a lot.”
It also prepared her for the work that was to come. Today, with a focus on unconscious bias and diversity, she draws upon those early experiences, and others she’s had throughout her career as a Chinese woman and a new American — often the only one at the table.
For 14 years Jackie worked for P&G and honed her skills to become a strategic sourcing professional. From chemical procurement she moved into the team that launched the Swiffer brand, and had two international assignments in Europe which helped provide a more diverse perspective and leadership style.
A few years in, Jackie was asked to take on the role of Global Fabric and Home Care Supplier Diversity Manager. When her VP approached her with the position, she already had a full-time role, and he asked her to take this one on as well. “It was essentially two full time positions, but I didn’t know how to say no, so I said yes,” she recalls. “In two years I doubled our chemical supplier diversity spend and received many awards.”
Her success in that double assignment, Jackie says, led to her advancement into a director role, just six years after graduating from college. In 2012, Jackie made another big move to join the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, and after a few years in this role, she joined the global mining company, Rio Tinto where she stayed until she was recruited to join Scotiabank. “While I loved the challenges and opportunities afforded to me in that last job, I was struggling with the company culture. When I was approached about leading Scotiabank’s global procurement services, I was excited.”
Jackie is now accountable for the bank’s worldwide acquisition of externally purchased products and services, with a focus on enterprise-wide strategic sourcing, expense reduction, category management, supplier management, and third-party operational risk management.
One of her key focuses has been to re-engineer the procurement process and approach by developing a best-in-class responsible procurement program. “Responsible procurement ensures that the products and services we buy have the lowest environmental impact and the most positive social results,” she says.
This is something that’s very important to Jackie.
“Each and every one of us has a role to play in being a steward of the environment and the community we live in,” she says. “Procurement can impact environmental stewardship, social inclusivity, and governance.”
In fall 2021, Scotiabank launched a new Supplier Diversity Program under Jackie’s leadership. In the three years prior, her team assessed the Bank’s procurement spending to inform the development of the program which helped the Bank to better understand its business relationships with companies owned and led by Indigenous Peoples, members of the LGBT+ community, People of Colour, and women, which in turn enabled it to identify potential suppliers for inclusion in future sourcing initiatives.
As a result of these assessments, the Bank has designed its Supplier Diversity Program to improve access to procurement opportunities by addressing sourcing, partnerships, outreach, monitoring, and metrics for diverse suppliers. That includes engaging with potential diverse suppliers to build a database in order to introduce them to procurement initiatives where possible. Importantly, the Scotiabank supplier management program enables suppliers to not only get a foot in the door, but continue to develop and partner with Scotiabank to achieve long term sustainable successes.
“Look around at the country we’re living in,” she continues. “This is the most diverse country I’ve lived in and the most diverse environment I’ve worked in. If our business practices don’t reflect the customers we serve, they’ll leave us. Who wants to do business with an organization that doesn’t support and reflect their community?”
It’s an exciting time for Jackie to be focusing on something she’s so passionate about. She approaches her work with a focus on unconscious bias, something that’s been top of mind for years.
“It’s a behaviour change, above all else,” she explains. “When evaluating a supplier, don’t just look at how established they are, when evaluating an individual don’t judge them only by their experience — read the potential. Don’t always look for familiarities or information and data that supports your prior beliefs — always consider the other side, or the other opinion, and ask yourself, ‘what if.’”
This article was first published in Women of Influence and is republished with permission.