Fostering suppliers diversity with Teik Tan

Mamta

Hi everyone and welcome to the future of work in construction concast. I'm delighted to introduce our next guest, Teik Tan. To give you some background on Teik, Teik is a supply chain lead for a major main contractor in the sector, he's also co-chaired his organisations and prayer resource group the multicultural affinity network for black Asian and minority ethnic employees and allies since 2018.  He has led a number of events and coordinator training workshops to equip under represented individuals which also challenges exclusively behaviours.  So that's sounds already fantastic Teik.

 

Thank you so much for joining this concast today. It is an absolute pleasure to meet you and I would love to hear more about your role and what your main responsibilities at Balfour Beatty.

 

Teik
Thank you for inviting me to take part and it's nice to meet you as well. 

 

My role at Balfour Beatty is I’m a Supply Chain Lead. My core duties consist of looking after the strategic partnerships, looking for opportunities to enhance the shared value between those organisations, looking after the performance management process and ensuring that everything is performance lead. I look at creating pathways of entry for SME’s and fostering suppliers diversity. I also have a sub specialism in sustainable procurement and that's certainly an area of interest of mine. I'll also occasionally manage supply chain management projects. I've been involved with some digital transformation style projects and I've also taken part in strategic procurement activities at a higher level.  I am also heavily involved with, as you know, some of the diversity inclusion initiatives and a few steering groups both internally and externally within the sector.

 

 

Mamta


That sounds amazing.  You know more than ever it's really important to be able to help and support the underrepresented communities in in every industry. It's great to hear that you're doing it here. It's great to know more about your role and I love to know more about how you came to be in this career, like where did you start and how did you get to where you got to? 

 

Teik
Oh God how long have you got? 

 

Mamta

Long enough, long enough. 

 

Teik

Well, you know what it was like at University, much like many graduates, I selected a degree based on what I found interesting. For me that was mathematics and economics. If I’m honest I never really thought that to be my long-term career aspirations.  I had chosen to study that. When I was in university and there was a procurement assistant role, which was basically a procurement administration summer job going with the state's management section. I didn't know what procurement was it so i asked Google. 

 

Mamta

You wouldn’t know that means right, why would you know what procurement is. It is such a random term? 

 

Teik
So I think I googled there and then. I looked at the skillset and I thought, well that sounds interesting and I want to try it. If nothing else I've had my CV out and I had some exposure to construction procurement through that community and I also found the procurement role quite interesting. 

So I done that role and then I looked at another placement it was a supply chain team management place, in placement with the Unite students. They are the UK's leading purpose bills student accommodation provider. That focused more on sustainable supply chain management and through that opportunity, I discovered that my passion was probably more for the supply chain management aspects of the role than the actual procurement. 

 

Mamta

You kind of know as you go through your career, what you don't like what your good at  and what you enjoy. I think that's a great way to find out, to explore your career a bit more.

 

Teik

Yeah absolutely. So after I done that I decided I wanted to study a master's degree and I applied for a couple of bursaries, I was very fortunate, I secured two.  So I did my masters at the University of Sussex and I chose to focus on a lot of sustainable procurement, sustainable supply chain management focus modules and assignments, because that was my passion. I really like to get meaning out of my work and feel like I've done something. 

 

Mamta

Added value right? 

 

Teik

Yeah, exactly. 

 

Mamta

So did you do your MA while you were  working or did you do it separately? How long did it take you to do and how did you feel the MA helped you really develop your career?

 

Teik
I did the MSC while I had a part-time job, it was in procurement.  I was actually a cleaner at one point, you know, I'm the type person, I just make the best of whatever I'm doing, I don't care. 

 

I feel like it really enriched my knowledge of supply chain management, it was overly focused on other sectors, fast moving consumer goods and the automotive industry. It’s one of the things I want to do within my role is to increase the presence of the construction sector within the academic community; I believe that will bring more skills into the sector as well.

 

 

Mamta

Absolutely I think you are right and I think it's so important to focus on that. Throughout your career, what challenges have you faced both personally and professionally?

 

Teik

Do you mean within a diversity inclusion perspective or more generally? 

 

 

Mamta

Generally and with yourself, with your background and trying to get good companies, and that sort of stuff.  What challenges have you had to face and how did you  overcome them? 

 

Teik
Before I got to Balfour Beatty I always felt as if there were challenges in terms of my ethnicity. I also felt anxious about my sexual orientation as well and even though I don't think it's relevant to work. If I'm being honest, I think whenever applied for other companies, I do feel as if my CV’S just been being thrown in the bin. I remember getting through the interview process and I was just so thankful that the person that had interviewed me had looked upon me and appraised my competencies, capabilities and behavioural attributes instead of, you know, the way I look, or the fact that I'm not a straight white heterosexual male who likes football and I’ll never be that.  I'm eternally grateful to that person.  I've heard similar stories from other people in the industry; they feel lucky that they passed an interview process, even though these are really competent people. What a travesty is that, it's not a workplace thing, I think it's a societal thing.

 

 

Mamta

I think so too, it's very much cultural thing.

I was in tech for 20 years so I did computing degree. The same with you actually. I was a gay female Indian and you can't hide your ethnicity or gender, but you can hide your sexuality if you need. Going through my career, I hid it for most of the time for 20 years at least. I didn't really talk about that side of me because what I thought would hinder me and also I didn’t really have any role models at the top of the leadership chain that were like. So I never thought there was an opportunity to kind of get to that point. 

 

I think I think you're right, it is your own perception of yourself, but also you know unconscious bias right.  It’s people that we're trying to change in society, currently. I completely relate to and empathise with you about those challenges and other people's challenges as well, to try and get in a door. I know it's like in the tech industry and it’s a lot better now. Within the engineering and construction industry do you think that things are changing or, how do you think things should move forward to change the image of the sector?

 

 

Teik

I can only speak from my own experiences and I have some wonderful colleagues and I do think things are changing and we're making a step in the right direction. With the sexuality thing, I think you hit the nail on the head because it's not you know immediately obvious. I don't know how your experience has been, but for me, we all know it's gonna crop up in the conversation. You'll have people who say, you don’t need to mention your sexual orientation. Of course it's gonna crop up, you know, people are asking what you've done on the weekend; people ask if you've got a boyfriend or a girlfriend. You want to bond and build rapport. I dread and that question coming up, because I know that for some people it's a complete non-issue and they really don't care and they just value you based on you. For others, I will say that people faces drop when they realise and they start avoiding you. It’s not like they're hurling slurs at you, but they, you know, they just stop they start avoiding you. You feel you've made them feel uncomfortable. It’s just awkward and uncomfortable. I don’t know if you have had that experience as well.

 

 

Mamta

I've worked with white heterosexual men and they have made quite inappropriate comments, I look back and think, my word that was not acceptable. I wouldn't accept it now because I feel more confident about myself actually and who I am. Back then I think I wasn’t. I think it's really tough when people start doing that. Have you experienced that recently then, or is it just kind of something you've experienced throughout your career? 

 

 

Teik
I’ve not experienced it recently, which i am thankful for.  In my career I have experienced micro aggressions,  both racial micro aggressions and micro aggressions around my sexual orientation.  I feel you can't win sometimes because with sexual orientation if you don't disclose it, I feel that people will sometimes talk within themselves or they'll feel uncomfortable.

 

 I've also received racism in my life, you know, I've been told I should get an English name if I want to live in this country, that kind of thing. I haven’t had it recently and I don’t know if that’s because I’ve been secluded and I haven't seen anyone socially. I don't get it at work thankfully. But, you know I'm quite a prominent diversity inclusion advocate and I feel like people know that I will correct them if they start to exhibit those behaviours.

 

 

Mamta

Absolutely right, you have to call it out and give feedback if people are saying things that are out of context or micro aggressions or whatever it is. Otherwise you won't learn and they won't learn, how your behaviours affects others and the cycle continues on.  I think that's what the changes are needed so that communication and that self-awareness happens. 

 

It sounds like you're doing some amazing things. What kind of events and workshops are you doing at moment to the challenge exclusion of behaviours?

 

 

Teik

 

I’ve posted many different types of workshops. One of them, people will be most au fait with is, fairness inclusion and respect workshops.  They really focus on educating people and with the business case behind why we're trying to create an inclusive culture in the sector.  We impart on them the statistics that they can use to help them rationalise and sell the agenda because we all know there are proven benefits to having a diverse workforce at all levels. That really helps with the business case side of things. 

 

 Another workshop that myself and another colleague developed is, our how to be an ally guide.  This really looks at creating allyship and it looks at what a good ally is. We talk about some of the experiences we've had. We've included members from the sector and so it'll be anything and we give specific examples of positive and of negative behaviours within the context of allyship. So, an example is, you may have the presumption that a person of colour can’t be gay. Then we're going to a positive scenario of what that might look like and then a negative scenario and we tell the allies what the expectations are. Or you may have expectations to there may be comments towards someone who is of mixed heritage. These types of types of comments could be, oh you don't look mixed race.  you look white, i'm actually mixed race. Or which part of your mixed heritage do you identify with, all those sort of comments or presumptions that they may be bilingual for example. So we're really trying to break down these presumptions and get people and encourage them to get to know one another on an individual level and not use the diverse characteristics to perform a picture of that person. That is the role of an ally is to make sure that we're living and breathing these values each day. Diversity and inclusion can’t be a one off webinar every half a year. We have to live and breathe our values every day.

 

 

Mamta

 Unfortunately there are some  companies that have done it as tick box exercises and  run workshops which is great, but then it kind of falls off. That’s  why it's really encouraging to hear that you are encouraging the values  of the training and making sure that people are accountable as well, which I think is the main thing you know.  

 

Do you see any changes are you experiencing positive changes? Or feedback from this training? 

 

 

Teik
I’ve seen massive changes and I've seen strong support from leadership within the sector. I've seen a real eagerness for people to learn more. I see people acknowledging what they don't know and within all the diverse strands, gender, LGBT plus disability, race and ethnicity and I know that's not all of them. 


I see people taking more of an anti-sexist approach and an anti raciscm approach, anti homophobic, anti transphobic approach, rather than being just neutral. What we try to impart upon or impress upon people is that its not good enough to say  well, I'm not perpetrator of racism and therefore I'm okay or you know, I've got a token Asian friend, or do you know what I mean, it's not good enough. We need to be actively anti racist,  actively anti-sexist,  we need you to be a good ally, do you know what I mean. We need you to acknowledge your privilege. I am a man and I acknowledge that has made me privileged. I acknowledge my role to women in the sector relating to that. 

 

 

Mamta

 Sounds like you're so incredibly passionate about this subject, which is so lovely to see.  I think about the diversity equality and inclusion parts of it. How would you think this industry could be more diverse, provide more actual processes and being inclusive do you think and to appeal to different backgrounds? 

 

Teik

I think across the sector we need to ensure we've got our data correct, that would be the first thing. If you don't have data then you're just kind of guessing and you might have a scatter gun approach to diversity and inclusion you can't really measure the impact of what you're doing as well.  Data, everything from how many candidates are getting through an attraction campaign at all levels, how many are getting through the CV shortlisting, what kind of diverse characteristics have they got? How many you're getting through to the interview stage. How many are awarded the work? When someone leaves an organisation, what kind of background do they have? What kind of feedback have we taken in the exit interview, that kind of thing. Once we get a data across the industry on all of these types of measures, you know, attrition data, How employees feel through things like engagement surveys, we can make data-driven decisions and actually measure the impact. I know that’s quite a generic answer.

 

 

Mamta

It’s a great thing that you use that data for positive things, but it but it's one step at time, your world will be better as you go along. I think it's I think it's fantastic what you're doing and like I said,  it seems like you're very passionate about it. What's this sort of next steps for you? What would you like your next or five years to be? 

 

Teik?

Within the context of my career?

 

Mamta

Yeah with your career,  you know, like moving forward, reaching your goals.  What would you like to kind of achieve? 

 

Teik

I’m receiving mentoring, I’ve probably go about ten mentors in the industry, they all give me different advice. I've changed what I want to get out of my career several times over the past few years and I've become comfortable with that. I think basically I really do love procurement in management, but I also love the social value and sustainability part. I would eventually like to move more into a sustainable  procurement role. As you know I've got some colleagues that I really look up to in the sustainable procurement team because I'd like to be able to use my sustainable procurement knowledge but for it to actually be on making an impact on the communities that surround the project .As cheesy as it sounds, I want to and leave a legacy and leave things in a better state than we found them. 

 

Mamta
Hundred percent. I think that people are saying that more and more now. I think it's human beings, we want to have purpose,  you want to have a legacy,  we want to make an impact so I think you can see that more and more now. 

You can kind of question about what your life means, the purpose of it, you know, want a better place and I think that's a wonderful thing to do. 


That’s really wonderful and I wish all the best of luck with finding that and with your mentors as well. I have one last question for you before you leave. If you had an uncomfortable question to ask you industry, what would it be? 

 

Teik
If I had an uncomfortable question it would probably be to challenge all the organisations within the sector that are conducting or marketing diverse inclusion activities. I would like you to do  an analysis, so it could be a stock start continue analysis on things like gender, equality  activity, you're race quality activity and your disability activity, etc. I want you to ask those communities, so ask the people who are impacted, ask the women in the sector, ask the people of colour in the sector. What kinds of initiatives they feel would benefit them. There are so many initiatives, there are role model campaigns, there are public pledges, there are unconscious bias training, there are balanced leadership targets.

 

What do they want? What do they feel would improve their experience. That is the starting point for creating your diversion and  inclusion strategy. We should not focus on external relating public relations type activities. I do acknowledge that that has a part in diversity. It can be really beneficial actually. It can encourage others in the sector to improve their practice. 

 

 

The other challenge,  I want to add two challenges in.  I want to challenge companies in the sector to stop competing on diversity and inclusion. The reason is, where you know, addressing massive skills gap, which is a massive threat of the sector and we're trying to get people of different backgrounds into the sector, so it's a shared threat.  I honestly believe that diversity inclusion is one area we should never compete on and we should always collaborate and share resources on it safely with smaller companies, when they don't have massive HR departments.

 

Mamta

 I think that's I think that's absolutely brilliant and I think  that those are all really great questions we can ask the sector in the industry as well to move forwards. That's why we want you to raise this awareness, that's why I want to get you talk to amazing people like you, to get these things out there. I get people to really question and ask what can we do what we do next, as well.

 

 Thank you so much for your time, it's been so wonderful and inspiring just  to learn about  your career, your challenges and being so open and honest and that's something I really do appreciate. it's been great, so thank you so much. 

 

Teik

 I just wanted to thank you as well.  I've enjoyed hearing your story actually. 

 

End