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Women in Procurement Spotlight | Anna Barej

In celebration of Women's History Month, our Women in Procurement campaign is proud to spotlight the trailblazing women making strides in procurement. As part of this series, we are delighted to introduce Anna Barej, Vice President of Procurement at Best Buy, whose journey from marketing aspirations to procurement excellence embodies the dynamic paths that lead women to leadership roles within this field. Through her insights, we explore the nuances of navigating change, the power of confidence and knowledge, and the importance of creating lasting memories both inside and outside the workplace.

Can you tell us about your journey in procurement? What inspired you to pursue a career in this field?

Initially, I aimed for a career in advertising, majoring in marketing with dreams of doing 'Mad Men' type of work. However, life took a different turn. My first job was in Poland with P&G, during the '90s when Eastern Europe opened up to Western companies. Though I started in sales, I quickly realized my passion lay elsewhere. P&G then placed me in supply chain, specifically in sourcing products for distribution across Eastern Europe. This role, my first out of college, was where I fell in love with procurement. It was fascinating managing product sourcing and building relationships. This unexpected start sparked my passion, and ever since, I've focused solely on sourcing and procurement roles.

Can you share a challenge you've faced in your career and how you overcame it?

The recurring challenge in my career has been navigating culture during times of change, whether changing jobs or leading transformational efforts. It's about balancing the existing positive aspects of a culture with the necessity for change, maintaining that thread of value. Overcoming this challenge is both the hardest and most rewarding part of my professional journey. It's like weaving a tapestry, blending the new with the culture's positives – trust, camaraderie, joy, and fun – while encouraging openness to change.

What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter and succeed in a male-dominated field?

My advice, from conversations with my daughters, one of whom actually, works in procurement, is to understand your worth and enter any environment with confidence. This prevents any inferiority complex in male-dominated settings. Knowing your business inside and out earns respect and facilitates your contribution to the organization. Never allow yourself the option to not dominate; it wasn't even a consideration for me. Also, differentiate between mentors and sponsors. Mentors can offer advice, while sponsors naturally push you forward. You don't have to navigate your career alone.

Outside of work, what passions or hobbies do you pursue? How do they influence your professional life?

I focus on creating memories, which I consider the most important currency of accomplishment. Success for me is a collection of amazing memories, professionally and personally. I value lasting, meaningful relationships and incorporate this into my work culture. We discuss more than just work, sharing adventures and plans, which helps build a unit of friends. Personally, I love gardening, creating an oasis at home that brings me joy and effectiveness in my professional life.

In honor of Women's History Month, who are the women who have inspired you the most, both professionally and personally?

My mother, embodying selflessness and unwavering support, has been my greatest inspiration. Professionally, I am inspired by women who successfully blend their strength and sensitivity, leveraging their unique qualities to lead and influence in a collaborative and empathetic manner. These women have shown me that embracing our femininity can be a powerful asset in the business world, allowing us to lead with compassion, strength, and integrity. They've taught me the importance of being true to oneself, demonstrating that success is not about emulating others but about harnessing our unique attributes to make a meaningful impact.

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