Generation Next case study: Nicole Perkins

Posted by: JasmineThompson
Posted on: 31/05/2023

Nicole Perkins, procurement officer at Futures Housing Group, began her journey with Generation Next through a peer-to-peer cohort, which helped her work through key challenges.

Just under a year later, Nicole has joined the ambassador programme, been shortlisted for a Generation Next Award and has improved her confidence when networking. She speaks to us about her career to date, her biggest inspiration and plans for the future.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up in your current position?

I have been working within procurement for the past 10 years. After completing my A-Levels, I was unsure on what career path I wanted to take, but I knew I wanted a break from education so decided not to carry onto university.

Instead, I took a purchasing assistant role in the aerospace industry. After three months I knew the office environment and especially a career in purchasing was what I wanted to build and focus on. The break from education didn’t last long and I was back at college completing an NVQ in supply chain management and my learning didn’t stop there. I then excelled into completing my CIPS Diplomas in procurement and supply at levels 4 and 5.

After four years in this role, it was time for a change and to expand my knowledge of different sectors, this then landed me a role as an assistant category coordinator for an LPG gas company. Here I began managing multiple categories including facilities, fleet, and engineering. Each had its own challenges, but the different categories enabled my confidence to grow, having to deal with gas contractors and soon I was travelling from Glasgow to Cornwall completing contract review meetings.

This role also enabled me to continue my learning and soon I was enrolled at Henley Business School to complete my level 6 CIPS Professional Diploma and finally graduate in 2019 at Peterborough Cathedral.

It was then time for another role change and this time in was into the utilities sector as a category manager looking after raw materials especially metallic components and sourcing from overseas. Then the pandemic hit and with the country in lockdown I was working from home and in isolation.

After more than eight years in the manufacturing/engineering sector, I knew I wanted to look for a role which would have an impact in helping others. It was then that I applied for my current role as a procurement officer at Futures Housing Group, which is a housing association providing affordable homes and supporting people across the East Midlands.

Although my role isn’t customer facing, knowing that the projects and contracts I am involved in go on to help our customers gives me great job satisfaction.

What challenges have you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge I have faced along the way is being respected as a young professional rather than other departments depending on the more senior staff when requirements occurred. Overtime this improved after proving my capabilities in resolving issues and fulfilling requirements concreting me as an integral part of the purchasing team.

Also, historically the procurement department has been overlooked and seen to be just “overpaid administrators”, which has meant through the majority of my roles, I have been focused on changing perspectives when justification has been required on the benefits of the decisions I have made. Although this can be seen as a challenge, I used it as a great reflection tool on all the work I have achieved while in each role.

The main challenge of my current role within Futures Housing Group has been that I joined during the pandemic so building relationships and networking was hard, especially as I tend to shy away from it, but with the help of Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype I was able to be welcomed into what I see as a great work culture.

Who is your inspiration and why?

After growing up watching the apprentice, Baroness Karen Brady quickly became my inspiration. From her determination to never give up and fight for respect in a male dominant world as a female leader, to being able to balance career growth and starting of a family is always something that has inspired me.

In November 2022, I attended a ReThink webinar event and Baroness Brady was the keynote speaker. Hearing first hand each challenge she has had to face and how she has overcome them has really pushed me to not stay in my comfort zone and to strive to achieve anything even if it may seem impossible.

The main quote of hers which sticks firmly in my mind is: “The most important characteristics you need to succeed in business are resilience, determination and persistence.”

What are your ambitions for the future and how do you plan to realise these?

My ambitions are to continue to climb a career path into a procurement manager and hopefully into a co-executive position. I plan to continue being open to learning at every opportunity whether this just be an internal process, someone’s opinion or through professional courses in order to achieve my goals.

I think in any ambition, it’s important to have the support of your family, friends, and work peers, which in return, I hope I can continue to support them in achieving their own personal goals.

How important is it to have a network like Generation Next for young professionals and business leaders, and how has it supported you so far?

I first became aware of the Generation Next network after meeting Emma Baumback at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner in 2022, and instantly knew it was a network that I wanted to be part of.

I have only been a member for just under a year, and I can already see how much I have grown from throwing myself into networking events to build up my soft skills, which is something I have struggled to do throughout my career as the thought of having to meet new people used to make me panic, to attending a six-week peer network cohort with other young professionals, to speak about our challenges and help each other overcome them.

Although the cohort was only initially for six weeks all peers involved, and our mentor, could see how great the time had been spent, with each individual on the weekly call supporting others with sharing their own experiences – and we’ve decided to continue them!

Each event or article has helped or supported me in some way, and in February, I was named as the ambassador for young professionals in procurement and shortlisted as a finalist for the Generation Next Customer Service Award. It’s just the beginning of my Generation Next journey, and I can’t wait to see where it leads to next.


By becoming a member of Generation Next, you can access our events programme, which comprises of networking events to help you build a professional network, and webinars that each tackle a topic to build your business knowledge and skills. You can also access coaching support through our mentoring scheme, and celebrate your achievements through our annual awards. Enquire today to join.

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