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Olga Bookas, procurement specialist, negotiates prices and purchases mailing equipment, furniture, paint, light bulbs, and even window shades for the university.
 
Posted 08.17.05

Procurement Specialist is Wesleyan's Top Negotiator

Q: When were you hired in Financial Services as a procurement specialist?

A: I started working at Wesleyan in January 2005.

Q: Please explain what a procurement specialist means.

A: I am responsible for negotiating and developing contracts with vendors. Some of my purchasing duties include processing purchase orders for furniture, lease copiers, cell phones. I also meet with Wesleyan colleagues to determine their purchasing requirements and then I meet with vendors to ensure that they are reliable and can support the university with quality, service and best price.

Q: What do you purchase for the university?

A: Pretty much anything a university employee needs my assistance with! When I first started here, one of my first objectives was to negotiate the office supplies contract. We are very pleased with the results and the huge savings. Other purchases include the centralization and implementation for new Pitney Bowes mailing equipment, furniture, paint, light bulbs, window shades and much more. In addition, I search for new vendors and find creative opportunities on how to save money for the university.

Q: How much money are we talking about?

A: For example, Lisa Davis and I worked as a team and convinced four other departments to centralize all outgoing mail and eliminate the leases for additional meters. Cost savings for the university resulted $60,000 for a five year contract. Mike Conte and I have finalized the elevator agreement. I am currently assisting Peter Staye in negations for the water treatment and oil proposals.

Q: You have 18 years experience in customer service and purchasing. Can you elaborate on your past careers?

A: Although I worked at Superior Electric for 11 years, I believe my career started when I worked for Heublein. I was the international customer service leader selling Smirnoff and other spirits all over the world! I truly believe in customer service. I feel that we need to service our internal and external customers the best and fastest way we can! I gained vast experience on international laws, shipping, exporting goods, and had fun selling some of our best wines to the Army!

Q: How did you come to Wesleyan?

A: My career changed due to Heublein’s downsizing. After taking a year off, I completed my associate’s degree and within a month, I was hired at Associated Spring/Barnes Group as a purchasing assistant. My love to negotiate started to flourish when I started to deal with vendors. My path brought me to Wesleyan where I strongly believe that working together as a team we can achieve huge savings for the university and continue to implement purchasing procedures and processes to make it easier for our internal customers and departments.

Q: Was it a straightforward or challenging transition from the corporate world?

A: I always wanted to work for an educational institution where one can excel and bring new ideas. My experience so far has been rewarding and a little challenging at times. I like challenges because I feel it is a great opportunity to learn and try new things.

Q: Can you fill me in on any new initiatives or projects?

A: We have successfully launched the office supplies project where 95 percent of our employees go to our Web site and place their orders on line. That is a huge time savings!

Q: How do these purchasing skills carry over into your personal life?

A: I do watch prices either at grocery stores or when I purchase items for the house. I do the negotiating. Negotiating for me comes natural.

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I obtained an associate’s degree in business management from Tunxis Community College and a bachelor’s of science degree from Saint Joseph's College.

Q: What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?

A: I love to walk and listen to Greek music. I have a couple of friends that I go walking with almost every morning at 4:45 a.m. and at night. Also, I like to read a lot. My favorites are mystery and murder novels.

Q: Are you involved in any volunteering activities?

A: I volunteer a lot of my time to my church. I teach the Greek Language to children and adults at my church. The class began with only five children and two adults three years ago and now we have over 30 children and seven adults. I’ve also been president of the Philoptochos Society for 15 years. Philoptochos means “Friend of the Poor.” This women’s organization is the right hand of the Greek Orthodox Church. I also have been one of the Friendly Visitors at the local convalescent homes visiting the elderly once a week.

Q: Would you like to tell me about your family?

A: My husband, Tony, and I have been married for 35 years and live in Bristol. We have two children, George and Angela and a dog named Liza. Our son and his wife, Renee, also live in Bristol. Angela lives in our apartment upstairs. We feel blessed that our family lives so close because all our extended relatives are back in Athens, Greece.

Q: Greece. So that would explain your accent.

A: Yes. My coworkers tell me that I have a cute Greek accent. My voice is easily recognized.
 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor