As we continue with the Women in the Public Sector series, I am excited to introduce you to someone who is a relatively new contact for me in the Public Sector, Tammy Rimes. Tammy Rimes is an Inspirational Keynote Speaker - Procurement Consultant & Executive Director. I first met Tammy about five years ago when she was a keynote speaker for a trade show I was attending. I had heard her name from friends in the cooperative purchasing world and had heard wonderful things about her. Meeting her in person, she surpassed all the good things I heard. She is personal, outgoing, fun, an excellent speaker, and is full of knowledge concerning Public Sector Procurement.
Tammy serves as the Executive Director of the National Cooperative Procurement Partners (NCPP), North America's Association for educational content, legislative advocacy, and support for cooperative procurement. She formally served as the Purchasing Agent for the City of San Diego with 20+ years as a government manager. With past marketing experience in the airline, retail, electrical utility, and wine industry, she has the unique perspective of working in three different worlds – corporate, government, and entrepreneurial.
I hope you enjoy our conversation and gather some wisdom that encourages you
and/or motivates you in your Public Sector endeavors.
Michelle: Tammy, so great to get the opportunity to talk with you about women
in the Public Sector. I would say you are one of the most well-known women in
the State/Local/Cooperative side of the Public Sector. How did you find yourself
in a Public Sector career?
Tammy: I needed a job! Going through a divorce with two small children, I needed a job that would pay regularly and have health benefits. My initial plan was to stay a few years, but then I started working for a new program in the Water Department and loved what I did. With a program that could truly make a difference in my community, I felt proud of the work and what our team accomplished.
Michelle: I think so many people found their way to a great career in Public Sector by accident or just fell into it like you did. Those who know my story know I did as well. It was definitely not something I planned on having a career in, let alone starting a company focused on helping companies with public sector programs. So, you took "a job" but ended up with an illustrious career; how did that happen?
Tammy: It wasn't until I was a few years into my job that I started to think about my future.
Since the City of San Diego had many departments, I felt that I could still move around to new positions and take on new challenges. I talked to other managers whom I respected and decided that I was going to make this a career, and went back to school for my Masters in Public Administration to be eligible for management positions. I was moved or promoted about every 3-4 years to an entirely new department and role – each experience seemed to develop me for the next opportunity. I loved my career and look back fondly on many of the accomplishments of those teams.
Michelle: I feel that your story resembles my office furniture career story. Seeing the opportunities within the City of San Diego and positioning yourself to be promoted or change jobs internally was a great strategy. Along the way, were there key influential people or factors that supported your success?
Tammy: Taking advantage of training programs and tuition reimbursement for my master's degree was a big part of my success. I never got put into a "box" with my job description. That "other duties as assigned" was an area where I really grew and excelled. It was the rare boss that didn't want you to do more or be creative. And occasionally, when there was the case with a controlling or non-supportive boss, I would bide my time and eventually promote or move out of that position. Bad bosses are always in my rearview mirror! Volunteering for special projects helped me develop new skills and led me to meet new people outside my normal circle. I feel that performing only your defined duties and staying within the lane isn't a career; it's just a job. Always learning and expanding while being customer-focused is my working philosophy.
Michelle: So much wisdom in that answer! Let's start with continuing education. It's so important for anyone in any role. Whether it is at the college level or getting individual coaching, which I am new to but a huge fan of, or just taking classes specific to what you are interested in. Always learning and broadening your horizons is so important. I also love your comment about "other duties as assigned." So many people look at that, and it honestly makes them mad. They have an "it's not my job attitude." You looked at that as an opportunity to pick up projects and expand your reach within the City of San Diego. I am sure that played a big part in getting noticed and positioning yourself for the promotions to other areas. So, as you were moving throughout the organization and building your career, were there any twists or turns that developed that you did not anticipate that helped you learn along the way?
Tammy: The Civil Service system likes conformity and standards, which is not necessarily bad. Except when one wants to be creative, try something new, or re-work an existing process. I can't tell you how many times I heard the expression, "because that's the way we've always done it," which was frustrating when the process didn't make sense or was an antiquated way of thinking. However, I never let that stop me, as my goal was to make things better or more customer-friendly. So, I learned to choose my battles or push for the most impactful initiatives. Using the words "pilot program" was also helpful in gaining initial approval to get a project started. There are so many good people in government, and it's special
to have purpose and make a difference.
Michelle: I always cringe when I hear those words, "Because that is the way we have always done it." Change needs to be embraced in order to make things better. Choosing your battles is excellent advice. You can win the war without fighting every battle. I think you need to always keep your eyes on the goal and carefully choose which battle gets you there and which are just a distraction. Switching gears a little...you have had a great career in Public Sector. Could you speak to how you see the opportunity for women in this vertical?
Tammy: When I first joined the City of San Diego at the beginning of my 20+ year career, there were only a couple of women in upper management, even though we had a history of women Mayors and Councilmembers. Over my career, that evolved where women are now well represented at all levels of the organization. When I left, the City had a woman Fire Chief and Police Chief – which are typically male-dominated fields! Public Sector is very favorable to women as the schedules are routine to accommodate childcare or life/work balance, with healthcare and benefits and opportunities to advance, grow and promote
across multiple sectors. With telework becoming an option, it's even better for women – and men - than ever before!
Michelle: Being from the East Coast, I am not that familiar with the City of San Diego government, but I love seeing all these women having opportunities at high levels in all of these ordinarily male-dominated roles. For a woman reading this article who is currently in the public sector or thinks they want a career in the public sector, what is one piece of advice you have for them?
Tammy: Go for it! When a promotional opportunity becomes available, some women will go through the list of criteria. If every single box can't be checked, then they don't apply for the job. If you feel that you can do the job and do it well, apply and go for the interview. Let them tell you 'no' - don't tell yourself 'no' to an opportunity.
Michelle: Great advice! So many times, we hear or read that women are more likely not to apply for a job or a promotion because they do not check all the boxes, whereas men just apply and show the confidence that they can do the job. Women definitely need to overcome that fear of rejection or not being qualified" and apply. Definitely "let them tell you 'no'- don't tell yourself 'no' to an opportunity".
It has been so great chatting with you about your career and women in the Public Sector. Before we finish, do you have one book and/or a podcast you would recommend for women who are interested in pursuing a career in the Public Sector?
Tammy: I don't have just one – my suggestion is to read lots of different books on various topics. Being well-read and interesting helps in both your job and life!
As for a podcast, I like Tony Robbins because he encourages you to dream and go for it. Once you have a role in the public sector, listen to leaders within your industry – finance, procurement, management – and even reach out to them on LinkedIn. You'd be surprised how many will reach back with encouragement or advice.
Thanks again to Tammy Rimes for sharing her story and insights with us as we continue to hear from and celebrate women in the public sector. I hope everyone is enjoying the opportunity to meet successful women in this vertical and learn from them. If there is a woman in the public sector you admire and would like to see interviewed, please reach out to me! Michelle@strategic-catalyst.com
TAMMY RIMES, MPA
Executive Director, National Cooperative Procurement
As the former Purchasing Agent for the City of San Diego, the nation's 9th largest City, she purchased over $1B (yes, B!) worth of commodities and services, and oversaw a citywide overhaul of the procurement and contracting system and served as the Emergency Operations Chief during the 2007 Witch Creek Fires covering thousands of miles and destroying over 2000 homes. As a procurement consultant, she helps local governments with strategies and innovative solutions to drive savings or efficiencies.
Connect with Tammy on LinkedIn HERE.
Founder, President Catalyst Consulting Group
Michelle Warren is President of Catalyst Consulting Group, a firm specializing in providing strategic solutions to the commercial furniture industry to enhance their sales, positioning, and distribution.
With 25 years of industry experience on the dealer and manufacturer side of the industry, Michelle has been recognized as an innovator in selling to the Federal Government, State/Local Government, Higher Education and Cooperative Purchasing. Her expertise includes: sales strategies, strategic planning, 3-5 year road mapping, targeted marketing plans, distribution development, hiring reps, and training for reps and/or dealers.
Michelle is known as a “serial networker” in the furniture industry and enjoys meeting people and making connections happen. If you’re interested in connecting - reach out at:
www.strategic-catalyst.com to learn more about her work.
As seen in Delve | May 2022 V.26