When did you first join the equipment financing industry and what has been the trajectory of your career?
I graduated with a finance degree. Afterward, I started working for a consulting firm focused on risk assessment associated with litigation exposure. I wasn’t settled with a consulting career and wanted to get into corporate finance. That brought me to Austin, Texas and I leaned toward Dell Technologies (Dell Inc. at the time). I interviewed with Dell and they presented Dell Financial Services “DFS” as a potential match. I joined DFS in 1998. DFS was only six months in the making, having written somewhere around $100 million since inception. It was still in its infancy with tons of room to grow. So, like most of us, it was almost happenstance that I joined the industry. I worked in Corporate Finance managing Profits & Losses for various business units, moving around between departments (Pricing, Business Development, etc.) to grow my knowledge of the business. I really hit my stride with selling. I’ve been with DFS for 21 years now and I lead the Global Channel organization, contributing sizeably to our roughly $7 billion annual originations.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your own professional development? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I have faced, and still face as my career grows and I take on more responsibility, is how do I balance it all? DFS as a company has seen explosive growth over the years, resulting in me getting pulled in many different directions professionally. How can I respond to an ever-changing environment while maintaining a high quality of work from myself and my teams, and what impact are my professional commitments having on my personal life? Earlier in my career, it felt as if this was almost an insurmountable task, but eventually I figured it out. I developed a mantra of “I work to live not live to work.” This doesn’t take away from my effort but, when I think about it in these terms, it simplifies things. You must set realistic expectations and hold yourself accountable. When I am focusing on one area of the business it gets my full attention and I don’t allow myself to get distracted by the million other things going on around me.
When did you first get involved with ELFA and how have you been engaged as a Member thus far? How has being in ELFA helped your career?
I started to get more involved when DFS did in the early 2000’s, maybe 2005, and not as actively as I would have liked but that goes back to setting realistic expectations. What I can tell you is, as a DFS leadership team, we support ELFA. I personally am a big supporter of getting our younger talent engaged early, with a member of my team serving on two steering committees. ELFA is a huge benefit to our company and all member companies from big to small. Sharing knowledge of the industry, doing advocacy work of behalf of the industry and sharing best practices between companies doing business in various channels of the industry is undeniably valuable in my opinion.
What is the most rewarding risk of your career?
For me, it was going from corporate finance to sales and now sales leadership. I often thought, “What was I thinking?” The opportunity to learn and grow was right in front of me, but I wondered whether it was the right choice; I just had to “carry a bag” for a few years. Looking back on that decision, I wouldn’t trade the experience I’ve gained or the network I’ve been fortunate enough to build. Considering the decision allowed me to lead a global strategy for a top Fortune 500 company, I have to say the risk was and is worth the reward.
If you had to pick one, which is more important when considering a hire—a soft or technical background? You can’t pick both, and please include which soft or technical skill is most beneficial to success.
Without a doubt, I have to say soft. You can teach technical skills, but you cannot teach an individual to fit in to the company, group or team you’ve built. If their personality, their style or their traits are vastly different from your company’s culture, it is next to impossible to change, and it honestly will not be a good fit for them either. Companies all have different cultures. Fitting in is so important to the success and happiness of that individual as well as the success and growth of the company.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give to someone just entering the industry?
First, be prepared to embrace change. Even though financial services may present as an industry that doesn’t have cutting-edge technology, there is still the notion that the financial environment can rapidly change. For example, more and more businesses are looking at flexible consumption models to procure and use equipment. This is a huge change in how we do business and how we meet our customers’ needs. Second, financial services is an industry where you can have a full career. Do not think you will be stuck doing the same old thing for your entire career. You can start by doing one thing and quickly move around, wearing many hats along your journey without having to leave the industry. Lastly, learn from your mistakes and be agile. It’s not a mistake or two that defines you but how you grow and build on what have you learned. Yes, mistakes happen and sometimes they can cost, but they are also opportunities to learn and not always an automatic career-limiting move. Don’t be afraid to challenge the norm.
Given that the ELFA recently updated its mission statement and strategic plan to affirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion, can you give some perspective on what your organization has done or is doing to promote diversity and inclusion?
Dell Technologies is making a name for itself around cultivating inclusion, unlocking innovation by celebrating differences. It’s in our DNA we say. That idea is not lost on DFS or my team either. I task my leaders with hiring early in professional careers. We must break the stigma of being a stale industry. We want to have conversations with younger professionals, fresh out of school, promoting this as a place to build your entire career. I pride myself on having a diverse staff, and something I am particularly proud of is having a 50% male to female staff ratio. Diversity allows the business professionals to challenge each other more dynamically, eliminate bias in how we think, solve problems and grow together.