Back in 2001, the new finance recruits roaming the corridors of General Electric Company prodded themselves along as they confronted the everyday challenges of orienting themselves inside GE’s hard-shell corporate culture. This was perhaps especially true for financial analyst Ken Bowles, whose cultural trial was somewhat more daunting, considering whence he had come.
Turn back the clock only a year or two, and you would have found Bowles based in South Korea as a member of the U.S. Army’s 177th Finance Battalion, which was tasked with supporting the army’s 2nd Infantry Division.
“It’s always a shock when you go from the military into a corporate job—anyone who talks to you about it will tell you that there’s definitely a transition,” explains Bowles, who during his 5-year stint with the military served within the Army’s Finance Corps, a combat service and support branch that at the time was made of only about 300 officers.Read More
During his college years, Bowles had completed the U.S. Army’s ROTC program with distinction, which allowed him to choose from a menu of branch options upon graduation. Thus, with an undergraduate degree in hand, he enrolled in the United States Army Financial Management School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Using his stateside time wisely, Bowles enrolled at the University of South Carolina, where he was able to allot some of his off-base hours to completing an MBA. Along the way, came a deployment to South Korea.
“We were there to support the organization and the base by doing any number of typical finance activities, such as all of the funding and budgeting and payroll and allocations,” recalls Bowles, whose transition to corporate life appears to have been a success by any measure when you consider that his GE career would span 15 years and include multiple unit CFO roles.
Still, Bowles points out that the transition challenge for former military members often begins on Day One of their job search.
“When you’re going out to try to find a new opportunity, the transition can be difficult because a lot of the skills that you learn in the military don’t seem as though they’re transferable,” remarks Bowles, who notes that during his initial transition period he was fortunate enough to be able to engage with a GE unit CFO who was “willing to take a chance” on him. “So, you have to do a lot of explaining with regard to exactly what you did in the service and how it can be applied to different types of jobs—and this is particularly true when you get into something like finance.”
Of course, while most of the skills and experience of finance professionals are transferrable, Bowles doesn’t hesitate to point out that certain management practices are not.
Outside the military, he says, “you have to ask people to do things, not tell them.” –Jack Sweeney
“Take advantage of every opportunity. Don’t be afraid of failure, and if you do fail, fail fast and continue to take it as a learning opportunity—and always enjoy the learning curve that you’ll be on.” –Ken Bowles, CFO, WilsonHCG
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CFOTL: Tell us about WilsonHCG … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Bowles: WilsonHCG is a total talent solution provider. We’re a global recruiting firm and one of the most well-known brands within recruiting. We help companies not just to hire people but to hire the right type of people to achieve their business objectives. Our differentiator—our “big thing”—is our focus on quality. We are a quality-oriented organization. We are not a low-cost type of company—we are out there to solve your problems and give you the best result. For us, it’s all about the quality of hire. We know that your people are just so, so important—they’re a big part of your organization and the most important part of every organization. For us, it’s making sure that we get the right type of people.Read More
We do everything involved in recruitment process outsourcing, or RPO. We also do exec search and staffing and contingent talent types of staffing, as well as consulting and tech consulting. We also own a software company, which among other things provides our labor market intelligence.
We have two priorities over the next 12 months. One is obviously business-focused, in that we really need to understand what’s going to happen in the markets and try to work our way through it. This is a challenging time now for all different types of companies. So, it’s all about working through this and positioning our company to be successful as we come out of this turn.
I think that the next big piece will be the potential of generative AI within our applications and our product itself. How can it support our organization and provide us with quicker insights so that we’re sometimes able to exercise “management by exception” for certain areas, whereby we jump in only when we’re needed and don’t worry about the stuff when it’s working right? Then, of course, there’s leveraging some of this AI functionality to reduce some of the transactional aspects of our tasks so that we can be a little bit more strategically focused.
WilsonHCG | www.wilsonhcg.com | Tampa, FL