Back in 2020, the call that longtime General Electric veteran Ana Chadwick accepted from a recruiter would prove to be the one solicitation in a career’s worth of such outreaches that would ultimately result in an executive search fee.
Still, while Chadwick would be a prize placement for any headhunter, it is clear that this career segue for her would represent something significantly substantive both for the company that she would be joining and the one that she would be leaving behind.
“I knew that my time was getting close, so when the phone rang and it was a public company CFO position, I thought, ‘Let’s listen,’” Chadwick tells us, as she recounts the reasoning and circumstances that led her to accept a CFO position with historic brand Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI), the global mailing and shipping company that turned 103 this year.
Looking back on her 28 years with GE, Chadwick recounts an adventurous finance career that roamed the globe from Switzerland to Latin America before heading back to the U.S. However, it was during her last leadership stint, spanning the years 2014 to 2021—a period that she readily labels her “most challenging”—that she came to perform a unique role in the annals of GE history that would become much admired by her GE colleagues as well as not soon forgotten.
As it turned out, from 2014 forward, GE Capital would execute over 50 divestitures globally, as GE sold off the majority of its financing businesses in order to “return to its industrial roots.”
It was during these times that Chadwick found herself leading cross-functional teams to speedily execute the divestures, a tour of duty that would ultimately result in her title of President and CEO, GE Capital Global Legacy Solutions.
“The faster we got rid of this infrastructure, with assets and liabilities, the more value we were providing to our parent,” comments Chadwick, who tells us that she found the unusual leadership challenge attractive after realizing that her international experience and familiarity with GE’s global organization had made her uniquely qualified among her GE peers to take it on.
“I really had two choices—I could either stay or go—but I knew that I could add a disproportionate amount of value to this phase if I stayed, so, while I watched people leave and land in glamorous jobs, I decided that I was going to see this through and embrace it,” reports Chadwick, who observes that not unlike other growth-driven leaders, she relied on transparency and metrics to help to guide her team as they dismantled GE Capital.
“I was leading this team to zero—our goal was to go to zero,” continues Chadwick, who adds that she created and advanced a forward-looking vision in order to boost good feelings about all that was being achieved, while at the same time exposing attractive doorways for team members who were looking to execute their own exits as the “journey to zero” unfolded.
As for Chadwick’s own exit, Pitney Bowes’s CFO tells us that she found an ideal match: a company guided by core values, steeped in history, and eager to accelerate down a transformation path.
For Chadwick, the work to date—as well as that which lies ahead—marches to a familiar cadence.
Her watchwords: “Assess the problem, create the vision, break it down, and rally the people.” – Jack Sweeney
This article first appeared on Forbes.com