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Forecast quarterly costs and expenditures. Month end payroll accrual. OV and Labor Productivity analysis. Direct Variable Cost management….
For my first eight years at Schneider Electric, I immersed myself in the field of finance. I worked across various business areas: RAM Industries, Square D, Corporate Finance, and Sustainability. Each experience was unique and offered its own set of challenges and rewards. While many finance professionals tend to stay within their domain for their entire careers, I charted a different path.
I made a significant career change and ventured into Operations as a Performance Assurance Manager.
Schneider Electric Sustainability and its managers are living breathing examples of what “growing your career” looks like. Nowhere else could I have this opportunity to pivot careers and develop myself further. I truly feel the best is yet to come here.
Allow me to share my personal experience of shifting careers….
Beginning My Career
I began my career in manufacturing as a Finance Intern for Global Supply Chain. In this role, I handled invoicing, purchase order analysis, salary and hourly payroll, shipments and orders, currency rate adjustments, job closing reports, inventory adjustments, and CTO best estimates. It was an invaluable experience to work in a manufacturing facility and gain insights into its operations.
After graduating from Penn State, I joined Schneider Electric’s finance development rotational program, which allowed me to gain exposure to different areas of finance across multiple locations in the United States.
Rotational Program Experience
My first role was as a Financial Analyst in Lincoln, Nebraska, working for the Square D business unit. For almost six months, I was the sole finance person at this location. It was an incredible and challenging experience to be fresh out of college and responsible for managing the entire finance operations of a plant. With the support of my colleagues, I successfully navigated this role.
For my next rotation, I transitioned to Corporate Finance for North America in Dallas, Texas. This position provided me with a deeper understanding of upper management dynamics and offered a unique experience in financial planning and analysis (FP&A).
Working as a Financial Analyst
After two years in the development program, I moved to the commercial/sustainability business as a Financial Analyst in the Public Sector. This transition was smooth, given my prior engagement with this team in my previous roles. Schneider Electric’s environment made such transitions seamless.
I immediately felt like an integral part of the team. Despite being early in my career, I had the privilege of working alongside experienced team members who graciously shared their knowledge and integrated me into the group. I was later promoted to Senior Financial Analyst, spending around four years in both roles in the Dallas, Texas area.
A Career Pivot
In November 2022, my current manager approached me about a role in operations. Recognizing the value of my financial skillset, he believed I could excel in this role if I focused on developing my HVAC and Controls knowledge. Although I had never envisioned leaving finance, the opportunity sounded exciting because it would challenge me to grow and learn in ways I never had before. After accepting the role, I relocated to Kansas City, Missouri.
My Current Role
As a Performance Assurance Manager, I oversee a team of Performance Assurance Consultants who ensure our portfolio of Midwest customers are meeting their projected savings and their buildings are functioning properly. My team oversees public sector customers all the way from Oklahoma to Ohio, mostly consisting of K-12, Universities and Counties.
Our primary focus is on Energy Performance Contracting, where Schneider Electric is the leading ESCO energy savings company in the market. When we undertake an efficiency project, we assure the customer that they will achieve certain paybacks through operations and energy savings over 10-15 years. My team ensures that everything runs smoothly, and the customer achieves the guaranteed savings agreed upon in the contract.
We are involved throughout the customer’s entire journey from planning to completion and beyond, maintaining and building our relationship. This approach builds confidence in their investment and reassures them that we are here to support them throughout the project, even after it concludes.
I meet weekly with my team to discuss their customers and how we can better serve them. To ensure my team can do that, I handle the back-office and project management aspect needed. I also work with the construction team to ensure project completion and handover to my team. This involves resource allocation, employee utilization, and managing cost expenditures.
Many aspects of my job in project management are like what I did in my finance roles, which greatly aided my transition. This has allowed me to focus on my learning journey to understand the HVAC and Controls aspects of my role.
Learning New Skills
It has been quite challenging to shift from working in Excel and finance to understanding HVAC systems. Many consultants in this field have an engineering/mechanical/controls background, unlike me. In some ways, my training has felt like going back to school, and I embrace the opportunity to learn something new every day. My training includes workbooks, sessions, and hands-on experiences.
As a hands-on learner, I accompany consultants on-site whenever possible. I can count on my team to teach and support me without judgment. They are always available to answer my questions and help me grow. I have the privilege of working with a team that brings various experiences and diverse knowledge to the table. This diversity in skill sets allows us to rely on each other and tap into different areas of expertise.
It feels like I’ve been on an incredible journey so far, and I’m only eight years into my career.
Managing a Team
This role has provided me with my first management opportunity. Managing people has been an amazing opportunity that I wouldn’t have had in finance for many years. I always aspired to be a people manager, but I didn’t expect to take on this responsibility so early in my career. I’m grateful to have a team with years of experience who are willing to share their knowledge and teach me as well.
Learn Every Day
Schneider Electric’s commitment to Learn Every Day and the support of my managers have been crucial in my career development and exploration of the business.
Looking back, I can confidently say that joining the Sustainability team has been the greatest opportunity for my career growth and personal development. The thing I love the most about working here is the people. You feel welcome here the first day you start. It is evident that our team is relentless in our mission to better our customers and to better our world by serving their sustainability needs.
In the sustainability field, folks are so different in nature, and this stems from the leadership and environment within the company. Our leaders encourage a fantastic work environment that rewards and recognizes employees. I love the culture at Schneider Electric, especially within our public sector group. It is a culture unlike any other I have experienced in other parts of the company. The uniqueness of the culture is what sets it apart in the best way possible.
Another thing I love about Schneider Electric’s culture is the focus on work/life balance. I can confidently say that my personal life is prioritized and well-supported. I have been fortunate to have had great managers throughout my career who have been incredibly supportive of both my professional and personal endeavors. People truly make the difference.
Through all these moves, I have been supported by Schneider. The company coordinated everything and made it as seamless as possible.
I met my wife during my junior year at Penn State, and we maintained a long-distance relationship for three years. Despite the distance, we made it work with frequent visits. We are both go-with-the-flow kind of people, adapting to new situations easily. After we married in August 2020, she moved to Texas with me for three years, and then we made the decision to relocate to Kansas City and grow our roots. The Midwest is a great place to live; the people, the cities and most importantly, the KC BBQ make it feel like home.
When reflecting on my career journey, a few pieces of advice come to mind. My favorite quote is from Charles Swindoll – “Life is 10% circumstance, 90% how we respond”. It’s why I see each heartache or challenge as a chance to better myself professionally, but more importantly, personally.
I encourage you to challenge yourself every day to learn more than what your current role is. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about other areas of the company. Find a mentor who can give you good advice, help you with next steps and how to be a better person.
And if you’re thinking about taking a chance and switching careers to follow your passion – do it. You’ll be surprised at where it may lead you.
Come work with us!
About the author
Regional Performance Assurance Manager
Ryan graduated from Penn State University in 2017 with a B.S. in Energy, Business, and Finance. He joined Schneider in 2015 as a Finance Intern with Ram Industries and has been here ever since in multiple roles. Ryan currently resides in Kansas City with his wife Kaitlyn and dog Barley. They enjoy hiking, being outdoors, trying local breweries, and watching Philadelphia sports.