Howard Lance Presentation: "Building a Career"
April 2, 2014
Building a Career
By Matt Hawkins (View the original article on the main Bradley site here.)
April 2, 2014
Looking back on nearly four decades in the business world, Bradley alum Howard Lance ’77 noted the importance of mentors, versatility and an open-minded approach to opportunities. Lance, an executive advisor at The Blackstone Group and retired Harris Corporation CEO, spoke to Bradley students in late March.
An undergraduate co-op experience at Caterpillar set Lance on an engineering path, but early career opportunities to work with customers opened new possibilities.
“It was like a light switch went off, so I decided to give it a shot,” he said. “I had no background in business so I had no business doing it, but I was lucky I had mentors.”
That led to a shift to the business management side that defined the rest of his career.
“I never thought I would be a CEO or aspire to be a CEO until my late 30s,” Lance said. “If you take care of the job you have, the next job will take care of itself.”
With technology ubiquitous in both business and engineering, he recognized the need for the modern workforce to be versatile in both fields. Thus, convergence efforts like those on the Hilltop are needed.
“The notion of convergence, which Bradley is leading in, is the forefront of what’s going on in business,” Lance said. “In the end, for a commercial enterprise, it’s not just about creating things but creating things people will buy.”
“The sooner you can get these capabilities, the better you’ll be and Bradley is on the cutting edge,” he added. “It’s the right thing at the right time.”
In addition to cross-disciplinary knowledge, Lance encouraged students to be lifelong learners who can adapt to an ever-evolving world.
“Markets can change overnight. Many organizations 20 years ago who would’ve been market leaders are now market laggers. What you’ve got here is important, but do you have the skills to go forward?” he said. “The days of being able to come out of college, start your career and go into the cubicle are gone. We need people who can go into bigger cubicles and work with four, six, eight people and solve problems.”
In addition to a diverse skill set, Lance suggested students seek wise counsel. Mentors, he said, were crucial to his success.
“What I am is a compilation of all these great people who taught and allowed me to do things,” he said. “I could not achieve what I have in life without them. I’m a product of their good guidance.”
Lance’s wisdom resonated with mechanical engineering majors Adam Smetters ’14 and Andrew Davis ’14.
“Convergence is important for engineering because it teaches us how to think differently,” Smetters said.
“As a senior close to graduating, a lot of things he said are what I’m considering,” said Davis, noting points Lance made about prioritizing time and details.
About Mr. Lance:
Howard L. Lance, industrial engineering graduate from Bradley University (1977), is an executive advisor at The Blackstone Group. He works with select portfolio companies to enhance their performance through a focus on business strategy, operational excellence, organizational development and M&A.
Mr. Lance is the retired chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Harris Corporation (NYSE:HRS) from January 2003-2011. Before joining Harris, Mr. Lance was president of NCR Corporation (NYSE:NCR) and chief operating officer of its Retail and Financial Group. Previously, he spent 17 years with Emerson Electric Company (NYSE:EMR) including as executive vice president of its Electronics and Telecommunications Group, chief executive officer and director of its Astec Plc electronics subsidiary based in Hong Kong, group vice president of its Climate Technologies group and president of its Copeland Refrigeration division.
In 2006, Mr. Lance was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year for the Florida region by Ernst & Young in 2008.