Building An Authentic Career in Strategic Finance

In this short series, we hear from mid-career professionals, leaders, and founders on what it takes to build an authentic career, some of their challenges and proudest moments along the way, and their best piece of advice for navigating an intentional and authentic career. Get inspired below!

What's your name?

Josh McLean

What's your title or function?

Finance Manager and Global Nike Direct

What led you to this career path?

My career has certainly taken a non-linear path creating what I call a “Swiss Army toolbelt” of experiences across multiple industries in both the private and public sectors. This breadth of experience provides me with a General Manager perspective; allowing me to understand diverse business contexts and bring a unique perspective for unlocking growth.

But to your question… how did I get here? Honestly, I wasted most of my time in high school and college taking the easy path. It was a simple observation several years out of college that led to my first professional unlock. After discussing a complex merger integration inventory project in my grocery distribution role a close friend made a simple observation “you seem to be really good with numbers” and it stopped me in my tracks. “Yes… yes that’s true” I thought.

That question led me to the Financial Services industry with Ameriprise Financial. Further career insights helped me gain clarity on pursuing my MBA and CFA while working full-time so I could successfully pivot to Strategic Finance.

What would you say is your unique zone of genius?

I spend a lot of time thinking about this question and refining it to ensure I’m crystal clear on understanding my zone of genius AND I intentionally seek to spend a greater percentage of my time on projects aligned to my zone of genius.

So here it is <insert drum roll>… As a Strategic Finance thought partner, I serve as a catalyst for growth and advancement, empowering enterprise executives and visionary leaders to pursue their ambitious ideas. With a unique ability to see the big picture and break down complex processes into actionable steps, I bring clarity and stability to even the most chaotic situations.

What's the best part and the hardest part of the work you do today?

Best part is having a front-row seat to Nike’s “DTC” Direct to Consumer business model transformation and supporting business leaders responsible to bring the vision to life across the marketplace.

Hardest part is ensuring the fast pace in Nike Direct doesn’t become all consuming. This requires continual calibration with my family to ensure I’m showing up as an engaged Dad along with prioritizing rest & recovery.

What's a challenge you've overcome in your career (that you're willing to share)?

In Spring 2012, I was in a car accident that left me with a traumatic brain injury or TBI. This kicked off a nearly 3 year journey of intense rehab/recovery which included eye therapy so I could learn how to read again. As I navigated this dark period I made the conscious choice to not give up on life and to show up as “authentic Josh.” This required me to ditch the cardboard persona of fitting into a corporate mold and explore what it means to drive results while still having some fun in the process.

When you look back on your career what are you most proud of?

There are many highlights but I’m MOST proud of my time at Champions. 

After my TBI rehab/recovery I joined the Champions LOB under the Kindercare family of brands. Acting in a brand CFO capacity I was responsible for creation of our 3 year strategic plan to 2x Revenue and Margin which included operational plans and business development strategy.  

This role was the pinnacle of my Finance career. Loved the work. Loved the people. Loved the mission. As a bonus my kids loved traveling with me... they were truly apart of the Champions family.

Only 1 thing could pull me away. The dream of NIKE.

What's the job or passion project you've considered but never gone after?

Two come to mind. 

Becoming a professional speaker and pursuing the Gallups Global Strengths Coach certification. My leadership approach has included StrengthFinders for nearly 15 years and recently I facilitated StrengthsFinder workshops as a stretch assignment at Nike. Adding the coach certification would allow me to build a side hustle around workshops or possibly even paving the way for a career pivot. 

What is the best piece of career advice you'd like to share with others?

When speaking with others I typically begin with a core paradigm shift: Your job title does NOT equal your identity. I repeat your job title DOES NOT equal your identity. Corporate professionals, professional athletes, and stay-at-home parents are all susceptible to the false premise WHAT you do defines WHO you are. 

My early career was marked by this lie and it took me nearly 10 years and a car accident to finally shed this lie and show up authentically at work. 

What does a fulfilling life and career look like for you?

Personally, a fulfilling life starts with prioritizing my family. Being a present father and husband has shaped my career decisions. Often, spouses and kids become collateral damage from unconstrained career ambition. I have cherished roles where my family has become integrated into my work life, especially at Champions where my kids were comfortable engaging with the CEO while on work trips. 

From a career perspective, I'm energized when my work is focused on unlocking profitable growth. I wither under repetitive tasks and/or accepting the status quo.

In you're ready to show up with intention in your career, here are three ways that we can support you. 

1) Tired of sorting through the noise on social media? Keep your on-going career education top of mind by registering for our weekly newsletter. Join our newsletter here.

2) Ready for a supportive community to starting living your best most authentic life? Learn about The Authenticity Lab.

3) Not sure how to advance your career and become a stronger leader? Work one-on-one with a career coach. Learn more and book a call here.