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What Resilience Means to Me /Guest Feature/ by Jeff Dow

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Business resiliency reinvigorated my career

I had been a leader at my company for five years. I struggled with some new initiatives and implementing those with the team during that time. I also knew that the department where I worked was reorganizing, and I was concerned that I might not have a role in the coming months. I liked (and still like) the company I worked for and wanted to remain a part of the organization, so I applied for several jobs with no success. My supervisor said one of the hiring managers I already had interviewed with had an opening for a business resiliency (BR) consultant. She said they spoke and felt my background in the Coast Guard would be an asset in that role. I had a passing knowledge of business resiliency in our company but had not worked directly with that program. I was familiar with Coast Guard continuity of operations planning but had no experience with that either.

The interview went well, and the manager offered me the role. Since then, it feels like I have found an area that fits my personality and interests. Since getting this role, I went back to graduate school for an emergency management degree, completed a certification in business continuity, and served on the board for a state-wide contingency planning group – all of that with the strong support of the company and my manager. In October, I accepted a position managing both the business resiliency and safety and security programs.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to work in the business continuity field. What resilience means to me begins with my time afloat. My Coast Guard career included four tours aboard cutters, and on two of those cutters, I was the commanding officer. In my time aboard ships, every commanding officer’s standing orders referenced the need for foresight and eternal vigilance. Preparedness is paramount aboard any ship, as it is in business continuity.

To take it a step further, Ernest King, the Chief of Naval Operations during World War II, said, “The mark of a great ship-handler is never getting into situations that require great ship-handling.” Even the best preparations will not prevent disruptive events. Still, the amount of work completed before that disruptive event will likely reflect how resilient a company is in its response and recovery. During a crisis, adaptability is also a critical skill. The BR plan a department creates is as much for the planning process as producing the plan. It is much like being on a ship; the crew must anticipate not just one scenario but also consider handling multiple events.

During my first two years with the program, the BR team worked through several disruptive events, including a dip in the polar vortex that brought historic cold weather throughout the Midwest. The polar vortex provided the BR program and the company a dress rehearsal for the COVID-19 response and accelerated the remote work mitigation strategy. That is an example of an organization staying vigilant while quickly adapting to the much broader impact caused by a pandemic.

A ship at sea is a dynamic environment. Standards and procedures are essential, but adaptability, foresight, and vigilance must govern sailors’ actions and the actions of business continuity practitioners.

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