EDITOR’S NOTE: The DRJ Career Development Committee is supporting this series of articles featuring the career paths of industry professionals. Throughout this series of candid interviews, we hope to provide career advice to our readers by highlighting lessons learned, highs and lows, opportunities and challenges. The DRJ Career Development Committee promotes education, opportunity, inclusion, and excellence surrounding the exploration and evolution of career paths in all aspects of business continuity and risk management. Key elements of our mission include promoting open and candid discussions of career opportunities, providing mentorship, resources, and guidance to equip our membership with the necessary knowledge, best practices, and tools to succeed in their chosen career path.
When Nate Bridges started his business continuity career in 2001, it was still a growing field. He quickly realized only a few employees within his division of more than 10,000 had limited understanding of business continuity. In order to overcome these challenges, he sought business continuity coordinators in other divisions to serve as his mentors. They encouraged him to seek opportunities to serve as an internal “consultant” and help other departments with their business continuity deliverables. This effort helped Bridges build his knowledge, capabilities, and experience which eventually led to a promotion to divisional continuity manager.
A few months after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Bridges worked as a project manager at Wachovia Bank, now Wells Fargo, in Charlotte, N.C. He was also a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. His department leader assigned him the role of business continuity coordinator for the department for the sole reason of him being in the military.
Bridges has had the opportunity to experience many significant achievements in his 20-year career. He resigned in 2006 from Wachovia to serve as a global business continuity manager with E*TRADE Financial. In his new role, he was responsible for business continuity and crisis response for retail and institutional trading centers in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia.
Bridges, MBCP, MBCI, PMP, is now president and managing principal at True North Resiliency. True North Resiliency is a veteran owned boutique, business continuity, project management recruiting, and consultancy. The firm was founded in 2017 by and for resiliency and project management professionals and organizations in the financial services and federal government industry.
“Barely two months into my role I was on a plane headed to Stockholm, Sweden to conduct business continuity training and a joint data center/business continuity exercise,” said Bridges. “This was my first business trip overseas and first time planning and facilitating a live data center failover test. The successful exercise included on-site and remote participants from Denmark, Canada, U.S., and India. Traveling overseas on business for the first time and adjusting to the culture, time-zone, and other nuances was challenging. However, the training and exercise was successful and nearly 15 years later I still feel good about the experience.”
Bridges references another significant achievement of which he is proud. This joint crisis management and business continuity exercise included outside agencies. In 2011, he was a senior business continuity program manager with TIAA and the regional crisis management team leader. Given the proximity to the Duke Energy, McGuire Nuclear Station in Catawba County, Bridges planned and facilitated an exercise with crisis management representation from Duke Energy and the Charlotte Office of Emergency Management. Although he cannot discuss specifics of the exercise, Duke and Charlotte OEM partnered with Bridges and his team to ensure the exercise was realistic and value added. The exercise planning and execution was a very good model in the benefits of public and private partnerships.
Through different experiences, Bridges learned that his personal reputation is very important in the industry.
“After more than 20 years in the profession, it still has the feeling of a small family when compared to other professionals such as project management and information technology,” he said. “You will not last in the industry or reach your potential if you do not have a reputation built on integrity, collaboration, knowledge sharing, continuing education, and follow-through.”
Bridges said individuals tend to operation in company silos in the industry. Except for attending the occasional annual DRJ conference, individuals “have a tendency to not network or connect with professionals outside their organizations.”
Bridges continued by saying building and maintaining meaningful business relationships is vital to one’s professional and personal growth. This includes serving the profession by volunteering at local and national industry associations, serving on boards and helping peers obtain job opportunities and providing career advice.
“In other words, serving others is the best way to network and build authentic and collaborative relationships,” he said.
As for advice to others in the business continuity and disaster recovery profession, Bridges said people should research the industry, understand current risks and trends, and invest time in developing their goals and aspirations.
“It is not very hard to enter this profession, but it is very hard to build a rewarding career,” he said.
Bridges noted there are many opportunities and career tracks beyond serving in a full-time, traditional business continuity role. Opportunities exist in domestic and global business continuity software sales, professional services, consulting, to highly specialized areas such as recovery and resolution planning in the financial services sector.
He added how it is very important to seek out mentors and coaches in a variety of organizations and industries.
“This will help you begin your journey with the end goal in mind,” said Bridges. “Experienced professionals can help you understand important soft skills such as presentation, influencing, leadership without authority, selling the program, project management and working collaboratively with corporate communications, human resources, physical security, information security, and life/safety professionals to name a few.”
He said he feels it is important to be self-aware and understand how one’s specific personality type and what really drives and motivates someone.
“Serving as a business continuity professional provides visibility at the senior levels but in larger organizations the rank and file might not know you exist,” he said. “As you progress in the profession, you will quickly learn that every day is different and you will require the ability to quickly shift gears from business-as-usual to full-on crisis management role without missing a beat. I believe it is very important to take the time to know thyself and take a skills inventory to surface the skills and competencies you will need to thrive and have a rewarding career.”
For more information on the DRJ Career Development Committee, contact Tracey Forbes Rice. Rice is a member of the Disaster Recovery Journal Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) and chairperson of the Career Development Committee. Rice has 20 years of experience in business continuity and risk management. As vice president of customer engagement at Fusion Risk Management, Rice brings customers together, partnering with them to develop innovative solutions and to achieve new levels of program success. Rice welcomes your feedback at [email protected].