As the Rawls Business Leadership Program (RBLP) celebrates its fifth year, the organization has invited leaders from a wide array of backgrounds to campus to speak to students about leadership. Their most recent guest was Noel Sloan, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President for Administration and Finance at Texas Tech University.
In 2014, Sloan stepped into the role of CFO and developed a vision statement with her team to inspire innovative solutions for the Texas Tech University System. She has managed the university's $974.7 million operating budget and successfully contributed to the innovation and growth of the institution. Over the past 5 years, Texas Tech enrollment has increased by 13%, the operating budget has increased by 19.6%, and the endowments have increased by 11%.
During her visit with RBLP students, Sloan used Disney quotes to illustrate her personal experiences and guide her discussion about leadership development.
"Venture outside your comfort zone, the rewards are worth it"- Rapunzel from Tangled
Sloan used Rapunzel's quote to describe her own leap of faith as she moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Lubbock, Texas. Initially the decision pushed Sloan outside of her comfort zone, but she describes her time at Texas Tech as very rewarding.
She spends her time as a CFO trying to convey these ideas to her team and encourages them to be open with their feedback. Sloan believes every member of the team should feel valuable and important. Sloan invites her team members to lunch on their birthday month and asks what more she can do to support them in both their personal life and their professional career.
"I like to continuously learn new things from other people and work in a very approachable, collaborative environment," Sloan said. "It is what motivates me in a job and highlights my core values of what I want in my career."
"All it takes is faith and trust"-Peter Pan
Sloan reminded students to celebrate other people's success, even if they are experiencing failures. She explained her understanding of how hard it is to have that mentality when you get your first rejection letter while you are hearing your peers get job offers, but she said it is important to remain positive and celebrate other people's successes.
"You have a great network here at the Rawls College of Business and the majority of you will end up with great careers," Sloan said. "If you focus on developing relationships with your peers now, it will lead to new opportunities and they could help you in the long-term."
"A little consideration, a little thought for others makes all the difference" –Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh
Sloan explained that through the stages of your career your mindset will change, what is important is knowing your own strengths and weaknesses in order to build an effective team. She recommends building a team with those who are different from you and have those skills that you are poor at.
"As I have progressed in my career I know the importance of working in teams and identifying what everyone has bring to the table," she said.
Sloan also believes what you do when no one is watching, knowing your core values, and helping others along are what makes the difference in a true leader.
"Change is good"- Rafiki from Lion King
Sloan believes the most important relationship you need to solidify is the relationship with your colleagues. She explained that many people only work on the vertical work relationships, and do not spend enough time on the relationships with their direct level colleagues who could help with transitions along the way in your career.
"We have to accept that there is never a comfortable place we can grow," said Sloan. "You should always be innovatively thinking, no matter what role you currently have, to lead your team and it is important to find mentors to help guide you."
Retired TTU System Chief Financial Offer, Jim Brunjes, mentored Sloan during her early days at Texas Tech. Brunjes told her anyone can be CFO for three years, it is what you do after that makes a difference.
"Around the fourth year in your job, you need to show change," Sloan said. "To be a good leader you need to continuously look for change and bring your ideas forward."
"The only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability" – Remy, Ratatouille
Sloan believes that every step in your career will teach you something new about yourself to get you to your next goal. She reminded students that we never know what opportunities will come along, so it is important to always be open to new things.
"My career path has not been as a straight trajectory," said Sloan. "Being a CFO was never on my radar, but I can't say enough how much I love the job and being involved with great people."
"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."- Walt Disney
As she wrapped up her visit, Sloan reminded students to measure success by their level of happiness, rather than their salary.
"I believe if you love what you're doing, work-family balance will come naturally in that role," said Sloan. "If you don't love what you're doing, you will always feel a conflict between your work and personal life."
About Noel Sloan:
Noel Sloan was born and raised in a small town in Wisconsin. After graduating from Baylor University with a bachelor's degree in accounting and completing a juris doctorate degree from Baylor Law School, Sloan moved back to Wisconsin to work at a small law firm. Sloan then went on to work for Arthur Anderson and eventually moved to a large 300 lawyer law firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After her husband received a job offer in Lubbock, Texas, Sloan and her family decided to move to west Texas and she began working at Texas Tech University in 2006 as the Managing Director for Financial Services & Tax. In January of 2014, Sloan took over the CFO role. Throughout her career at TTU, Sloan has also served as an adjunct faculty member in the Rawls College of Business.