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CultureApr 11, 2016

Credera’s Bryan Plantes on Workplace Culture, Leadership & Rocking Chairs

Andrew Warden

Last week I had the chance to catch up with Bryan Plantes, one of Credera’s senior managers in the Analytics and Business Intelligence practice. Bryan and I first met when he interviewed with Credera, and we’ve had a chance to work on several projects through the five and a half years he’s been part of the Credera family. He has risen quickly from senior consultant to senior manager at the firm. I asked him about what attracted him to Credera, what some of his experiences were, and where he’s headed next

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How did you originally find out about Credera?

Sterling Jameson was my fraternity brother, and he joined Credera straight out of college. I was at a Big Four consulting firm traveling 100% of the time and working incredibly long workweeks. I was hanging out with friends and ran into Sterling. He found out I was in consulting and struggling with being on the road all the time—I’d even lost touch with my community of friends and didn’t have a home base. I told him I wanted to leave consulting, and he suggested I look at Credera before giving up on consulting. I still loved the challenges and opportunities of consulting; I just couldn’t get the work/life balance right.

What are the aspects of the culture and job that attracted you to Credera?

When I interviewed, there were probably 60 people at Credera. I met with you, Becky Cochener, and Rob Borrego [Credera’s CEO], in addition to meeting with Kristina Pigneri, the Analytics and Business Intelligence practice leader over lunch. The people really stood out—how they viewed leadership and how I saw myself getting a chance to be in that leadership model were really attractive. That’s the biggest thing I tell other people about Credera: The leadership by far exceeds any leadership I’ve seen anywhere—my clients, other companies I’ve worked for, or that I’ve read about.

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How has the leadership at Credera been better/different?

I think it originates with the core values of our company. Many of the other companies I’ve experienced get the first three of Credera’s core values—professionalism, excellence, integrity. It’s really the last one that makes the difference: humility and the servant leadership mentality. It’s how our leaders really open themselves up to go the extra mile with their teams. They want to make sure their clients and teams are served first—even before their own needs and desires are met. At my old company, I felt like a revenue stream and a number. It was “get your time in, bill your hours, and do your role.” It was very transactional.

An example that stands out about the difference at Credera was when Matt Levy, one of the founders of Credera, found out that my wife was pregnant with our first child. He pulled me into his office to talk about parenting and to express his excitement for me. He didn’t need to know his people that deeply, and I’m sure he had a million things to do, but he took a lot of time to talk with me about something exciting and personal. I feel like the people here not only care about how I’m doing on work things, but they also know and care about my family and what’s going on in my life outside of work.

What are some of your personal core values, and how do you apply them to your work and personal life?

I think faith is the number one value that drives a lot of the umbrella of what I do—it drives my beliefs. I love to see how faith is lived out at Credera as well. One way I’m able to connect well with Credera is seeing how stewardship is important to the firm. Stewardship goes beyond the financial aspects and into time, talent, and energy. Credera not only has strong financial stewardship, but the company also gives its ‘first fruits’ back into the community—not just where the partners are involved, but where the people of Credera are also passionate and involved/invested. From a personal standpoint, I think stewardship of time is important, and I want to invest in relationships back within my community, pouring into others and having others influence me.

You are a hard worker, and like a lot of consultants, tend to be driven. How have you maintained a balance between work and life here?

I love what I do, and I love who I do it for. One of Credera’s partners, David Dobat,  says “It’s easy to balance work and life if you love what you do going to work, and you love going home at the end of the day.” I think that is so true. When I work a hard week, with a team I love, working on something important—that is really gratifying. I also know that if my hours start to rise, I’m probably going to have a partner or another Credera leader checking if things are OK and making sure I’m not ‘burning too hot.’ I feel very cared for.

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The company events where we bring spouses and families together—the company trips we take together with spouses to celebrate firm successes, the local events we do with entire families—these are really important in connecting who we are outside of work with who we are at work. When your family at home feels like they’re a part of the work you do, it makes it easier for them to support a tough week when those come along from time to time.

You’ve been here close to six years. You’ve grown rapidly in Credera from senior consultant to now senior manager. What do you attribute that to?

I think a big piece of it has been mentorship. It started with Scott Covington taking several of us under his wings on a project, showing us what good leadership looks like, setting expectations well with us, and then giving us some guidelines that helped us grow in our careers. That was huge for me, and it’s been consistent on all my projects. I’ve had a chance to work on projects that really develop and challenge me, and that’s how a lot of that growth has occurred.

What advice would you give to someone joining Credera?

[Laughs] Well, I give a lot of advice. I guess I’d say get to know a lot of people. You’ll give more of yourself, and you’ll feel you want to give and grow more with this company the more you invest in it. Not just from a time standpoint, but also from an emotional and mental standpoint. Meet people that work in different practices and at different levels in the firm. It helps you understand the vision and direction of the company. People are really willing to share that with others.

Also, I tell people to focus on doing excellent work, regardless of the role or project, and you’ll excel here.

What’s next for you?

It changes from time to time. I would love to lead a practice at Credera at some point in my career, to be doing more significant company development. I want to be focusing on how to grow Credera and cultivating a team. I want to make sure I continue to grow my business development skills and grow my network, that I am out meeting with other people. When it comes to specific technology, I’d love to invest heavily into the latest Microsoft Business Intelligence offerings. Not just learning the technical details, but also the business value of the solution and how it connects with other components of Microsoft’s capabilities.

I’m curious. You never said “I want to be promoted in ‘X’ timeframe, or I want to be a partner here.” You weren’t really focused on title. Not that there is anything wrong with your answer, but why?

I think that will come in time, when I am demonstrating I am ready for those things. Sure, those are goals, and I would love to be a partner and have ownership in the company one day, but I am more focused on the actions that will help get me there than the results. I want to make sure I’m growing the right way.

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What is it about the job that you are passionate about?

Growing and cultivating individuals through great project leadership and delivery. I love being able to work with our younger employees and be a part of their development. An example would be one of the most recent projects I was on that included five consultants who were somewhat new to Credera. Along with two other leaders on the project, I had the chance to demonstrate great project execution and see how those new consultants developed. Seeing four of those consultants get promoted because of their development and growth was really rewarding. It’s being able to look into the individual, see where they most need to grow and where they can really cultivate the gifts they have, and then letting them run. The key is to really know your people: what drives them, what gifts they have, and what areas they need to improve.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

Family. Community—my church community. The guys and the families in that group are very much a part of my everyday life. My two little girls are growing, and it’s a huge part of my life—getting a chance to do some of the same things I mentioned above about our employees: seeing their gifts and developing them.

Woodworking is also a passion. I put that last, even though it’s something I’m extremely passionate about, but I don’t do it as much because it’s more of a pure ‘me’ thing. Working with my hands gives me a chance to focus inward and think. I like that this is a passion and a portion of my life that doesn’t have a deadline. Everything else in life seems to have a deadline associated with it.

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What’s your current woodworking project?

I’m currently working on a rocking chair. It’s taking a lot longer than I thought. It’s about a 150- to 200-hour project. Four years ago, when my first daughter was born, I told my wife we needed a rocking chair and I would build one. I quickly realized I didn’t have the tools and skills to build the type of chair I wanted to build, a work of art. Over the last four years I’ve been working on both the tools and the talent and finally started earlier this year.

Who will the rocking chair be for when it’s done?

[Laughs] For me. I want to build the first one and create the template, so I can build them in the future and fine tune the product.

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Well, sign me up for a chair when you’re ready.