Eddie Bowman - Founder of Eddie Bowman Consulting.
Host Nicky Acuna Ocana’s guest on this episode of Leaders With Ambition has had an impressive and fascinating career in Marketing and BD. Starting out as a creative with a love of words, Eddie Bowman explored several sectors early on (including a stimulating and fun experience working for the advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather) before migrating into the world of Big Five accounting and ultimately legal services.
All throughout, as a marketing leader, he was learning lessons daily about how to align teams and make projects happen. His skillsets proved a perfect fit for his role as business development marketing lead at Simmons & Simmons – a fantastic partnership from which he recently stepped down after more than six years. In this episode, Eddie reflects on a variety of topics, including how to combat Imposter Syndrome, lead with quiet, inspiring authority and build trust among peers up and down the firm.
He also shares career lowlights, highlights and thoughts on the traits that are critically important to achieving one’s full potential – in order to derive meaning from as well as success on the job. That certainly describes Eddie’s track record over a long career, but he also has no problem humbly admitting that there were times when he fell short.
“Pursue with rigour and desire each new opportunity and I promise you, the other benefits that you need will follow,” says Eddie. We look forward to seeing where this dynamic leader lands next!
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An idyllic upbringing, passion for travel and a positive (if academically undistinguished) university experience were foundational to Eddie’s first stage of life.
A “mad plan” to do a different job in a different sector every 18 months until he was 30 didn’t quite pan out, but Eddie did start out on an electric path that included stints with an oil company and two top branding and advertising agencies.
While in the advertising industry, he rose to become a Partner at Ogilvy & Mather by age 30. This was, in many ways, formative for Eddie, whose views on client engagement were shaped on the job.
Moving Into Professional Services
Integrating into KPMG’s large partnership culture from a smaller, entrepreneurial, creative environment was “really hard.” Fortunately, Eddie was head-hunted into Arthur Andersen, where he had an amazing experience.
On to Ernst & Young - Eddie’s marketing team numbered 2,500 people globally “and I was completely incapable of doing the job. Let’s be honest!” It was, however, a great training ground for learning the art of persuasion and getting disparate people aligned.
Over time (and through experience as well as observation) Eddie has evolved his focus as a leader, emphasising authenticity and allowing others to shine.
That Elusive Work-Life Balance
Constant business travel among widely disparate time zones was hard on Eddie’s body clock – and not optimal for family life. His 10 years at EY were challenging, fulfilling and a chance to explore interesting thought leadership with tremendous reach. Consulting has been a fun interim job for Eddie, who has leveraged lessons learned on the job in the service of clients – until those ideas are less fresh and it’s time to engage with another job and opportunity to learn.
Leap to Legal
Because of their facility with words, Eddie found working with Lawyers a great fit. And meshed with Simmons & Simmons in particular because of its size (large but not unwieldy) and its innovative approach to marketing and BD. The transition was natural.
Building Trust - Eddie believes it’s developed based on two things
Demonstrating by your actions that you’re trustworthy – and authentic!
Being demonstrably credible in your ability to do the job. You have to deliver!
Communicating loyalty while also being truthful.
Eddie’s leadership default is to let his team members “go, go, go” and embrace mistakes as part of growth and development.
Eddie is launching a new chapter. Where will he go next? He’d be happy to work in some capacity at a law firm as a consultant and is open to all possibilities.
Navigating Significant Depression
Bouts with clinical depression that knocked Eddie down early in his career were harrowing, but have made him particularly empathetic to those who aren’t leading the perfect “Instagram life.”
Eddie reflects on integrating a balance between hard-driving, ambitious career phases and times in life when it’s important to pull back to honour other important things.
What Success Looks Like
Titles and positions aren’t drivers for Eddie at this point, which he finds liberating. It’s an invitation to devote his time to helping others succeed.
Working with the eclectic, fun, talented team at Ogilvy & Mather.
Being with Andersen and of service as the accounting colossus was collapsing in the wake of the Enron scandal.
Feeling like a valuable contributor at Simmons & Simmons, whose culture and size were small enough to enable impact in significant ways.
Having combatted Imposter Syndrome early in his career, Eddie urges: Believing in yourself is critically important. Just do it – and know that time will be your teacher.
Words of Wisdom
The most critical requirement for success in life is tenacity.
Ongoing inquisitiveness and openness are key.
A degree of humility will serve you well.
Try to focus on seeking opportunity, rather than money. If you do the former, the latter is likely to come.
“In some ways the advertising industry in the last century got some of the diversity stuff quite right. We were split 50-50, male-female. Most of my bosses were women. It was also a fantastic, eclectic mix of different socio-economic backgrounds – a real melting pot for different kinds of people.”
“I always had Imposter Syndrome, so I wasn’t ever sure I was any good. The climbing up the greasy pole. I would have to say that (advertising) was a very young people’s profession.”
"I was completely incapable of doing the job (leading EY’s global marketing team) and the organization just was not set up to make it easy for me… I had responsibility without a lot of authority. So I certainly learnt the art of persuasion and getting people aligned behind ideas.”
“I used to think that leadership was about making bold statements and leading from the front… I now think that it’s a much more intricate and soft skill, which is all about demonstrating your authenticity and giving others the opportunity to shine.”
“I felt that (lawyers) were people I’d enjoy spending time with. The other thing that really fascinated me about Simmons was its size… and agility. And also they are brilliant about the legal industry from a marketing and BD perspective.”
“I deliberately spent quite a lot of time just listening – not making any big changes early (at Simmons), because you need to understand what’s going on and the culture of the place before you start doing anything. I think sometimes people just move too fast and make mistakes.”
“It’s really important that you’re authentic. That doesn’t mean you’re a push-over or aren’t going to make hard decisions. It means that you have a set of beliefs and way of operating that seem to have a basis of justice and fairness.”
“In terms of managing people that are your boss, I think you have to speak truth to power … and you have to do it in the right way. You can’t just default to picking an argument every time you’re going to have a dialogue and work out the battles you want to fight.”
“I’m very sympathetic to significant mental illness. I think it’s awful and wish there was more being done about it.”
“For the first half of my working life … I was climbing up the greasy pole. But now I really get my kicks out of trying to help other people.”
“As long as it doesn’t bleed into arrogance, self-belief is really important.”
“Everybody has ability. What sets people apart is their ability to pick themselves up and keep on going. I’m all for tenacity.”
“To me it’s about always putting your best self forward… Bring your best self to work and be authentic and put your head down and work hard. It makes a big difference!” (Nicky)
About Eddie Bowman
Until recently, Eddie was the Partner running the Business Development and Marketing function at Simmons & Simmons. He has also worked extensively as a global Marketing Leader in the fields of accounting and consulting as well as a creative in the advertising sector.
About Nicky Acuna Ocana
Nickyhas led high performing recruitment teams for over 20 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe and USA, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas.
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