Jenny Bush started at Cummins Inc. 24 years ago as a technical specialist. Today, she's vice president of sales and service North America, and she's still loving it.
She credits her success to a strong work ethic and a desire to keep on learning.
Why did you get into this line of work? And did you always want to do this?
When I was much younger, I used to spend many evenings and weekends helping my dad fix up cars. I was the youngest of three girls and also have a younger brother, but I had the smallest hands and was able to help my dad as he serviced the family's cars. When I was about to leave school, I looked into many trades. I didn’t really want to take on a job where I sat behind a desk. The girls in my family were nurses, but that wasn’t really for me. I was offered an apprenticeship, which meant going to school at the same time as working. So I applied and got in. The rest, as they say, is history!
You started out as a technical specialist, and over the course of more than two decades, you've moved up to vice president of sales and service. What would you tell someone starting out about how to plot a career path?
I think what I would say is: in every role, learn, learn, learn. I was able to progress because I sought out new experiences and built on the knowledge I had. I usually took on more than my fair share of work and I always wanted to gain new skills. Because of this I had the opportunity to try many new things and build on my core experiences of working with the tools. I had an early flair for taking on difficult conversations as well as problem-solving. That work ethic allowed others to take a risk on me, too.
In your apprenticeship with Shell Oil, you were the first female technician in a traditionally male environment. What advice would you give to women thinking about breaking into a male-dominated field or vice versa?
When I went into the role, I didn't really acknowledge I was different, but of course I was. It was at a time where even safety shoes for women didn't exist. I also felt at the time I had to work harder than my male counterparts. I am not sure however that was really true. I had managers and supervisors who wanted me to do well, and I asked tons of questions and worked hard. I think the advice I would give is just to be you. I spent a ton of energy trying not to be me, and it turns out when I relaxed I was a better employee and a better student, so my best advice is to be you and to shine with your gifts not through misconceptions, which may or may not exist.
You've spent large sections of your career overseas. On SkillPointe, we focus a lot of our attention on training paths. What are the key differences in training opportunities overseas vs. in the United States?
OK, so firstly I am British, so grew up overseas, I guess. I have lived and worked in the United Kingdom, and the USA and I did a short temporary assignment in Egypt. In the U.K., on-the-job training is a core opportunity for many; there are many vocational routes through life, not just ones of academia, and kids leaving school are encouraged equally to take either path. As a result I was able to enter into trade school, supported by a company that paid my tuition and gave me training. In return I worked at the same time as I went to school. It was a great experience and one I would recommend, as it enabled me to build skills in the workforce as well as to study and obtain my education at the same time.
You've been with Cummins for about 24 years now. In this day and age, staying with one company is unusual. What would you say is the benefit of staying with one company for that long?
I would say the benefit is that the company really gets to know you and you get to know it. When I started at Cummins, I didn't have a long-term view, but as my career has progressed, I have found myself caring deeply about our culture and my relationships at the company. I guess I just found that I fit, and that the company was willing to listen and hear from me as well as encourage my development. I would never have stayed as long if I didn't believe in our values. They match a lot of my own personal values, and the company now feels part of me.
What has been your favorite job at Cummins? (We know you loved them all, but pick one and tell us why.)
Firstly, I have loved every job I have done at Cummins, but if I had to pick my favorite, I think I would pick running my first distributor, Cummins Mid-South. The job had tons of challenges, lots of great people, communities I could invest in and it frankly tested me every day. Second would be taking on Cummins Southern Plains and then forming the Gulf Region, pretty much for the same reasons. I had incredible teams and made lifelong friendships in those roles because they were in the field and we were supporting each other.
What’s the most common misconception about your industry?
I think the most common misconception is that the industry is not growing or exciting because it has older technologies. It’s actually not true. The industry has many new technologies that will enable its survival, which is very complex and pretty exciting.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
Well that’s a great question! When I was a kid I looked hard at the military as a paramedic and the police force. I actually did my work experience at age 14 with the police. I was always drawn to helping others.
Bonus: You've been described as an avid soccer and rugby fan. Is that never-miss-a-game avid or something less extreme?
Rugby is in my family and the family of my husband. I wouldn't say I am an avid fan though, and I am not a big soccer follower either. I enjoy all physical activity — love playing tennis and any team sport, really. I used to do lots of extreme activities, however as I have become a parent, I view those a bit differently than I did when I was younger. I have been known to skydive, bungee jump, scuba dive, climb. I guess the most extreme thing I do these days is to ski and ride my Peloton!