In the past decade, renewable energy from sources such as solar panels and wind turbines has continued to become more cost- and energy-efficient. However, gas turbines have also advanced. As reported by General Electric (GE) in 2018, citing the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas has become the largest source for electricity in the nation.
From the environmental and economic sustainability of traditional energy sources to the land use implications of wind or solar power, GE Gas Power Global Supply Chain Chief Financial Officer Chris Tyler ’97 weighs the pros and cons of various electricity sources every day. While its market has waned, he believes there is still a future for gas turbines.
It’s all about evolution.
“How do we create less emissions and use less fuel?” Tyler pondered. “How do we make it more efficient and better for the environment?”
As a political science major and philosophy minor at Gettysburg College, Tyler didn’t study the environment. It took years of personal and professional growth to fully understand the need to advance the future of not only a company, but also of one of the world’s most rapidly-evolving industries—energy.
“The more I’ve learned, the more I realize that it’s important,” Tyler said. “People that know me know that I’m constantly using words like learn, grow, adapt, and evolve. That’s incredibly important to me.”
In February of 1998, just nine months after graduating, Tyler joined GE. Both his grandfathers and a great aunt worked at GE, and his father and uncle had participated in the company’s Financial Management Program (FMP), an early career development program for accelerated professional growth.
While his family had roots in the company, Tyler decided to forgo his personal network of connections to get his foot in the door—just like he wanted to prove himself at Gettysburg.
“I’m the third of four boys and I was constantly called ‘Little Tyler’ growing up,” he said. “I wanted to make a name for myself and that’s part of the reason I chose Gettysburg. No one in my extended family had gone to Gettysburg. … I was actually able to achieve that goal of making a name for myself at the College because I was a founding member of Omicron Delta Kappa and our picture was put up on the wall in the student union.”
Remembering when his father shared stories about GE’s FMP, Tyler remained steadfast in his determination to shine on his own after graduation. As program recruiters reviewed applications, one of whom grew up in Pennsylvania, his resume stood out among the pack because of his Gettysburg education.
“That’s what got me into the door—the reputation of Gettysburg with this one individual,” Tyler said.
However, getting his foot in the door was just the first step. He had to prove himself again with the interview committee because he lacked financial experience.
But Tyler did his research. Thanks to his Gettysburg education, and specifically his studies in both political science and philosophy, he learned how to successfully deliver and defend an opinion or point of view.
“In the business world, that is incredibly important,” Tyler said. “I feel like I use my degree every day. It’s just not in the way most people would anticipate.
“As I was trying to defend my position,” Tyler continued, remembering the interview, “I mentioned, ‘I know I don’t have any finance experience, but half of your corporate audit staff doesn’t have finance experience and they’re auditing the company on a daily basis.’ They said, ‘They’ve proven themselves.’ So, I said, ‘Well, give me a chance to prove myself.’”
While he wasn’t initially accepted into the program, GE instead offered him another interview for an entry-level position as a commercial finance analyst.
He got the job.
“They didn’t believe that someone with a political science major and philosophy minor could excel in finance,” Tyler said. “After a year of proving myself in this role, and taking an accounting course at the local community college, they put me on the financial management program—and the rest is history,” Tyler said.
Since then, he has moved throughout the company from the training program to its aviation, transportation, and global services divisions. After serving nearly three years as the chief risk officer for GE Aviation, handling both commercial and military service deals, he was named the CFO of the global supply chain of GE Power in April of 2018. What started out as pushing his way through the door turned into getting pulled into new and increasingly challenging roles.
“I love to learn new things,” Tyler explained. “With each job that I would take, I would also then try to expand the scope of the role. I would look at a process and I’d try to improve it. You either improve, simplify, or eliminate it. That creates capacity. That capacity allows you to do bigger, better, broader things. It went from me trying to prove myself to … ‘We believe in you and want you to stretch yourself.’”
It was his ability to learn and execute, which was fostered at Gettysburg, that boosted his career growth exponentially.
“My self-confidence is what grew during my time in Gettysburg,” Tyler said. “That’s what I learned—if I put my mind to it, I can pretty much do anything if I’m willing to put in the time and the sacrifice that is required.”
Today, his goal as CFO is to enhance efficiencies while supporting the company through its “lean journey,” or in other words, its continuous improvement. When Tyler learned of Gettysburg College’s new business, organizations, and management major, as well as its data science minor, he applauded the decisions.
“You’re moving in the right direction, especially with data science,” he said. “Turning data into information can be one of the hardest things to do, and if you’re able to do that simpler, faster, and better than the competition, the better off you’re going to be, regardless of the industry that you’re in.”
To those interested in these degrees, he would advise taking to heart the same message he shares with his colleagues—“Don’t be afraid to fail.”
“Learn as much as you can,” he said. “Be a sponge. You have this incredible opportunity in four years to try so many different things. Even if you don’t want to go into corporate business when you enter the professional world —if you’re going to run your own company or you’re going to be professional musician—you’ll still need to understand the basic concepts of business.
“I think there’s a lot one can learn to get the basics that I had to learn on the job, so they could have a step ahead of the competition,” Tyler continued. “It will better position them to succeed by having gained that knowledge.”
By Megan Miller
Photos courtesy of Chris Tyler ’97