Colin Fowler finds success at Marsh & McLennan Companies
He’s succeeded in IT without an IT degree. He credits a variety of factors for his rise: certifications, business savvy and military discipline are a few
Even without a technical degree, Colin Fowler has done well in the IT industry. Part of it he attributes to technical certifications he’s earned along the way, but he also believes his veteran status played a role. “Father was a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer stationed in Canada,” and his uncle was a B-17 turret gunner who fought in the Pacific during World War II, he says. “I grew up with their stories, and I came out of the navy steeped in military discipline. Veterans are respected in business.”
Fowler is global head of incident and problem management for Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC) in Hoboken, NJ. MMC, headquartered in New York, NY, is a professional services firm that offers advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy and human capital. It serves clients in more than 130 countries.
Growing up in New Jersey, Fowler was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout. “I loved the outdoors and camping. As I was going through high school, video games were coming out. I discovered I liked computers. I enjoyed playing the games, but also trying to figure out what made them tick.”
He joined the U.S. Navy in 1982 right out of high school. “I was patriotic, and I wanted to have some adventures and see the world,” Fowler says with a smile.
“Based on my armed services vocational test scores, I got to choose a profession, and I chose aviation anti-submarine warfare technician. I did troubleshooting on a system called DIFAR (directional frequency and ranging), used on P-3 Orion aircraft.”
When he was discharged in 1989, Fowler went to Rider University (Lawrence Township, NJ), and graduated in 1993 with a degree in business administration. “Initially, I was going for a degree in computer science, but it required more time so I switched to business administration and graduated in three years.”
Fowler held jobs in retail finance at Norwest Financial (Union, NJ) and Associate Financial Services (Greenbrook, NJ). But he was often called upon to be the informal computer helpdesk. “Laptops were coming into the corporate environment, and all the district managers were sending me theirs to install software, troubleshoot, and so forth.”
Jumping into the IT arena
He decided that computer work was what he wanted to do, so he went to the Chubb Institute (Parsippany, NJ) for a technical certification in networking and data communications. “Chubb took the top two people in each class and hired them into the Chubb consultancy,” he recalls. “I was placed at Bristol Myers Squibb in Lawrenceville, NJ as a network administrator doing desktop support.”
In 1996, Bristol Myers Squibb hired Fowler as a fulltime employee. He was there two years. “Tech was really starting to take off,” he notes, “and there was a shortage of technical folks. I moved to Signet Star Reinsurance Company (Florham Park, NJ), a small company where I had a much bigger role. I got to do all of Signet’s networks, servers and e-mail. It was also the first time I had people working for me.”
In 2000, Fowler went to Johnson & Johnson (J&J;, New Brunswick, NJ) as supervisor of wide-area network (WAN) operations in its network operations center (NOC) for North and South America. “NOC was a cool job,” he says.
Fowler was J&J;’s IT site manager in Fort Washington, PA from 2003 to 2005. In 2005, he was named director of IT service delivery for North America, working in Raritan, NJ. He spearheaded a team that standardized IT infrastructure services across all North American J&J; companies.
In 2007, Fowler accepted a contracting role with KeynetX (Quakertown, PA), a small IT company. He did project management and IT process work for the United States Postal Service in support of USPS.com and the Postal Service’s eCustomer Care initiatives. But he missed being part of a real team in an organization, so he posted his resume on several job boards and was contacted by a technical recruiting firm. The firm presented him to Marsh & McLennan Companies.
Rising up the ranks at MMC
Fowler joined the organization in 2008 as head of the colleague service center in Louisville, KY, working for MMC Global Technology Infrastructure, MMC’s internal technology service provider.
“The job was challenging and rewarding,” he recalls. “There were helpdesks in Australia, in the U.K., and here. We wanted to make them all more efficient and world-class. I implemented a robust metrics program to measure performance from the organizational level down to the analyst level.”
In 2011, MMC named him global portfolio manager. He returned to New Jersey to work in MMC’s program management office in Hoboken. Fowler assumed his current role in 2013. “The service desks are again one of my organizations, along with global access management, the problem management team, and the major incident management team. I have four direct reports and a total organization of about 120 people.”
Fowler is a Six Sigma green belt. He’s also a member of the Help Desk Institute. As he moves up the ladder, he has found his business degree very useful. “The higher you go in your career, the more important it is to be aligned with your internal business customers. A critical success factor for me has been the ability to effectively communicate without using a lot of IT jargon.”
Advocate for fellow veterans
At MMC, Fowler is co-chair of the veterans colleague resource group (VCRG). “VCRG has about 200 members. We do community outreach, providing help in veterans’ homes, supporting honor flights, and hosting career events for nonprofit Four Block (www.fourblock.org, New York, NY), which provides career development and transition support services to returning veterans and their families,” he says. The VCRG also works with MMC’s Veteran Talent Initiative, helping to recruit veterans to the company and providing support through a “buddy program” for recently hired veterans.
“I feel very passionate about this,” Fowler emphasizes. “We have the largest influx of returning veterans since World War II, and we owe them something. I couldn’t be prouder of our organization’s commitment to hire 500 veterans over the next three years.”
Exciting opportunities on the horizon
“I love what I do and I love this organization,” Fowler says. “There is a ton of opportunity here both horizontally within the operating companies and vertically at the next level up. There’s always something new and challenging ahead.”
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