It was a warm summer evening that set the stage for the first M. Keith Weikel Speaker of the school year. This series is intended to provide an exclusive learning and networking opportunity with accomplished business leaders and alumni for the MBA and Master’s students. What made this event particularly interesting was not that it was the first in-person in over a year, but that CFO, Jill Timm of Kohl’s, wants us all to FAIL. That is, take a First Attempt In Learning. This acronym was among many gems of advice that Jill shared with the audience both in the room and online.
Blair Sanford kicked off the evening with opening remarks, thanks, and the flow of the discussion. She then introduced the moderator, Leslie Petty, and special guest Jill Timm. Timm spent the past 22 years of her career at Kohl’s, a Wisconsin headquartered, publicly-traded company, and the largest department retail chain in the United States. Timm was named CFO in 2019 and is responsible for overseeing Kohl’s financial planning and analysis, investor relations, financial reporting, accounting operations, tax, and treasury. Although her background is heavy in the finance and accounting realm, her lessons on career navigation and leadership are some that apply to all.
“In order to grow, one has to take risks, learn from mistakes, listen to others, and be willing to be out of one’s comfort zone,” Morrison Stewart, an Applied Security Analysis MBA student, says was a key takeaway from the event. Timm mentions it wasn’t until she found a strong, brutally honest mentor that encouraged her to take risks that she began leaning into roles outside of her expertise. With that, Timm encouraged the audience not to fear failure. In fact, Kohl’s creates the space for employees to fail fast, learn from it, and move on to that next big idea.
A Strategic Human Resources (SHR) MBA student quickly resonated with Timm’s advice on leading with confidence and the acronym CLIMB. Briana Powell recalls “Confidence and CLIMB were my top takeaways. Leading with confidence is not always easy but so necessary. It’s owning that you belong in the room. [Of the acronym CLIMB] Be curious, listen, be inquisitive, mindful, and believe in yourself. How inspiring! Being a good leader encompasses more than just knowing how to make money for a company. While that is important, a good leader must also view the company as a corporation run by people and be willing to CLIMB.” The seeming confidence and authenticity demonstrated by Timm on stage welcomed those in the room with questions in the final fifteen minutes.
As the evening concluded, Ms. Timm departed with this advice – don’t let being the only, stop you from performing or achieving your goals. In true moderator fashion, Leslie thanked Jill for sharing her experiences while the room erupted in applause. The dialogue was followed by a wonderful assortment of food, desserts, and drinks to encourage attendees to share their stories with each other. After all, the next Weikel guest speaker could be among this very crowd.