From a Career in Human Resources to Founding a Tech Startup

Human Resources, Executive Coaching, and Technology

After holding a number of executive and leadership roles at Lockheed Martin, Oliver Wyman, and Marsh & McLennan Companies, Ben Brooks leveraged his diverse professional experiences to start his own executive coaching firm in 2013.

PILOT, Ben’s second entrepreneurial venture, is a tech startup dedicated to helping motivated professionals be successful at work, and launched in 2016.

As an executive coach, Ben works with clients ranging from real estate leaders, to interior designers, to data scientists, to venture-backed startups, to fine art dealers to help them advance their careers and grow their businesses. He sees what’s possible, simplifies what it takes to get there, and stimulates action.

As the Founder & CEO of PILOT, Ben aims to bring that coaching expertise to larger audience, offering on-demand products that combine an easy-to-use technology platform with relevant and actionable, real-world advice.

In Ben’s corporate career, he established himself as a thought leader in the human capital space as a VP and later SVP of HR. In addition to speaking at many conferences and industry events, he was named a “Rising Star” by HR Executive Magazine and two years later was featured on their cover.

He accelerated his career supporting LGBT and diversity efforts by co-founding GLOW, Oliver Wyman’s LGBT employee resource group. Building off the culture and policy changing accomplishments at his consulting firm, he worked with a talented team to help end the military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy as a member of the board of directors of Service Members Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and as chair of development.

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Career Success Q&A

What do you like most about your job?

Making a massive impact.


What kind of formal training do you have?

I attended the University of Denver and graduated with a degree in marketing and a minor in leadership studies.

I’m also certified by the National Career Development Association.

What kind of experience did you have before beginning your current role?

People have been asking me for advice since I was 12, so I finally got smart and started charging for it!

Previously I was a SVP of HR at a global firm, winning awards and recognition for our innovative programs.


Do you have a guiding philosophy for your career?

My career has always been about moving things forward, making things better, and having an impact. In short, I stand for the realization of human potential.


What excites you most about your career?

Each day is unknown which means I am constantly learning, growing and getting better. It is also a big test of me (my focus, patience, strength, and belief).


What excites you about the future of your career?

The idea that we could help a massive number of people be happier at work and smarter in how they manage their careers, using tools that were previously only available to the elite.


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Are you an avid reader?

Yes. Lately it’s more articles than books. I try to read a book every month or two on my Kindle.


What do you recommend to people trying to improve themselves professionally?

I just read a great book called Uncertainty. It taught me a lot about how the things that freak us out as humans are 100% what’s required to thrive as a business owner.

Everyone is talking about the How I Made This podcast lately — I need to check it out!

I read tons of articles and blogs online, and Medium’s daily email summary is fantastic. The Pocket app suggests great resources too. I also enjoy TED talks a great deal.

The biggest suggestion I have is less about adding more but instead subtracting. Cut out some of the trash you consume in your media. Unfollow or mute or block people who spew content that doesn’t lift you up.


Do you have a regular routine you follow to ensure you’re always improving?

I practice Vedic Meditation and Every. Single. Morning.

I get up and spend 22 minutes in my chair clearing my head and getting present. It is mission critical for me.

Having advisors and mentors helps a lot as does seeing my therapist weekly, having an hour where I get to reflect and get support in sorting through what’s going on in my life and how I feel about it.


What is the best career advice you ever received?

I once took a seminar and the leader said something to the effective of ‘You are 100% responsible for your life, your experiences, and your results.’

Yep, that’s pretty powerful.

Sure, everyone starts from different places, but being responsible has given me a great sense of power (and some burden) to take action.

When things aren’t going how I want them to it is wonderful to know I can be a cause in the matter and take action.


Who are your most influential mentors and why do you admire them?

I had an executive coach, Norman Dayron, who I worked with weekly for a few years.

He was double my age, lived across the country, and was just oh-so wise. I knew he was on my team, in my corner. He would cut through my BS and tell it like it is. He took a holistic approach to coaching and would weigh in and ask about things like my love life and physical health, as they impacted my work performance.


Would you consider yourself a goal-setter?

Yes. I write a life plan every year.

This year I tried something different and used emotions as my goals. I listed how I wanted to feel in 2016 as my framework for my goals.


Has there been a specific method of goal setting that has contributed to your successes?

Outcome based goals have worked best, often organized into different categories.

Rather than think of an activity, like go to the gym, I think of the result I want, like feeling very fit or being thin.

Starting with the end in mind has greatly helped me envision the future I want, which gets me excited and propels me into action.


What are a few of your short-term and long-term career goals?

Short-term is to develop sales process and resources to drive revenue growth of my startup. I want to become a masterful salesman with short sales cycles, high customer satisfaction, and high net promoter scores.

Long-term I want to establish myself as a go-to authority on matters of career advice and strategy within business circles and the media more broadly.


What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced over the course of your career?

I have faced many, but the biggest one was failing to recognize how I was smart.

I focused too much on evaluating how smart I was relative to my colleagues, rather than looking at the various ways in which I was smart.

I would compare my smarts to an engineer with a technical background in systems engineering and on that basis I wasn’t very smart.

Once I started to realize the many ways in which I was smart, often ways that few of my colleagues had any intelligence in, I started to weave and leverage those into something that played to my strengths and drove performance for my employer.


What have you found to work really well for fostering professional growth?

Coaching has made a huge impact. Goal setting as well. Having a network of stimulating and successful people to push and advise me. And consuming a healthy media diet that makes me smarter.

What is a professional challenge you’re still looking for a solutions to?

With PILOT being a startup we have a variety of challenges. The thing I need the most help with is figuring out how I can connect to managers and companies that are worried about losing their best people and want to do something to prevent that from happening.


Are you currently working on any projects we should be aware of?

We’re in the process of evolving our Brand Crafter workshop, where we help professionals take a portfolio approach to crafting and building their professional reputation.

It is a very engaging experience and we are continuing to evolve as we bring the experience to other companies.


Do you now or have you ever had a journaling practice?

I have written thousands upon thousands of pages of journal entries. I only do it a few times a year now, often on airplanes, but it is so helpful.

It is a great way to get things out of my brain and to process what is happening to me, and to release feelings. I couldn’t recommend it more highly for work or personal reasons.

My meditation practice gives me some of the benefits that journaling daily once did – a time to stop, reflect, and release.


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Brendan Alan Barrett

Brendan Alan Barrett is a top sales producer who has generated millions of dollars in revenue. In addition to running his own sales organization in the civil engineering and construction industry, Brendan provides coaching and training to sales teams and business owners. His practice focuses on identifying, prioritizing, and winning the attention of prospects that can be turned into sales quickly. In doing so, Brendan helps his clients to generate revenue and customer testimonials that fuel more scalable and less labor intensive business development efforts for year-over-year growth. As the founder of and host of The Business of Family and Selling podcast Brendan interviews moms, dads, husbands, and wives who work in sales or run their own businesses. Each interview unpacks the very best in strategies and tactics family-first sellers can use to grow their books of business without losing their status as a rock stars at home. While originally from the Chicagoland area, Brendan started his sales and marketing career in Southern California before relocating to Arizona.

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