Game Changers

Kelly Hancock, Director of Finance – Canada LAV Site, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada

A Game Changer in her own right, Kelly Hancock is the Director of Finance – Canada LAV Site at General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada. A dedicated leader, she oversees a large team of over 100 professionals within the Finance and IT sectors. In this interview, Ms. Hancock shares her expertise regarding how she has overcome various obstacles in her life, her main motivations as a leader in the field, and new innovation methods being implemented at her organization.

How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you to where you are today?

After completing an honours business degree at the University of Windsor I went on to do an MBA with a focus on accounting/finance and human resources. It was never my plan to join the defence industry but right out of MBA School a family friend told me about great opportunity at General Motors Defence in London, Ontario – now known as General Dynamics Land systems–Canada – and I never looked back.  I have been fortunate to work in many disciplines across the business including Human Resources, Production Management, Strategy, Supply Chain, Finance, and IT.

What is your role at your organization today?

My current role is Director of Finance and IT for General Dynamics Land Systems–Canada. I have been in this role since 2019 and lead a team of over 100 Finance and IT professionals.

What was your most challenging moment?

Several years ago, I had a personal health trauma that kept me away from my job for just over a year. Overcoming the challenges of that period in my life and making my way back into the work force was difficult. The experience definitely re-defined me personally and professionally, in a positive way.  Although not an easy subject to talk about, I share my experience to perhaps give hope to others who might be going through a difficult time.

What was your A-HA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story?

Early in my career I worked on the production floor responsible for more than 90 welders.  At that time I felt the need to change and adjust my personality in order to get the job done.  Looking back on this I recognize how important it is to bring my holistic authentic self to work each day allowing my coworkers and my team to see my various sides. 

I’m a working mom of a 12-year-old and 10-year-old twins, I manage an active household, my career keeps me busy, and all these things make up who I am. I have always been an open, honest, and transparent person so knowing that I can shatter the glass ceiling by bringing my entire self to work is incredibly important to me.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

I am fired up about our people, interacting with them, listening to their concerns and ideas, seeing them persevere through a difficult business decision, watching them set goals and exceed, both professionally and personally. There’s nothing I love more than seeing someone on my team succeed and getting the spotlight when they do.

At a training course some years ago, it was suggested that I do more of what gives me energy and I took that to heart. Every week I have time in my schedule to have one on one “catch up meetings” with individual team members. I want to provide a safe space for people to connect with me, so I can understand their goals understand the work that they are doing because sometimes as time goes on it is easy to get further away from those things. But I also do it for myself because that half hour gives me energy for the day. It’s my favorite thing to do in the week and it is sacred time in my calendar.

Earlier in my career I was more focussed on my own achievements. Now, part of my job is to help the people on my team reach their maximum potential, help them become future leaders.

I am also a big advocate for diversity equity and inclusion (DE&I). Land Systems–Canada believes in creating and maintaining a culture of DE&I and knows this long-term investment leads to innovation, productivity, and growth. I want to help make sure that everyone can use their voice and has an equal opportunity. I want women to know, as I often tell my 10-year-old daughter, that they have a shot at the corner office.

What is the best advice you received?

I once received an 11 in. by 17 in. piece of paper that had the day sectioned out into 15-minute increments and was asked to fill it in with my day’s activities. Doing that exercise  was a great way to visually learn that I was missing some time for self-care, and it emphasized for me the need to balance between work time, family time, and personal time.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

I get up at 5 a.m. every morning to have time to myself before I got into the office. I use this time to read, exercise, take some personal reflection time, or stay current by investing in knowledge or acquiring new skills – like learning to speak French. Waking early has become a habit and I cherish those moments and work hard to make the time a priority. I don’t always succeed of course, but the objective of balance is always there.

Invest in yourself by staying current in your field of work or by challenging yourself to learn something new.  Invest in your team – give them your energy, unwavering support, and time. Lastly, invest in your community as this is the place you and your family call home.

Questions regarding the organization:

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

The technological landscape is constantly evolving, but so are we. Our relentless pursuit of innovative solutions changes the game in our industry. We delve deeper into the scope of innovation to CREATE technology that not only supports our customers evolving needs, but takes a lot of burden off the operator, while remaining safe and stable.

A prime example of this kind of innovation can be seen in digital armoured vehicles with our Katalyst Next Generation Electronic Architecture (NGEA). Katalyst NGEA is a new modular open architecture featuring scalable hardware and software for next-generation capabilities. It significantly improves effectiveness via enhanced mobility, lethality, and survivability/reconnaissance. It also provides core capabilities such as computing, sensor fusion and processing, and power management and distribution. It provides unparalleled performance and size, weight, power, and cost to support evolving needs.

In addition, we are continuing our work on designing and developing Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) with mechanical and electric drives. By applying emerging and developed technologies to capability solutions we can create an Electric Drive Vehicle (EDV) 8×8 LAV with up to 1MW of on-board electrical power generation. This not only aligns with our commitment to reduce our global environmental impact, decrease costs, and remain competitive, but it supports Canada in its efforts to reduce its domestic greenhouse gas emissions and achieve its net zero goals.

The work we have done to reduce Land Systems-Canada’s global environmental impact was recently recognized with the receipt of ISO 50001 certification of its main office building and central manufacturing facility in London, Ontario. This is on top of securing LEED Gold certification for the main office building.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?

I believe it is timing.  We want to have the right technology available for the customer at the right time, and that sometimes means looking beyond the technological landscape to see what would be needed in future missions.  Success comes from understanding our customer and their needs and delivering an exceptional customer experience each and every time.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

The focus on innovation permeates through our entire organization and the come from our people. Our emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t only right for our workers, it is also important for our business. Getting input from a diverse group of people results in the best ideas. We also place a high value on the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM). Innovation relies on people from all of those fields, but the key is ensuring that they all work together to come up with new technologies. This collaboration is something we very much encourage.

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

Technology that alleviates operator burden will continue to be a trend, as will the focus on hybrid electric vehicles. There are many competitors in defence and aerospace industry.  To remain competitive in this market, we will need to keep investing in research and development, relentlessly innovate products, services, and business processes to bring even more value to our domestic and international customers. 

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