AOCS recently interviewed Lowell Isom, Managing Partner of Hollander Horizon International, Inc. to help our community get to know him better before his upcoming career coaching sessions, September 24 at 1pm and 2:30pm CDT (Chicago, USA).
A brief biography: Lowell Isom started consulting with Hollander Horizon International in 2006 and brought decades of experience in product development and management roles within the food and pharmaceutical industries. Lowell holds a B.S. in Biology and an M.S. in Food Microbiology; he also holds a certification as a Pastry Chef while attending culinary school at Kendall College.
Lowell began his professional career with Abbott Laboratories in the thyroid diagnostic research group and then joined Kraft Foods R&D in 1996 as a Product Development Scientist. Within his four-year tenure, he eventually became a Group Leader, responsible for leading product development in the cheese division. While Applied Technology Manager at The Solae Company, Lowell was instrumental in the development of numerous soy-based dairy analogs, technologies including cheese and liquid and powdered beverages. Lowell was also Director of R&D for a joint venture between DuPont and General Mills known as the 8th Continent. In 2012, Lowell purchased Hollander Horizon International Inc (HHI) and has been acting as the Managing Partner since then.
About HHI: HHI Search is an executive search firm specializing in the technical sector of the food and consumer products industry. This organization has distinguished itself for over 48 years largely due to the firm belief that they provide a unique and valuable professional service to their clients.
Q&A with Lowell Isom
1) What made you shift from working in the technical sector of the food and consumer products industry to managing an executive search firm?
My career was personally impacted by the work of HHI Search over the course of many years. HHI Search is the firm that most of the Food R&D Industry turn to when seeking career advice, securing a new position, or filling job vacancies in R&D groups. As an industry scientist or engineer, you generally reach an inflection point in your career where you are asked to choose between a Technical Ladder or Management Ladder.
As I ultimately chose the Management route, my role evolved to almost exclusively building, growing and sustaining high-performance R&D teams. Many of the competencies and skills required for doing this are the same skills that facilitate a successful executive coach and/or recruiter. My transition was natural as I was interviewing with HHI for an industry VP of R&D role – I realized that perhaps there was a way to focus on the type of work I was passionate about while reducing some of the constraints of a traditional corporate R&D position. I joined HHI as a consultant for a few years and fell in love with the business. So much so that I approached the leadership team in 2009 about purchasing the firm. Fast forward to 2012, when I officially purchased HHI Search, and I have been fortunate to build and sustain a high-performance team of individuals who enjoy helping others in the industry do the same!
2) What do you like most about helping others in their professional development at HHI?
What I enjoy most about my career with HHI Search is having the daily opportunity to meet new people and hear their personal stories. What makes our world an enjoyable and beautiful place to live is having the opportunity to meet, understand and appreciate the diversity of individuals who share our planet. At the end of a career, I feel the most fulfilling aspect will be to reflect upon all of the interesting and talented people I have had the opportunity to meet and recognize that I have hopefully impacted their lives in a positive way.
At HHI, we pride ourselves in really knowing our clients and candidates. We are all about building and sustaining relationships. What’s more, we see ourselves merely as facilitators of connections who enjoy guiding and coaching others. Being an outstanding recruiter should never be about filling a job or ”closing” a search; it should be about placing two people in a room with similar wants and needs, who appear to have mutual interest and share common goals. Doing so allows the relationship to form naturally and, as a positive result, often leads to a mutually beneficial employment relationship.
3) What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given, either during your time in the technical sector of the food and consumer products industry or when job hunting?
Two pieces of advice shared with me that I feel were helpful come to mind. The first is to always be authentic, and the second is to listen. Someone should be interested in working with you for who you truly are and not for an image that you portray – this is key during the interview process. I feel authenticity leads to more sustainable, positive, and productive relationships. When it comes to listening, research has shown that most people “listen to speak” and not “listen to understand.” While someone is speaking, it is only natural to mentally begin formulating your response to their dialogue – which is distracting and does not really allow you to listen to what the other person is saying. Be a good listener. Silence and genuine interest can be very helpful in understanding, gaining more insight and/or information and building trusted relationships.
To keep these two sessions informal, conversational gatherings, AOCS is limiting the number of participants for these career coaching sessions.