November is a month for expressing gratitude, including to the individuals who have served our country in the Armed Forces. This Veterans Day, we’re excited to introduce you to Air Force veteran and SVP Operations, Charles Mills.
Charles served in the Air Force for nine years, including in a deployment to Operation Desert Storm, before entering the private sector. He has spent more than 20 years working in operations and came to HealthEquity through the acquisition of WageWorks in 2019.
HealthEquity: Thank you for agreeing to be featured in our Remarkable Leadership series, particularly as we celebrate Veterans Day. What led you to join the military?
Charles Mills: I was raised up in a military family—my dad and grandfather served many years on active duty, so I was compelled to follow in their footsteps, so to speak. I wanted the opportunity to be part of something larger and I saw this as a chance. I also wanted to broaden my life perspective, and the military helped me better understand and interact with a wider range of people and organizations. I had many opportunities to form connections and understand issues of both inequality and privilege.
HealthEquity: It sounds like you have an interesting story to share. Let’s dive into our 10 questions.
10 questions with Charles Mills, SVP Operations
1. What was your first job and what is your role now?
My parents were avid golfers, so they built our family house on a golf course. When I was a high school freshman, I started bugging the greenskeeper who drove past my bus stop every day for a job. I would stop his car every chance I got to see if he had any openings. After a few months of this, he got tired of me stopping him.
“Look,” he said. “I really don’t have anything, but show up and I will find you something to do.”
My persistence paid off! This is where I started learning the lesson of what it means to start at the bottom and work your way up, so to speak. The truth is, I thought if I landed a job there, I would just be handed the keys to one of the big mowers and I would get to just ride around all day mowing grass—an easy gig, in my mind. However, what really happened was that I was very humbled. Starting on day one, I was given all the not-so-fun jobs like weed eating, raking sand traps, and picking up trash. I really wanted to quit but my dad made me stick with it. After about four months of doing all the dirty work I was able to make my way up to operating some of the fun equipment. That was a big lesson for me!
I would say that the first meaningful and most impactful job I had—one where I felt a sense of purpose—was when I enlisted in the Air Force. I spent nine years there in various roles.
In my current role as SVP Operations, I have the privilege of leading a phenomenal group of team members that support all our lines of business every day and I’m very proud of what they accomplish for HealthEquity.
2. What is your guiding principle or North Star?
Every day, I strive to not forget where I came from. I have held many jobs like those of the team members I lead, and I have a pretty good sense of what they do on the frontlines, serving our clients and members each day. I imagine myself in their shoes and do my best to find ways to support then and make their lives easier.
3. HealthEquity has a strong commitment to deliver a remarkable experience—how are we continuing to improve in this area?
Yes, we are genuinely committed to our continuous improvement efforts and continue to be focused on delivering the highest level of remarkable service possible.
The key catalyst for driving this effort has been our “Commit to Purple” program, which has enabled us to identify key pain points to focus on and make improvements. We have completed some pretty major projects thus far that have delivered significant improvements that positively impact our clients, members, partners, and team members.
I’m really excited and encouraged with what we have accomplished via this program and what we have in the pipeline going into next year.
4. What advice do you have for people just starting out in their career?
The best advice I can offer is two-fold: learn the art of active listening and never pass up an opportunity to learn. Take time to build on relationships and identify someone who is willing to mentor you as you learn and develop.
Secondly, do not be afraid of taking on those stretch assignments when you have the opportunity. These opportunities will help accelerate your learning and growth within the organization. I also tell team members I mentor to not be afraid of making lateral or backward moves that will help you get to a desired position in the end.
5. What would surprise people to know about you?
Hmmm… tough question as I am a pretty boring person for the most part. I would have to say that in recent years, my wife and I have started a small hobby farm where we are raising our own beef cattle and have a couple of Texas Longhorns as well. It’s been a learning experience but a fun one.
6. What is a defining moment in your life?
I’ve had a few, but I would have to say one of the most impactful and defining moments for me is when I was deployed to Operation Desert Storm.
I was a young airman who was not well-traveled and suddenly, I was being sent to a foreign country with a bunch of fellow airman and soldiers that I had never met. I learned some valuable lessons during that year-long deployment that I still draw upon today both in my personal and working life—things like working with different people from diverse backgrounds, critical thinking, and dealing with very ambiguous situations.
7. What book influenced you in your professional life?
I spend my time reading books about business acumen, strategy, and data analysis. Books at the top of my list are “Good to Great” by Jim Collins and David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.”
HealthEquity: Looks like you have something in common with other leaders who like similar books. We’re seeing a trend!
8. What cause is closest to your heart?
I’m a big supporter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Foundation. Having lost several relatives and a parent to cancer, this is an important cause for me.
9. What’s your favorite part of helping clients and members reach their goals?
I value just being in the position to ensure our teams are set up for success and able to service our clients and members to the best of our ability. While we may not always hit the mark, it’s how we respond to the issue and make things right as quickly as possible that counts. We have so many team members that work at this tirelessly every day, and I am proud to support them.
10. What absolutely excites you right now about HealthEquity?
I’m super excited around the growth opportunities that are ahead of us. The goals and focus areas that we have targeted at every level in the company are the things will accelerate our continuous improvement journey and reinforce our strong position in the market. I feel very fortunate to be able to help drive some of these initiatives and witness the positive outcomes as we execute.
HealthEquity does not provide legal, tax or financial advice. Always consult a professional when making life-changing decisions.
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