Driving Global Business Decisions
Fiona Devan BS'88, MBA'99
Executive Director of Human Resources, Cummins Power Generation
“Accounting taught me to be analytical. As a leader, you have to be able to analyze and truly understand the issues in order to set the vision.”
After high school, Fiona Devan worked for three years at an American bank in her native country of Bahrain, an island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia. When she decided to go to college, she asked her colleagues for advice on American business schools to consider. She narrowed her list, applied, and was accepted to two: UCLA and IU. She chose IU.
“Indiana University has always been known to have an excellent business school,” Devan says. “Indiana as a state may not be as well known abroad as California, New York, or Florida, so for Indiana University to be known so well internationally is really a testament to IU’s outreach to the global community.”
Community is exactly what Devan found when she came to IU. “I wasn’t expecting people to be sensitive to my diversity and cultural needs,” she says. “The students were interested in me and cared about me. So were the faculty, administrators, and advisors. That made me feel valued.”
Devan completed a BS in accounting and an MBA in accounting and finance in four and a half years. She then taught in the Department of Accounting for a few years before joining Cummins, a manufacturer of diesel solutions.
Her first positions at Cummins were in finance, but her service on the company’s diversity council opened her eyes to a topic she began to feel very strongly about: creating an inclusive work environment. Cummins executives recognized her potential and suggested that she transfer to human resources. “I thought it was just going to be a short, wonderful opportunity to go into another function, contribute, and grow as a leader. Eight years later, I’m still loving it.”
Devan is executive director of human resources for Cummins Power Generation, which has 7,000 employees in approximately 15 locations worldwide, including the United States, China, and India. She sets her division’s human resources strategy, a plan that focuses on engaging a global workforce, creating an appealing work environment, motivating employees, developing their skills, and cultivating leaders.
“There are very few problems that I get engaged in that have easy answers,” she says. “That’s the thing I find most rewarding about my job: it’s a lot of solving very, very complex puzzles. You’ve got to be courageous enough to take calculated risks because there’s usually more than one right answer. I am energized by this environment.”
She uses her accounting skills every day, and not just in managing her budget. “Accounting today is about analysis of the numbers to help organizations make informed decisions. I approach HR in the same way I do accounting: I examine the people analytics before making critical business decisions. How many people are we bringing in or losing? Are they the right people? What is the external global availability of skills and how do we best access them? Accounting taught me to be analytical. As a leader, you have to be able to analyze and truly understand the issues in order to set the vision.”
At Kelley, Devan learned not only how to set a vision, but how to work in a team to see it to completion. “Kelley teaches you how to engage others, value different perspectives, manage a project, and get it to the goal line,” she says. “IU people have these skills in spades.”
Favorite IU memories: 1987 NCAA men’s basketball championship, the beautiful campus, experiencing her first snowfall
Giving thanks: “I wasn’t able to go home as much as other students, but I always got invited to someone’s house for Thanksgiving. I’ve been in this country for many, many years now and some way or another I continue to get invited to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving. I still haven’t had to bake a turkey!”
IU legacy: Her daughter is going to attend IU. “She plans on majoring in music and IU has a fabulous music school. She’s going to minor in business so that kept me happy. We get back to IU a lot—it’s home for her. It was quite an easy decision to choose IU.”