Today’s Wednesdays for Women is another in our occasional series titled “Lessons from Leaders” featuring learnings of interest to anyone seeking insights and experiences to grow their leadership skills. JDA Marketing Operations Director Cristan Hutto shares her conversation with one of JDA’s newest senior leaders – Nathalie Carruthers.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Nathalie Carruthers, JDA’s EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer. Nathalie brings extensive experience, with more than 20 years of leadership positions at companies such as Benchmark Electronics, Lumileds, and Flex where she was able to devise strategies to attract and retain world-class talent. At those organizations she developed organizational frameworks for standardized processes and fostered an environment for growing the company’s next-generation leaders, just as we are looking to do at JDA.

With these experiences in mind, I wanted Nathalie to share why she chose to come to JDA, some of the lessons she’s learned over the years and her view on how to cultivate your own sense of leadership and voice.

Why JDA?

There were three main reasons why I decided to join JDA.

  1. The company vision and strategy. The strategy shared with me during the interview process coincided with my previous experience where supply chain was a meaningful part of what the organization did and who they were. I felt my experience would dovetail nicely with JDA’s vision.
  2. The culture. I sensed through the recruitment process JDA was a company with a lot of rich history but going through a lot of change and transformation. I felt my experience of having been with other organizations that have gone through transformations could complement what the JDA team is trying to achieve.
  3. The leaders and employees. The team members I met through the recruitment process gave me a sense that people truly matter at JDA and believe that HR is a partner to the overall success of this transformation.  Some companies feel HR is an administrative function and not a strategic partnership.

With your experience, what do you hope to bring to JDA?

Organizations must become more agile and be able to collaborate more fluidly across the company.

We need to continue to evolve and think differently about how we serve clients, how we work together to solve customers’ problems and ensure that as we go through our transformation journey we take into account the voice of our Associates. This is a task that Girish (Rishi, JDA’s CEO) has given me; to ensure that as we go through this transformation, as it may be challenging, that we never forget our Associates through this process.

I feel there is a direct correlation between customer satisfaction and engagement and associate satisfaction and engagement. My role as a leader at JDA is to take care of our customers and the best way I know how to do this is to take care of our employees.

What is the best risk you have taken and why?

By far, the greatest and best risk I have taken in my career was to move my family (son and daughter in high school at the time and husband) from Canada to California to pursue an opportunity.  It was risky, it demanded a lot of my family, but most amazingly we decided as a family to make this move. The commitment from my family to move to California allowed me to pursue the opportunity, but it also gave my family some opportunities as well.  I suspect that my children are where they are today (in some parts) because of this decision.

What is the best career advice you have received?

I had a conversation with a leader when I was in my late twenties. I commented to my leader that I did not feel a sense of belonging in the HR organization because I was approaching problems differently than my peers and I was questioning my capabilities in this space. My leader’s response to me, “Have you ever thought we need more of what you bring and less of what they bring?” This has stayed with me a very long time. That comment has guided me to be who I am. What you see is what you get. I have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else. I approach problems differently. I have been considered more of a ‘business first’ HR person. It is easy to fall into doing HR work for HR, but I want to focus the HR priorities for what the business needs. In some cases, organizations do the next ‘new thing’ in HR. I don’t necessarily agree with that. If it does not meet the company’s objectives, then why do it? I spend a lot of my time asking ‘why’? What is this going to do for the business? Then I make sure how we do it is in the best interest of the associates.

What do you know now, you wish you knew then?

  • Always be yourself, don’t try to be something you are not
  • Continue to grow your skills and enlighten yourself with knowledge
  • You are who you are. If you try to be something you are not, you won’t come across as authentic and it will hurt your credibility
  • With every reward there is a risk, don’t be afraid to embrace it

Final Thoughts from Nathalie

What we do is hard, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. It takes special people.  Remember to be yourself, it not only applies to how you approach problems, it applies how you approach your work life.  Don’t be afraid to assert your values, your approach to everything you do. Find your voice and be comfortable with yourself, with your opinions and voicing them.  At the end of the day that is what cultural fit is about, and it’s what inclusion is about.

If you are not in an environment where you can voice your opinions without fear of people either making fun of what you are saying or not having respect to let you voice that opinion, then that is a problem.  It doesn’t mean that opinions are always listened to, but as leaders we have a choice. Be sure to voice what is important to you.

Be true to yourself! Don’t stop sharing!