Kerri Schrage, vice president, corporate finance at JDA talks to us today about how exploring different roles in your career can really help you pinpoint your path and being open to taking on new challenges is half the challenge itself.  She’s a champion for women supporting women and having a voice at the table and shares why it’s so important to be actively engaged in her kids’ lives, while juggling a busy career.

Kerri and her husband Eric and me at the Indian Wells tennis tournament

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Grand Rapids, Mich. I left home for university at age 17, and never looked back. I chose to study finance because I did well in classes with numbers, liked money, and actually researched which area of study offered the most opportunity for women to travel and work abroad – no joke! I married my husband in 2003 and we have two kids, a 6-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. We live in Scottsdale.

What brought you to JDA in 2012?

I had been working for 2Wire, a tech company in the telecom “pay TV” space where I was the finance director supporting the software and services division. In order to move up, I would have needed to move or travel all the time cross-country. Since I was pretty new to Arizona, I wanted to give the area a chance, so I decided to pursue a high-tech company locally headquartered, and that is how I found JDA.

How has your career evolved over the years at JDA?

I started out in a role reporting to the CFO doing special projects. After the company merged with RedPrairie and became private equity owned, I worked with consultants to help us with processes for collecting cash. After that, I was a lead on the Workday Financials project responsible for change management, security configuration, and the overall governance process during the project and upon go live. Once that went live, I led the team responsible for supporting the application and working with the vendor. This was a new type of role for me, and it was a great learning experience; however, I really wanted to get back to a core finance function supporting the business. I articulated my desire to “get back to finance,” and was offered the chance to lead the corporate team while my manager took on a more strategic finance role working with the executive team and serving as the Chief of Staff to the CEO.

jda software scottsdale building

What is the favorite part of your role?

My role today allows me to see the company at the 50,000-foot view. It’s great to see how it all comes together, and how much progress JDA has made in the seven years I have been here. Today, our business is growing! We have a purpose of providing the autonomous supply chain in order to benefit consumers around the world. We are investing in building new products and offerings – our future!

Can you point to a critical moment in your career that really made a difference in your path?

When I took the finance director role at 2Wire, I went from several advisor/consultant roles to the role of an owner-operator. I became the person responsible for getting the work done, making decisions, and building something that was scalable, sustainable, and flexible to meet the needs of the business I was supporting. I should mention that this was also a newly created division which was great for letting me create a lot from scratch. I was responsible for influencing the decisions of the division president I was supporting, and felt like some of his success was a function of how well I armed him with financial and operational numbers and the stories around them, how well I connected with his staff and learned their business, and a transparent relationship where my input helped to form the division’s strategy.

How do you stay inspired professionally?

I proactively seek out new challenges and get involved in things besides my core job, like Crystal Ball. I also read books (author Brene Brown is great) and articles (I like Harvard Business Review’s articles online), try to meet new people (challenging for those that are not true extroverts!), and set new goals.

What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?

I did an international MBA program where I learned Portuguese and lived and worked in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for nine months. I was there in 2001, I had to speak Portuguese to get around there, and you learn a lot about yourself, people, and the world by having such experiences.

What is your proudest achievement?

Seeing the success and growth of those that I have led, supported, or sponsored. In the last three companies, I have had responsibilities for leading people and have been afforded the opportunity of witnessing positive growth and great successes from those people that are eager to learn, driven to do more, and willing to do the hard work needed to achieve success.

Kerri's family at the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, AZ

What do you wish you knew when you were starting out that you know now?

I have a few learnings I always keep in mind:

  • Don’t select a job on pay alone. Make sure it is the right fit for you and your goals.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for things. The worst you could hear is no.
  • Try a variety of roles early in your career to find out what you enjoy and what you are good at.
  • Mature, established companies often provide a great foundation for your career – there is a structure to how things are done at large companies that result from experience and the quality of the people and their decisions. You can learn a lot from these experiences.

What about your career surprises you?

The fact that I have a job where I so rarely travel today. Granted, I am thankful for that at this stage in my life as I have small children, and I want to be a part of their daily lives while they still like being with me. I do hope at some point, we can live and work outside the U.S. for a few years.

How do you live the JDA core values?

To me, Relentless + Teamwork = Results. You get out of it what you put into it. You may get lucky with results once or twice, but to have consistent results, to stay in front of the competition, we need to work as a team to anticipate and prevent issues, innovate (and continue to improve).

What makes a good leader?

Good leaders are visionary and inspire involvement. Good leaders have high integrity and expect it in others. Good leaders set clear expectations and support their people. They coach their people to grow and provide timely specific feedback. They share information, they know what is important, and they are consistent (behaviors = words). They accept responsibility for their mistakes, and they are prone to action.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Keeping up with the pace of change in our connected world. There are so many – business changes, market changes, technology changes, and changes in values to name a few. Achieving win/win outcomes in such a fluid state can be even more challenging.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to women in leadership?

The most significant barrier is the lack of women in leadership. It is hard to be what you cannot see, and quite frankly, we need to do better. Last year, in CEO Magazine, they touched on the power of three with respect to boards. “The first is a token, the second is a presence, the third is a voice.” I want to hear more of our voice. Not to mention, women may not support women as much as they should if we really only have 10-20% of the leadership roles available to us.

What woman inspires you and why?

I have two:

  • Darla Moore : Darla was the first woman to land the cover of Fortune Magazine and was named one of 50 most powerful women in American business in 1999. She worked in the banking industry, specializing in working with financially distressed companies. She’s tough, she’s resilient and an inspiration! She is the mega-donor and namesake of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. I was fortunate enough to earn a Darla Moore fellowship to attend the University for my MBA.
  • Malala Yousafzai – Author of “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban”. To be so wise, brave, and determined at such a young age. Truly inspirational!

How do you balance work and life with two kids at home?

My values are pretty simple. I value family and friends, health and balance/spirituality, experiences, and independence (especially, financial independence).

Today, my husband and I juggle our careers while trying to be actively engaged parents. Sometimes, it is really tough, and being “actively engaged” may result in looking like a “zombie.” My husband is awesome as he returned to contracting so that he would have the flexible schedule and could chauffeur the kids to school and their after-school activities most of the time. We both have days when we want to trade places, but I have no doubt he has the “tougher job” most of the time.

What’s one fun (or surprising) fact about you?

I won “Best Laugh” in my high school’s mock elections, and people often comment on my laugh.