Amy Drevna, group vice president, sales at JDA has in a roundabout way, been nearly a lifelong JDAer, working at i2 (acquired by JDA) and Manugistcs (also acquired by JDA). Respected across the JDA ecosystem, she shares what she believes are the characteristics of a powerful leader, why it’s so important to really care about your team, and how her pivot from presales to sales was a critical decision that changed her career path for the better.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I a married to my husband Mick, and we have three daughters. We are natives of Pittsburgh. Fun fact – Mick and I met while we both worked at i2. He still works in the tech space today.
What was your first job (ever)?
I was 14 when I had my first job and I worked at an ice cream store. It was great because my friends all worked there, and we had a lot of fun. My middle daughter’s first job was also at an ice cream store, so it was fun to compare our experiences.
Tell us a little bit about your career journey at JDA.
JDA was like coming back home in a way. Not only am I an ex-i2 employee, I am also ex-Manugistics. It is incredible to see how many old friends are still here and speaks to how great a company it is.
I have always had a great affinity for retail supply chain, but I only got out of the industry for a while to pursue some other industries. I came back to it at JDA, as I saw how exciting retail was becoming, being re-energized by the innovation happening in supply chain. Given all the disruption in the space, it was an exciting time to come back. It’s been a great opportunity to reconnect with the technology I really love and was familiar with.
You’ve worked with [North American president, Retail] Terry Turner for a long time. Tell us about that.
I’ve worked with Terry Turner for almost 25 years at several different companies. He’s been an amazing mentor and friend. Part of the reason I continued to work in technology is because he has been so supportive of my career, making sure that I am able to keep a balance between making a living and having a life. Not all bosses out there will do that. I have always been willing to follow him – he creates a supportive culture not only for women but for everyone.
What are your favorite parts of your role?
It’s really about the people I get to work with. Our team in the East is just the best in the business. It’s like getting to play on an all-star team. They are really good at what they do and are just great people. I feel incredibly lucky. There are people that I work with that I say ‘I love you’ to and I sincerely mean it. It’s not the norm, it’s incredibly wonderful to have that affinity for people we spend a lot of time with. True friendship beyond work is really a blessing.
How do you stay inspired professionally?
Because I get to see so many different customers, I see so many different challenges in the market and in their roles as you get to know them. I’m a natural problem-solver so I am always trying to think how we can help. It’s inspirational to see all these problems, and then get to go to a different customer and see the synergies and can help them with similar problems. I use that plethora of experience to share information that people may not otherwise get.
Can you point to a critical moment in your career that really made a difference in your path?
When I was in presales at i2, I saw a lot of people around me (mostly men) getting promoted. I started to wonder why I wasn’t being given that opportunity. I truly felt like I was qualified. After a while, I finally brought that up to my manager, expressed my interest and qualifications to become a presales manager. I was super hesitant to do it, however the response was ‘That’s great I wasn’t sure you were interested!’ If I hadn’t asked about an opportunity to earn a new role, I am not sure it would have happened. I was reticent about it, but so glad I did ask because in a few months I was in a different role.
How has your life experience made you who you are today?
I grew up surrounded by really independent women who worked. My mother and my grandmother were two of them. My dad was a sales executive. The running joke in my family is that I never really played with traditional dolls and never owned a Barbie. When I played, I always played business and sales! It was a natural path for me, and I emulated what was around me.
What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?
Moving from presales to sales. I was able to leverage my presales background and also develop new skills. It was a privilege to watch good people in sales do their job before making that move. I had really great role models and a huge support system to make the transition. I have really loved the chance to move into sales and spend the last 10-15 years in sales management.
Have you ever been ‘professionally stuck’? How did you become ‘unstuck’?
I think I was stuck when the supply chain market peaked. Every company had embraced the technology, and the technology wasn’t advancing rapidly. It seemed uninspiring at that point. It was then I worked in a different space, out of supply chain into education and technology, and it was shocking how many of the skills were transferrable. I’ve done that a couple times, and moved industries, and while you may not see the relevance at the time, even today, I am looking back at things I did in other industries and leveraging them today at JDA. Wholesale change allows me to apply my skills in a new industry, learn new things from that industry, and then bring them with me to my next role.
What is the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?
It was from my dad. I remember him telling me at a young age that you always need to be able to take care of yourself. It meant a lot of things as I was growing up. It was advice I took in grade school, to always stand up for yourself, believe in your own voice, not let anyone take advantage of you. As I went into high school, it was about making sure I was being independent in my thinking. In college it was the importance of having an educational foundation to support yourself. That lesson was so important to him to ingrain in me. His father died when he was young and my grandmother was forced to take care of herself and three kids. When my dad and mom married, her father was disabled, and my grandmother had to be the breadwinner. These were two examples of women who had to take care of themselves, made good lives for them and their children without a lot of help. Having his life experience, he wanted to make sure I was strong and independent enough to handle that.
What makes a good leader?
A good leader is really someone who has a servant mentality. The best leaders that I’ve worked for have been that support system for the people they work with. Good leaders are really good listeners, problem-solvers, creative, collaborative, supportive, inspire the people on their teams to be their very best, and they coach them to help them achieve that.
I haven’t worked for Terry for 25 years for no reason – he is the best leader. He is inspirational, understanding, collaborative, and supportive. I am 100x harder on myself than he is on me because I never want to disappoint him. He has taught me so many things and brought out the best in me, and done it in such a way that I always felt supportive.
What advice to you have for young women seeking a career in technology?
The technology field is so open for young women. There is an opportunity to build a long and prosperous career in so many facets of the tech field. When you look at different aspects of it – from sales, to marketing, to consulting to product development – there is a need for such strong female talent. The tech field holds one of the most untapped opportunities for women in the job market. I am incredibly excited to see young women entering it and see how quickly they are able to latch on to a skillset and advance within an organization. The way that women look at problems are sometimes different than men do and that complement to a male-dominated field is much needed.
What are three key words you would use to describe yourself?
Hard-working, humble, problem-solver
What’s one fun (or surprising) fact about you?
I went to Penn State and they have amazing charity called On – and they hold a dance marathon. I danced for 48 hours straight – with no sitting or sleeping to raise money for pediatric cancer!