How do you go about exploring new responsibilities in your role and company? Zoey Walters, vice president, sales operations and finance at JDA, knows. Her career journey is filled with inspiration on how to refresh, and in some cases, reinvent your career. Having done this several times during her career, Zoey offers great insight into why it’s important to seek out life’s ‘what if’ moments that can crystalize your path more than ever.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you live.

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts but have lived in the Phoenix area for more than 25 years. I’ve been with my ‘permanent fiancé’ for over 10 years and have two stepchildren, ages 16 and 18.

You’ve had a long career at JDA – can you walk us through your JDA journey?

I started at JDA 12 years ago as a senior accountant and then progressed through the accounting organization over the next few years. I moved through five roles, landing on senior director. In this role, I moved on to a project full time for two years, implementing Workday Financials which included several financial application upgrades as well. After successfully completing that project, I moved back into accounting as vice president. This role gave me broader regional and global responsibilities in the organization.

I noticed that after two years, I wanted to do something different. In 2017, I did some self-reflection on where I wanted to go in my next role. I didn’t want to go the controller route as my next step and after talking to some of my mentors, I realized I wanted to learn more about the business side – also known as the ‘belly of the business’ – and not just the back office. I worked with various leaders at JDA to find the right opportunity, which was stepping into the VP of sales finance and sales operations role and becoming chief of staff to Mark Morgan, JDA’s chief revenue officer.  It has been a very rewarding and learning-filled journey!

It sounds like you realized you were ‘stuck’ in your role and this was how you got unstuck. Is that right?

Absolutely.  You can’t have people making decisions for you.  You must make your own decisions on your role and your path.  When others ask me what their next step should be, I urge them to think about what interests them and where they feel they can add the most value in the organization.  Once you figure that out, connect with others you respect about your desired career path to seek feedback and talk about next steps.  Remember to bring your managers in so they can help you move in the direction you desire; a good manager will always help you grow no matter what direction you decide.

Moving into new roles or across business disciplines in the same organization is a fantastic way to learn and stretch yourself to new heights.  We are very fortunate that JDA sees value in this type of development. My new role has been one of my biggest learning years at JDA, plus I feel I am able to drive more value and make a difference more than ever before.

You were a huge part of JDA’s Core Values effort and campaign. Can you talk about that and what you learned from that?

During my self-reflection stage, I asked others what JDA’s Core Values were and at the time, the former core values weren’t very clear or established throughout the organization. I just finished a project where we were working closely with Workday associates and it was evident that their shared core values were one of the most important factors that made them who they are today.  I felt the passion they had for their core values and I didn’t feel that at JDA.  I was passionate about JDA – the people are amazing – and knew something needed to be done to ensure we build a strong community/culture, not just a place to work.

In the very first meeting Girish had when he joined JDA as CEO, he mentioned his passion for having clear aligned values.  Literally, the night before, I was out to dinner with Workday and we talked about the very same topic!  Immediately following the Girish meeting, I approached him to let him know I wanted to be involved in his values initiative.  Thankfully, Girish agreed!

JDA’s Core Values are now such a huge part of our culture – what do you think makes a culture a culture and how have you seen ours evolve over the years?

The Core Values were the start of defining our culture, aligning and grounding the organization, creating something we now all have in common plus creating connections.  Now we have a community built on our Core Values foundation, it is something everyone can live by and draw from. Culture can’t be forced or dictated, it really must be natural like our values.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

When I graduated from ASU in accountancy, I worked for Bank One. I decided after two years that accounting was not a fit for me.  So, because of my passion for animals, I decided to pursue a career where I could work with them every day.  I became a veterinarian technician and started a pet sitting business.  I did that for two years and through experience, I realized I missed the corporate atmosphere, so I decided to go back.  I learned so much from that journey and don’t regret a thing because I don’t have to go through life second guessing what I do or thinking ‘what if?’ The same holds true for the different paths I’ve taken at JDA. I’ve never had that ‘what if’ moment because I’ve always explored those opportunities that interested me.

My advice is – if you are passionate about it, try it; you won’t regret it in the long run.

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned and really taken to heart?

There is no one perfect solution to anything.  I’ve noticed that people tend to wait for the perfect solution before acting.  I’ve learned that the sooner you act, the sooner you’ll get to the right solution at that moment.  In most cases you can easily course correct, but if you don’t act, you will slowly progress and will not create those invaluable learning opportunities encountered while course correcting.

What is the one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?

Every leader should have a good personality – and to really see the human side of things.  I also believe the passion to helping others grow and being transparent are qualities every leader should possess. If you carry these characteristics forward, you’ll get people behind you.

What are three key words you would use to describe yourself?

Motivated, Outgoing, Action-oriented