Susan Arnett is a senior education architect at Blue Yonder and has been with the company more than 15 years. As a life coach in her spare time, Susan talks about how important it is to find the right balance between a career path that inspires and challenges you. She shares an example of this when she took control of her career and leaped into a new role that opened the door to an exciting and fulfilling opportunity.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in New Orleans which was an interesting place to hang out, especially as a teen and young adult! If you’ve never been there, the French Quarter is a magical place. The city is known for music, especially Jazz, and has the most amazing food on the planet.
I live in Atlanta which is a great place to be as a road warrior, since it has the busiest airport in the world and I usually get direct flights to most destinations.
In my spare time, I love to play golf, ballroom dance, and travel. I also dabble in life coaching as a personal hobby.
How did you get into life coaching?
I have always had an interest in philosophy and found helping others figure out what they love to do is a rewarding experience. I enjoy guiding and encouraging people to find out what they want in life and helping them to achieve their dreams. Often, accomplishing the goal means intertwining personal and professional interests into a job that fulfills you.
You have been at Blue Yonder for a long time; can you take us through your career journey here?
I started on the consulting team for several years and then moved into education services. I’ve always been in a customer-facing role and work with customers specifically in warehouse management. I travel all over the world working with customers for education training and consulting. I also assist customers in building out training programs for their organization.
I had an interesting route here as I worked at a consulting company that eventually was bought by RedPrairie which merged with JDA and then became Blue Yonder! It’s been quite a journey.
Prior to that, I was an entrepreneur running a small consulting company focused on the hospitality industry. While owning your own business often sounds enticing, it comes with a specific set of challenges. That experience taught me a tremendous amount and helped shape my approach to business.
What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?
I worked for a company based in South Florida for a year, focusing on business development. It was a great job, and I traveled throughout the US. One day I came back from a trip and was told that they were disbanding our division, thus eliminating my position, and they were moving me to another group. I had no interest in working with that specific division, but I liked the corporation. So, I went home, put my resume together and then called the CEO of the company to request a meeting with him.
The next day I had a meeting with him, which incidentally was the first time I met him. I introduced myself, presented my resume along with a proposition to relocate to our European headquarters. My idea was to replicate the business development program I helped roll out in the US. I thought the timing would be perfect to introduce the European market to our offering. It was a bold move, but what was the worst that could happen? I wanted to take control of my career versus someone controlling it for me. Fortunately, the CEO liked the idea and a few days later I was on a plane to London to meet with our UK team. After interviewing with the European managing director and spending a couple of weeks with the European team, I was offered a full-time position developing the plan I proposed. In the end, it was an incredible experience and I worked there for three years.
What is your proudest achievement?
Personally, it is my daughter. She’s married to a great guy and they have four adorable kids.
Professionally, I have a career I love. My job offers me the opportunity to work with customers around the globe. Sometimes I’m in a warehouse and other times I may be in an executive office. It’s a great experience, learning how products move through the supply chain. Although the job can be challenging, it’s also fulfilling. I am always learning.
What is your favorite part of your role?
I love talking to customers and helping them through their challenges. Of course, walking into a room of executives when the project is at risk can be a challenge. Or working with people who are resistant to change can be difficult. But being on a project and helping customers to see the benefits of our products and services can be very rewarding.
Also, in this role I’ve learned a lot about different industries, countries and cultures! I’ve traveled all over the world and to every continent except Antarctica. I love to get engrossed in the culture in countries like Russia, New Zealand, Singapore and Brazil, having the opportunity to spend time with the locals and sightseeing in areas I’d probably not have the opportunity to see otherwise. It’s also interesting to me to see the various aspects of international business and supply chain challenges in other countries.
What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned and really taken to heart?
To lead by example. I’ve experienced leaders who say one thing and do another. For leaders, living and leading by example is so important.
What advice to you have for young women seeking a career in technology?
I work with our Associate Business Consultants and for many of them it’s their first job out of college. I try to counsel them on three things:
The first is to be open to new opportunities. This can be a way to figure out your true north. Sometimes you think you want to do one thing but trying another may lead you down an entirely different career path and that’s okay.
The second is to volunteer, in the office and out of it. When opportunities come up, it gives you exposure to other groups. As an example, I was a board member for the American Cancer Society and I gained such personal growth from it.
The third is to network and never burn bridges. Career building is also about relationships, look for people you can connect with to help build a strong career network.
Who is your role model?
I don’t have one person that inspires me, I really get inspired by people who have accomplished their goals in life, especially by overcoming adversity.
What are three key words you would use to describe yourself?
Spiritual, inquisitive, and my third is a phrase, Live life to the fullest!