Nannette Dayton, senior director, global deal architecture at JDA, brings a wealth of knowledge to this week’s Wednesday’s for Women. An associate on her second stint with JDA, Nannette shares her affinity for working cross-functionally, her key to work-life balance and her personal definition of success. With a great appreciation for her roots and mentors, Nannette has been able to instill wisdom in her children, direct reports and customers through the belief that we must honor where we came from and pave our own way without apologizing.
Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I grew up in Olympia, Washington, and lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the past 20 years. Last October, I relocated to downtown Saint Petersburg, Florida, and am thoroughly enjoying the urban experience after many years of living in the suburbs.
Where did you go to school, and what degree(s) do you have?
I attended the University of Puget Sound, located in Tacoma, Washington, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in politics and government with a minor in communications and theater arts. My junior year of college I studied abroad through Temple University. My time in Italy connected me to my heritage and gave me the opportunity to bathe in two of my favorite things: architecture and Italian cuisine. Immediately following graduation, I attended the University of San Diego School of Law’s paralegal studies program and graduated with a post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate.
What made you want to study law?
My father is a civil engineer and serves as an expert witness in traffic litigation. I worked as an administrative assistant at his firm during high school and college breaks. As a result, I became very interested in the law and went on to intern at law firms during college.
What are three key words you would use to describe yourself?
My husband once described me as a tender-hearted warrior. The tender heart comes from really listening to others and considering their reality. This applies in business just as much as it does in my personal life because business, for me, it’s never about having one big, major victory. It’s about building long-term relationships. Anyone can bully their way through life to get what they want, but at the end, they’re going to stand alone. The warrior in me comes from my strong and eternally wise mother. She taught me to ‘choose my battles wisely’ and ‘be tenacious and fight for what really matters.’
What was your first job at JDA? How did your career progress from there?
I joined JDA’s Legal Transactions team in 2006 and my career progressed from Intermediate Paralegal to Senior Paralegal under the leadership of Hebe Doneski. For over six and a half years, I learned a great deal about intellectual property licensing, legal writing and complex negotiations. In 2013, I went to work for a French software company as the Director of Contract Administration. I learned a great deal from my manager, John Diana. John brilliantly coached me to simultaneously weigh legal and business risk and as a result, I became curious about the commercial side of the software business.
In 2015, I had the opportunity to return to JDA as a senior director of the newly-formed Global Deal Desk. The transition was natural for me and provided me the ability to collaborate with multiple departments across JDA. In 2019, I became the senior director, Global Deal Architecture. I recall Girish Rishi, JDA’s CEO, once describing my role as a hybrid role between sales, revenue accounting and legal. I live my career by the mantra that everyone is in sales, and I love that I can support our sales organization and customers in such a unique role.
What are your favorite parts of your role?
I love to collaborate and put the pieces together when things seem impossibly complex. I believe selling software is a creative endeavor, and each deal can’t look exactly the same because every customer isn’t the same. In addition, our industry is constantly changing so there will always be healthy growth pains that require attention. I especially love those challenges.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career and how did you tackle them?
My biggest challenge has been finding that perfect work-life balance. As a mother of two sons, a wife, a daughter and an employee, I often feel like I’m spread too thin. I want to give my best in all areas of my life and struggle with the guilt of not delivering. Recently, I heard myself apologizing for something insignificant. I took a pause and it dawned on me that I was the only one setting these expectations for myself. I began to check myself each time I caught myself apologizing. I was shocked at how often I do this! I’ve given work-life balance a lot of thought lately and think the key is to give ourselves grace. We need to embrace that our lives naturally change over time and as a result, so does our work-life balance. The goal is not perfection, but to find the balance you’re peaceful with in each season of your life.
How do you define success?
I think success is being at peace with my choices. I strive to give my best every day and give myself grace when I don’t. You can look at failure in two ways: you can beat yourself up or you can learn. I think we must constantly pay attention to the lessons that life’s teaching us and embrace them.
Have you had any mentors? What has that experience been like/taught you?
I mentioned Hebe Doneski and John Diana, and they were amazing mentors, but I have to say there are countless people who have influenced me. I think everyone we meet has something to teach us that makes us a better person. One major lesson I’ve learned is to keep an open mind. Sometimes the people we have the least in common with are the people that have the most to teach us. Of course, I can’t dismiss my parents. My father could not have demonstrated a better work ethic and my mother was the wisest person I’ve ever met. I’m constantly reminded of things she used to say and find myself sharing them with my children. I tell my sons, “be patient,” “slow and steady wins the race,” “keep doing what you’re doing,” “do the next best thing and success will come.”
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
I think the very nature of our industry is a challenge. Tech is always changing, so leaders must stay a step ahead, which means leveraging a good balance of new talent while considering the company’s culture, their history and how they got to where they are today. A good growth strategy for any company is having a good balance of organic and non-organic growth, and I think it equates to the way that leaders build teams.
What is the one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?
Transparency. The worst thing to do is to leave somebody wondering where they stand. Our job as leaders is to grow the careers of those who report to us and they can’t grow if they don’t get feedback.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
“The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown. It’s a story of true grit based on nine crew members from the University of Washington that row in the 1936 Olympics.
What makes JDA a great place to work?
The ability to work cross-functionally across departments, either in a hybrid role or by changing roles all together. I feel very fortunate to work for a company that focuses on talent rather than traditional roles.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to women in leadership?
Self-imposed guilt. Why should we apologize for what we want in life? We need to stop worrying about what others think. We need to own our dreams and pursue them with pride.