Finish What You Start and Never Give Up
Christine Shulman, senior director, global value engineering joined JDA 11 years ago and has made successful career and life choices by heeding the advice her parents gave her: finish what you start and never give up. Such sage advice has led her to her current role at JDA, a challenge she faced head-on as an opportunity to grow into a leader of a team committed to showcasing the value a JDA investment gives our customers. She offers several examples in her life where stamina and perseverance, with a healthy mix of balance and choosing your yes, can lead to a rewarding career in supply chain.
Christine and family on a recent trip to Flattop Mountain located in the Chugach State Park.
SCN: Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
CS: I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. After high school, I went to college out of state and never really expected to return home. I earned an undergraduate degree from Chaminade University of Honolulu and MBA from an international program at Long Island University. I spent the majority of my MBA in Europe. My husband’s career as a petroleum engineer brought me back to Anchorage after being away for 15 years. It is good to be home.
SCN: What was your first job (ever)?
CS: Growing up, I spent summers in the South Pacific, Tonga. My grandparents owned a movie theater and my first unpaid job was to sell tickets while trying not to eat all the concession candy. In my first paid job, I was a ‘towel’ girl at a local athletic club. It was my responsibility to tidy the locker room and clean towels and equipment.
SCN: What did you do before joining JDA?
CS: Right out of college, I worked with the treasury department of a government agency, managing an $8 billion fixed income bond portfolio in-house. After spending some time in the public sector, I went private and was an operations analyst for a pharmaceutical company and did some consulting work with DHL’s south pacific agency.
SCN: What do you like about working at JDA and what do you find most interesting about your current role?
CS: I can honestly say that I learn something new every day. I am fortunate to work across all areas of the business – all regions, and industries. I learn from my peers about new functionality or business processes or even about a country’s culture. I travel often which keeps it interesting. Recently, I was in Mexico working with a retailer, the next week with a wireless distributor in the Northwest US, and the following week I was dedicated to a special project in APAC.
SCN: Why a career in supply chain/tech?
CS: Never in a million years did I think that I would grow up to be a Value Engineer. Was that even a ‘thing’ back then?!
I always thought I’d stay in the investment field, move to New York City and work at the Stock Exchange. But I was living in Scottsdale and I liked the vibe at JDA and the opportunity to work with so many different business models. I have always had a businessperson’s spirit and having studied and traveled abroad, I was attracted to seeing people from all over the globe at JDA, and working with many different personalities and industries. Our deep domain expertise and the people, who are humble and solid to the core, are the best thing about being at JDA. I wanted to be around and soak in that knowledge and domain expertise.
SCN: What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?
CS: It’s three-fold. The first was moving back to Alaska to support my husband, considering my role at JDA and my travel schedule. But the best thing about being in Alaska is having so much family around. Second, it was having kids and wondering will I still have a career? How will I balance that? And third, it was accepting a management position, after being part of a team. It was one of those instances where I questioned whether I wanted that level role (that was the comfort zone speaking) but it was also one of those ‘finish what you started’ opportunities and having the stamina to never give up and make the role my own, with boundaries and balance.
SCN: Do you have any career regrets?
CS: Looking back now, I think I could have been more aggressive in my early career at JDA. I am doing more of that now and the JDA Winning leadership program was a big learning experience for me. Now I ask for things rather than wait for them to happen.
SCN: How do you find balance?
CS: I make boundaries and balance my ‘yeses’ and commitments to family and work.
With my kids, I know I won’t be there for everything, but I will be there for the things that count most. I ask myself ‘will this matter 10-15 years from now if I am or am not there?’ and make sure I am there for those big events. I tend to overcommit, and have to keep in mind my husband’s demanding job, but we make it work and both strike that balance.
At work, I try to remember that what may be a priority for someone else, may not be for me, and balance that. I once asked someone how they get it all done, and they said ‘work more hours’ and I knew that was not the right answer; there had to be a better way. So, I built out, with my team, a response time priority framework to guide our priority requests and set expectations and it has really worked well. You also must make time on your calendar to get work done or else you could be in meetings from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
SCN: What is your leadership style? What is an important leadership trait?
CS: I lead my team by being part of the team. You will never find me a client meeting saying I am a senior director of this team. We are a team and are presented together; it is not ‘I’ but we. It is also about respect and showing that you care not only for the person with the big job of presenting to the client, but understanding that there is a team behind the presenter making it all come together.
In line with that, I fight for people and tell them not to give up, as we are in this journey together. It is not ‘fight or flight’ mode. That has led to low churn on my team amid a lot of change.
SCN: What is your proudest achievement outside of JDA?
CS: I am the Finance Chair of a 35-year-old non-profit called Tanaina Child Development Center in Alaska. We faced closing on several occasions over the course of the last three years and I worked to negotiate a new entity to adopt this non-profit. After a long struggle, a wonderful local hospital invested in the center. The total project cost exceeded $2 million and accommodates close to 100 children, including my own son (all my boys attended this preschool). My family and others depend on good care for our children; it has been extremely rewarding to see I could help and pave the way for the next generation to attend a historical school.
SCN: What is the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?
CS: My parents told me, “You need to finish something you started,” and I’ve heeded it ever since.
A great example of this is the child development center project. It felt too hard, was too much pressure and too much work, with my job and travel and being a mom to three kids. But I didn’t quit and it was one of the best things I ever did and was such an accomplishment.
I have passed this advice to my children. If you are committing to a sport or any type of activity, you will attend and participate. If you are sick, that is one thing, but if you just don’t want to go, that is another. Commit and finish it. I set that expectation right away.