Kathy Stanley is vice president of education services at JDA. She talks to us today about how an early pivot in her career in elementary education brought her toward her passion for teaching and technology and she’s never looked back since! She’s a true believer in cultivating collective wisdom as a team and playing to everyone’s strengths to yield the strongest, most effective team.

Kathy and her husband Charles

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in North Carolina but was born in Guam as my dad was in the Air Force at the time. I have lived in Scottsdale since 1995. I have an amazing husband, three grown kids (Brooke/39, Rayna/35 and Nolen/29) and two grandkids. I also have three dogs – two cattle dogs and one Jack Russell – they are very active and very smart. They remind me not to take myself too seriously.

Can you tell us about your role at JDA since joining in 2017?

I was brought in to Education Services to rejuvenate the service offering to our customers. My goal was to assess the team and see what we had to do to build it as a differentiator for JDA and our customers. I like to say that we remodeled the house on the street that would add the most value to others living on the same block. We took it down to the sticks and rebuilt it and our remodel positively impacts our customers with more engagement, capacity and value.

What was your career like before joining JDA?

The majority of my career has been helping people learn. I spent several years in healthcare helping employees learn about their roles including soft and hard skills. I’ve also spent a lot of time in customer-facing roles too.

Early on, I was in elementary education and then moved on to be an educational consultant. I took on leadership roles to build out award-winning training programs. Shifting into this role has really built on my desire for learning, which is my passion. I like to help light that fire for people and to do it efficiently. Everyone’s time is so critical, so it is important to show them how we can do this quickly and make it relevant for them.

Why did you originally make that change from elementary education?

I made the change when I realized I could impact more students by teaching the teachers how to use technology. This was back in 1990 when technology was really just starting to take off in education. I felt like I could take that passion for technology and bring it into an arena beyond teaching a classroom of 30 kids a year and impact a lot more students by helping their teachers embrace technology. I loved teaching adults and then helping them figure out their way to help others.

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

I have two.

The first is the notion of collective wisdom. We are all smarter together than any one of us is on our own. This is what guides my leadership style as I believe we all have our own geniuses. It is so important to leverage our unique geniuses because we are stronger together.

The second is learning what’s urgent and what’s not. It goes back to the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ and determining what fits in the urgent quadrant and what does not. I learned that really early on, and I have held firm to it ever since.  It becomes more critical as we get bombarded with information and work through what’s truly urgent.

Have you ever felt stuck in your role and needed a reboot? How did you tackle that?

One of the reasons I came to JDA is because I felt stuck.  I was in a role for 13 years and understood it so well that I wasn’t continuing to learn. So I took what I loved to do most – teach – and jumped into a new industry I knew nothing about – supply chain! It’s a huge learning curve, but it was a big impetus for me as a way to grow.

What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?

I was going through divorce in my early 30s and was offered a leadership role within my company that required me to relocate. I moved from Florida to Arizona and it became the best risk I ever took. Not only did my career trajectory really take off, it was also where I met the man of my dreams. I had to trust that everything happens for a reason and really honored that.

What is the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?

Own your stuff. Both of my parents said that. You have to be accountable for yourself and your choices.

What is your proudest achievement?

My family first and foremost. I have a very loving family and we are very close. I love watching our kids grow up and be great parents.

On the work front, it is anytime I see my team come together. I take pride in bringing disparate groups together to learn to respect differences and become stronger as a team. Anytime I have been able to facilitate that, it makes me very happy!

People don’t always recognize their own strengths. None of us are naturally pulled to people that are different, but those we are similar to. I love to help unite those disparate types together.

Do you have any regrets?

I would not use the word regrets, but lessons learned for sure.  You should not regret anything but learn from things you’ve done or decisions you’ve made.

What female leaders do you admire and why?

Condoleezza Rice. She’s just poised under pressure. She is thoughtful, compassionate, candid. I strive to be like her.

What advice do you have for someone taking on a leadership role for the first time?

Remember you’re not alone. Network with other leaders who have been there before. Ask a lot of questions. Find your style that works for you.

And most importantly, listen to your team. Understand where they are coming from to build that trust.

Who is your role model?

My mother. She was a director at Duke Hospital in the OR [operating room]. She always worked from when I was really little and did a nice job managing demands back then and even today, juggling career and family.

What do you wish you knew when you were starting out that you know now?

Many of the things I would worry about are not nearly as big as I thought at the moment.

What about your career surprises you?

The variety that I’ve had even though it has all been in education. From healthcare to pharma to education to software. I’ve loved it!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I strongly believe in it. There is so much research out there that shows that having that balance makes you stronger in both parts. Work/life balance is all about being able to prioritize, helping people and enabling them to make choices. I’ve typically managed this well throughout my career but must admit that it’s a work in progress here at JDA.  There’s so much to do to transform our organization.  We want to do it all and we need to prioritize more as a company. I want to model setting priorities and finding the balance that works for each individual so that they can be their most engaged through their work and with their families.

How do you resolve conflict?

I am a pretty direct communicator. I like to think about the end result. I believe that you always need to look for a third option, and not just each side’s option. Sometimes it will get uncomfortable, but you can do it in a way that respects others’ opinions and find an option that isn’t always a compromise but a solution neither party had thought about but that may in fact yield even better results. Understanding the root of conflict is really important. Sometimes what we say first isn’t actually the conflict, you have to get to the root of it.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

For fiction, I just finished the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon and Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah.

More work-related, I just read Team of Teams .

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

Compassionate, calm, focused. I think these traits help me as I try to operationalize vision. I find myself to be a pragmatic leader.