Tammy Cunha, vice president, revenue accounting at JDA, shares how your career is never what you may have envisioned from the get-go but how taking leaps makes us stronger and oftentimes end up being the best decisions you can make in life. She shares her leadership tips and learnings and how she finds her own personal sense of work/life balance.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in the Bay Area in California. I have lived in Arizona for the last 11 years after relocating to help grow the technology practice of the CPA firm I was working for at the time. I am a ‘doggie mama’ to pit bull breeds and do rescue work with organizations for pit bulls and try to be a champion for those breeds.
You’ve been at JDA for about 8 years. What did you do before that?
I spent 10 years in public accounting before coming to JDA. Fun fact: I worked through college at FedEx as a driver.
I came to JDA via a recommendation from my network but it took awhile to convince me to leave public accounting for the job. I was afraid I’d get bored since you work with so many industries and companies in public accounting. But every single day is different for me at JDA and I don’t know what any one day will look like. It was a very good fit and change for me.
What was your first job at JDA? How did your career progress from there?
My first job was an accounting revenue manager. From there, I was asked to take over the billing, contracts and renewal team as they reported to accounting back then. Next, I worked with the royalty team, internal audit team and just recently, the revenue recognition and fulfillment teams.
Today I oversee revenue accounting, revenue recognition and fulfillment. I have had many managers in the past who have believed in me and just kept giving me more responsibility. I am thankful as I have learned a lot and I have worked with some amazing people at JDA.
How do you live the JDA values?
I live each one in several ways:
- Results: I put customer needs front and center and that includes internal and external customers. Because it is not just delivery with our external customers, but how can we make it easier for our internal teams – our ‘customers.’ I just met with sales, for example, to discuss how my group can deliver and work with them better, which in turn, helps our external customer.
- Relentless: I am always challenging our processes and how can we automate further and take out duplicative steps. I just finished a big project and will now look back and see what we can improve for the next round. I am always looking at those processes and how we can improve them.
- Teamwork: Collaboration is part of my DNA! It is just naturally who I am at heart. I also am respectfully candid and direct. It helps fix things and move forward.
Why did you choose a career in supply chain technology?
I like to say tech picked me. Working in Silicon Valley at a CPA firm, they naturally had many technology customers. Early on, I was very interested in accounting for software companies. Then when JDA was looking for an accountant with technology background here in Arizona, it was a perfect fit.
What are your favorite parts of your role?
Learning by working through issues and problem-solving. I am an extrovert, so I really enjoy working with teams. It gives me energy to hear ideas from all levels of the organization. I truly learn every day.
How has your life experience made you who you are you are today?
I give my very strong mom the credit for having the most influence on me. She instilled my hard work, strong ethics and the mindset to have respect for everyone no matter their status.
What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?
To leave public accounting to come to JDA. JDA has been a great place to work. I have had so many learning experiences.
I was really hesitant because I thought it would be my life – public accounting – and when JDA came to me, it was just a really good fit.
Have you ever been ‘professionally stuck’? How did you become ‘unstuck’?
Yes, I was in public accounting too long. I started looking at my bosses and the track I was scheduled to take. It started to not motivate me. I started to network and told others that I was looking to do something new. I also sat down and wrote down what really motivates me and have spoken to my boss/mentor to let them know I am interested in doing something new. Then the JDA opportunity came up.
What is the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?
My mom always told me to treat everyone equally no matter title, status, race, or religion, and to treat people as you would want to be treated.
What about your career surprises you?
My career is not what I thought it would be early on. I thought I’d be a lawyer. I was taking classes in law and my teacher told me she did not think law was for me because I am too black and white, and law is gray. She told me to take a class in business for marketing, management and accounting. I did so well in the accounting piece that I took another class and it really fit me well and I never would have thought it would!
What is one mistake you see leaders making more frequently than others?
Sometimes, I don’t think they realize how the decisions they make affect the people doing the work. It is important to understand fully the impact of their decisions. Even though having a ‘fail fast’ mentality is good, sometimes the decisions made impact the team the most. Taking a step back to really see what that impact would be first would help.
What is the one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?
Lead by example.
What female leaders do you admire and why?
Rachel Scott, my boss at JDA. I trust her immensely. She has great communication, a calm demeanor, is fair, and works with high integrity. I can and have learned so much from her.
Zoey Walters, vice president, Finance. She lives the guiding principles as she always is looking to deliver in new innovative ways and she is candid. Zoey is not afraid to challenge and bring up the tough questions. I admire her for her fearlessness.
What is your leadership style?
It depends. In certain situations, I change my leadership style to best serve those I am leading. My behavioral traits always point to being inclusive. I really do want my staff to have a voice in the decision-making, and the responsibility and the authority to make such decisions. Although in some cases we need to decide quickly and I do not have the luxury of time to poll everyone first. Although even in those cases, I do think about was is best for those affected.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to women in leadership?
Being our own worst enemy! Women do not take chances like men will. If a woman does not check all the boxes, she will not apply for the position which is opposite of our male counterparts in many cases. Women need to work on having a thicker skin and not internalizing things as much. We need to treat failure and mistakes as a learning experience – fail, learn and move forward. I struggle with this as well. I remind myself when I make mistakes to learn and move forward. Don’t dwell.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I schedule it. I live by my calendar. I work out at lunch in JDA’s awesome gym three times a week and I work from home a day each week which gives me back about three hours a day.
I actually like to work a lot, so some may say I do not have balance, but everyone has to figure out for themselves where their balance is.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
As I just completed our adoption of a new accounting standard (ASC606) which required me to read and reread over 600 pages of accounting literature. I am taking a break and reading a golfing instruction book as well as a fictional mystery book.
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