JDA customer relationship manager Jennifer (Baker) Suckey has taken lessons learned while working at Nordstrom – whose brand is synonymous with customer service excellence – and applied them to a successful career at JDA. In this week’s Wednesdays for Women, she discusses that experience, as well as how she’s kept her career fresh, and how a little patience goes a long way when traveling for work (or pleasure!).
Tell us a little about yourself.
I have been married for four years. As a blended family, we have five kids between us, ages 10-15. They keep us beyond busy and are all involved in sports. We’ve lived in Dallas for 10 years but I grew up in Washington state.
You’ve been at JDA for a few years – tell us about your career journey here.
I was excited to come to JDA! I started in business development, then moved into sales, and then when JDA rolled out a customer relationship management role, I jumped at that opportunity. Since it was so new at JDA, it really allowed me to make the role my own. And, in this role, I’ve been able to build great relationships with long-standing and strategic retail customers.
What are your favorite parts of your role?
The day, the week, the month is never the same. It is always changing and I enjoy the challenge of that as much as the responsibilities involved. I love that I can engage in all aspects of the accounts that I cover. I collaborate with many other JDA experts and executives and I bring them in as I need them. I spend the majority of my time with customers in Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, and Minneapolis which allows me to explore the city with them.
What did you do before joining JDA?
I started my career at Nordstrom in college and also worked there after college. I held several roles there. I stayed at home with the kids when they were babies and slowly got back into the working world when they began school and I haven’t looked back since! Before JDA, I was at a startup software company, where I was able to learn many aspects of the business.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career and how did you tackle them?
Some weeks are crazy and there are weeks that I feel like I haven’t accomplished a lot on my to do list! Given I travel a lot for my job, it can be challenging too. In the beginning, I learned the hard way that it’s not worth stressing over the delays and travel plan changes. You just have to adjust to that and know you can’t control it. On the family aspect, having a village helps alleviate that stress!
How do you define success?
It can be many things. Most importantly, it is happy customers who want to willingly spend time with me or JDA. It is about creating a true partnership and having them speak highly of JDA. I also feel it is a reflection of my personal success.
Personally, it is being able to provide for our family and being a positive role model for our children. I love that we are able to take family vacations together as a reward for our hard work.
Can you point to a critical moment in your career that really made a difference in your path?
While working at Nordstrom, I quickly learned that my dream job then of being a merchandiser was not for me! I spent many days and weeks with the buyers and merchandising team. They have amazing jobs, but I didn’t want to do that job after I learned more. I am glad I figured that out early on instead of years down the road. So that changed the career path that I thought I wanted. I went into management at Nordstrom instead and am forever grateful for that. Being at Nordstrom after college taught me what great customer service was and getting to do that and learn from one of the best in the industry. Today, I have an even bigger appreciation for buyers and merchandisers – it’s not as glamorous as I had envisioned while in college and is a tough job.
What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?
I don’t really think about taking risks, I just jump in!
Have you ever been ‘professionally stuck’? How did you become ‘unstuck’?
I haven’t let myself get stuck. I take on new responsibilities and projects before stagnation hits. I don’t let myself get bored in anything I do.
What is the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?
A manager years ago said, ‘always be overprepared so you feel confident but don’t be afraid to let the agenda change course during a meeting’. I always think of that in a meeting and am always so prepared. Sometimes you may not even show one slide from your presentation and the agenda may go in a completely different direction and that’s okay. Having that flexibility is important.
Secondly, I always think the advice that you should listen more than you speak is so valuable. I really try to adhere to that one!
What do you wish you knew when you were starting out that you know now?
It’s okay to fail. You learn more from losing or failing than you do from any win. It’s what you learn and take away from those mistakes that make you a better person professionally and personally. I use this as a sports reference with my kids all the time!
Have you ever found yourself as the only woman in a meeting? How did that feel?
Yes, very often I am the only or one of the only females in a room or on a call. I find it more empowering because I feel like I am the only one that notices. Nobody has ever treated me any differently because of my gender.
What advice to you have for young women seeking a career in technology?
Go for it! It’s a great and rewarding career with so many options especially as technology is growing and changing. I would have gotten into technology a lot sooner if I had to do it over again.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to women in leadership?
Some of my biggest barriers are not saying no often enough and not asking for help. As a female, I have had the mindset that I can do it all and have it all. But I am slowly learning that it is OK to say no and prioritize what is important.
What makes a good leader?
It’s important – especially in diverse teams – to understand that not everyone takes feedback the same way. And not everyone is motivated by the same things. From a leaders’ standpoint, it takes time and willingness to get to know the individuals and learn what motivates them and how they like to take feedback. It’s that commitment that shows what great leaders are because they care and can inspire others more effectively.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
Having their own agenda and not listening to those in the weeds and customers day in and out.
What female leaders do you admire and why?
There are several at JDA that I admire from their experience, knowledge, willingness to help with ideas or sometimes just to share ‘kid’ stories and work/life balance.
JoAnn Martin, Beth Elkin, Arlyn Knox and Amy Drevna, just to name a few – all are fantastic leaders at JDA.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Some weeks I feel like I have it mastered and some weeks are an epic fail! I wish I had the secret sauce, but I have to consciously work on it every single day. The one thing I’ve learned is that most days I wake up extremely early, between 4-5 a.m., to have my cup of coffee and start my day before distractions come in, like phone calls and kids and emails.
What book(s) are you reading right now?