Leaping out of your Comfort Zone

Becky Fox, program manager, quote-to-cash revenue operations, accidentally fell into business school on her first day of college, changing the trajectory of her career. A huge fan of everything happening for a reason and saying yes to new opportunities, Becky shares her perspective on why it’s always good to step out of your comfort zone, and how one such leap transformed her personally and professionally.

Give us a 30 second overview of who you are!

Becky on vacation.

I was born in Chicago and moved around a lot before landing in Arizona. I studied at the University of Arizona. Funny story – I wanted to go to school for psychology but on the first day of orientation accidentally went to the business school orientation and ended up sticking with it!  I got a degree in accounting and have always felt like I am not your typical accountant as they are perceived as introverted with positions that often require repetition; I am very extroverted and I don’t necessarily like to do the same thing over and over again, I like to do a little bit of everything.  I grew up relocating across the country a few times which taught me how to adapt to change and now I enjoy new situations. It also explains why I’m so eager to be involved in projects that drive change at JDA.

You’ve been at JDA for more than five years. Can you tell us about your career journey here?

Since I need variety to stay motivated, I never thought I’d stay anywhere for more than two years but am coming up on my sixth year at JDA and still find myself learning new things every day.

When I joined JDA, I was in the internal audit department. JDA was building up that department and I pictured myself staying in an audit type role. There was an order-to-cash audit I was working on that was nearing its end, and leadership decided that this process needed more oversight. They developed a new role at JDA for a project manager as a result, and though I was scared, I took the opportunity as I knew change would benefit me. But as a new role, it had no roadmap, and I had to build my own way, resulting in a career I am passionate about.

What brought you to JDA and what did you do before that?

I was working for a consulting firm and JDA was my first client as an intern there. I joke that my entire career has been with JDA because I’ve been involved from the very start of my life as a professional.

I enjoyed my job and thought I would be a “lifer” but after two years, I started losing motivation. Hopping from client to client meant I was never around to see the businesses put my contributions into motion. Was the value ever realized or were the proposed solutions effective? I needed to see results to stay engaged in my work.

A previous manager had taken a position at JDA and recruited me to join the internal audit team. I saw it as a chance for me to grow and get away from ‘just’ auditing to seeing the results of that audit come to life.

What are your favorite parts of your role?

The variety of projects across numerous parts of the business. I believe that the work I do aligns with JDA’s strategic objectives and goals. I love working cross-functionally and gaining exposure to different people with diverse points of view. I also get pulled into different projects outside of my role which provides so much opportunity for me to learn and grow.

You’ve very involved in our Women’s Interest Network (WIN) program; tell us what that experience has been like.

Becky posing in front of a mural.

Being part of, and now leading, the Scottsdale WIN chapter has been a very enlightening experience. My teams throughout my career have been mostly women and although I knew there was a gender gap, I never really felt like it affected me.

WIN is responsible for raising awareness and lifting women up to allow them the same opportunities as men. In order to raise awareness, I had to learn more myself and through that process, I recognized the impact on my personal and professional experiences. It can be a challenge to come up with new ways to empower women, but the collaboration and different perspectives across the WIN community have generated effective results. We are keeping the conversation going between women AND men on gender equality and the push for progress.

What do you think are biggest obstacles of gender diversity in the workplace?

My first thought is that we stand in our own way. But after discussing with others, I’ve discovered that many agree that the biggest obstacles are ourselves and other women! We need to recognize our unconscious bias towards ourselves.

As an example, we may judge women by what they look like or what they are wearing. Those things have nothing to do with the knowledge we have or how successful we are. We shouldn’t remember what shoes the female presenter was wearing but the content she shared. We should also exude self-confidence without hesitation. We back down from confidence because we feel like we come off arrogant. Conversely, men wouldn’t necessarily think that. We have to push ourselves to be overly confident to earn more respect from our colleagues.

Have you ever found yourself as the only woman in a meeting? How did that feel?

I am more intimidated in meetings with more experienced people of all genders than in a room full of men. I’ve felt nervous in meetings with senior leaders but I have never experienced nerves just because I was in a meeting with all men. To me, it is empowering. I am confident in the subject matter and I get to share my knowledge and point of view with people who are different than me. Differing opinions can pose a challenge, but it usually means we can come to the best possible conclusion when everyone is open-minded. I never felt like my point of view was not respected by the men I’ve worked with at JDA.

How do you stay inspired professionally?

Variety is a big influencer on my professional development, but I’m also inspired by seeing the results of a project. If I think something is not going to provide value or the team is going in circles without making any progress, I tend to lose a little motivation. In those situations, I need to focus on pushing the project to the finish line.

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

Saying yes to the Blue Yonder integration project. Managing an acquisition is a huge undertaking and I had never been part of anything like that before. It was completely new territory for me, including going to Germany for two weeks every month for eight months. It wasn’t just exposure to a foreign business but a startup business too. The products that Blue Yonder created are fascinating and the startup culture with the way they look at everything and want to contribute to the company results was new and refreshing. I am the person I am today because of that experience.

What is the best advice you ever received?

There is no prescriptive path to success. Coming into that newly created role at JDA, there was no prescribed path forward. I had to build my own career – and say yes to those things that scared me.

My job at the audit firm was pretty black and white. If you do a good job, you make it to the next level and so on. That is what I thought I’d always be working towards – hitting that next promotion as evidence of my “success.”

Alternatively, at JDA, I’ve been presented with opportunities and decisions I needed to make on my own to advance my career. At every junction, I used to think – Will this propel me forward or will it be a step back? Does this align with what I want to do next? But this advice helped me to take a different approach. You have to build your own career not knowing what is coming next and say yes to things that don’t always perfectly “align” with what you think you want. No experience will set you back, you will only learn more about what you want going forward.

What about your career surprises you?

I never would have pictured me doing what I am doing today, when I first started. I pictured myself as a psychologist! I never thought I’d be in corporate America, but I love what I am doing and a believer in everything happens for a reason and I feel very lucky for the opportunities and experiences that brought me to where I am today.

What female leaders do you admire and why?

Chloe Condon. She’s a former Broadway actress who taught herself how to code using online resources. She is now is a cloud developer advocate at Microsoft. She was interested in something vastly different from her experience but still took that leap into a new direction. She is always encouraging people of all backgrounds to join the world of tech and it’s really inspiring to see how far she has come.

How do you maintain work/life balance? Do you believe it exists?

I’ve always thought of it differently than other perspectives. It is not about spending time away from work, but riding the ups and downs. Some projects I’m working 14-15-hour days and some projects I can get it done in a normal work day and have more balance. There are times when it slows down and you can recharge and other times it’s busier but it all balances out.

I recently heard an alternative way of thinking about work/life balance: Think like an athlete – focus on optimizing performance and doing what is necessary for recovery and continuous improvement (i.e. relaxation, hobbies, or family time); NOT the hours spent at the office vs. at home.

It felt like the words described my thoughts better than I ever could.

Becky at boxing class.

What are you reading right now?

I do a lot of reading through LinkedIn articles from my connections and other articles I see. I find they are targeted to my interest and background. I like to see what my connections are reading and build my relationships there as well.

What’s one fun (or surprising) fact about you?

I coach boxing classes once or twice a week. It takes me out of my comfort zone and it is important for me to be active and stay healthy. It’s also extremely rewarding to be able to help others improve themselves and live a healthy lifestyle.