Women in Power: Jenny, Director of Lending
This March, we’re honoring Women’s History Month by celebrating female firsts and spotlighting our female leaders.
In this post, we’re sharing Jenny’s story. Jenny celebrated her third year with us in 2021 and has served as Director of Lending since 2020. She shared her perspective on embracing change, the importance of inspiring others to be leaders, and the challenges of being an effective leader when working virtually during a pandemic. She also encourages us to recognize the women who have made a difference in our lives, especially during Women’s History Month.
Q: Can you talk about your journey and how you got to this level of leadership?
Growing up, all I wanted was to have a positive impact on people’s lives. Initially, I thought that meant becoming a nurse. But, as life often goes, I started out in one direction and ended up finding myself on another path to Project Management. In this role, I began learning the skills to become an effective communicator and problem solver and preparing reports and documents to communicate with my peers and management. I negotiated contracts and product solutions with internal and external partners and delivered on projects of varying sizes. All of this went a long way to tuning my work ethic and leadership skills.
For over a decade, I was able to sharpen my project management skills into a challenging and rewarding career that took me through several different position and promotions - starting at the bottom and ending up in middle management. So, when I heard about the Product Manager position at ACE, I knew it was a great opportunity for me to come in and share my strengths with the Lending team. In just a short period of time, I was tasked to spearhead, along with various groups in the organization, our first fully developed product using the AGILE project management framework. This project, ultimately, led to my promotion to Director of Lending within the company.
Q: Looking back at your journey so far, is there a story or a moment that’s impacted you that you could share?
Sure! [Before starting here], I was one of several great employees who was part of a company-wide restructure. It was a [hard] day for all of us, and many of the impacted individuals were tenured employees who had contributed to the success of the company. I, personally, gave over a decade of service to this company and was blessed with all the friendships, professional life lessons, and memories I collected along the way. At the time, it was easy to feel bruised by what happened; but the truth is, 20 days later, I began a new career with ACE that opened up endless opportunities for me.
I love to hold onto this moment, to remind myself change isn’t such a bad thing, because sometimes, when one door closes and another one opens, and it puts people on the right path to success. I now work for a great company that operates with integrity, recognizes talent, and invests in their people.
Q: To you, what does it mean to be a leader?
I am reminded of a famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all idea, and there is no magic formula to instantly make a person a great leader. To me, my idea of leadership is to be able to inspire others, help motivate others, set a clear vision, communicate with respect, and above all, lead by example.
This past year has been no exception, but with the pandemic and leadership through a computer screen, it has been even more challenging. In addition to the traits mentioned above, being an emotionally intelligent leader is now more important than ever. With the challenges of working from home, parents homeschooling their children, and the change in overall family demands, being an emotionally available leader can have a profoundly positive impact on working relationships. Understanding your team’s emotions, their state of mind, and the pressures and stresses they are undergoing can help a good leader manage their team better. I believe this is what differentiates a good leader, going from one who merely leads to one who leads and inspires.
Q: What does being a female leader mean to you? I’m also curious about your perspective on female leadership in your specific field of lending products, if you have anything to share.
We’re living in an exciting time; beliefs are shifting along with gender stereotypes. I am fortunate to work for a company that honors both men and women equally. Never have I felt my gender prevented me from being recognized for any opportunity. In fact, our company employs many women in senior roles throughout the organization. Throughout the 3 years I’ve worked here, I have observed high-level men and women work together in an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration to accomplish the greater good. This closely echoes one of our core goals: “We build on our reputation as a great place to work – attracting and retaining the best people and talent.”
Q: What advice would you give a young woman with aspirations to get where you are?
The best advice I can give young women today with aspirations of being in a leadership role is to make decisions that align with your values, be willing to work hard, chase the job you want (not the money), don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and most importantly, surround yourself with role models you want to emulate. Also, learn to accept help when it is offered and ask for help when it is needed. As I tell my 14-year old daughter daily, YOU are capable of great things and you can and will succeed at whatever you set your mind and actions to achieve. Just do not ever give up, take risks, and show up daily!
Q: Who is a woman in your life who has influenced you?
You know, I would love to praise all the women who have surrounded me and helped with my journey but without a doubt, it would be my mom. She is the woman who is the most positive and important influence in my life. My mom raised three amazingly strong-willed women and can be described as astute and intelligent. She is the kind of person who always has time for her kids (and grandchildren too), always interested in learning something new, would sacrifice herself for her family, and is easily the strongest woman, in my eyes. She taught me how to love, to respect, to be courageous, to persevere and to never give up!
Q: This year, we are excited to see our country’s first female Vice President in office. Can you share an impactful first for you in your work life?
This is a tough one. When one’s career spans decades, there are a lot of ‘firsts,’ and many of them are impactful as they build upon each other. First job, first raise, first accolade, first promotion, first BIG mistake, first speech to a peer audience, first management position, first large, complex project, etc. All these experiences combine to make what is the tapestry of my life story, as it relates to who I am right now. New “firsts” will continue to impact me, helping me to grow and mature even further. For example, participating in this interview is a first for me, and it has been humbling, energizing, and challenging as I reflected over my life experiences.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to ask our readers to take a moment to recognize the women in their life. Women’s History Month is not about me; but rather, it is comprised of all the women who have overcome tremendous hardships and adversity to enact change. We need to sing these women’s songs! They show us our voice matters. If my daughter is ever going to live in a world where women claim their power and share equally with men, then Women’s History Month needs to remind us, daily, how far women have come and offers younger generations examples of pride and excellence.