Ask Dorien Weijts, vice president of IT Applications at JDA, about the biggest risk she’s ever taken and she’ll tell you it was leaving a job in the UK in 1999 to follow her then-boyfriend to the U.S. He had a job, she decided to study for her Master’s degree, and with a proposal of marriage on the eve of their departure, they set off on a journey that has resulted in an amazing partnership and growth for both of them – often in ways unexpected. The common thread through it all was teamwork.
SCN: How did you get your start in IT?
DW: That’s interesting, considering my bachelor’s degree is in hotel management, accounting and finance. Customer service has been important to me throughout my career. My first job was as a waitress at an old hotel in the Netherlands where I grew up. After college, I worked at a hotel, a car rental company and a semiconductor organization (in finance and accounting) in London. My boyfriend had a job that required him to travel back and forth between London and Phoenix, and when the company wanted him to move to the U.S., he asked me to go with him.
While in the U.S. I earned my Master’s degree in international business and landed an internship at a Dutch semiconductor company in finance and accounting. I worked there several years when a friend approached me about a financial systems position at JDA. It sounded like a good opportunity, so I took it. After a few years, I moved from finance to the IT organization, and since that time I’ve had multiple positions within IT, implementing new internal applications, upgrading or enhancing existing tools, etc.
SCN: With no formal technical schooling, were you ever intimidated by what you didn’t know?
DW: No. I’m coming from a business analysis background, working to fully understand business processes. I learn the applications as part of implementation projects. What I bring to the organization is a business perspective, and the ability to translate business requirements and work with the technical teams in the U.S. and India.
SCN: Is it a possibly better that you aren’t super technical?
DW: It could be. I’m unbiased with regard to technology. What I’m looking for with my team is to provide advice and insights into the most appropriate technology solutions for JDA. In working with a variety of vendors, I have a lot of exposure into how we evaluate and conduct due diligence. When we have certain technical requests or API analysis, I bring in the right people to help. Through the years, I’ve learned what questions to ask, what information to look for, and what kind of reports or analyst analysis we need to review to make the best decisions for the organization.
SCN: What would you say to someone interested in working in IT, but like you, may not have a background in the field?
DW: I recommend talking to someone doing the job and to that person’s customers – the business teams that the IT role supports and interacts with, such as sales, professional services, HR, finance and accounting operations – to get true insight into the interactions. Find out how they collaborate and evaluate whether that is something you could see yourself doing. We often have opportunities within our organization that might be of interest, but we may miss out on potential candidates because they think they might not be a fit. If they are interested in a career in IT, getting insights into a day in the life of that person would be a great place to start.
SCN: What are the key characteristics of the people who thrive on an IT team?
DW: You must have an innovation mindset and strong communication skills. Teamwork is also critical. There is hardly ever an initiative or project where you work as an individual. Making sure that as a team you have established goals, milestones and deadlines, scope, and budget. We would not be successful on some of our large projects if it wasn’t for teamwork. That is one of the biggest skill sets that has taken us to where we are right now.
SCN: Speaking of that, can you talk about how you and your husband work as a team and how that contributes to your success?
DW: We are both from the Netherlands. When we were dating, I followed him to London for an internship and Phoenix for a job. About nine years after I’d started at JDA we launched a big project that I was really excited about. He had been working in corporate America for a long time and decided that his skill set would allow him to work from home as a consultant. It was his idea; now it was time for him to support me and see where it would take us. We decided for our family – and for both of our careers – that he would do that. It has been the right decision for us.
SCN: What does that look like?
DW: We have two sons. My husband drops them off at school, picks them up, takes them to sporting events, etc. I can show up and see them play baseball, but I don’t have to rush home, change them, get food in their tummies, and then take off to the game. It’s something that I treasure and I’m very pleased about.
SCN: Have you been able to give your career more of a structured focus knowing he’s on point for a larger portion of the child care?
DW: Definitely. When I come home I’m able to have more quality time with the kids knowing that he’s done homework with them, there’s dinner on the table, and the refrigerator is full. I try to make sure I’ve got two hours of dedicated time with them at night. My colleagues in India know that my family time is between 7 and 9 p.m. and then after that they can schedule time on my calendar. Because my husband takes them to school, I can take early morning calls or go to the office because the kids have been taken care of.
SCN: Do you find that the flexibility that JDA offers is a benefit to working parents?
DW: Yes! Sometimes we must work weekends, take early morning calls, and late evening calls. We’re flexible with schedules because we know that our teams have requests coming in almost 24 x 7 and we often work on very large, time-intensive projects. They can take a toll and intrude on family lives. This year, most our team has taken extended vacation time. It’s been nice for them to have quality time with their families. I don’t know how many organizations allow associates to take two-to-three weeks off in a row, however I think it’s really important, especially if you have to travel long distances. We have a good support team here, and the work will continue while they are out. They can enjoy their time off and others on the team have an opportunity to step up and fill in.
Dorien Weijts takes her own advice when it comes to vacations,
as evidenced by her recent trip to Italy with her husband and sons.
SCN: Have you ever found that you’re the only woman in a meeting? How did that feel?
DW: Very often, but I’m the same person no matter who is in the room. That may have to do with my background. My parents owned a large furniture store; my sister and I had to help. My Dad didn’t care if I was a girl. If there was a big sofa that needed to be carried down the stairs, I helped carry it down the stairs!
SCN: It sounds like your parents raised you with the belief that you could do anything – including lifting a big sofa!
DW: That’s true! I’m very thankful for them. They are my role models. They showed me that it’s okay for both parents to work and support the family. I think that’s probably why it was easy to make the decision that my husband and I made, for him to step out of the corporate environment and for me to have this specific role. Hopefully we can also provide that experience for our kids as well.
SCN: What’s the best advice you ever received and who gave it to you?
DW: I had tremendous support from my parents when I wanted to leave my career in the UK and follow my boyfriend – now my husband – to the U.S. to study, not knowing what was in the future. They said “Carpe diem! Do what feels right for you. Go on the journey, and see where you end up.”
SCN: What makes JDA a great place to work?
DW: I love that no day is the same. There are always changes. The opportunities are there. That’s why I’m still here. I tell my team – don’t wait for an opportunity to come to you. If you see an opportunity, go to your manager, your boss, your peer, and let them know you can help. Even if it is outside of your skill set or area of expertise, if you have something to offer, grab it – take it. Sometimes you fail, but that’s okay too, because you learn. We can learn a lot when things don’t go according to plan.
SCN: What makes JDA a great place for women to work?
DW: I really believe that from a leadership perspective, JDA values all associates – men and women equally – from a cross-cultural and regional perspective. In the last few years, I’ve seen more leadership opportunities open for women. What is also interesting is to see people successfully transition from one department to another. There are many ways to grow your career here.
Additionally, establishing the Women’s Interest Network (WIN) and really giving women a networking forum to share their information, support, and problem-solve – from both a personal and professional perspective – has been great.