Heather Meheut, senior HR program manager at JDA shares how she’s used her self-professed workaholic nature to catapult her career over the last 20 years. She’s learned a lot along the way including the importance of asking for what you want and creating your own role – and destiny – by raising her hand.
Tell us a little about yourself (where you grew up, family, hobbies)
I grew up in Richardson, Texas with my parents and siblings (a sister and two brothers).
I was very strong-willed and independent. I was impatient to “grow up” and start my life, and moved to Arizona after graduating high school. I have always been very driven to make my own way and started working in a full-time corporate job while in college and haven’t stopped. Some would say I’m a bit of a workaholic! I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 19 years and we have a 16-year-old son. Being a full-time working mom and wife has not left a lot of room for hobbies over the years. Now that our son is older, I have been able to get back to one of my passions in art. I have been painting the last six years, even being a part of a few group art shows the last three years – of which my JDA colleagues have been very supportive of. I practice yoga and meditation, and also love boxing and dancing when I can squeeze it in.
What year did you join JDA? What did you do before that?
I joined JDA in 2009. Prior to that I worked at a professional staffing firm for five years, focused on accounting and finance professionals, and held multiple roles – staffing manager, account executive, executive recruiter and branch manager. Prior to that, I was in a completely different field, working for a commercial finance company for nine years, where I started out as receptionist my freshman year in college. Interesting fact – I was actually planning to become a lawyer. However, in my second year of college, I chose a different path, which eventually led me to HR.
What was your first job at JDA? How did your career progress from there?
I started at JDA as a recruiter, primarily supporting Services (Consulting and Cloud). In 2011, I had an opportunity to move into HR Operations, working on special projects. I supported the Customer Support team while a colleague, Anna Cruz – who was also my mentor when I joined JDA – was on maternity leave. From there, I went on to be HR Business Partner (HRBP) for Product Development & Product Management for the next two years, then was HRBP for our Accounting, Finance, ITG, Admin & Legal teams, Marketing and the Chief Customer Office until 2018.
You recently moved into a brand-new role at JDA. Tell us how you got there.
While I loved supporting the business as a partner, I wanted to further develop in global operations and project and program management. Having experience in operations as a HRBP and talent acquisition, I felt strongly that I could build on this experience at JDA to expand in a new role to focus on supporting my own team. In late 2017, I proposed a new role in a project/program management and global operations capacity, where I would be responsible for executing the HR track for global cross-functional projects, lead large internal HR projects, and managing other operational activities such as the budget, global policy oversight and process improvement. Jennifer Cook and the HR leadership team were strongly supportive and encouraging of this proposal and made it happen in 2018.
What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?
Probably going into this new role. It was exciting to be able to create something new but also a little scary and I knew I had to get some quick wins to establish the success of the role early. However, the support my team has given me has been amazing and having the opportunity to partner globally with colleagues within HR and across the business has been a huge growth opportunity for me and an overall rewarding experience. It has been incredibly challenging to be in this new place, figuring it out as I go, “building the ship as it’s moving,” and has pushed me outside my comfort zone.
What is the best advice you ever received?
It is up to me to mold my career, take the initiative to make my path and ask for what I want.
What is your proudest achievement?
Most recently, the successful implementation and launch of Workday Recruiting. A few months into my new role, Jennifer Cook asked me to lead the global implementation of our new applicant tracking system. We had an aggressive timeline – a little under five months from kick-off to go-live – and a fairly small core project team. Not to mention, this was being done during a time where the Recruiting team was experiencing the highest volume of requests from the business and needing to deliver in the most competitive job market we have ever seen…no pressure! I had no experience project managing a software implementation, and we were not using outside consultants to help project manage the project, but Jennifer and Dorien Weijts (JDA’s CIO) mentored me throughout the project. They believed I could be successful and get this done. With the tremendous effort of the core project team and support from our extended team and all of HR, we were able to accomplish this and launched Workday Recruiting on time and on budget, with a seamless transition to the new system.
Do you have any regrets?
Not asking for what I want sooner.
Who is your role model?
I have many, but my foundation is my parents and how they raised me. They taught me and my siblings the value of a strong work ethic and always encouraged me in reaching my goals through hard work and perseverance.
What do you wish you knew when you were starting out that you know now?
A little patience wouldn’t hurt. I move pretty fast and am always looking to the next thing, the next challenge, and have learned over time that it’s okay to enjoy that moment and appreciate the learning opportunities and that everything happens for a reason.
What about your career surprises you?
I have essentially had three careers with three companies in 20+ years. I started out with what I thought was a very clear path, but as life and my own network grew, new opportunities came up unexpectedly. Each of the 3 companies I have worked for are so very different, also in different functions and each in a different season of my life, so I have been had to constantly adjust and flex with that level of change (some experiences were easier than others). I would not have guessed I would be doing what I’m doing today 20 years ago.
What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned and really taken to heart?
Be transparent and open as possible, sharing your knowledge with others, helping them to succeed and be better than you are. Empower others to take ownership (and accountability) and execute, being there for support, but letting them figure it out.
What is one mistake you see leaders making more frequently than others?
Communication and consistency. It is important to communicate expectations and information needed to meet those expectations, and then hold people accountable consistently. I think communication is often overlooked in our fast-paced ever-changing world, not on purpose, but it can sometimes be an oversight.
What is the one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?
What book(s) are you reading right now?
Essentialism by Greg McKeown, Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffmann.