Management with Intention

Erin Miller, senior solutions director, JXC & Partners, has worked at JDA the majority of her career. She shares some distinct learnings about management and how important it is to be involved in something bigger than yourself, for the greater purpose of your team’s growth and success. She also shares a great nugget on how to keep your career fresh – and it’s not always about jumping to a new role, either.

Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?

Erin at the JXC in Scottdale.

I grew up in Tucson and lived there through college, going to the University of Arizona. I moved to Phoenix for 10 years and then across the country to Boston for nine years. I’ve come full circle and moved back to Tucson three years ago, where the majority of my family lives.

You’ve been at JDA for a long time – can you share your career progression with us?

I began my career at Dillard’s as a buyer, then went to Bath & Body Works as a store manager. About 20 years ago, I joined JDA as a solution advisor in pre-sales and spent a long time in an individual contributor role. I was in that role for 14 years before I took a management role in the organization. I did that for about 5 years, until about mid-2019, I took on the new role as the solution director for the JXC. I also work with partners to bring JDA solutions to their innovation centers.

What was it like shifting from an individual contributor to a manager role?

I learned I needed to make that change at the right time for me. When you are an individual contributor, the focus is on you and your accomplishments. When I moved to management, it was about being in a place in my career where I wanted to focus on developing others and be involved in something bigger than me. I found professional pride and accomplishment in the success of my team and those I support. That role is not for everyone, and that’s okay!

What are your favorite parts of your role?

I am really enjoying my new role and the ability to work with a lot of different parts of our company. I now work more with marketing, IT and product development in different ways than in my previous position. I also collaborate with others outside of JDA, like partners, which was not part of my role previously.

In this position, I also have a great opportunity to learn new things. I was in the same role for 20 years in one solution area (retail planning) and now I am exposed to a lot of different areas, some of which are very new to me. It’s a fun challenge.

Can you point to a critical moment in your career that really made a difference in your path?

I have two that stand out over the last 20 years.

When I first started at JDA, I was young and I wasn’t so sure about leaving retail or the significant travel required of my role. I told myself I would stay for five years and then move on. But when I hit five years, I knew I wanted to keep going with this. I believed in the direction and the potential of the company and wanted to be part of what we were doing at JDA.

The second was when I took the opportunity to be a manager. The opportunity came my way more than once in my career, but I didn’t pursue it until then. it was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’m so glad I made that shift! It provides a lot of career satisfaction in a different way.

How has your life experience made you who you are you are today?

Erin exploring the Grand Canyon.

Rather than experience, it’s all the people I have worked with who have made me who I am today. In the 20 years at JDA I have worked with  many different people and personalities and areas of the company. And, I’ve had the chance to work with customers who provide a different perspective too. Having the ability to build relationships and learn from others as you work with them has shaped me and I believe I am a stronger person as a result. I’ve literally grown up at JDA as I was in my early 20s when I started. My maturity and career growth have all happened here and I have been very lucky to have great mentors and advocates with me all the way.

Have you ever been professionally ‘stuck’? How did you become ‘unstuck?’

You can get to that point when you get really comfortable and stop trying to challenge yourself. You are doing the same things in the same way.  There are a lot of ways to get out of that rut. Sometimes it’s by taking on a new role, but it could also be by opening yourself to new challenges in the same role. Or choosing to mentor someone, leading or joining a project.

That’s where the most opportunity for growth is. And it not only impacts you but the company too as you stretch yourself to learn.

What is the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?

One of my college professors always said, “stay out of your own way.” It’s easy to let the fear of not being qualified enough or of not succeeding, keep you from trying new things or taking advantage of new opportunities.  We have to get out of our own way first. It has been great advice because it’s something I still tell myself regularly!

Do you have any regrets?

I try not to dwell on decisions I already made. Sure, there are many things in my past that I didn’t take advantage of – and didn’t because I couldn’t get out of my own way! I try to focus on how I can be better for whatever opportunity comes my way next.

What do you wish you knew when you were starting out that you know now?

Perfection doesn’t exist! I can be a type A person. I definitely was in pursuit of the idea of perfection in the earlier part of my career. Now I try to focus on giving my best to everything I do and continually improving.  And I remind myself it is impossible to achieve perfection.

What is the one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?

Transparency and integrity. It is important as a leader to gain the trust of those you’re leading, but it’s a two-way street. You have to extend that trust back. To me, that means doing the right thing even if it’s the hard thing. You need to walk your talk and be true to your word.

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

All the time; almost my entire career! I think you notice, and in my younger years, I wondered if I needed to be like the men. I felt like maybe I should emulate others around me. Now, I just focus on being me and what I can uniquely bring to the table.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

For me, it is something I continue to work on.  I don’t necessarily agree that you have to focus on balancing work and life as much as making sure they harmonize, and you get to everything that is important to you.

I am a planner by nature. I work from home a lot and when I am home, I prioritize my whole day – personal and professional.  Every night, I look at what I want to get done the next day and I ensure I find time to do the things that matter to me personally. I also do this weekly and prioritize what’s ahead.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I do a lot of reading. Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall – she looks at all obstacles in business as gap and discusses how to use storytelling to bridge the gap. I’m only a few chapters in but it’s compelling right from the start!

In my personal time, I read a lot of mystery novels. I have over 1,000 books on my Kindle account!

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

My friends and I have been taking time off and visiting many of the resort spas in Arizona, almost like a ‘spa crawl.’ So far, we have gone to 11 of them! It’s been a fun way to relax and spend time together!

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