Work Hard and Listen

When Danielle Manning, Senior Practice Director for JDA Consulting Services, sets her sights on achieving something, you can count on it happening.  The combination of a Pennsylvania-bred work ethic and mastery of the art of listening – to customers and colleagues – has propelled her to success. In today’s blog, she shares what she has learned about hard work and that sometimes the best thing you can do is to stop talking, and listen.

 

After working hard, Danielle enjoys time with her family,
shown here at the Tidal Basin amidst the cherry blossoms.

 

SCN: What was your first job? What skills did you learn there that you use today?

DM: It was at a custard stand, Del’s Custard, in my hometown when I was 15. I learned early on to work hard on whatever it is you are doing. The way the shop was set up, you could do different jobs. You could make the ice cream, serve customers, run the kitchen, those types of things. I tried them all to gain experience.

SCN: Why did you choose to study supply chain in college?

DM: Both my father and uncle were in finance and I thought I should follow in their footsteps. I didn’t like the accounting courses I was taking and quickly learned that it wasn’t for me. I had a cousin in the supply chain program at Penn State and she shared what she was learning in her classes. It seemed so logical to me, helping companies improve the way they run their business and operations and help streamline everything. A lot of the program was focused on the logistics, but it all just made sense when we learned about demand and supply forecasting, so I’ve stuck with it my whole career.

SCN: It’s interesting that your female cousin introduced you to supply chain. Were there a lot of women in the program?

DM: It was mostly men. I think back on some of the working groups in my classes, and I was the only women, or maybe one out of only 10 in the entire class. I feel like in some areas of the supply chain, it’s still like that today; even the team I manage is all men. But, you get used to it.

SCN: What was your first job out of college?

SM: I was hired by Manugistics as a transportation delivery consultant. We went through extensive, hands-on training and then shadowed the more senior consultants in the field, getting involved in projects at a junior level. It was a great experience. Coming out of Penn State my colleagues were either going into consulting or into industry and I chose consulting. Looking back, I’m so glad that I did.

SCN: Have you ever worked in industry?

DM: After I left Manugistics, I worked as an independent consultant for companies like Gillette, TJ Maxx and eventually at Timberland. That was the only time in my career that I wasn’t purely in consulting. I liked the job – I loved the company – but I missed the diversity of seeing multiple customers and learning new processes and finding issues to solve.

SCN: What brought you to JDA?

DM: After I left Manugistics, no matter where I went, I was not working for a software company and I missed that. During that time, I had implemented Oracle products as part of an independent consulting firm, and got involved in some SAP projects. But not coming from the company that develops the software felt like a gap to me. I always loved supply chain and JDA’s products are amazing. I stayed in touch with people I’d known from Manugistics, and when the right opportunity presented itself, I came back.

SCN: What is the best risk you’ve ever taken?

DM: I worked for a government consulting firm for about 8 years, and had advanced my career and built good relationships. When you work in the government space on long-term contracts, you’re kind of guaranteed stability and consistency with your work.  I think the risk of coming back into this space was probably the biggest one I’ve taken in my career, and so far, it’s working out great. I’m very happy with the company and I like where are headed.

SCN: What’s the best advice anyone has given you and who gave it to you?

DM: Stop talking and listen. I’ve heard this throughout my career from numerous people, especially when you get into sales. I think my husband was the first one who told me that, but I don’t think it was in the context of a work situation! But the advice holds true. I try to apply it every day as I work with my team and interact with my customers, both in sales situations as well as in delivery and escalation situations, because I think some people just don’t do that enough.

SCN: Who is your role model?

DM: I don’t know that I have a single role model, per se. I’ve become the person I am based on all of the learnings I’ve had from my family. Not just my parents, but even my cousin who led me to supply chain, and others with success in the family. Since I was young, I’ve witnessed their hard work, their dedication to the task at hand, and how they juggled work and family. They did a great job of it. I feel like I’ve learned what it meant to work hard from them and make a good balanced work-life.

SCN: How do you balance work and family?

DM: I have two daughters, and a husband and two dogs. My daughters are young – kindergarten and second grade – so it’s an intense time of life. It takes a village. Luckily, we live in an area where we have a good support group of family, friends and neighbors who can help us, especially with extra-curricular activities. We try to rely on advanced planning and a good neighborhood network. My husband also travels, so organization and planning for us is key. My job is not really a 9-to-5 job, but I think when you like what you’re doing, it’s okay that you’re on a conference call at 9:00 p.m. after the kids are in bed.

SCN: What is your proudest achievement?

DM: I’m really proud of the family we have grown. We are working parents with young kids, so just making that work makes me proud. To be a career mom and be happy and successful with what I’m doing and making it work.

SCN: What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

DM: I would go back to the advice of stopping and listening. If I always had that approach to customer engagements, I think I would have had fewer clients screaming at me. I realized that if you stop, listen and take the time to build the relationship, in the end that’s going to make you more collaborative and help you build partnerships earlier.

SCN: Have you had an experience where something didn’t go as planned but you learned a valuable lesson?

DM: Early in my career sometimes an implementation project would go sideways and we’d be pulling all-nighters to try to get the system up and working. Eventually it would work out, but what I found was that I wasn’t always going to have all the answers. I learned to not be intimidated, to be humble enough to ask for help and to build a network of people you can rely on for the answers.

SCN: What qualities do you admire in a leader?

DM: Being open and honest with feedback and sharing our direction – where we’re headed and why. I think as a recipient of that type of communication, it helps me understand the bigger picture; why we’re being asked to do something and how it brings value to the company. I think it is important for a leader to shares the vision and be open and transparent on what they feel is going to move the needle.

SCN: What advice do you have for women leaders?

DM: Try to keep the emotion out of coaching. Not that you need to be emotionless, but I’ve seen women lead with emotion and it never seems to turn out well. Regardless of whether you are coaching men or women, you need to get to know the person that you’re coaching or working through issues with, and tailor your response to them.

SCN: Do you feel respected as a female leader?

DM: I want to say yes, but deep down there is a little part of me that recalls a few situations where I felt that a peer respected me differently because I was a woman. I’ve never had that situation with a direct report or even a boss and in today’s JDA, I don’t feel that way.

SCN: How did you respond when you felt disrespected?

DM: I spoke up. I’m not one to let something linger, so while it’s out there I just address it in a pretty direct fashion. I told them that’s not the way to treat people and not the way I want to be treated.

SCN: What was that conversation like for you?

DM: You’re having heart palpitations and sweaty palms, but you think ‘I’m just going to say this right now.’ That’s the best way to do it.

SCN: How was it received?

DM: The instance I’m thinking of, the individual was a little taken aback that I was so bold to go there. I also think that they reacted in a way that indicated they did not fully recognize that they were doing that, which I found surprising.

SCN: What do you like about working at JDA?

DM: I really like the people. It’s such a diverse group of people that we work with. Everyone is out for the better good, for the company and the customers and really seem willing to help. I’ve seen real progress as it relates to women at JDA, which is really awesome. It starts at the top and I think that makes all the difference.

SCN: How do you live the JDA values?

DM: The value that I hold closest to me is teamwork. It is critical to our success. Being client facing and meeting with our customers to understand what their pain points are, collaborating with the JDA team on how we’re going to help them, it’s such a good feeling knowing you’ve got this team supporting our customers and our success.  When we work as a team it’s impossible for the customer to not see the teamwork and collaboration, and it makes me proud to be a part of JDA.

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