Capital One’s Jennifer Jackson:
Leaders can’t limit their careers with labels
American born and raised, Jennifer Jackson has been an engineer, consultant, and banking leader. As a newly-minted Canadian resident, Jackson is the President of Capital One Canada, leading the American bank’s expansion in Canada.
How do you ensure you surround yourself with a team that has complementary skills?
It’s really important for me to have diverse experiences represented not only in my leadership team but on each of their teams.
I do this in a couple of ways.
One, I encourage individuals to think about recruiting people from different places or roles – even different role experience from whatever job we’re considering them for. When we have people from similar places, pasts, or career paths, we differentiate the type of person we look for when filling the next role or slot.
Another way is that we’ve adopted an agile methodology, building cross-functional teams so every skill can be deployed at the same time and every voice is at the table. We call it a “Pod Methodology” because each team or grouping sits in a “pod” together, all together to problem solve, focus on making progress in bite-sized chunks, and iterate the improve the product over time.
What idea, leadership trait, or skill does the next generation need that we are not paying enough attention to?
I think flexibility is number one. People’s ability to adapt to a fast pace of change. The economic and world environment in which we live changes day to day, and even minute by minute. It’s about really embracing the uncertainty and being willing to continue to problem solve, work together in teams, and keep moving forward.
The other one I’d call out is the great need for empathy and overall emotional intelligence that individuals bring to the workplace.
What I’ve witnessed on teams I’ve worked within, or teams who have worked for me, is that trust built in teams goes a long way in terms of effectiveness of the team and quality of the end product.
It’s about everyone feeling heard and like they have a seat at the table. It’s about everyone putting themselves in other people’s shoes. It’s about how we do work, not just the work itself.
How can scaling entrepreneurs recruit great talent at Elevate?
The beauty of Elevate is that it brings together the best of Canadian talent in tech and outside of tech.
[To recruit great talent], really try to tap into listening to what people say, get to know them, and build your own networking opportunities. Value opportunities through those discussions and think about how the skillsets of individuals you talk to collectively come together.
One, research networking opportunities. Capital One and a lot of other firms will be participating in NewCo, opening our doors to showcase some of the work we’re doing and learn and interact with other people.
Two, take every opportunity at Elevate to showcase your work. You get to be on display for potential candidates coming to the conference.
What’s the most underrated advice you’ve ever received?
Probably the thing that has been most important, that I don’t think gets fair emphasis, is that one shouldn’t limit herself or himself when they think of the work they can do, roles they can take on, or experiences where they can add value.
For example, my education was in chemical engineering, which I did from undergrad all the way through doctorate. Then I took a dramatic shift when I went into consulting and focused on consumer goods. Then, later in my career, I took another shift when I entered financial services at Capital One.
Had I decided that I was only an engineer or only a consultant working with packaged goods, I wouldn’t have had the ability for growth or to add value in a place where my different experiences outside a specific function added value.
In both personal and professional development, flexibility in terms of what one is willing to do can lead to a much more fulfilling career.
What impact do you want to make on the world?
I want to have a positive impact on people.
One, my personal motto is to ‘help people be better than they think they can be.’ I do that by making sure people have the right development opportunities, either putting them in roles or bringing them to meetings to give them chances to learn and grow on a regular basis.
I couple this with feedback to help them learn from their mistakes and build upon the experience they have.
Two, I try to leave a business better than I found it. The way I think about it is that I always align myself with companies that I believe have impact in people’s lives, and then I think about how I can support people collectively and how I can make improvements as I go along.
Three, I try to foster an environment comprised of a diverse set of people and skills. More importantly, I try to build a place where everyone in that environment feels they can be their authentic selves to the max.
I then try to role model, explicitly, these three things. I talk about them when I am executing so I can demonstrate the behaviours that others will hopefully adopt. That empowers people to do the same thing – focus on impact and make organizations better – which leads to a greater positive impact going forward.