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The Women In Business Interview: Jana Etheridge

“The progress that has been made in the business world over the past several decades is incredible, and I don’t feel like we are done yet”
Photo: Regan Weinrich

Jana Etheridge is a senior vice president and chief of staff at Capital One. With deep leadership experience in the financial services industry, she has excelled at a variety of functions, ranging from customer experience and personal financial planning to local government relations and philanthropy. Etheridge spoke at the 2018 Women in Business Summit. 

Local Profile‘s 21st annual Women in Business Summit will be held on September 30 at the Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel. Click here for tickets.

What experiences, training or education best prepared you?

My mom was an amazing example for me. She grew up in a small town with few resources, married young, and never went to college. Once I started elementary school, Mom decided to take a role at an insurance company as a temporary employee. They saw something in her. Part-time work turned into full-time work, which turned into permanent employment, which turned into team leader roles, which then turned into middle management and ultimately, she made her way to the executive ranks, in many instances being the “first female.” As a leader, she taught me incredible lessons about being your authentic self, treating everyone equally, and always remaining humble, no matter how senior you become. I have carried those lessons and many more with me along my own career journey.

What advice would you give to others?

I have always loved the concept of having superpowers (huge shout-out to my executive coach!). My advice would be to think about your superpowers and how the work you are doing aligns (or not) with them. Then lean into, not away from, those superpowers. Once you embrace them, the unlock is limitless!

What’s a recurring hurdle for you? (Time, money, attitude, location, knowledge, etc.) What strategies are you using to overcome that?

Many of us, myself included, aren’t good at saying no, which results in packed calendars, committed evenings and weekends and limited time for the things that really matter to us, professionally or personally, and ultimately leads to fatigue and burnout. Learning how to say “not now” or “no, and here is a different solution” can be powerful. I try to be intentional about extras I want to commit to for myself and then stay true to that framework.

What do you wish you had known earlier?

I wish I had known how capable I was earlier in my career. I wonder what else I might have accomplished.

How has the business world changed since the start of your career?

The business world has changed for the better in so many ways since I started my career back in the 90s. I feel like the biggest difference is that there is significantly more diversity in the workplace, including race, gender, orientation, diversity of thought, problem-solving, and generally different perspectives. While there is more that we all want to do to increase the number of diverse voices in the workplace, it is refreshing to look around and see a much more diverse group of colleagues compared to when I started.

How have you changed?

As I reflect on my nearly 30-year career, what I have found is that focusing on the confidence to be exactly who I am has been pivotal in how I approach my work and my life. I feel that I’m intrinsically the same person; however, I have definitely been able to get completely comfortable in my own skin and embrace my unique superpowers.

What obstacles did you face?

Hands down my biggest obstacle was my own self-doubt and internal negative chatter. Several years ago, I decided that being my worst, and sometimes mean, critic was unhealthy and a waste of time. Those around me reinforced what I did well and what tweaks I could make to get even better. I was the only one being overly critical of me. Reframing my thoughts on why I am uniquely suited to take on a new challenge or learn something new, and not uniquely suited to do other things, and being okay with that, was really a liberating shift for me.

What has helped you the most during your career?

I’ve always been interested in learning from those with different perspectives, views, and experiences. As a result, I’ve chosen to build and to work with diverse teams of really smart and talented individuals. I have found that not only does this lead to better solutions and outcomes, it continually helps me grow as a leader.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

The best advice I have received is to take time and think through a situation from different perspectives, not just mine.

What book had the most impact on you and your career?

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People continues to be a practical staple for me.

Exponential Organizations has been an interesting read recently as we think about transformation at scale. The Other Wes Moore is a captivating read that parallels the real lives of two young men, and the decisions that each made, which resulted in significantly different outcomes. It is really thought-provoking and I would highly recommend it.

What’s your personal brand and how do you nurture it?

I strive to build and maintain a personal brand as an authentic leader who uses her position and expertise to unleash the superpowers of others by creating a safe and open environment for them to succeed.

What do you think the future holds for women in the business world?

The progress that has been made in the business world over the past several decades is incredible, and I don’t feel like we are done yet. I think the future will have more women sitting at the helms of companies, as well as more women in board positions.

Local Profile‘s 21st annual Women in Business Summit will be held on September 30 at the Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel. Click here for tickets.