By the time we’ve hit a certain age, society tends to tell us that being a “dreamer” is synonymous with being unrealistic. Not only is this attitude incorrect, it also serves to limit the lifelong career potential of too many women, according to Jessica Nava.
“We put away our dream of being superheroes, fire fighters, pilots and whatever our ‘childhood dream job’ is,” Nava said. “Part of the reason we are so tired in our day jobs is that we are doing jobs that don’t spark a fire in us. And when you are doing something you aren’t motivated by, it’s draining.”
Luckily for Nava, she found a way to incorporate her dreams into her career path — and it ultimately led her to Qualtrics.
Today a Research Services Sales Manager at the software company, as well as chairwoman of its Women’s Leadership Development employee resource group, Nava calls the work she gets to do at Qualtrics a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. That’s part of the reason joining Qualtrics — which necessitated a cross-country move with three kids, as well as departing from a company she’d worked for eight years — a no-brainer.
“Growth comes from discomfort, and sometimes you have to put yourself out there,” she said. “There are so few companies that experience the massive growth and success that Qualtrics has. And to be in a place where your company has literally created a new vertical (‘Experience Management’) happens so rarely.”
Nava recently shared with Fairygodboss what exactly makes Experience Management so revolutionary and how she makes personal development a part of her daily life, as well as her No. 1 piece of advice for women who want careers that feed their passions.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I’ve been at Qualtrics for a year and a half as a sales leader in our Research Services Department, where I lead a team of corporate account executives, and one year as the chairwoman for our Women’s Leadership Development Employee Resource Group. Before joining Qualtrics, I spent eight years at Finger Lakes Technologies Group Headquarters in Victor, New York, where I was our Director of Business Development after three previous promotions working my way up from a senior sales executive role.
What’s the first and last thing you do at work every day?
First and foremost: personal development. Before I get started with the craziness of daily life, I spend 30 minutes either reading or listening to a podcast or TED Talk to ensure I get my head in the right space. It’s easy to get caught up in the busywork of email, tasks and meetings, but if I don’t motivate myself with good brain food, then the rest of the day suffers for it. The last thing I do every day is to set up my to-do list for the next day. Then when I get my next day started, I’ve got a clear line of sight as to what’s most important for that day. I try to make sure I’ve got my “Top 3 Things I Must Get Done” highlighted daily and then other tasks can have some flexibility in checking off the list.
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company?
I would say that working at Qualtrics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There are so few companies that experience the massive growth and success that Qualtrics has. And to be in a place where your company has literally created a new vertical happens so rarely. In creating this new line of business called “Experience Management,” we get to define the way businesses create, manage, and run their experiences for their customers.
What’s something you’re especially good at at work?
In our organization, we have a really cool feedback loop that we do on a quarterly basis; it’s where my manager meets with my team to do what we call a “Start.Stop.Continue.” I think it’s pretty self-explanatory, but it gives my team an opportunity to tell my manager the things I should jettison, continue, and start. One of the feedback points I was given was about my ability to not sugar-coat feedback. I try to deliver feedback in a way that is going to help develop their career growth, but absolutely done for their well-being and coming from a place of love. What's been great is hearing from them that they can see this positive intent.
What about outside of work?
My life revolves around my kiddos. I have three amazing kids: Emily (16), Alexis (14), and Max (11). My daughters both play volleyball pretty much year-round, so our free time is taken up by tons of that. I love it, as I played volleyball myself in college! We are at a busy stage of life right now, and I’m trying to make sure I enjoy every minute of it. Before we know it, they’ll be off to college and starting their own lives.
What are you trying to improve on?
What am I not working on? LOL! I think the older you get, and the further along you get in your career, the more you realize how you need to continue to work on every aspect of your life. I’m always trying to grow and develop my Sales and Leadership skills — that goes without saying, as that is my career. I’m also working on my own health and wellness, as it’s easy to lose sight of yourself in raising a family and having a career. It’s important to make sure you put the oxygen mask on yourself first!
What’s your favorite mistake?
Unlike the Sheryl Crow song, it’s not a love story! I had applied to the Air Force Academy and was planning on heading down that path, but chickened out. Why is this my favorite mistake? Well, maybe it is a love story. I ended up going to Drexel University in Philadelphia, where I met my husband, and because of that, we have our three amazing kids. While I regretted this decision for years, it was meant to be and I ended up on the path I needed to be on.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
The move to Qualtrics for me was huge. Let me put things in perspective. I was living in my dream home, with a company I had been at for eight years and doing well, living in my hometown where all my friends and family were… and yet, I knew I wanted to do more and be more. So we relocated our family of five from upstate New York to Utah! Growth comes from discomfort, and sometimes you have to put yourself out there.
What do you love most about your job or your company?
The people! I have the opportunity at Qualtrics to work with the best and brightest individuals I’ve worked with in my 20-year career. I know a lot of people say this, but man, if you meet a group of Qualtrics employees, you’ll be blown away. Not only are they smart, but they’re driven, focused, and we all have the same goal in mind: to make Qualtrics the best in all we do. I’ve always had a few folks in past companies that stand out (you know who you are), but honestly, we do an amazing job of bringing people on board that are not only bright but also a great culture add!
What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
DREAM BIG! When we hit the age of about 13 people start telling us to “stop dreaming” and “be realistic,” and we put away our dream of being superheroes, fire fighters, pilots, (insert your childhood dream here), etc. Part of the reason we are so tired in our day jobs is that we are doing “jobs” that don’t spark a fire in us. And when you are doing something you are not motivated by, it’s draining. So go back to your dreams and find a way to incorporate that into your career path.
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