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Tiara International LLC is committed to inspiring women leaders. Our Tiara Spotlight Series showcases women who embody The Tiara Model for True Leadership (SM) in their life’s work.
We are delighted to introduce you to Jana Croom, a participant in NiSource Inc.’s Women In Leadership Next Gen Program, where she has had the opportunity to work with Tiara Leadership Coaches Elizabeth Ruske and Peg Rowe.
By many accounts, Jana has always been a risk taker. “My mom always said I was her fearless child. ‘Sure why not, let’s try it and see where it goes!’ was always my approach,” she explained. With an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Black Studies, Jana Croom intended to work as an educator but instead, ended up pursuing Plan B: banking and investment. When a colleague suggested that she lacked the technical skills necessary for success, she returned to school to complete the requirements for an accounting degree and eventually earned an MBA.
“My career has been ‘what excites me, where do my interests align with the corporation, where can I add value?’ and sort of a willingness to do something different.”
Jana’s path has led her to a career as the Director of Regulatory Affairs at Columbia Gas of Ohio, which she attributes largely to her habit of being open to new opportunities. “I had a lot of wonderful mentors and sponsors who were willing to say, ‘I’d like you to consider X.’” After two exciting promotions came through in a very short period of time, Jana struggled to transition into the new role while also tackling the challenge of the new role itself.
“You don’t find many black women in finance or in STEM. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little lonely sometimes…but some of the best advice came from people who I thought, initially, that wouldn’t be the case.”
One vital skill, which she worked with Tiara Leadership Coach Peg Rowe to develop, was the practice of strategic vision. “Most people start at the beginning and just walk. Really what you want to do is see yourself at the end and then think about stepping back and saying, ‘How do I walk that path?’”
Jana challenges women “to not let other people’s perceptions of what you can do or not do impact the way you view yourself of your capabilities. I think we as women are a naturally a little self-deprecating, we have some deference in us just be nature. Being aware of it, I would say, is the biggest thing. Maybe I should ‘umph’ a little bit more, for lack of a better word, add a little more intentionality.” For her own part, Jana values the skills that that she has gained so much that she has taken on the role of an informal mentor to rising stars in her own organization.
“It’s a privilege to watch them grow. It’s nice to be able to do that for someone else because so many people so generously poured into me.”
At the core of it all is a strong desire to remain authentic to herself, and a deep level of understanding of that self and her long-term goals. Taking on new roles at work meant delving into the question of work-life balance—which can often feel like a myth. “It’s constantly a juggling act. You have to have a lot of support to get it done.” While this is no easy task, Jana strives to “walk it out every day” by focusing on the holistic picture and considering all of the impacts that different actions will have, and how she fits in to life at her company and at home. A supportive family has been vital to her ability to achieve success as she strikes a balance between her personal and professional life.
Similarly, when she transitioned into the new relationships-focused from her past spreadsheets-focused role, Jana had to find ways to make her tried-and-true practices and skill sets apply to a new set of responsibilities. By melding the two, and allowing herself time to find a balance, Jana has found a system that work for her life and allows her to reflect and truly commit to the things she finds important. “I’m constantly thinking, ‘what is this person really saying? How can I be the best partner for them?’ I’m seeking to understand in an authentic way that is true to who I am.” This dedication to being authentic and true to herself while leading a full, inspired life, Jana serves an excellent representation of The Tiara Model for True Leadership (SM).
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