Janet Jarnagin is an executive who is considered an expert authority on the practice of board and management reporting. She makes a living by analyzing qualitative and quantitative data provided by her client companies and then synthesizing it all into polished presentations. Beyond that, Janet specializes in revising and stabilizing business processes and counselling companies about how to improve their efficacy. Janet Jarnagin resides in New York City, where she also works.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I think what I love most about board and management reporting is the feeling I get after I’ve presented my findings and they have been accepted and implemented. There’s just something so rewarding about knowing that I’ve had a positive effect on a company and helped to streamline their processes and increase their efficiency. It’s very satisfying. It feels like I’ve made a difference.
What would you tell others looking to get into your industry?
One of my favorite projects is working with young professionals and giving them advice on how to properly network without it coming off as a chore. “Networking should be effortless” is what I usually say. So, what does that mean? It means making connections and seeking advice organically throughout the course of a work week and not trying to arrange a long talk at an espresso bar after hours or on the weekend. Networking shouldn’t be forced and should not be prioritized over delivering quality work products.
What keeps you motivated?
I have a list of long-term professional goals that I’ve set my sights on achieving during the course of my career. Checking an item off that list keeps me motivated. That being said, I realize that most of them will take months, years, or even decades to accomplish, so if I go for a while without crossing off an item, I try to be at peace with that (some days better than others). That wasn’t always the case. But as my career has developed, I’ve gained some perspective in that regard.
If you could change 1 thing you did in the beginning of your career what would it be?
If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, it would be: slow down, calm down. These things come with time, hard work, and genuine, organic connections with co-workers and higher-ups. Trying to force the issue might make everything backfire, and you could end up doing more harm to your career than good.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
I’ve always admired Christine Legarde. She has accomplished so much with her life. Aside from being the first female finance minister of any G8 country, she also served as the Chair and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and later the President of the European Central Bank.
How do you maintain a work life balance?
I have always been a big proponent of what I call “work life integration.” It’s not always the most popular philosophy but it has worked well for me in my career. I’d rather work a few hours on Sat/Sun if it means having an easier work week and starting Monday less stressed.
What traits do you possess that make you a successful leader?
I’m an incredibly organized and methodical person. I think I am pretty good at time and inbox management. It borderlines on a fixation. On any given day, I always know what I’m supposed to be doing, in what order, and for approximately how long. On a larger scale, I have systems in place to closely monitor all the projects I’m juggling over a period of time. I believe this trait is responsible for a good deal of my professional success. Additionally, I’m very to-the-point when speaking with others.
What trends in your industry excite you?
Recently, there has been an interesting trend in business operations of attempting to revise and stabilize existing processes instead of tearing down and rebuilding from the ground up. Too often in the past, managers would become frustrated with perceived inefficiencies in their company and simply toss a decade’s worth of systems and processes away indiscriminately, without taking the time to analyze what works and what doesn’t—throw the baby out with the bathwater, as it were. I feel like this has begun to change, and managers are focusing more on reforming/streamlining. I like to think that my work has contributed to that in some way.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
It wasn’t related to me directly, but I remember reading a profile on Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on the moon, wherein he said “I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.” That struck me as very true when I read it, and it has always stuck with me since.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?
I would advise others that while it is important to look like a professional, it is far more important to act like a professional and to maintain a professional mindset—at least within the confines of the job or the office. Anyone can dress well, but it takes a lot of discipline and confidence to conduct oneself in a manner befitting an executive, and even more discipline to think like one all day long.
What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
That a person’s time is the most precious and finite resource there is, bar none.