From graduating in music and aspiring to be a teacher, to making a mark in IT infrastructure, meet Kyndryl’s Jennifer Andrews
If challenges bring on fears for some, it is what makes others thrive. Such is the case with Jennifer Andrews, Delivery Program Executive at Kyndryl.
Jennifer’s early influences have played a critical role in shaping up her bold, vocal, and problem-solving attitude. Growing up in a stimulating and empowering environment also helped her in cultivating a wholesome personality.
“I was never told what to do, but always given options. I was shown a direction, but I always made the final choice,” Jennifer tells YourStory.
In a freewheeling chat with YourStory, as part of the ‘Lead like her’ series that shines the spotlight on women in leadership at Kyndryl, Jennifer speaks about what makes her an effective leader, her experiences in the corporate world, and more.
Growing up with encouraging parents and teachers
Jennifer grew up under the tutelage of Irish sisters, who left an everlasting impact on her mind. They encouraged her to make her own decisions and taught her to be accountable for her own choices.
The environment at home only fuelled these learnings further. Additionally, seeing her parents work and grow in their careers gave her the perspective that hard and smart work go hand in hand.
Jennifer recalls how her mother was driven by the urge to constantly learn and work until she was 65 years old. “Despite her work, my mother managed to have a life with two children and brought us up independently. My mother has always been my inspiration,” she says.
Walking down memory lane, Jennifer cites an instance when her mother bought her a two-wheeler and pushed her to learn to drive it on her own. After her school years, her mother did the same by giving her the car she owned. Jennifer realised the impact of learning an important life skill such as driving only later in life and remains thankful to her mother for pushing her all those years ago.
Venturing into the corporate world
Jennifer aspired to be a lecturer in colleges. She was also musically inclined so eventually, she finished her engineering and graduated in music simultaneously.
Post her education, Jennifer bagged a technical job in IT infrastructure support. Fearful of the unknown, she decided to take on the challenges head on because she knew that one has to be ready to experiment and learn to propel their growth. “The faster you do, the faster you progress,” she says.
Jennifer recalls being under-confident while dealing with clients in the early part of her career but she was quick to realise that she has to get the basics right to sail through. “If you do not have a thorough knowledge of your account or infrastructure, you will find it difficult to handle a particular role. So, I used to sit with all the teams to understand the working of the account in and out. That practice gave me a lot of confidence to face the client and helped me build trust with them in a short span of time,” she explains.
Another important lesson she learned early on in her professional life was to delegate and leverage the support of her coworkers. Jennifer recalls being burned out of taking up too much work, and that’s when she realised the power of teamwork. “As I was relying on my team to help me, I also started doing the same with my bosses and helped them in certain tasks. This whole practice really helped me in the long run,” she says, adding that it is willpower that helps you navigate all kinds of situations.
Today, with problem-solving skills as her biggest asset, Jennifer is at Kyndryl, in a role that’s giving her the opportunity to learn new things, hustle, and be agile.
“So, if there is firefighting happening anywhere, I will be present. I've been pushed into roles, which required firefighting some time. I generally set up the account and move out. This is how I have always been, and I am glad to see the progress that I've made in the last 13 years,” she reiterates.
Challenges, learnings, and success mantras
Speaking about some unconscious biases she was subjected to due to her gender, Jennifer says, “People assumed that working the night shift or executing a specific role would not be ideal for me, since I would get to spend less time with my family.”. But she smashed these stereotypes and put across her point that “only she gets to decide how she will balance her career and family”.
A firm believer of clear and open communication, Jennifer consciously works towards connecting with her team on their apprehensions and concerns they are facing on the job. She feels that only when a leader talks to their team do they know their pain points and can suggest solutions.
“My job is only to get them to think and not decide for them. So, in the process of thinking, I ask them to assess the pros and cons, and eventually, they make the best decision,” she says.
A career spanning over 18 years in handling infrastructure services delivery, the road ahead for Jennifer is full of learning and exploring exciting new avenues. She is looking to sharpen her communication skills further, learn the art of storytelling, and build her personal brand. “I am fascinated by artificial intelligence and data science. So, that is one area I am exploring right now, and I encourage others to do the same. Follow your passion and interests and be open to adding new elements to your skill set,” she adds.
Jennifer is also following her passion for teaching. “Even today, every chance I get, I do take classes and speak to early professional hires. While my passion is intact, I do realise that working with clients is my strength,” she signs off.