The Spotlight : Jana Croom, Columbia Gas Of Ohio
We are delighted to introduce you to Jana Croom, Director of Regulatory Affairs at Columbia Gas of Ohio, and 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.
Who are you? What's your leadership story?
When I was younger starting off my career and I was trying to figure out the secret sauce for leadership and success and career progression. I would listen to other women and other leaders and they would say, 'well, you know I had a lot of luck" or "It was just the right place at the right time', and I always felt that response was a little disingenuous. We all know that humility is certainly necessary, but when people ask me that questions, they want to know what does the road map looks like. So, I promised my myself that if anyone asked me that question, I would try to give an intentional answer.
I started off my career graduating with an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Black Studies, with a minor in secondary education, so I was going to be an educator. I realized that was not the career path for me, and started thinking about what a ‘plan b’ looks like? I started off working for a bank, then investments at Ohio Public Employee’s Retirement system. The woman who hired me said I had a wonderful, inquisitive mind, but that it was obvious that I didn’t have the technical skills necessary to be successful, so I went back to school and got my bachelors in accounting, then went and got my MBA.
I can’t stress enough that if you have a passion, but lack the technical skills to match, go back to school and get the tools that you need to be successful.
What are you passionate about?
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.
What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
I had a lot of wonderful mentors and sponsors who were willing to say, ‘I’d like you to consider X." 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. 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?
How do you balance work and life?
It’s a tactical approach – blocking and tackling. It’s constantly a juggling act and you must have a support system to get it done. Having an amazing and supportive partner was essential.
What advice would you give other women?
Do not 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.
You can meander through your career to a certain extent, but once you hit a certain point you have to really be intentional. And that’s bringing the right people to the table and involving them in the process.
To listen to the full, unedited Spotlight interview with Jana Croom, watch the video below.