Jill Zakrzewski

Member Spotlight

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

While often the "Voice of the Millennial," my career is in constant motion as I develop skills and interests. I've touched almost every aspect of business — Product Development, IT, HR, Marketing, Finance, Sales. I'm continuously enrolled in university classes for topics like engineering, business, and design. I unapologetically reinvent my brand as I see fit. My one constant is change.

How would you define your professional mission?

My professional mission is to advocate for diversity in every project, role, and industry that I work in. When I started my career as a network engineer, there was a clear divide in my confidence level between network meetings and meetings I held as an officer of our company's women advocacy group. Something about having other women in the room put me at ease. This is why I advocate for not just one or two minorities on each project, but for having a critical mass of diversity present.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

In the business operations field, we need to leverage both sides of our brain at every turn. I like to call us the "et cetera" of the business. We cover everything — from KPI reporting to executive strategy to employee engagement. We work with every line of business and every functional department. To be successful in this type of work, we must leverage our analytical skills while complementing our work with creativity and innovation.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

Public speaking has always been a pain point. I remember pushing myself to join Toastmasters (thanks to some needed encouragement from my mentor) and registered for a speaking contest. I got last place. A year later, I registered for the same contest and emerged as the winner, beating highly respected competitors.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

Growing up I wanted to be editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine. My high school guidance counsellor begged me not to pursue an education in writing on the merit that I was "too good at math and science." The selling point was when she told me I'd make more money as an engineer. After graduating engineering school with high honors and entering a Fortune 15 Leadership Development Program for engineering, I found myself disengaged, frustrated, and alone. Although I had many people encouraging me to stick it out, I made the tough decision to pursue a business operations role. I couldn't be happier with this choice. My background in analytics, process improvement, and problem solving are still used everyday, but now in a context that I find interesting and rewarding.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

People are the most important. I can save the company money. I can save the company time. I can bring the company new business. While all of these are great, the legacy that I care most about is creating authentic relationships with the people I meet. I take my "open door" policy very seriously, because at the end of the day, it's the people who matter most.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

I spent some time wearing suit jackets to work everyday. Now that I'm in a much more casual, creative environment, I find that being an authentic leader comes more naturally. Sometimes a comfy pair of jeans is all it takes to make magic happen!

What would you say your personal superpower is?

My personal superpower is a huge, molar-showing smile. Something about an obnoxiously big smile is contagious and puts people in a good mood.

What does success look like to you?

Success for me is financial independence. When I don't need to worry about a paycheck, then I have true freedom to pursue my passions and control my time.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

My most memorable Ellevate Network memory is hearing Janet Schijns, Verizon Marketing VP, explain how every job is now a technology job. So many women feel that they need special qualifications to be in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). The truth is that every career — whether you're in Human Resources, Horticulture, or Hair Styling — requires innovation to stay relevant.

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