1. Tell us something about your childhood. What values had been instilled in you that helped you excel later in your life?
My parents are first generation Americans – both their parents were born elsewhere and emigrated to the US. My mother is in her 80s now and she was amongst the first of her generation to go to college and work full time while raising a family. My mom loved her job as an elementary school teacher, and she taught me that helping others is the key to finding joy in a career. My father grew up poor and in a foster home, but he managed to earn a full academic scholarship to college. He went on to have a successful career in sales management. In my family, education was highly prized and through my parents’ example, I learned that life-long learning and hard work was a way to advance oneself. I was raised to be independent, to rely on myself, to value being able to support myself, to work hard, to focus, to be proactive and to always say “yes, we can”.
2. When did you discover your passion for technology?
I found my passion for technology in my first job as a production planner at Nestle Foods. Production planning is all about efficiency and process. Computers are essential in delivering that and it was impossible to do my job without them. While studying engineering in college, I had to take a programming class. Of all the courses that I took, that one was the most challenging for me and I barely passed the course. I vowed to never go near a computer and that stood until I was faced with tracking millions of dollars in WIP (work-in-process) inventory in one of Nestle’s production facilities. To do that, I developed a barcode data collection system to track inventory as it moved around the production floor. The system was so successful that Corporate noticed and asked me to join their Information Systems team. I started writing code for an MRP system and all at once, with practical application in real life, it suddenly made sense. My career in IT was launched.
3. What have been some of the biggest challenges in your life and how that has shaped you?
I always wanted to have both a career and have a family, and that is a tough balancing act. Early in my career, I found working in a global C-suite job and raising young children at the same time to be extremely challenging. I’ve had to create boundaries in order to give 100% to each. It is much easier now that my children are older, and as a result of my experience, I have huge respect for working parents who are trying to make it all happen. It’s not easy!
4. Tell us something about the social causes that you support.
I am passionate about fighting for equality and equity, protecting the environment, and animal welfare. We have so many challenges at this time in human history and how we navigate the next ten years together will be critical in so many ways.
5. How would you define success?
What I have learned through my life experience is that success is a journey, rather than an end game, as the world is of course a dynamic place and the bar is always being raised. Good ideas can come from anywhere and it’s critical to stay flexible and open-minded. As a leader success is measured by the impact one has on others, and it’s often found in tiny actions that multiply across a team to impact an organization – the butterfly effect at work.
6. How would you describe your leadership style?
I would liken it to a conductor of an orchestra…having a vision for what could be, selecting the players, empowering the musicians, directing the various piece parts so that together, we achieve an incredible outcome. The fun part though, is that we are playing jazz music rather than the classics and sometimes the players just need to jam, and trust that we’ve got this, as there isn’t always a playbook for what’s next.
7. Looking back on your journey and knowing what you know now, what is one piece of advice you would have given yourself along the way?
To not lose sight of the big picture. In the rough and tumble of the day-to-day work, it is easy to get distracted and buried in the details. It takes discipline to stay focused on the end game and keep your eyes above the tree-line. This is where I feel I provide most value to the team, as in my role, I have the opportunity to see many pieces of the puzzle and how they fit together. I can help bring that insight back to the team, so that we can recalibrate if necessary and link those day-to-day tasks to achieving business objectives.
8. What advice would you give those who want to pursue a career in STEM?
There has never been a better time to pursue a career in STEM. As I mentioned, the next few decades are critical to the future of the planet. There are numerous exciting new fields emerging that can help address the issues in the world today. These solutions are no doubt rooted in science, technology, engineering, and math. I would encourage those interested to move forward earnestly. I believe the reward would be a satisfying and worthy career that might just change the world!
About Jane Aboyoun –
Jane Aboyoun is the Chief Information Officer at SCO Family of Services, a non-profit agency that helps New Yorkers build a strong foundation for the future. In this role, Jane is responsible for leading SCO’s technology strategy, and managing the agency’s technology services to support business applications, architecture, data, engineering, and computing infrastructure.
As an accomplished CIO / CTO, Jane has spent 20 years in the C-suite in a variety of senior technology leadership roles for global, world-class brands such as Nestlé Foods, KPMG, Estēe Lauder Companies, Walt Disney Company, and the New York Public Library.