SHE LEADS – with Jackie Callender


Jackie Callender


Cox Automotive

Sr. Technology Services Manager

What would you tell your younger self?

Jackie, you’re going to have your heart set on some very specific career goals at a young age… you should keep your mind open and be adaptable – sometimes you need to let the wind take you instead of trying to be the water. Being a doctor or a lawyer isn’t for everyone, but don’t worry.

What was your major in college and how did you get to the position you are in today?

I majored in, get this, Japanese language and literature.  I still try to practice Japanese daily, but it’s hard with no one else around to really hold a conversation.  I got to today by being open to the opportunities before me as I graduated college, and I took a shot as a computer salesperson at Best Buy which then morphed into several years in telecom where I moved into people management, and then transitioned over to Cox 6 years ago.  Since being at Cox, I spent a few years in a management role at Cox Enterprises, then transitioned to Cox Media Group where I was an individual contributor managing Technology Business Management and IT Service Management processes, and from there I came to Cox Automotive to focus on one specific ITSM process, Change Management.

What was your inspiration and what helped you become successful? How do you define success?

I believe in giving your best effort regardless of the situation; it’s something I learned back in 2012 when I was humbled by the experience of being terminated during company right-sizing.  I was hired back the next day (which was even more frustrating and emotional in my young career, I had joined the company as a full-time employee not 6 months prior after contracting for about a year). My dad talked me through that as a former Human Resources manager, and he helped me understand that it wasn’t personal and there was a bright side to being hired back.  Since that experience, I realized that no matter what hand you are dealt, you give your all to the situation and you prove your ability, you work hard for yourself and for others – success will come to those who put forth the time and effort to achieve it. Success looks different to each person – I see my success (right now) as the financial freedom I have been able to achieve by removing my debts, paying off my student loans, and finally figuring out a method of saving that works for me and give me peace of mind. Will my view of success change?  Probably.  Definitely.  And it should – where you are in life determines how you see success, and we should not hold each other to another’s view of success.

How do you balance your work and personal life? Often times one has more importance, and we’re curious to know how you’ve handled the balance.

Work-life balance is hard sometimes.  The most difficult time I had was when I was a people-manager, and it’s because the rest of the company set the precedent that people-managers were available and meeting the business need no matter what.  In those years, I spent many days working a full day in the office and then a few more hours at home to accomplish business needs.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I stepped out of people-management – it was time consuming and I already dealt with over 2 hours of commuting in traffic each day. Flash forward to now, I’m not a people-manager, I work less than 15 minutes from the office on a bad day of traffic, and I’m working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic – work-life balance got difficult again!  For many years, I was able to “turn off” work and “turn on” home unless I was on-call, but now it’s a little more difficult to “turn off” work because it is all at home.  However, I have a great team and we have an on-call rotation, trust, and reliability.  I work hard for my team when I am on-call and they do the same, so we are able to really focus in during our month on call and trust that our team has our back when we are not on call, giving us the ability to enjoy our personal life and remove ourselves from work at a reasonable time. Teamwork is one of the best supporters of a good work-life balance.

What is your favorite quote?

I have two favorite quotes:    “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma (Mohandas K.) Ghandi    “Rise above.” Daryl Moses, my 10th grade English teacher. I’m fortunate that I have a personal connection to something taught to me – Coach Moses would always say, whenever we were bogged down in the wrong ideas or unable to see past a wall in our thoughts, ‘rise above.’  I remember him saying to me once, in a discussion about song lyrics that I misinterpreted, “I’m disappointed in you, Callender – rise above!”  He meant it in a lot of ways, rise above the people or constructs that try to bring you down, rise above the struggles and the turmoil, rise above the challenges before you.  Every day, I strive to rise above.   

What’s your favorite part of your job and why?

I am an anal-retentive person who likes things ‘just so’ – I love that we manage the change management process. If you could give anything to a stickler for order like me that would make me happy, it’s a process with documentation!  I am weird in that I love managing process, I love managing files, I love organizing documents, I love creating uniformity in document layouts.  That has to be my favorite part. 

What is your favorite hobby?

Video games!  Now that they’re on phones, it is almost terrible, but I enjoy games that don’t require a lot of time to play them.  Currently I am playing Marvel Contest of Champions (I’ve actually played this for the last 5 years, and it’s in a way a collaborative game with an alliance of 29 other people) and I recently started playing ConnEct, a game where you have to match images on a board but you can only connect them via 3 lines or less.  It can be tricky!  I also love word games and sudoku.

What advice do you want to give the next generation of women leaders?

Empathy and compassion are not weaknesses, they are strengths. They do not lessen your impact, but give you the ability to reach through personal barriers to establish meaningful relationships with the people you lead.  Empathy and compassion should go hand in hand – truly value those you lead, their success is your success.  Help them to reach their goals and you will find fulfillment.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership to me is ownership. To lead a team is to own the outcomes, good or bad, and to own all the inner workings of that team – to take responsibility for the output of that team in all scenarios, and to drive that team’s success together.  A leader is someone who can cross the barriers and seek the best interests of her people, her peers and her company/organization through communication and collaboration. A leader understands that we do not reach the finish line alone – teamwork is how we accomplish our goals, even in a solo race.

What’s your advice on mentoring?

Having a mentor is a great way to voice your career concerns and expose yourself to career options.  If you have considered having or being a mentor, don’t shy away because you think your experiences are not relevant – we can all learn from each other and I encourage everyone to step into the role of mentor one day, especially if you have had the opportunity to benefit from having a mentor.  If not, it’s never a wrong time to make a positive impact in the life of another!

What’s your favorite ice cream?

If it’s store bought, Moose Tracks! And Brownie Moose Tracks. Those tiny peanut butter cups, the chocolatey fudge ripple, and a base of vanilla ice cream – it’s the right amount of balanced flavor.  But I love to go for a two-scoops cone of matcha and coconut ice cream if you catch me at the Frosty Caboose.

Is there any other information that you think Girl Talk members would benefit from?

Seek out internships – they are a great way to get an introduction to a company. Also, seek out scholarships – they are the best way to avoid student debt. I wish I had really worked to understand student debt before I went to college.  Don’t get hung up on ivy league or private school, either – I wish I made a smarter decision because a college education is not cheap.  For anyone still in high school, look at your joint enrollment programs to get college credit – it will absolutely pay off, more than those AP classes!