As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Haenggi.
Jamie Haenggi is ADT’s Chief Customer Officer, overseeing optimization of the ADT customer experience from end-to-end. Haenggi joined ADT in 2016 and has nearly 30 years of experience in the security and telecom industries. She has held senior leadership roles in marketing, sales, six sigma, and customer operations, both domestically and internationally. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and Japanese from the University of Minnesota.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I like to say, that my career kind of found me vs. some intentional, designed plan. My journey to where I am has been driven through great executive sponsorship. I know I would achieve great things through my drive, but their willingness to see my strengths and hard work and provide opportunities has been key to my success. Immediately after high school, I didn’t have money for college or the ability to take out a loan, so I started as a secretary for a manufacturing company in Minnesota where I wore my hair up and dressed in suits to ensure I was taken seriously due to my young age. On day three, the general manager learned how old I was and called me into his office, and asked why I wasn’t in college. When he learned it was due to money, he took out $2,000 cash and told me to leave early to register for evening classes at the community college. I did. After a few years, I had saved enough money so I could continue to education at a university in Japan.
Upon return, I found myself working at a security company. Again, I was an administrator, but I always looked for ways to improve the business and spent time learning different areas. I developed a plan that saved considerable money and was recognized by the CEO. Shortly after that recognition, I completed my college education in International Relations & Japanese, with a double minor in Political Science and East Asian Studies. It was then that I was asked if I would lead a new International Division for the company. This was an incredible OTJ training experience as I traveled the world negotiating distribution agreements, setting up sales and technical teams, and personally pitching this new platform to prospects as the entire Malaysian Fire Brigade (Chiefs of FD) at the age of 25.
From there, my career was tied to executive leaders that mentored and sponsored me and then took me where they went. National Guardian was sold, and the CEO asked me to join them at another firm, Holmes Protection where I ran sales and marketing, while also integrating the 30+ acquisitions that we made. We sold Holmes Protection and the CEO of ADT asked me to join them where I served in several roles in marketing, sales, operations, and later international marketing. The CEO of ADT went to Vonage and asked me to join there as the VP of Customer Experience. After his departure, the chairman of Vonage asked me to stay on as their first CMO to lead marketing and sales operations. While at Vonage, a close colleague from my ADT days asked if I would join him as an equity partner to take Protection 1 private. We sold Protection 1 five years later to another PE firm, Apollo, and since purchased ADT — a home I returned to after leaving 10 years prior. Now back at ADT, I have had the opportunity to serve in several capacities across sales, marketing, and operations with today a deep focus on the customer experience.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since at ADT?
Probably the most interesting story happened just before ADT. We had sold Protection 1 to Apollo private equity group. The PE firm liked us as a management team and talked about doing something bigger with us. The five of us had all worked together in senior positions at ADT years earlier and we half joking said, “We should buy ADT” — and Apollo agreed! So here was the management team of Protection 1, about a fifth of the size of ADT coming in to run ADT. Integrating the two companies was interesting and required a lot of blending of cultures.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I almost said “no” to an open door that would take my career to where I am today because I thought I was “all that and a bag of chips”. I was very early in my career and ADT had just acquired our company. I was the only senior leader at the company that ADT asked to join the firm. I first said no. I was exhausted after three years of hard-charging, 36 acquisitions that I helped integrate, all to grow the company and sell it. I was wisely counseled by our CFO to take the job. I then became quite demanding on my terms, which included everyone in a particular department reporting to me. The CEO of ADT at the time, Mike Snyder, was patient with me (and became a great mentor of mine). He granted me everything except the reporting structure. He said, “if you can lead without the authority you will have demonstrated true leadership. After that, come see me.” It was a great lesson in how to lead people by winning hearts and minds — and later, he gave me the entire sales & marketing organization reporting to me. I am thankful for that period of “no authority” but it still makes me and him laugh at my approach from the beginning.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are several and each plays a key role in my success — Renato Lizardo, George Flagg, Mike Snyder, Jeffry Citron, and Tim Whall are all important figures in different ways.
- Renato Lizardo recognized me as a person that should be in college and helped me get a leg up by providing me the $2,000 to pay for a semester of classes. Each semester I paid him back and each semester he left me another $2,000. He helped me get not only a college education but also developed my business acumen and taught me how to golf. He said, “Jamie, if you are going to be in business, you need to learn how to golf” — and back then, that was very true. I was thankful for those golf lessons!
- George Flagg gave me my first big job — manager of a start-up international division for National Guardian. I was 25 and traveling the world negotiating distribution agreements, training people on technology, and helping them with sales in countries such as China, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, and more. I learned so much not only in business, but in communication with other people, other cultures, and how important relationships are. As a young woman dealing primarily with older men in foreign cultures it is still amazing to me how I was able to navigate relationships and build trust with integrity and protecting my character.
- Mike Snyder was truly my closest mentor. He helped me understand the politics of big companies and how to deal with “haters” as I climbed the ladder, particularly other women who pushed back on my success. He always pushed me out of my comfort zone with the confidence and comfort of, “I know you can do this, and I am here if you fail” type mentoring.
- Jeffry Citron asked me to stay after my mentor left Vonage. I was an outsider and he gave me the scope and the space to do what I knew had to be done to help the company turn around. He was incredibly intense, and that pace and approach allowed me to build some callous that would help me over my career.
- Tim Whall is by far one of the most important mentors in my life, Tim taught me how to think more critically, dig deep into operations — he encouraged my leadership style to drive culture across the company and opened up a world of opportunities for me.
As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
My faith is the most important part of my life and it is my center whenever I am going into a stressful situation. I rely on prayer a lot in these tough times and a conversation with God, a moment to stop and listen to a worship song or a prayer can bring clarity and focus to whatever situation I am in.
When Covid hit, it was my responsibility to get over 5,000 employees out of centers into a work- from-home environment. The weight was on my shoulders — and I felt it. When I turned to prayer with God, I was given great peace (a deep rest that night) and clarity. Relying on God is a great reminder that it’s not all about you. In fact, in leadership, it’s never about you, it’s about the people around you. Getting 5,000 out of the centers was the incredible work and leadership of hundreds of people all working together. My job was simply to keep everyone focused on the right things: provide clarity, direction, decisiveness when needed, and encouragement. The team made it happen.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
We all carry different gifts, talents, perspectives, and experiences — those ingredients mixed together make great teams and deliver great results. Diversity of all kinds allows us to have perspectives that represent our employees and customers — which in turn delivers better company performance. Without diversity, I believe teams lean more toward unintentional groupthink that does not lead to change or best thinking. Iron sharpens iron and we must allow for diverse thinking to sharpen our outcomes.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
When we experienced social unrest last summer, it felt overwhelming to think “what can I do?”. I believe the steps we need to take are right the ones right in front of us: Tear down small walls and build small bridges among the people around you. An equitable society is about relationships and community. We build those when we are vulnerable, open-minded, and full of grace towards one another.
When George Floyd died, many of our white leaders reached out to African American colleagues to simply see how they were doing, how this was impacting them personally, and how we could be supportive. It was not about “educating us” — it was about being in a relationship where you care how the other person is impacted by something and you want to empathize with them. Through these conversations, I learned many stories that gave me fresh insights and perspectives and helped me, as well as others, have a greater understanding of what we saw going on around us.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The main difference is the broader perspective the executive must-have. An executive needs to think broadly about the company and customers vs. narrowly on their specific area of responsibility. This may mean that something your team feels is critical to their success becomes secondary to a larger company priority. I am fortunate to have a strong peer group where collaboration and partnership in executing against the company and individual goals are mutually respected. We share the same framework in outlining our goals which help us make certain we are all aligned to the success of the company.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an executive. Can you explain what you mean?
A title doesn’t make you an executive — your fellowship makes you an executive. This means making hard decisions and owning them, being vulnerable and transparent, knowing you don’t have all the answers and seeking input and answers from your team or others, taking candid feedback, and incorporating it into your personal and professional growth.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
There are several challenges that women executives face that are unique to them, but I will focus on two:
The first one is being true to who you are. This can be a challenge for any minority that steps into a room — sometimes you just wanted to blend in. Early in my career, I tried to “be like them” because of my upbeat approach, my focus on the “hearts and minds” of people was not always seen as “real business”. Later, I decided it’s easier to just be me and trust in the talents and skills I bring to the table. If people don’t see them, then it’s probably not a place I would want to be if I can’t be myself.
The second is balance. Women are told we can have it all — no one can. It’s not a woman thing, it’s a reality thing. We all get the same 24 hours, and we have to make choices on where and how we spend them. I have learned that I make the choice of how I spend it and then I work to be fully present in that moment. The real struggle for women on this topic is for those that have children, they are often the primary caregiver which can mean, they’re the ones that have to leave at 5:30 to pick up the kids while their counterparts are seen “in the office” until later.
I think Covid-19 and the remote work situation is a real opportunity for companies to embrace a more flexible work schedule, especially for women that allows them to have less of a work-life balance and more of a work-life blend.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Sometimes the hardest part of my job is to have the work done by other people. Coming up from the front lines, there is a strong desire to do the work. What is probably most different about my job as an executive than what I had thought it would be way back when I was starting out is that accountability looks and feels different. You are accountable for the results that are accomplished through other people and that means ensuring there is alignment on the expectations and outcomes, that people are given the freedom to do the job but also have support and development to achieve the results. It’s critical that people feel empowered to take risks and at times you have to be okay with failure on your watch for other people to really grow.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Obvious traits like courage, passion, and integrity come to mind, as well as competitiveness and compassion, but those are great traits for non-executives as well. It might be easier to explain what type of person would not make a great executive. Someone who always needs to be the one with the answer, get credit for the work, or enjoys doing the work so much that they struggle to get things done through other people. If they are not willing to stand alone, make difficult decisions and make difficult sacrifices both professionally and personally, they will not be a successful executive. An executive who sees the big picture and around the corners but can communicate it to people in an inspiring way makes a likely successful executive.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be you. We all have unique skills and talents and you should embrace those, both in yourself and in others. You don’t have to look like or act like ‘everyone else’. Know your weaknesses better than your strengths. You don’t have to hide your weaknesses — none of us are good at everything and that’s okay. But you do need to surround yourself with great talent that can offset your weaknesses. Ask your team for help. It shows vulnerability, humility and builds trust — three ingredients that help teams thrive together while also creating a great culture.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I have tried to use my experiences and financial success to make individual lives better in the hopes of making the world a better place. Our family has actively participated in annual mission trips and supporting organizations such as Villa Esperonza in Nicaragua, a home for young girls that were prostituted by their families, or The Shift community center in Macedonia with our time, love, and money. This past summer my husband and I created an internship program on our farm for a group of 8 college students whose internship was canceled due to Covid-19. In addition to project research, planning, leadership, and a lot of hard work, we also created seminars for them on leadership, networking, finances, and set up informational interviews in their area of study. Professionally, I am the executive sponsor for the ADT Women BERG and have the privilege of being a part of an incredible group of women and men working to not only make ADT a better place to work but support community programs focused on women issues.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You don’t need the experience, just the potential. I often thought I wasn’t qualified to do the jobs I was in because I had not done them before. I think most women suffer from this and often don’t raise their hands until they are 100% qualified. That was me. Luckily, I had people around me that raised my hand for me and allowed me to grow into big jobs.
- Take time for your family. Everyone says this but living it out is much harder. I wish someone showed me how to do it instead of just saying the words. When my daughter, Gillian, left for college, she left a bit angry with me. She said I wasn’t home for her the last few years and she was mad. She felt it was important that I was home for her younger brother. Gillian shared that she felt bad feeling angry because she also felt incredibly blessed to have nice things, go to college and not have to worry about tuition and have a strong, successful mother as a role model. It was hard to hear, but I was thankful for the conversation and openness. It also caused me to change my role so that I could spend more time at home vs. on the road.
- Ask for what you want. I never really asked for things in my career (except that first time!) and maybe that was the right thing to do, but I often see women in particular not ask — for that extra assignment, the pay raise they deserve, a promotion, or job change. Having led my fair share of men and women, most men don’t hesitate to ask for what they want.
- Don’t be afraid to say no — it helps set healthy boundaries. I was often the one that would take on more than was reasonable for one person to take on. Something else? Of course, I’ll take that team or problem or assignment onto my already full plate! When my daughter Gillian was just two weeks old, my company called and asked if I would please go on this very important sales pitch. I didn’t want people to think that having a baby would get in the way of me doing what needed to be done — so off I went. When I landed in NYC, my breasts ready to burst, my pump as my briefcase, I thought to myself, “What am I doing here?!” The rest is a funny story, but it was a miserable day!
- Write down your career journey — along the way. Luckily, I have never had to have a resume as I was always tapped for a company or new role. However, I wished I kept an ongoing journal of my career — positions, responsibilities, dates, key projects, successes, failures. I counsel people getting into the workforce to do just that — it will be useful as they build their careers, interview for jobs, and have discussions with their bosses. It becomes a source of learning and confidence-building as they add to it and refer to it. People are surprised at how many details they actually forget.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I recently joined the board at Enphase Energy. The idea of what solar and battery storage can do for people here in the US and around the world is inspiring to me. Energy independence, reliability, cost savings — all wrapped with the ability to help the global environment is truly not just a promise for the future, but something that is attainable in our lifetime. Consider how solar energy could bring life to a remote village — propelling water pumps and electricity. The sun has been powering life for millions of years — it’s about time we figure out how to harness it in a way that does good for humankind today and for the years to come.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Mine is not so much a quote, but one word — Avodah. It is one Hebrew word that means “work, worship, and service.” I love the fact that this one word understands how intertwined these three things are. I love to work — we were created to work — so I want how I do my work to reflect my worship. I want my work done with excellence, humility, kindness integrity, and wisdom. I also believe I am in service to others — my job, regardless of the role or title, is to inspire people, encourage them, help develop them to their potential, and together deliver excellence in what we do. I want people to feel proud of their work regardless of their role and in turn, inspire others around them to do the same.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Dinner with Warren Buffett. First, dinner is a longer meal and I would want as much time as possible, plus I am presuming it would be served with really good wine! It would be fascinating to simply hear him tell stories about his life — his experiences, his guiding principles, the people he has met, the books he has read, the places he has visited, the decisions and choices he had made both personally and professionally — and his best stock pick.