C-Suite Chronicles: Insights from the Top
Jennifer Wicks is one of those inspiring women who strike with their beauty and energy, inside and out. So, the fact that Jennifer used to be a successful model doesn’t surprise me. Yet her decision to switch careers from fashion to finances and sales is less usual.
I sat down with Jennifer to talk about her exciting career journey and the opportunities she now has as a Woman in FinTech and Experian, where she works as a sales professional.
Q: I’m curious, what made you move from fashion to the financial sector and sales?
A: I always had this creative spirit who wanted to explore attractive opportunities, so I got into modeling. It all started as an exciting hobby right after earning a degree in marketing at Florida State University. However, it quickly became a professional modeling career for commercial print catalogs, supporting me for several years.
After a while, I realized I wanted to do more with my life. So, I returned to college, earned an MBA in marketing, and planned to leave modeling gradually. My next job was marketing for Marriott hotels, but I kept modeling as a side job.
Then the economic downturn hit, which forced me to rethink my abilities, priorities, and options. I kept asking myself: “OK, Jennifer, what’s next?” and realized that as a model, I was always excellent at one thing – saving money for rainy days.
That was the first time I realized I was interested in financial services and financial fluency. I started thinking about combining my ‘natural’ capacity for savings with my formal education, creative side, and communication skills, so I gathered the courage and started my own business: Jennifer Wicks Creative Incorporated.
I did well and invested in my professional development by getting a license to sell teachers’ retirement solutions. So, I have been helping teachers with their 401(K) plans for several years.
Q: Wow! I commend you on the courage and initiative to enter the entrepreneurial waters! So, what led you from there to Experian?
A: While working with one of my clients and their marketing department, Experian learned about me and, soon after, offered me a great marketing position with them. That was a breaking point for me; I wasn’t sure if I should accept the offer. All the licensing and the hard work I had to invest as an entrepreneur would be lost.
After much thinking and waging my options, I decided I’ll do it anyway and join Experian. To this day, I haven’t regrated that decision.
I wish I had known sooner how stepping into corporate America could benefit my retirement plans. Although I did a great job creating stability as an entrepreneur, and a retirement plan was always in sight, it could never be as solid as a good corporate 401(K) plan.
Q: So, when you look back on your life in hindsight, is there anything you would’ve done differently?
A: That’s a good question, but apart from going corporate a little sooner, I don’t think I’d want to change a thing. Everything happens for a reason, and we learn with each new experience.
For example, being self-employed, understanding that I could manage my time, and having that autonomy over my schedule, taught me essential skills I use today.
Q: Yes, I fully agree with that. But was the 401(K) plan the only thing that attracted you to work at Experian?
A: Definitely not the only one. What drew me towards that company was its people. Everyone I met there was there for the long run, so I thought there must be a good reason behind that.
Data analytics did not sound too exciting to me in the beginning. But then I learned more about the work there and the company culture and found out it’s a really fun, exciting, and invigorating place to work! They even coined the term ‘boomerang employees’ for those who left and returned to work at Experian.
Q: Is Experian a good place for work for Women of Color?
A: The sky is the limit for all women at Experian. We have a great support system through our executives, who show great flexibility and understanding, especially for working mothers like myself. At Experian, it’s expected that you have responsibilities at home and need the time to take care of yourself and your family.
Also, it’s a place where you can move around, so you don’t become stagnant. If you’re ready for a career change and promotion, they are very supportive and offer the right growth opportunities.
Q: It sounds like an amazing place to work. Have you taken any role-changing or promotion opportunities so far? What are you working on right now?
A: Yes, I moved from marketing into the sales department a year ago, and I’m still very excited about that. I enjoy coming to work every day and learning how to ‘crack the client code,’ how to strengthen and deepen our customer relationships and ensure everyone is aware of the great solutions that Experian offers.
I’ve become passionate about Experian solutions because they are right up my alley – they help organizations and people expand their financial education and support financial literacy. So, learning and practicing sales tactics that position Experian as a valuable tool for customers is what makes my job so enjoyable.
Q: Do you have some advice for people new to sales; what do you think it takes to be a successful salesperson?
A: I’ve discovered that creativity and taking chances play a significant role. Then, the art of asking the right questions and being unrelenting when necessary. Having a bit of thick skin and not get discouraged easily. I developed that during my modeling days, as that skill was critical in that industry.
Finally, you must persevere and always have a strategy and plan for all those ‘Nos’ you will inevitably meet (much more often than Yeses). Because with that persistence, the doors start to open more and more, and that ‘No’ turns into a big fat ‘Yes.’
Q: I like that ‘thick skin’ comparison between sales and modeling. Are there any other lessons that you transferred from your previous career?
A: Yes, it’s getting used to being in the driver’s seat. In sales, no one’s chasing you to sell them something or book you as a modeling talent in the fashion industry. You need to take the initiative and find ways to make things happen.
Also, you need time management skills, build your image and likeness, show up for work, and be reliable and dependable.
Q: What advice would you give young women or somebody thinking about changing careers and entering tech sales?
A: Always know your value and your ‘Why.’
When I used to work with modeling agencies, I always had a strong sense of who I was and who I wasn’t, what I would do and what I wouldn’t do. The same is true now in Experian when my biggest ‘Why’ is my daughter, so I need to know I’m supported as a working mom.
Knowing my qualities and having certain standards allowed me to chart my course, which is especially important when changing industries.
So, know your why and what you stand for, always plan for the future, work hard, and have fun.
Read more stories about success saleswomen sitting at the table of their dreams and their journey into a career in sales.
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