Jennifer Weaver began her career at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee in 1997 as a business recovery coordinator, and today serves as senior vice president and chief information officer (CIO). In this role, she leads a team of 900+ information technology professionals and is responsible for developing the enterprise-wide IT strategy aimed at keeping the organization on the forefront of technological advances.
What is your best business habit?
Strategically anticipate challenges -- that way you can be ready with solutions. Over the years, I've learned that every challenge presents an opportunity to make something better. Along with that is an understanding that it's not always the obstacles that cause the most difficulty -- often it's our response (or lack thereof).
So, when asked to take on a business challenge, even those I may not have all the expertise with, I try to step beyond my fears and say "yes." Because I've learned that the best way to tackle a problem is to deepen your knowledge on the topic. Embrace what you don't know and ask questions. Sometimes those questions that may feel stupid bring unexpected insights, not just to you but to the people providing the answers.
How did you discover or develop it?
Being solution-oriented is a habit that has evolved as I've developed my business confidence over time, and I'm still growing into that confidence today. I came to BlueCross 25 years ago with no IT experience and a degree in communications. My first job was to meet with the various technology areas and help them develop their IT disaster recovery plans. I felt overwhelmed with all that I didn't know -- I remember scribbling "What IS a mainframe?" in the margins of my notebook. I soon realized that to do my job well, I had to learn about everyone else's. And the fastest way to do that was to ask questions.
How has it improved your work and/or personal life?
I've learned that it's OK to admit you don't have all the answers. But it's important that those who look to you for guidance and direction trust you to always be looking for the right solutions. This applies to my home life, as well. My husband and I have a 17-year-old daughter and, as we've told her, we wish there was a parenting manual we could refer to for all the answers. Many times situations arise for her relating to issues we don't have experience with; and that's when, again, we try to learn everything we can, talk to other parents, and then make decisions based on what we know about our daughter.
How might others apply it?
Say "yes" to opportunities when they arise -- even those that are outside your comfort zone. If you're asked to tackle a problem that might seem beyond your abilities, trust yourself. Believe in your ability to ask the right questions to learn something new-- because understanding a problem gets you halfway toward the solution. Then take what you've learned and seek out people you trust and whose expertise you value. Don't be afraid to rely on others to help you meet your biggest challenges.