Jenn Nabb

We had a chat with Jenn to find out how her career in finance has enabled her to grow her skills from effective communicator to empathetic leader and learn about the invaluable management support she received when diagnosed with cancer.

What is your role? What does your day to day look like?

I am a Senior Finance Specialist Manager in BT Group’s B2B unit.

I am currently supporting the roll of a new technology software’s implementation (SAP) and our new Statutory Reporting tool globally in addition to supporting the reconciliation of our balance sheet by Profit Centre (profit centre is new for BT In SAP).  

Because most of my team is in the UK or Europe, I start my workday most days at 6AM local time (noon UK time). I spend my time:  support the countries I am leading as they work through the project timeline; developing and documenting the support materials for the business as usual phase of the projects (when transformation is no longer available to support); and working through risks and issues (and ensuring business readiness for the changes in our systems and processes). 

What is your favourite project you’ve worked on?

When I was client facing and helped turn a global contract from loss making into profit making by transforming processes and renegotiating personally portions of the contract.  It was a unique and exciting project, working with a fantastic team I will know for a lifetime.  (I love cleaning up a hot mess!)

How would you describe what BT Group does to your friends in America who don’t know us?

BT helps our customers work efficiently and seamlessly through technology and processes to achieve their business goals.   

You’ve been with BT Group for around thirteen years now. How has your career developed since joining us and what support have you received?

I have grown from a solid technical finance professional into a skilled communicator. I have grown in emotional intelligence.  I have taken my skills for developing teams to being able to apply them to lead change across an organisation.   While I had worked in global companies before, including working and living internationally, BT has elevated my ability to effectively communicate and support teams and cultures around the world.   I have expanded my experience to now include negotiations, external reporting, sales compensation, business case development and strategy. I am now a skilled project manager with experience in Agile. I have been able to apply my own journey with long term illness to be able to transform it into skills all people managers should have to help any employee succeed that has the skill, desire, and work ethic.  

What kind of learning and development opportunities have you taken advantage of in the business?

I went on a campaign to nail down and create my own international secondment from 2013-2015 living and working in London. This allowed me to come back to Dallas as a leader who understood the BT way of working (at a time when the leaders in Dallas had mostly brought in their own culture from other IT companies) and help the Dallas team grow with the business.

I also participated in helping to write two annual reports which was an amazing experience (and won awards). Finally, I have had the opportunity to help drive a once in a generation transformation programme spanning all areas of the business including Network, Operations, Data, People, Sales, Finance, Reporting, and Mergers & Acquisitions. What an experience! 

A few years ago you were diagnosed with cancer. Can you tell us about the support you got from your manager and team at the time? How did that support change when you moved into a new role whilst still having treatment?

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the start of the pandemic, having first found the mass in my breast in April 2020.  I was the finance lead for a global transformation programme but at the time was not reporting up to Finance.  I was a member of the Programme office.

During my initial diagnosis, before the surgery and placement of my port for chemotherapy, there were one or two individuals who didn’t fully understand what I was going through and were more of an obstacle to me than a support. I was a bit shocked and had to explain I could not be taking on additional responsibilities.

The rest of the transformation team and finance community rallied around me.  My current line manager, HR and the finance leadership team moved quickly. They moved me back into finance so the team there could back me up and help me cover my role while I was going through treatment. My new line manager was exceptional and very supportive.  Other non-finance folks also jumped into help. It was amazing and heart-warming. I was able to take off the time I needed and contribute when I could. I had the comfort of knowing we were fully supporting a successful transformation. I watched the team cross-train and support each other while supporting me. I watched them grow and meet all of our targets. It was fantastic. 

The pandemic forced us to isolate. It changed the way we work. I was doing this also while going through my cancer treatment, so it wasn’t just me feeling isolated and cut off from friends and family physically. However, the flexibility to be able to work from home meant I could be productive and safe.  It was a gift. The products we sell at BT to help companies work effectively from wherever they are also helped me be productive while I had a compromised immune system during a pandemic, which was amazing. 

My line manager and I communicated frequently. I used my calendar to keep everyone informed of doctor appointments (or ever if I needed a nap). The work/life balance at BT and flexibility allowed me to get my work done while adjusting for my new schedule and side effects of my illness.  

The support really didn’t change when I moved roles. I still felt fully supported by my team (new and old). 

What advice would you give to managers and team mates to support colleagues and, be allies to colleagues with non-visible disabilities or long-term health conditions?

We need to give people the benefit of the doubt. We do not know what is going on with someone personally or at home. Assume everyone wants to do a good job and be an excellent contributor. When something isn’t going well, seek to understand and support.  

Putting an employee first is not in conflict with putting the business first, they are synergistic in fact. In a services business where people are at the core of our success, ensuring a solid and healthy and cared for workforce with pay dividends to our bottom line (and to the opinion our customers have of us).  

Be responsible for your own learning and the language you use. Effective communication can be used to empower our people to be their best selves. Be mindful of who and what you are asking and be an advocate to challenge anyone who is using language that isn’t inclusive or supportive. Know what ableism is and challenge it. False assumptions can do incredible damage to an individual, team or project. Watch for them.  

My experience does not represent everyone’s experience. We all have our own story and journey. My experience also does not diminish the experiences or the feelings anyone else is having. Listen to those with long term illness or disabilities but do not expect them to be able to speak for all. Not everyone is as open as I am.  I feel strongly that my journey and experience is supposed to help other people, so I am very open about it. Not everyone is. It is important to not disclose someone else’s disability (but it is ok to ask, if you think it is going to help someone.)

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