Lead(H)er Profile - Jenny Kim DeSmyter, Managing Director, Sales Strategy at SS&C Eze banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Jenny Kim DeSmyter, Managing Director, Sales Strategy at SS&C Eze

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry.  In this Q&A, we are featuring Jenny Kim DeSmyter, Managing Director, Sales Strategy at SS&C Eze.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I was born in Seoul, South Korea. Our family moved around a lot due to my dad's job, so I went to pre-K in Belgium (French-speaking side), kindergarten through 4th grade in Holland, most of my middle school in Hong Kong, and high school in Beijing before moving to the U.S. to attend college. My parents tell me that I was determined and strong-willed even as a baby. I was quite outgoing as a child, which helped strengthen my ability to adjust to new challenges as we changed schools, countries, and even languages every few years. 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

When I started college, my dad told me to choose a major I found interesting above all else because most college degrees won't help you in the corporate world. This was surprising advice from my dad because I expected him to push math/sciences/economics majors. With that in mind, I double majored in sociology and history at Duke University. 

Having grown up globally, I've always been interested in the impacts of globalization. During college, I lived in North Carolina and worked at the Social Science Research Institute, which focused on local groups and industries. I decided to combine my global perspective and local immersion for my honors thesis, focusing on globalization's impact on the once-dominant textile industry in North Carolina. 

After graduation, my first job was setting up FIX connections between clients and their trading destinations at SS&C Eze in our Boston office. FIX is an electronic communications protocol used globally to exchange real-time data related to securities transactions and markets. As predicted, my first job — and every subsequent role after that — had no relation to my majors. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I've been in many different roles in my career, so it's difficult to pinpoint specific 'critical moments' that got me to where I am today. There have been so many! Some were a result of challenges, roadblocks, or perceived setbacks, while others may have been a fork in the road, where an important choice had to be made. I expect that, like any professional, I'll experience many more such 'critical moments' in the future. Regardless of these moments' frequency or size, I focus on the most important factor that got me this far. I relied on others' experiences and advice to help guide me or provide me with different perspectives.

As I mentioned, I started on the FIX setup team in Boston knew I ultimately wanted to be in NYC doing client-facing work, so I started having conversations with my managers to create a path that lined up with my goals. Within ten months, I had moved to NYC. I was on one of our consulting teams dealing directly with buy-side clients, running product implementations, upgrades, and overseeing the ongoing support and account management. In a few years, I was managing a team.

After managing a team for a few years, I was ready for a different challenge. The idea of pivoting from the path I had been on for years was daunting at first. I relied on a few of my mentors/closest friends — both at Eze and outside — and my dad to be sounding boards as I explored alternate options. They helped me articulate in my own words what I was looking for next, guiding me through the pros and cons and identifying both the risks and potential growth opportunities. Ultimately, I made a move into sales, working in business development with our clients. After a few years, I took on responsibility for running the North America region, where my team oversaw the most revenue. Until recently, I was in that role when I moved into my current role in running global sales strategy for SS&C Eze.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

As Managing Director, Head of Global Sales Strategy, I am involved in a number of strategic initiatives at SS&C Eze, including moving forward the sales plan and strategy for Eze Eclipse (our new cloud-native investment platform), coming up with pricing models, managing cross-sales programs with SS&C Technologies, and overseeing the revenue operations team. Also, I will often wear whatever other hats are required to help our organization, which can mean helping with client retention efforts or running sales training. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you'd be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I never dreamed I would be in my current role! I haven't had a position that was my "ultimate" goal for much of my career. I look at my growth in one- to two-year increments and from the viewpoint of what skills I want to nurture, grow, and gain. I also go through talking about these goals with my closest mentors to ensure I don't have any blind spots. This has allowed me to be driven and flexible to take on new or unforeseen challenges and, most importantly, to learn and grow along the way. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Regardless of what position you want to be in next or in the future, always focus on what you can control: your work, your growth, your attitude, and your overall value. I've always kept my focus on the year or two ahead and compete with the previous version of myself. Being too focused on a specific position can keep you from exploring other, sometimes better, opportunities all around you. This is all easier said than done, but these are the things that quiet the ever-present distractions. The best way to win people over and be chosen for the next big project, task, opportunity, or position is to consistently step up to the plate, prove your value through hard work, and be a positive force. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

My job requires a combination of hard skills and a lot of soft skills refinement to do well. In my current role, it is especially important to stay extremely organized and manage my time effectively. Being involved in multiple strategic initiatives, trying to help where I can in other small and larger projects, being available for employees/colleagues/mentees, and finding time to meet clients and industry contacts — can be a bit overwhelming at times. To keep a balance, I rely on other tools I've gained throughout my career:  communicating more to set/reset priorities and deadlines, collaborating with others to get assistance or advice, being willing to say "no" sometimes, etc. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What's most challenging?

Most Rewarding: Being able to help/inspire/mentor others directly or indirectly is probably the most rewarding part of my job. There are different ways to find fulfillment in your career. I realized early on that it's rewarding to impact one individual's path at a time in my industry. Especially in an industry that doesn't always feel inviting for various reasons, there is nothing more rewarding than having had the honor to play even a small part in exceptional professionals' growth. 

Most Interesting: Most of my responsibilities require a forward-looking perspective on our business and often require strong collaboration with leaders of other parts of the business. Getting to work more closely with other leaders to discuss our various initiatives, plans, and challenges have been most interesting in my current role. Having more insights into a wider group of employees and business units gives me more exposure to other leadership styles and approaches. 

Most Challenging: I'm not sure that there is a part of my work that is "most" challenging. Different challenges present themselves depending on the task. Throughout my career, managing my internal dialogue has, at times, been the biggest challenge. For example, competing with myself has been a great driver for my entire life, but it can be exhausting! I need to remind myself to take moments to be happy with what I have completed instead of immediately looking down to the next thing on my to-do list. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

I'm not sure that I can pinpoint a single professional accomplishment as my proudest.

Instead, I'll share one of the first times I truly felt pride in my career: 

I went back to Korea to visit my parents and brother shortly after I'd been promoted to manage a consulting team, and I ended up using a decent part of my bonus to buy each of them something meaningful and treated them to a couple of fancy family dinners. I could feel how proud they all were of me, and I knew that I was doing something right. We don't progress in life or our careers on our own. I am grateful every day for my family, friends, and mentors to help me get here. Showing gratitude in small ways, sometimes just by saying thank you to my family, friends, and mentors, makes me proud. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I unofficially mentor my friends' and clients' children whenever I am asked because I love mentoring people. My husband and I also try to support charitable organizations whose missions we support. We're particularly big fans of South Bronx United, which uses soccer to engage immigrant and first-generation youth. We also support the broader South Bronx community and the North Shore Animal League, the world's largest, most comprehensive no-kill rescue and adoption organization.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love cooking, working out, running, playing sports outside, and spending time with my husband and friends. During the pandemic, I've also been learning to paint, have watched more T.V. than I thought possible, and have tried to stay connected to friends and family as much as technology and social distancing allow.

How do you manage stress?

My formula is quite simple; the hardest part is making sure I stick to it. 

     #1 - Exercise at least 5 times a week.

    #2 - Wine. 

    #3 - Slightly contradicting #2 - Don't eat or drink too much. 

    #4 - Sleep 7-8 hours a night (near impossible). 

During the pandemic, I've also added: get outside at least a couple of times a day to get fresh air.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

At least one but often 2 or 3.

What's one of your favorite places in the New York area?

Central Park. I used to live nearby and ran the park 3-5 times a week before I moved to Brooklyn. I still love going to the park and almost forgetting that I am in NYC. 

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I listen to a lot of podcasts. In response to my asking him to be quieter because I was listening to a podcast, my husband said, "You are always listening to a podcast!"

It was tough to choose, but below are my top 5 in no particular order- 

  • Reply All 

  • Smartless 

  • Fake Doctors Real Friends

  • How Did This Get Made

  • Heavyweight

This question is reminding me that I need to get back to reading more… 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Study what you feel passionate about — not what you think you should study — unless, of course, you need prerequisites for a specific profession! If you want to be in the corporate world, you'll learn everything you need to do well on the job. I offer the same advice for finding your first job — don't just follow everyone else. Be open-minded and take some chances. I didn't think I'd end up at a company like SS&C Eze. I had no idea what FIX even was when I started! I liked the culture and the possibility to move into different roles within or outside the company in the future. Here I am, 13+ years later, still feeling challenged and learning more every day!

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Company

SS&C Eze works at the cutting edge of technology to deliver integrated, innovative investment management solutions, and we'll partner with you as a platform for growth. 

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