Celebrating Black History Month and Janara Jones
Celebrating Black History Month and Janara Jones
This week we introduce, Janara Jones, Vice President of Global Tax & Chief Tax Officer at Albemarle. Janara is a native of Norfolk, VA, and has strong ties to the Charlotte area as her mother, Barbara D. Ford, and grandparents, David and Patsy McGowan, are all Charlotteans. Janara is a CPA and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting from Virginia Union University, a Master's in Taxation from American University and a MBA from Pennsylvania State University. Over the last 25 years, she spent her career in tax as a consultant and in various in-house tax leadership roles. Janara loves to travel, as noted by the 57 countries she's visited, spending time with her family and friends, cooking, and crafting. In this Q&A we learn more about Janara, her journey to a career in Tax, and her commitment to serving and supporting others.
Who is(are) your biggest role model(s)?
My mother and Dr. Ruth Cole Harris, the first black women in VA to pass the CPA exam, who was my college accounting professor and advisor.
How have you used your membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., a predominantly black sorority of college educated women with the purpose to provide assistance and support through established programs in local communities throughout the world, to make an impact in communities you have lived and/or worked?
Being a Delta is lifetime commitment to not only the sisterhood, but to service. I've been a member for over 25 years and during this time no matter how much I've moved around I've always been active in the community. I have mentored and tutored students in underprivileged areas, started programs focused on feeding the homeless and providing nutritional meals to children in food deserts, ran food, clothing and essential drives to get basic necessities into the homes of those in need, while also volunteering to provide support to women transitioning back into the workforce, led financial awareness seminars, provided tax advice to black small business owners and tax preparation service via the IRS' Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
You joined Albemarle and moved to Charlotte shortly before we went into quarantine, how did this impact your ability to connect within the organization?
Working remotely definitely slowed down my ability to meet as many people as I would have liked outside of the Finance organization. I'm an extrovert, so I get my energy from people. I would typically walk the floors and meet new colleagues every day. While I haven't been able to meet many people face-to-face, I've increased my usage of TEAMs to have virtual coffee breaks with many colleagues throughout the organization.
Women in finance is not rare to see, but it does not seem as common for a black woman to specialize in the tax field, how did you get introduced to this field and what has driven you to stay in the field as your career advanced?
There are not a lot of black people in tax. Let's just say it wasn't a path that I chose for myself; I wanted to be a Sports and Entertainment Lawyer. My mother actually thought it would be more practical to start my career in the government due to the benefits and to help pay for my post-graduate education. I had taken several tax courses in college and had being preparing family and friends tax returns for years, so I figured why not work in tax audits for a few years just to pay for graduate school. I quickly realized I actually loved it, as it allowed me to utilize all of my accounting, business and legal training. I've spent most of my career in tax focused on mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, tax controversy and planning. I'm constantly being challenged to think creatively about how to drive and add value for organizations, while mitigating risk and ensuring that companies stay compliant. Plus, I've be able to see the world while learning and seeing all areas of a business, which really feeds my curiosity and helps me to constantly grow.
Your career as allowed you to engage in many different industries, what have you found to be similarities and/or differences in regard to acceptance of Diversity and Inclusion?
Every organization that I have worked for over the past 25 years has had some form of D&I initiatives. Many started with a focus on how to recruit and retain minorities within the organization. Acceptance has varied based on the actual and/or perceived importance of D&I within all levels of leadership within the organization. I found acceptance was higher in the organizations where employees had clarity in what the organization wanted to accomplish, defined what success looked like in this space and had an overall growth mindset. In organizations where I experienced a lower level of acceptance, it was mostly due to the majority of the employees unwillingness to embrace change, lack of full leadership support and employees sensed that D&I was just another short term annual initiative.
What do you desire for people to see when they see you?
My desire is for people to see me beyond my race and the stereotypes, and see my integrity, courage, empathy and passion.
You have been involved in employee resource groups within other companies, what helped make them be successful?
I've seen the most success with ERGs where they have actively promoted their uniqueness, while focusing on being inclusive and collaborative. Success was also driven by having strong allyship from colleagues in the majority (at all levels not just at the executive level). I believe the success stemmed from the broader employee base being curious to learn more, supported the various programs and events hosted by ERGs and openly engaged with the ERGs to not only achieve their goals, but also to become part of the solution of shaping a more diverse and inclusive organization.
What legacy do you desire to leave?
I would love my legacy to be one of service, uplifting and helping those less fortunate and building a pipeline of future generations of leaders that look like me. Muhammad Ali said it best, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."
Have you taken the path you expected/planned to take in life? Yes or no, what were the drivers that allowed you to achieve or what caused you to pivot?
No, various life events have caused me to pivot over the years. I made early career moves for promotions, new experiences and financial stability. Then life happened and I had to make a difficult decision to leave a job I loved to be able to have more time with my family and be closer to them as they needed my support and required more of me. As time passed, I learned more about myself (personally and professionally) especially after tragically losing a close loved one, and what drives my happiness and what doesn't. My real drivers were simple: having positive relationships with my family and friends, being part of a strong community, having a sense of purpose, and feeling appreciated and supported by family, friends and colleagues.
What is one thing you want people to know about Janara Jones?
I truly live my life like every day is Day 1 because every day is different, I get a fresh start to create new memories & experience new challenges.