Dell’s JJ Davis on how driving positive impact is the ultimate career motivator

A senior vice president on the value of corporate character and a mission-driven team.

In our “Ask me anything” series, Dell Technologies executives sit down with rising talent to answer questions about their career journeys, work-life balance and advice that’s guided them. Here, JJ Davis, SVP of corporate affairs chats with Caitlin McDonald, marketing analyst.

When do you feel most satisfied/happy in your career?  

Caitlin McDonald, marketing analyst

Throughout my career, I am happiest and feel the most rewarded when I am solving problems for our customers and our team. And with the outsized impact technology has on the world, we are also solving big problems for society. From access to quality education and health care to using technology to transition to a greener economy, what we do every day has a positive business and societal impact.    

 When was a moment in your career you struggled, and how did you approach it? 

Early in my career, I thought my work would speak for itself. Hard work, grit, determination, and top-quality work are critical, but so is being clear on your career goals and voicing those to your manager and working toward them with the help of mentors and sponsors. Surround yourself with leaders who are honest with you on your shortfalls and who help advocate for you as you grow and contribute more to your company.  

What’s one thing you did as a young businesswoman developing in your career that you recommend and one thing you would go back and change?  

It’s important to not grow up too fast and take time to enjoy your life. Additionally, don’t wait to have every credential before you go for a role or position. Learn to sell yourself, and if you don’t get the role or position, treat it as a learning experience. 

Our purpose—to create technologies that drive human progress—guides our current and future opportunities.  – JJ Davis, SVP of corporate affairs, Dell Technologies 

 What do you see on the horizon for Dell, your organization and your role? What are some of your goals as you approach the future?  

Corporate character has never been more important. What you do must match what you profess. As we navigate uncertain economic and political climates, it is key to stay grounded in who you are and what you do to meet the needs of customers, team members and all stakeholder groups. Our purpose—to create technologies that drive human progress—guides our current and future opportunities.  

 Some individuals will advise jumping from different companies to gain more exposure and better opportunities for higher positions in their careers. You have stayed at Dell for over 20 years. What makes Dell worth staying?  

Dell is a founder-led company with an entrepreneurial spirit. If you see a problem, raise it and propose a solution. If you see an opportunity, grab it. I, like many tenured Dell team members, have been able to grow my career at Dell and hold various roles that challenge me and meet the needs of the business and our customers. 

 As a working mother, how have you been able to balance your executive position in the company, let alone your career in general, while balancing your family and being a dedicated mother?  

One of my favorite mantras—work to live, don’t live to work. It’s all about boundaries. Another one is—don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. I accepted a long time ago that nothing is ever perfect or in perfect balance. By having a workplace that is flexible and allows me to be the best employee, leader, wife and mom I can be, I don’t have to make tradeoffs. I can do it all—it’s just a little messy sometimes.  

 Do you have any recommendations for books, podcasts, Ted Talks, or topics/courses an individual should invest time into learning?  

 I highly recommend Brené Brown’s podcasts “Unlocking Us” and “Dare to Lead.” Brené is known particularly for her research on shame, vulnerability and leadership and how it plays into greater human connection. 

Read more “Ask me anything” interviews.