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Jackie McKenna shares her path to embrace creativity. We talked about what she discovered about herself after eight years in the military. She also touches on lessons from exploring roles as a developer and a product manager in the tech industry.

Describe your path to get to where you are now.

I left the military after eight years. Then I became a developer thinking I could find creative outlets there. This might be different for other types of developers, but my experience was that the work was made up of little tasks. I craved owning a whole project. Recently, I accepted an offer as a product manager. This moves me closer to owner a project and helping people directly.

How do you define creativity?

To me creativity is taking existing knowledge and fusing it to create new knowledge. For creative people, it is the act of expressing it in different mediums.

When I was in the military, there weren’t many ways to express creativity. It was an institution that rewards following rules and orders. I did find an outlet with Powerpoint presentations. I discovered opportunities to make the slides really beautiful. Occasionally, someone would take notice and thank me for putting in the time to do that.

How do you find balance with your work, career, and embracing creative?

Now that I am out of the military, I am actively trying to surround myself with other creative people for inspiration. When I’m not working, I do photography and focus on colors. The more vivid the better.

Are you an introvert or extrovert?

I see myself as an introvert. I base this off of the book, ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain. After reading it, I understand it as finding the balance between being around people and needing my alone time to recharge. Thinking about something Beyonce said about her alter ego. I developed my own. It’s Captain McKenna by day. In the evening, I become a hermit.

What is your approach to managing up and managing down as an introvert?

From my dad and from the military, I learned to think before I talk. It was also important to speak up for my direct reports. That made it easier for me to talk. In the military, it’s never about you. It’s about your soldiers. They will have it worse than you. I don’t need to complain. I need to lead and shape the environment for them. I need to be at my best for them.

You can find Jackie online here.

Read more about creativity here.

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Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.