Bluelock’s CFO Jen Burton doesn’t back away from a challenge. Five years ago, she ran the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon on a dare. Soon, she ran another half-marathon. Then a full marathon. She set a goal of running 1,000 miles in one calendar year. She did it. Now she’s focused on triathlons. A habitual goal-setter? She grins and
says, “Maybe” …
KB: Jen, it’s great to see you.
JB: Good to be here.
KB: Where did you grow up?
JB: I grew up in Greenfield. Went to Greenfield-Central HS. I was a swimmer…I could still recognize my
swim coach’s voice right now if he walked in.
KB: What was growing up like?
JB: We lived on a lake, so I grew up water skiing. My parents were very supportive, and they ingrained in
me to always do my best and never give up. My Dad (radio name: Lee Daniels) was the WIBC traffic guy
before Big John Gillis. They used to land the helicopter in our yard every morning at 5 a.m. to pick him up.
Unfortunately, my bedroom was on that side of the house so I was also trained from the start to be an early
KB: Why did you choose accounting and finance?
JB: When I was young, I wanted to be Quincy (a 70s TV show about a medical examiner). But I changed
my mind after I learned how many years I would have to go to school to do that. I also determined I wasn’t
sure I could deal with dead bodies which, is a key prerequisite. Then, one particular semester in school, I
had an empty slot in my schedule. There was an accounting class that fit, so, I took it. And I LOVED IT. I
couldn’t get enough of it.
KB: You’ve had a great career here in Indianapolis. How did you get these roles?
JB: It’s been all about having a strong network. Every role I have landed came about through my personal
and professional network. I got to Rolls-Royce via my KPMG Manager. The job at Interactive Intelligence
was sent to me by three different colleagues from various pieces of my professional life. I was connected
to Bluelock via my relationship with Mark Hill, who was a Board Member at Interactive Intelligence
KB: As I look at your career, your span of control has consistently increased as the size of the organization
has consistently decreased.
JB: That’s correct. I learned really early on that you can add more value with a larger span of control. And,
it’s better to have a breadth of experience than a narrow focus.
KB: How were the adjustments?
JB: As I contemplated leaving KPMG, I remember worrying that I’d be bored in a corporate role. After all, I
was used to juggling 30 clients. But I was juggling those clients at 30,000 feet. It’s all about perspective.
The adjustment from Rolls-Royce to Interactive Intelligence was huge. Rolls-Royce is a massive, global
organization and Interactive Intelligence was a $400million, entrepreneurial company. It was a very
different vantage point but a broader role in terms of authority. I remember my first week there, we were
meeting about pulling our ERP systems out of the cloud and moving them on premise. It was November,
and the cutover would be December 5 – incredibly close to year-end. It was my decision. Everybody
looked at me and said, “Jen, what are we going to do?” My first thought was, “Don’t we need to ask a few
more people?” That decision would have taken two years at Rolls. I made it in a week.
KB: So, did it go smoothly?
KB: Tell me more.
JB: As I’ve taken these roles, I’ve been able to make decisions that I never would have otherwise. I’ve had
procurement reporting to me at Interactive Intelligence. Now one step further, my Global Finance Team at
Interactive Intelligence is the same size as the entire Company at Bluelock! Again, it’s about perspective
and span of control. As CFO at Bluelock, I have Finance, HR and other administrative functions. I just made
an enterprise decision on employee benefits, which was a new one for me.
KB: You like making decisions.
JB: Yes. The only way to become comfortable making decisions is to make them. The only way to
become comfortable making really big decisions is to make really big decisions. I am a middle child and
I’ve always been very independent. I’ve always felt the need to make my own path. I went to Saint Mary’s
College because it was different. It wasn’t IU or Purdue, which were common collegiate decisions for my
high school classmates, and it wasn’t where my older sister went. I wanted to make my college experience
my own and not just follow in others’ footsteps.
KB: You’re also a risk taker.
JB: [Laughs] For an accountant, yes. A calculated risk taker.
KB: Being a decision maker puts you out there.
JB: I have no problem being accountable for my decisions. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had the support and
backing of my leaders along the way. Knowing I have their trust is huge. Good leaders will trust your
judgement and have your back. Empowerment is the key, and it allows you to grow. If people don’t
empower you, you can’t get there.
KB: Let’s talk about people. How do you lead?
JB: I’m really fascinated with servant leadership. Where do people want to be and how can I help them
get there? I allow people to take risks and make decisions; I pay it forward. Some people have to be
challenged – and some, you wish they would check with you a little more before they move forward.
However, in all cases, you must be a firm backstop behind their decisions…even if it wasn’t the decision you
would have made.
KB: What else comes to mind on that topic?
JB: I am an all hands-on deck leader. If there’s a hole in the department, a big deadline, unexpected
attrition…I’ve always been the first one to roll up my sleeves and help. My team is willing to go the extra mile
because of that. You develop more respect and more loyalty. And people will go to the mat for you.
Challenge them, but be there to help. And stay out of the way when you are not needed.
KB: What attributes do you look for when you hire?
JB: I look for a positive attitude and other soft skills like communication and influencing. In my mind,
technical skill is a given. I can teach people debits and credits. I can’t teach them how to build relationships
within the business and provide good customer service. It’s the difference between figure skating and
KB: What do you have little patience for?
JB: I have little patience for poor leadership…people in leadership positions who don’t value their
employees’ judgment and time. I have little patience for taskmasters. Managers and leaders are very
different. Managers are tactical in nature, and they usually get promoted because they get stuff done.
Then, they get to a leadership role and all they know how to do is pound on people. They cannot articulate
strategy or provide a vision and then empower their teams to define the path to success. Leadership to me
is more than just checking tasks off of a “To Do” list. I also have little patience for people who are not
accountable. I have no problem with people who make mistakes. But if they don’t own up to it…that makes
KB: What’s your definition of excellence?
JB: Being the best you can be on any given day. Setting goals and finding ways to achieve them.
KB: What’s your favorite quote?
JB: I’m a huge Notre Dame fan and I love Lou Holtz. I used to hear him speak every week at the Notre
Dame pep rally. He said, “When you get up in the morning, the attitude you choose is the most important
thing you do.”
KB: What’s your favorite movie?
KB: Why I am I not surprised?
JB: It’s about perseverance. So many good things in my life are a result of not giving up.
KB: This has been awesome Jen. Thank you.
JB: My pleasure.