#BeenThereLearnedThat: With Jacki Kelly - Your Career Is a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder


By Kia Robinson

Jacki Kelly is an all-around source of inspiration and a well of knowledge. With nearly 25 years of experience in her field, Kelly’s career journey speaks to her ability to be nimble and flexible with the changes life has thrown her way.

Kelly graduated from Pepperdine University where she studied organizational communications. “I picked my major because it was broad,” she explained. “Unlike many people, when I entered college I was uncertain of what I wanted to do. I knew I enjoyed communications and writing but didn’t really know where it would take me.”

Kelly matriculated through college and gained a greater understanding of the field of communications and media. During her senior year, she landed an internship at USA Today and the rest is history. “I spent the first 18 years of my career at USA Today as a result of that internship,” she said. Eighteen years seems like a long time to stay at one organization so The Life Currency spoke with her to find out more about her career journey.

How did you end up staying with USA Today for 18 years?

That job was really instrumental in my career in terms of the people I worked with and the projects I was able to work on. I was always learning a lot which justified me staying there for so long.

People often wonder if they should stay at a company for a long period of time or if they should move around. My advice? If you are learning and adding value and being recognized for the value you are adding, why would you leave? I had nine roles in 18 years and each role presented me with new opportunities. In each role, I was able to become a beginner again. There was no need for me to leave.

What did you do when you made the transition from USA Today?

After I left USA Today, I went over to Yahoo. I made that transition because I wanted to go into the deep end of digital. At the time, Yahoo (and Google) were leading the digital movement and I felt like that’s where I needed to be.

I stayed with Yahoo for a couple years and later moved over to Martha Stewart, later to Interpublic Group and I did some time at Universal McCann Worldwide. One day I received an unexpected call from Bloomberg and that’s how I landed here. With each change, the only reason I made the transition was because I thought I could stretch myself and learn something new in the role I was being presented.

So now you’re at Bloomberg L.P. What does your current role entail?

I currently serve as the Chief Marketing Officer for Media at Bloomberg L.P. In my role, I look across our platforms to ensure we’re operating as efficiently and effectively as we can. I also work with our strategic partners to see how we can launch new partnerships around the world.

That’s a tough job with a lot of responsibility. What keeps you motivated each and every day?

The one thing that keeps me going is the engagement with the people and how we’re able to work together to solve client problems. I love being able to help clients achieve goals. I enjoy using my leadership to motivate our teams to work on new projects and tasks. I also love being a part of a leadership team that fosters a company culture where people come into work and feel inspired to do their best.

You have an admirable career journey and as with anything, there are always highs and lows. Can you share an obstacle you’ve had to overcome along the way?

I think the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome was being in an organization where I wasn’t 100% comfortable or aligned with the decisions that were being made. I voiced my opinion. I shared my point of view and I was clear about my point of view. It didn’t change the outcome so as a result I changed into a new job. It was tough because I loved what I was doing but I felt it was the best decision.

There will always be times in your career where you encounter a fork in the road. We all have those moments. The best advice I would give is be careful and cognizant of how you take adversity. Make it into a positive for yourself and for the teams you’re working with. In your toughest times you’ll demonstrate leadership and strength unlike any other.

What’s something you would have told yourself when you first graduated college?

I would have told myself not too take it all so seriously. I think young people have a lot of anxiety regarding their first job which takes the joy and fun out of the experience. Sheryl Sandberg says, “Careers are like jungle gyms. They are not ladders.” Your ability to move about the jungle gym (that is your career) is what will be most important.

For example, I’ve taken pay cuts, title cuts and responsibility cuts for roles that I absolutely loved. It’s a jungle gym. Sometimes you’ll move up. Sometimes you’ll move over. Sometimes you’ll even move down a little. Personally, I’ve made a few lateral moves in my career because I knew it would pay off in the end.  I’ll reap greater benefits later down the road because of that move. Again, it’s a jungle gym, not a ladder.

Kia is a recent college graduate that's simply trying to grasp the concept of "adulting". She enjoys hugs, quotes, a good book, and all things motivational. Her favorite book is The Alchemist and she can watch Girlfriends all day long.