Working From the Inside Out: How to Build a Diverse and Inclusive Team

Episode 256

October 10, 2023

This week on The Kula Ring we are joined by Jay Suggs. Jay has spent a considerable amount of time investigating what makes an effective team. He was the head of Johnson Controls’ diversity and inclusion initiative, and he gives us a look at what it takes to create an inclusive work team where everyone feels supported and brings something unique to the table; assembling the Avengers as he calls it. We look at some high level aspects as well as diving deep into some of the more difficult parts of being a good leader of people.

Working From the Inside Out: How to Build a Diverse and Inclusive Team Transcript:

Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how you doing, mate?
Carman Pirie: I couldn’t be more excited for today’s show.
Jeff White: Yeah. I think it’s gonna be really, really exciting. Very interesting. Dynamic guest.
Carman Pirie: Best show yet.
Jay Suggs: Oh, wow.
Jeff White: Man. You say that.
Jay Suggs: Predestined.
Jeff White: Yeah. You say that and you’re gonna have Rich salivating as he gets into the first 10 seconds of this to edit it.
Carman Pirie: You need to channel a bit of that Conan O’Brien, because he said that at the start of every show. Tonight is the best show yet. Right?
Jay Suggs: I love it. Manifestation.
Jeff White: Manifesting. I was just gonna say. Yeah.
Jay Suggs: Yeah. I love it. I love it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. No, I think I’m excited for today’s guest, I’m excited for today’s topic. Let’s get on with it.
Jeff White: All right. Let’s do that. So, joining us today is Jay Suggs. Jay is the Senior Director of Business Development, Strategic Accounts at Johnson Controls. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Jay. Nice to have you.
Jay Suggs: Thanks for having me, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
Carman Pirie: Jay, it is awesome to have you on the show, and before we dive in, I guess, to today’s topic, just give our guests a bit more texture about who’s Jay, and maybe a bit about Johnson Controls, although I’m sure a lot of folks know Johnson.
Jay Suggs: Absolutely. Well, to make a long story bearable, my name is Jay Suggs. Full name is Jermaine, named after one of my mother’s favorite Jacksons. But I go by Jay. Born and raised in the city of Newark, raised by my grandmother, who was a registered nurse at a metropolitan hospital. I believe everything that I am, every fiber of who I am, and my core values is from her teachings. She was not a warm and fuzzy lady, but she was direct, and she was so direct it made you look inward and hold yourself accountable, so to speak, so I’ve lived with that baseline internally within my life professionally and personally.
As you stated in the introduction, I’m the Senior Director of Business Development here at Johnson Controls for Strategic Accounts. I started over a decade ago as a seller in our fire service business, and in 2016, I embarked on my leadership, sales leadership career here, and it has been nothing but an amazing, insightful, impactful journey. In 2020, I was asked to be the leader of Global Diversity Inclusion for Building Solutions, North America. I would like to say that part of my career changed my whole lens and outlook on business alone, and also just on people alone. I was very fortunate and blessed to have that role. Special shoutout for Johnson Controls for taking a risk on an atypical sales guy to help change the trajectory of the culture here at the organization.
And now I’m with Strategic Accounts, and I like to say that Business Development is the glue that holds sales together, and we’re having a great time, and we’re having… About a year ago, we were more like a startup, but now we got traction, and a cadence, and I like to say we do the invisible work, so to speak.
Jeff White: That’s beautiful.
Carman Pirie: I love this idea of… You know, here we are, we got the atypical sales guy, you say. But you know, we’re gonna bucket all sales guys into the same group, and they just… You know, they have a bit of a reputation of only caring about the money, only caring about the next sale.
Jay Suggs: All that. All of the above.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And you know, frankly, it’s a part of business that I love, but it’s not always people that think that way that are typically stepping back and taking a bit more of a holistic approach and leading an organization’s culture change around diversity and inclusion.
Jay Suggs: Right.
Carman Pirie: And I’m really curious to dig into how that’s changed your worldview of sales.
Jay Suggs: Oh, how much time do we have, gentlemen?
Carman Pirie: We have at least another 25 minutes.
Jay Suggs: All right, so let’s talk about myself as it relates to sales, right? You’re right. I was the atypical sales guy. I was driven by my ego. I loved the accolades. I loved the praise. I loved the glory. As they say, ego is a heck of a drug. That was me back in the day. But there was one pivotal time in my career I didn’t have a great year. I did everything that I’d always done before, but for some reason that year just wasn’t happening, right? It wasn’t coming together. And I blamed everybody, right? I blamed operations, resources. I blamed my boss at the time. It was everybody’s fault.
And then this is where I call it the shift. I started to look inward and ask myself some real hard questions, because here’s the misconception about leaving companies. If you don’t change your habits and behaviors, the only thing that changes when you leave a company is the name outside of the building. So, you have to do the inside work. So, I started doing the inside work, and I started to realize that sales is a service, which means we serve the betterment of the customers and the organizations, or products, or solutions you represent. It is a serving role. It is not based on you. It has nothing to do with you. So, I had to surrender all those thoughts, and behaviors, and become more of a servant sales professional. And that’s when my life changed.
Now, fast forward. Leading diversity. I’m going to say this on this episode because I think leaders need to understand this. And because the majority of your listeners are sellers, I think they could appreciate this. The more inclusive your team is, the better chances you have at attaining your goals. I’m gonna say it again. The more inclusive your team is, you have better chances at achieving your goal. Now, let me explain.
When I say inclusive and diverse, I’m not just talking about ethnicity, or what somebody identifies as. I’m talking about experiences, backgrounds, right? We are all governed by four factors: family, environment, community, and struggle in every sense of the word. Those four factors, no matter where you are on this planet, we could all relate to. Think about your team not as a team, but a community. A community evolves. It expands, right? The more insights, the more different variations of thoughts, and approaches, it just makes you stronger.
Carman Pirie: You know, it’s really hard for me to play devil’s advocate against a sentiment that I fundamentally agree with, but I’m gonna do my best a bit. I guess I wonder-
Jay Suggs: Do your best. You could do it. Do your best.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Well, my curiosity is… You know, it’s one thing to say, “Look, the more inclusive, the more variety of perspectives, and backgrounds, et cetera that we have bringing to bear to this challenge that we are collectively working on, the better off we are.” Do you also have to change how you work so that you ensure that your work is actually being accepting and collecting those various perspectives? Because if you don’t change how you’re working, you just change the people that are there, you just kind of sometimes steamrolling past those perspectives?
Jay Suggs: 100%. Think of it like this. I say this. I always say the era of the manager is long gone. This is the day of the leader and there’s a difference, right? Back in the day, a manager would stay in their corner office, and the mysterious, elusive corner office with the door closed, and there was like a detachment, right? The only time that you spoke to this sales leader was literally when it was about forecasting, or you were in trouble pretty much. There was no grey, right?
Jeff White: You didn’t hit the number.
Jay Suggs: Right. You didn’t hit the number. Well, these past years have taught us that we need leaders now. No one could account for what the pandemic was gonna do to us as a society. Social injustice, supply chain issues, right? You had to become the type of leader that asked your employee, “How are you doing?” Something as simple as that is directed in correlation to how business is going. You have to lead from empathy. You have to come from a place of kindness, which is not easy for everyone, right? But that’s when I say you gotta do the inside work.
More importantly, not everyone is cut from the same cloth. You gotta meet people where they’re at. Slowly and incrementally, that’s how you have that community mindset. It doesn’t happen overnight, right? Because you have to self-check yourself, right? Am I making the right decisions? Am I asking the right questions? And then as you broaden that message and convey it, people model the behavior the leader exhibits. People model the behavior of what the leader exhibits. That’s important, right? I can’t talk the talk and not walk the walk. I can’t say, “I’m coming from a place of empathy,” but I don’t even ask you how you’re doing.
Now, here’s something I want people to understand. Being an empathetic leader doesn’t mean you cure all problems. It’s just that you listen, and you come from a place and think about a perspective. Put yourself in the shoes of the individual that may be going through those challenges, right? I think that’s what’s important now in leadership is that you have to lead from a place where you have lens to understand that everybody got something going on in the background in their lives. It’s not just what they do for a living. Behind each title, behind each role, behind each responsibility there lies the person. You gotta connect with the person.
Now, in order to connect with the person, you gotta connect with yourself. It’s not gonna work if you’re not connecting with yourself because it’s not gonna seem authentic. People smell it a mile away, right? And what is our first reflex? I don’t trust this guy. Why is he asking me how I’m doing? Because they don’t believe you. They don’t feel it, right?
Carman Pirie: Jay, I’m wondering, in your work leading the diversity and inclusion initiative, I’m sure you worked with senior leaders that were maybe trying to live into this that maybe hadn’t done the inward look. How did you coach that?
Jay Suggs: You know, a leader asked me when I was leading D&I, they said, “Well, how do I start?” I was like, “First of all, having an inclusive culture is not hard work. It’s how you work.” And if you see that your team is not diverse enough in all those factors I mentioned, just change it. It just takes one step. And you know when you’re making the right choice? When you feel uncomfortable to the point where you’re like, “I don’t even know what I’m doing,” and you need to ask for guidance. But the fact that you know that you have to make a change is the first step.
And what I told them, I used to direct and guide leaders, is really about thinking of your team… Thinking of your team like the Super Friends. A multitude of superpowers that gets you there, right? You’ll have someone on your team who has tenure, and because of that tenure they just have this robust aptitude of knowledge. Then you’ll have someone on your team that’s just hungry. Their appetite is so big, and they just want to go after it. And then you’ll have someone on your team that’s very analytical, could look at the landscape and put all the pieces together in theory. So, I always say when you cultivate your team, think about building the Super Friends. Or you know what? Let me not say Super Friends, because I’m showing my age right now. How about The Avengers?
So, how about The Avengers? You’re trying to build The Avengers. Think about it. The Avengers, not all of them are the same. They all have their niche, right? So, that’s how you gotta look at it.
Jeff White: If people are from Halifax, they’ll think of Super Friends as a different thing. It was a local pop band of all the best stars from all the best bands.
Jay Suggs: That’s why I said Avengers. Everybody knows The Avengers.
Jeff White: A bunch of guys from Sloan. Nobody’ll know that joke except a couple of people in our office. But I think, Jay, one of the things that you were able to do through the D&I initiative at Johnson was to truly recognize how to build better teams and how to grow those, and I think one of the really cool things is that you were able to kind of do that and then get it in place as an internal way of thinking at Johnson, and then move onto something else so that this can continue to grow, and live, and be a thing. Can you talk a bit about how you sort of ramped that up and got it to the point where it was sort of an innate process within Johnson before you moved back into more of a sales management kind of role?
Jay Suggs: So, you know, we all know the acronym ABC, right? Glengarry Glen Ross. The iconic movie that says, “Always be closing.” I believe you always should be connecting. Always. So, when we started out as a team to change the trajectory of the culture here at Johnson Controls, we knew we needed allies. We needed allies and advocates with influence. Individuals that make decisions. Individuals that have a presence that can make decisions. And individuals who just had the authority to make things work. So, I always say when you’re thinking about building your community and you’re building your team, it’s almost like connecting.
One of my favorite parts about my job that I have now is that I’m always connecting. Either I’m connecting to recruit, to build my team, or connecting to build, strengthen partnerships, or I’m connecting to bring parties together that need to be together that can come up with something very beautiful. So, I would say this first step is to find your allies, find your advocates. It’s all about inspiring, influencing, and rallying. That is literally my blueprint when it comes to building an inclusive team. It’s really about connecting, inspiring, influencing, and rallying.
And when I say rallying, you have to have everyone excited and aligned about what you’re trying to achieve, and what you’re trying to identify, and why is there a need for it. You gotta get people excited about it. You gotta get people passionate about, “Hey, do you want to win? The best way to win is if you got a plethora of superpowers at your disposal, so let’s win.”
Carman Pirie: I wonder how this has intersected with those moments when a dismissal is required, when we have a team member that just isn’t gonna make it. Has this approach… Has your focus on being an empathetic leader changed how those moments happen?
Jay Suggs: Oh, absolutely. Let’s think about it like this. So, when someone has to be removed from your team, the first thing I do, and you’re gonna hear me say this word all the time, is look inward. Did I do everything in my power to exhaust the possibility for this individual to be successful? That’s the first question I ask myself. Because I’m only speaking to my beliefs as a leader. I’m not okay letting people go if I didn’t do my part, right? It’s not enough to say to an individual, “This is it. Figure it out.” No. No.
So, first you need to ask yourself. Did you do everything that you could do as a leader? Secondly, you have to come from a place of humanity, right? Whenever I’m in those positions of dismissal, the first thing I say is that this decision doesn’t define you. It does not define you. You will be okay. It’s gonna suck. It’s gonna sting. It’s gonna hurt. But you will be okay. And I think that’s important because we all need to know, despite the adversity that we face, or that we’re going through, we all can make it to the other side. So, my commitment as a leader, when I am in those challenging conversations, I let that individual know. Listen, this decision has been made, but listen, you’re still special. You’re still somebody. You still have gifts. There just wasn’t an alignment where you’re at now and where we’re at as a culture.
And that’s all right, because think about it like this. Professional athletes get traded all the time. Professional athletes ask for trades all the time. Professional athletes get cut all the time and then they find their way home, right? They find a place that better appreciates their talent. It doesn’t mean they didn’t like the coach. Doesn’t mean that they didn’t agree with the plays. Sometimes there’s just not an alignment.
To all the leaders out there, when you talk about the dismissal of individuals, come from a place of humanity. That’s what I believe. That’s what I prescribe to.
Jeff White: One of the things that really defines the idea of somebody who… You know, we talked a few moments ago about the power of ego, and-
Jay Suggs: It’s a heck of a drug, my friend.
Jeff White: It is that. It is that. But, I mean it’s possible to have ego with no self-esteem. In fact, I think-
Jay Suggs: Oh, yeah. Style, no substance. Absolutely.
Jeff White: Exactly. Exactly right. How do you work with your team members to help them build up that self-esteem?
Jay Suggs: Well, it goes back to what I said earlier. You gotta meet them where they’re at, right? And I always use this prime example. I have someone on my team who is literally crushing it. Crushing it, like I see his numbers and I’m like, “Oh.” I’m just bowing, right? But he does not like accolades. He does not like the recognition. He does not like when I praise him in front of the team saying he’s doing amazing, these are his numbers. And it took me a while to understand the way I want to receive praise is not the same way that somebody else wants to receive praise.
You know what he likes? He likes that private conversation one-on-one when I just say, “Hey, good stuff.” “Just doing my job, Jay.” That’s what he says to me. “Just doing my job, and I want to take care of my kids, and my grandkids.” That’s what matters to him. So, it goes back to saying you gotta meet people where they’re at, right? Not everyone likes it.
Now, back in my sales day, give me all the glory. Give me all the praise, right? But-
Jeff White: Do you have a crown?
Jay Suggs: Yeah. Chalice. Something, right? Just let me know I’m king, right? But no, as I think about my leadership career, I realize that everyone receives information and recognition differently. So, you really gotta get into understanding that person. Now, I know some leaders may say, “I don’t have time for that.” Well, you do have time to ask them to produce results, so you can take the time to understand who the people are that are producing those results. Think about it. Take the time. It’s a conversation. It’s a courageous conversation nevertheless, but it’s still a conversation.
The more you understand your people, the more you have a pulse on results. You know what’s interesting? It’s like we’ve all been around colleagues, right? They’re nervous about the numbers. They don’t know what to do. They’re stressing out, right? For what? You have no control. You never did. You don’t do the work. You gotta surrender to that.
When I was a first-year sales, I’d drive myself crazy over the numbers. Oh, we gotta hit it. We gotta hit it. Come on, come on, come on. What was I doing? I’m not the seller. I’m not negotiating. I’m not working on terms and conditions. I’m not doing the follow up, right? So, as leaders we need to realize we need our people more than they need us. You have to surrender. Give up control. Your job as a leader, you’re a conflict resolution specialist. That’s your job. Your job is to alleviate obstacles so your team can do what they do best. Hovering, and harboring, and micromanaging, what is that gonna do? Cause all this anxiety and stress. And then that is the smokescreen where you can’t see clearly and don’t have clarity. Think about it.
Carman Pirie: But Jay, wouldn’t it just be easier if they did it your way?
Jay Suggs: No, no. No, listen. I want to be clear. The guy you see now wasn’t the guy years ago, right? It took me time to understand that. I remember sitting in my office just stressing over the numbers, and let’s say we were… I don’t know. 10% away from the quota. And I’m sitting there, and I’m like I’m sitting at this desk, and what am I… There’s no needle that I’m moving. But you know what I could do? I could call each seller and tell them I appreciate them. Tell them that I’m proud of where they’re at. Ask them if there’s anything that they need to get them closer to the goal. And by the way, I can inspire them, and rally them, and convince them that no matter what, they can do it, and we can Braveheart it out. Now, listen. In Braveheart, they all die. But keep in mind, they thought they were gonna win that battle though, right? They thought they were gonna win.
So, we Braveheart it out, right? And that’s what I mean by surrendering. Asking yourself where could you go. The pockets and gaps of where you can help your team.
Jeff White: Maybe a better analogy next time. Maybe another movie that-
Jay Suggs: Maybe something about that Braveheart scene, though, and then I cut it off because I know what’s gonna happen. But the energy behind it, they thought they could win, right? Because that’s what you are as a leader. You have to influence. It’s not enough to push metrics and leverage. You have to influence. You gotta give these people something to believe in. And I’m not saying it’s you. It’s the idea of what we can do together. That’s the idea. It’s not about me, but you have to give people something to hold onto. People want to be a part of something larger than themselves, so give them that idea. Together, collectively, we can do anything. Anything. But we have to be transparent, and we have to have that trust, and we have to communicate.
Carman Pirie: When you’re dealing with… You’re talking to a corporate leader about how taking this approach is important. It’s the only thing that actually can impact long-term results in a meaningful, positive way.
Jay Suggs: Right.
Carman Pirie: What happens when they say, “You know what? But Jay, I’m not like you. Man, I don’t talk like that. I don’t think that way. I’m not particularly charismatic. I know the job. I know what they’re supposed to do. I’m technically competent. But I can’t be you.”
Jay Suggs: I get that all the time. I always say speak from your heart. Listen, we’re all not designed like each other. We don’t have each other’s je ne sais quoi. We all have our own different uniqueness, right? But I can guarantee you this. If you speak from your heart, no matter if you’re a monotone speaker, no matter if you’re animated or loud, no matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert, if you speak from your heart, people will feel it. People will feel it. People will close on your energy before they close on any contract. Just speak from the heart, right?
It’s nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I’m not really good with the rah-rah, and being all amped up. That’s just not really about my personality. But I do want you to know that I care about each and every one of you in this room.” That’s sincere. Speak from the heart. Another way to speak from the heart. If something sucks, I say it sucks. One thing I think leaders are challenged with is not addressing the elephant in the room and calling it a flamingo. No, it’s a damn elephant. You gotta address it, right? You have to address it. But like I said before, that doesn’t mean you could cure all things, right?
I mean, I come from a place where I say, “Listen, I don’t know the answer to that, and I don’t know why that happened, but let me try to figure out what’s going on.” I don’t know if I can give you a guarantee, but what I can tell you is I’m going to navigate as much as I can to get to some type of understanding of why that decision was made. You just gotta be transparent.
Carman Pirie: I think that is a big barrier, I think, that people have. They almost think the second they acknowledge that something sucks, well, then it’s kind of on them to fix it. Like if you’re the boss, and you’re saying this sucks, well, then where’s the solve?
Jay Suggs: Right.
Carman Pirie: And yeah, you gotta be comfortable with the fact that you’re not gonna have the solve every time.
Jay Suggs: I think what I notice to be true is that it is probably insulting when you don’t address the elephant. It’s insulting. To everyone. Even to yourself. You know, I’ve been in meetings where it’s like, “Okay, we’re just gonna keep not… That elephant’s big. It’s running out of seats. This is a big elephant.” But I think you gotta address things head on. You also have to talk collectively as a team. I always give my teams, all the teams I’ve ever led, an opportunity to vent. Not complain. Vent. There’s a difference. Venting to me is like a natural reflex. You vent, you get it off your chest, and then you move on to the next solution. When you complain, you get stuck, and when you’re stuck, you dwell, and when you dwell, you’re no longer creative to be resourceful to figure out solutions. But you can vent. I have no problem with that.
In fact, if you want to vent, and you want to say some things after 5:00 that might be a little colorful, that’s fine. But let’s get it off your chest so you can move forward.
Carman Pirie: Jay, as we wrap up today’s show, I wonder if you think back to advice that you’ve had to give leaders along the way, I’m curious. What do you think was the most counterintuitive piece of advice you’ve ever delivered?
Jay Suggs: Surrender. You have to surrender. There are a lot of external-internal challenges that affect the way you and your team does business. And it’s not for you to solve. There are variables you just cannot control. You have to surrender to the fact that you can’t control everything. But the one thing you can control is how you convey the messaging to your team. Period. If it’s bad news, if it’s good news, if it’s ugly news, you are the facilitator. You are that broker of hope. All day. Just surrender and realize you’re not in control of those variables, but you’re in control of the messaging and how you convey it to the team.
I call leaders brokers of hope. That’s what we are. Just like we broker deals, we broker hope. We gotta give individuals in the belief not that everything’s always okay, and it’s rainbows, and unicorns, and daisies. No, in the belief no matter how challenging things may come our way, together and collectively as a team we will figure it out. So, surrender to the fact that you can’t control everything, but the one thing you can control is how you filter, convey, and facilitate the messaging to your team so they can keep pushing on.
Carman Pirie: Love that. And I want to just poke at it a bit because you’re not saying-
Jeff White: Give up.
Carman Pirie: Well, but you’re also not saying keep the reality away from them.
Jay Suggs: Oh, absolutely not. No. Not at all. Not at all. No. I’m saying things are gonna suck. There are gonna be things that are out of your control. There are gonna be internal challenges you just cannot fix and there are gonna be external distractions you can’t avoid. But it’s how you convey that messaging to your team.
I’ve seen leaders do a couple of things. Bad news comes, they don’t touch it. They don’t touch it. The employees are sending emails. They’re not responding, right? Then I’ve seen another way. Because you’re trying to control so much, you start making guarantees that are just not even acceptable. It’s like why are you even saying that, because you have no control of that. And then there’s in my theory the ideal way. Take the information, figure out how to facilitate it, think about how to filter it, and convey it in a message. No matter what kind of news I convey to my team, the message is always the same after I say it even if it’s bad news. We’re gonna figure this out together. Always. It can be some horrible news, but we’re gonna figure this out together.
Jeff White: I think that’s excellent advice and not just for sales teams. You know, it applies everywhere. It’s beautiful.
Jay Suggs: Oh, no. No. Listen, even personally, right? You think about these past four or five years with the pandemic, and all the information that we were receiving about people we knew, family members, loved ones, and how that messaging was conveyed. You had to come from a place of… You just had to operate at a higher level of emotional intelligence. You gotta read the room. You gotta read the room.
My grandmother always says to me, “JJ, you’re always on someone else’s stage. Always.” Now, growing up, I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about, but as I became older I was like, “She’s right.” There’s always an audience that you have to be privy to, right? I think more now than ever, if leaders are not prescribing to getting better with their EQ, emotional intelligence, they will not make it. And emotional intelligence is not just saying, “Oh, I know you’re hurt. I know you feel sad.” No, it’s understanding situational scenarios and how to place yourself with which you’re good at so you can help that individual or those members get through whatever it is you’re trying to get through. Whether it may be a challenge, a scenario, externally or internally, you just have to… I tell leaders to listen more now as far as talking. Just listen. Assess. Regroup, reset, recharge. That’s it.
Carman Pirie: Jay, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It’s just fantastic.
Jay Suggs: Gentlemen, this has been fun. Thank you.
Jeff White: Thanks a lot, Jay.

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Jay Suggs Headshot


Jay Suggs

Senior Director of Business Development, Strategic Accounts at Johnson Controls

Jermaine “Jay” Suggs’ personal mantra for life is “be relentless in all that you do, and you will always increase your odds to win!” His humble beginnings in Newark, NJ, and his rise within the Johnson Controls Fortune 100 company provide a true example that you can dare to dream big and conquer your goals. His current role as Senior Director of Business Development Strategic Accounts includes leading the team that develops and establishes new business relationships with prospective customers in key Fortune 500 companies and other national account targets throughout North America.
Jay is a fantastic speaker as his skills include motivating and coaching groups into action. Jay’s expertise is leading and cultivating inclusive team development, coaching, and strategic planning. He has extensive experience developing and implementing creative DEI strategies for leadership accountability and employee engagement.
Jay recently served as the Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Building Solutions North America and Business Resource Groups under Johnson Controls. In his D&I role, Jay worked in partnership with the Corporate Diversity & Inclusion team to build and deploy enterprise D&I initiatives within the organization, such as unconscious bias training, talent acquisition, and career development programs for a global team of 100,000 experts in more than 150 countries and over 135 years of innovation. His impact in this role was worldwide.
Throughout his career, Jay has earned the highest honor within his organization, the 2020/2021 Chairman award, for his work within the inner-city Newark, NJ community. Outside his career, Jay serves as a Board of Trustees member for Children Aid and Family Services. A leading non-profit human services organization in service for over 120 years. He is a mentor for WOMEN Unlimited. This organization provides long-term development programs for high-potential women by integrating the three pillars of leadership: mentoring, education, and networking. He previously also served as a member of the Newark Regional Business Partnership, among other community service organizations.
He has been featured on Hack the Interview on DEI and Navigating your Career, hosted by Adrienne and Loreen Dinkelacker, who recruit for tech companies. Jay also spoke on #reimaginedtogether on How to create space for hard conversations with Carley Marcelle. Her mission is to empower brand leaders to navigate disruption and serve humanity to bring about a better tomorrow.
Jay’s common thread has included a progressive experience building robust, lasting partnerships that uplift companies and communities through all his endeavors.

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About Kula

Kula Partners is an agency that specializes in maximizing revenue potential for B2B manufacturers.

Our clients sell within complex, technical environments and we help them take a more targeted, account-focused approach to drive revenue growth within niche markets.


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