This story is a part of our “A Day in the Life'' series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. This article celebrates one of our 2020 No Back Row Award winners—an employee recognized for embracing one of 2U’s nine Guiding Principles. Jánay Davis was one of two 2Utes selected as the winners of the Strive For Excellence award.
If Jánay Davis’s career had a throughline, it would probably be a question: “How can we be better?”
Before coming to 2U, Jánay was a senior manager of operations support for TEKsystems, where she ensured compliance in meeting strategic business goals and objectives that supported the operational efficiencies of the company’s wage and hour program. Jánay spent the majority of her time learning about the program’s different processes—how each one worked, what drove the functionality, and most importantly, where there was room for improvement.
Jánay’s current role at 2U falls along the same lines. She began with 2U in June 2019 as the operations manager for our academic partner Syracuse University, supporting its iSchool and Master of Science in Applied Data Science programs. Following maternity leave and various department restructurings, Jánay is now an operations manager on the Program Data and Reporting (PDR) team. Her work ranges from data analysis to project management to—you guessed it—process improvement.
Read on to learn more about Jánay’s daily life at 2U, what she’s most proud of, and what famous quote inspires her to keep striving for excellence.
The first official Davis family photo with all four members
Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?
I was initially attracted to 2U because of the culture. I was at a point in my life where I was searching for a place I could just show up and be my authentic self, without having to change or sacrifice who I am. All of the company's Guiding Principles really resonated with me, and I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. The mission also spoke to me. My ultimate goal in life is to be purposeful about my actions to try to make this world a better place for the next generation. I truly believe 2U aligns perfectly with that. I knew that whatever I worked on, students would fundamentally reap the benefit of my contributions in the end. And that is certainly worthy of my time and energy!
How would you describe your role as an operations manager at 2U?
At 2U, I am not restricted to working on a particular program and have the privilege of interacting with different stakeholders across the business. My current PDR team supports the development of business insights, creates and analyzes reports, and maintains the integrity of our data-driven business processes. Every day I work on improving our existing processes and tweaking our newly created ones. To me, the most exciting part is being able to create new processes from scratch!
Part of my role also includes analyzing data and creating a narrative for our stakeholders to better understand their programs. My team and I collaborate with each other and with others across the business to identify gaps and figure out the “why” or “how” behind issues that may arise. Working in a team environment and pushing along major initiatives is something I really enjoy.
Jánay exploring the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá near Cancún, Mexico, March 2016
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is that I love what I do! My fulfillment comes from being able to help and support others. Whether that’s directly through a program director requesting support, or indirectly through providing the tools and reporting necessary to ensure program efficiencies, it ultimately helps the student experience.
My team is still fairly new—it’s only about a year old—so right now the most challenging part is having to learn through our experiences. Particularly, it’s challenging because when we think we have thought of/through everything, there’s always more. So back to the drawing board we go!
Out of everything you’ve done at 2U so far, what gives you the most pride?
This award! After that, I would have to say my contribution to my teams’ first big initiative. I played a critical part in our 2020 team project for Q2 when PDR became the sole custodians of the “term objects” in Salesforce, which are instrumental in maintaining and recording key dates for all of our university partner programs. This project was a huge undertaking, and I am so proud of myself and my team for all of the thoughtfulness, hard work, and effort we put into streamlining a process that was historically bounced around from team to team.
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Each of 2U’s 2020 No Back Row Award winners were recognized for their commitment to one of the company’s nine Guiding Principles. What does this honor mean to you?
I am incredibly grateful and humbled that my colleagues nominated me. I am even more ecstatic that I won! This award holds so much significance to me, and I will forever hold it close to my heart because it’s incredibly fitting. I work hard every day to deliver products to stakeholders because I want to, not because it’s my job and I have to. (Well, of course I have to hehe.)
What I’m trying to say is that I am passionate about my work and honestly never give a second thought to “striving for excellence,” simply because the bar I set for myself is already so high. I’ve always been my biggest critic, so going above and beyond seems almost natural for me at times. Being recognized and appreciated for this guiding principle encourages me to work even harder to continue to produce top-notch products for stakeholders.
Expecting baby number three this fall!
In your own words, how would you describe the guiding principle you epitomize: Strive for Excellence?
To me, striving for excellence means going above and beyond and always being on the lookout to make “it” better. “It” could be the projects you work on, the people you work with… or yourself. I view excellence as a journey, not a destination: There are multiple stops along the way, and it’s never ending. There is always room for improvement—to be wiser, work smarter (not harder), share knowledge with others, and lift others up.
The famous historian and philosopher Will Durant once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” So I’ve made excellence one of my habits.
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