Jennie Kerr: Empowering Growth Through Kind Leadership

In a world driven by competition and ambition, the concept of leadership has evolved significantly. Traditional notions of leadership centered around authority and command are giving way to a more inclusive and compassionate approach known as “Kind Leadership.” Kind leadership isn’t about weakness or leniency; rather, it’s about fostering growth, collaboration, and empathy within teams.

 In this realm of human resources, a new era of leadership is being defined by individuals like Jennie Kerr, a visionary and compassionate Chief People Officer who is spearheading change at Comtech Telecommunications Corp. With her decades-spanning career that spans diverse industries, Jennie’s influence on HR practices has left an indelible mark on organizations and the lives of their employees.

Jennie Kerr’s leadership style is a blend of kindness, empathy, approachability, and passion for nurturing individuals and their professional growth within the corporate ecosystem. Armed with a career traversing industries as varied as health, education, manufacturing, warehousing, and hospitality, she has accumulated a wealth of knowledge that fuels her current role as the Chief People Officer at Comtech.

Stepping into her role at Comtech in December 2021, Jennie quickly forged collaborative partnerships with the executive leadership team, becoming the linchpin in providing actionable recommendations and executing people-centric strategies. From identifying and retaining pivotal talent to nurturing engagement opportunities, Jennie’s influence permeates the very fabric of Comtech’s culture. Her ultimate commitment? To ensure that Comtech remains a place where employees eagerly step into work every single day.

Jennie’s leadership extends to nurturing the entire Human Resources team, aptly referred to as People Operations at Comtech. This extends to building meaningful relationships with employees, recognizing key partners, and deploying resources that uplift the organization’s workforce. Her distinct approach, rooted in kindness, creates an environment where every team member and employee feels not just supported but genuinely valued.

“Kindness possesses transformative power, particularly during those challenging conversations and tests that HR teams face routinely,” Jennie asserts. As she points out, the undercurrents of colleagues’ stressors aren’t always apparent, making kindness a potent agent of lasting impact.

With Jennie Kerr at the helm, Comtech Telecommunications Corp. stands not only as a technological beacon but as an embodiment of the transformative potential of kind leadership in HR. Jennie’s journey exemplifies the path to creating a corporate landscape that thrives on empathy, growth, and the boundless potential of its people.

 Below are the highlights of the interview:

From an Unforeseen Path to HR Leadership

Jennie stands as an exceptional and motivational figure in the HR sector today. However, her journey into this realm was far from what she had envisioned during her younger days. The world of HR wasn’t even on her radar until her college years.

Jennie’s foray into HR was catalyzed by her involvement in a peer education group during her college days. This experience ignited her passion for aiding both organizations and individuals, eventually leading her to the field of human resources. Her college years saw her actively engaging with campus organizations, creating a robust network within the university’s student body, professors, and various groups. One particular involvement was with Outriggers, a group dedicated to enhancing organizational balance and effectiveness. Jennie elaborates, “Outriggers tailor their programs to meet the specific needs of organizations that seek their assistance.”

It was during her time with Outriggers that Jennie unearthed her profound drive for assisting organizations in navigating challenges. She also recognized her innate zeal for setting and achieving goals by formulating actionable plans, providing guidance, equipping organizations with tools, and offering resources to guide organizations on their path. The realization dawned swiftly—she had found her calling.

Recognizing her innate affinity for aiding organizations and individuals, one of her advisors suggested that Jennie explore the world of HR. “Following this advice, I shifted my academic focus to HR Development and embarked on a career aligned with my newfound passion,” Jennie reminisces.

Path to Empowering Leadership

 In the intricate terrain of the corporate world, challenges often emerge as steadfast companions. For Jennie Kerr, these hurdles were not adversaries to be avoided; rather, they were stepping stones that added depth and vibrancy to her professional journey. The concept of an obstacle-free career held no allure for her, for she recognized that sameness breeds monotony. Embracing challenges, she believes, ushers in opportunities for introspection, harnessing emotional intelligence and tapping into the rich tapestry of resources within one’s environment.

In the dynamic realm of HR, Jennie encountered one of her first significant challenges: working under a poor leader. In the initial stages of her post-college career, she found herself reporting to a boss who spent the bulk of the day shopping online, claimed credit for her contributions, and engaged in office gossip. It was a trying phase for Jennie, but she refused to allow the negativity of the experience to define her.

Rather than succumbing to frustration and resentment, Jennie chose to extract valuable lessons from the ordeal. “I was learning about the traits of an ineffective leader, the sanctity of employee confidentiality, and the importance of acknowledging the contributions of team members,” she reflects. With a forward-looking perspective, she often thought, “When I’m in a leadership position within an HR team, I will not tread this path.”

The actions of that bad leader left an indelible imprint on Jennie’s consciousness. As she ascended the ranks into management, she endeavored to foster a leadership style that embraced mentorship, propelled vision, nurtured professional growth and provided constructive feedback. “I swiftly realized that the most meaningful validation lay in my team’s commitment to this style of leadership. Watching internal promotions and observing team members flourish in confidence, professionalism, and personal achievements became my true reward,” Jennie articulates.

Jennie also underscores the pivotal role challenges play in self-discovery and organizational learning. “Our inherent drive to learn accompanies us from birth, and preserving that drive throughout life is paramount,” she asserts. Challenges, she emphasizes, ebb and flow through our journey, but our approach to tackling them must remain unwavering and appropriate.

Shaping the HR Landscape

The trajectory of the HR industry over the past few decades has been nothing short of remarkable, a transformation that Jennie Kerr enthusiastically embraces as part of her professional journey.

Stepping into the industry years ago, Jennie vividly recalls an era where employees donned formal suits, the workday was confined to a strict 5 p.m. cutoff, and HR often carried the “Police” label. Today, the landscape has shifted dramatically, with Human Resources now often referred to as “People Operations.” Jennie highlights the evolution in attire: HR professionals now opt for comfortable yet professional ensembles, and their role has shifted from enforcers to partners, seamlessly connected in a digital age.

At the heart of Jennie’s HR philosophy lies the “People First” ethos. Though not always the simplest route, she has consistently woven this approach into her work across various organizations. The crux of “People first” is placing the employee experience on a pedestal, entailing active listening to talent, soliciting genuine feedback, nurturing internal growth, and, most importantly, treating employees like cherished family members.

However, championing the employee experience isn’t without its challenges, especially during unprecedented events such as the pandemic. For instance, HR teams were suddenly thrust into crafting new priorities: facilitating remote work, formulating return-to-work policies, managing absences, and staying abreast of state regulations. They grappled with the delicate balance of addressing emotional and physical needs, from fostering connection amidst isolation to procuring protective gear like masks and hand sanitizers.

Jennie marvels at the unity HR professionals displayed during the pandemic, jointly forging new norms, crafting policies, and offering unwavering support. This period became a crucible for growth, both professionally and personally. Lessons learned during this tumultuous transition extended to supporting leaders throughout the organization and adapting to an unprecedented virtual world.

The upheaval spurred the realization that transparent and constant communication was vital, while the traditional onboarding process had to be reimagined for the remote realm. Virtual lunch-and-learns, virtual team-building activities, and innovative icebreakers became instrumental in fostering connectivity. However, the newfound connectivity also ushered in challenges of its own, blurring the boundaries between work and personal life.

Jennie notes, “Our journey towards heightened connection sometimes led to extended work hours and the loss of clear separation between home and work. In response, we introduced robust wellness plans, aiming to strike a harmonious work-life balance for employees.”

Navigating Transformations

Jennie started her career in Human resources in 1999 as an HR management trainee. During that time, she reflects on how offices had Rolodexes on desks, meetings were held in conference rooms, and leave requests involved using multiple carbon copy forms. Photocopies were a way to share files and documents.

Fast-forward to today and Jennie is amazed by the constant changes brought about by technology and connectivity. She points out one significant shift: how organizations swiftly adapted to remote and hybrid work setups during the pandemic. HR professionals faced the challenge of guiding remote teams, measuring productivity, and keeping employees engaged even when working apart.

To handle the remote work scenario, modern technology proved invaluable. It allowed for quick sharing of resources and efficient communication through video conferences. Jennie highlights the importance of Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) in this transformation. These systems automate many processes, reducing paperwork and giving HR professionals more time to plan and implement strategies. With advanced technology, they can now offer training in different languages, use advanced learning systems, and provide instant feedback on performance.

While these new technologies make managing, coaching, connecting, and training employees faster and more effective, Jennie emphasizes the need to balance them with a personal and human touch. She acknowledges that achieving this balance is a significant challenge.

As discussions about the impact of AI on the future of work arise, Jennie confidently states that AI won’t replace the complex role of HR professionals. Understanding, interpreting, and predicting human behavior—central aspects of HR—are areas where AI falls short. “AI might enhance what we do, but the essence of HR’s human-centered approach will always be irreplaceable,” she asserts.

Leading Transformation and Innovation 

At its core, Comtech is a technology powerhouse. With a history spanning over 50 years, the company has been delivering cutting-edge satellite, space, terrestrial, and wireless technologies to commercial and government clients. These innovations open new doors for business opportunities and empower users worldwide on a massive scale.

The mission that drives Comtech’s workforce is formidable: to tackle the most challenging technology and networking issues globally. Their aim is to make smart-enabled connectivity accessible to all, provide valuable insights to their diverse clientele, and contribute to a genuinely connected planet.

Embracing a distinctive culture of innovation, both Comtech as a company and its employees are pushing boundaries to reshape technology landscapes. This effort doesn’t just impact industries; it enhances the quality of life for communities around the world.

Jennie acknowledges, “As a public technology company, our employees are inherently passionate about innovation in our workplace.” She emphasizes their dedication to attracting and retaining top talents in the industry. These individuals bring their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and expertise to deliver tailored solutions that address customers’ current needs while anticipating their future requirements.

Over the last year, Comtech underwent a significant transformation, transitioning from a collection of 14 separate business units into a unified entity with two distinct segments. This endeavor involved the alignment of processes and procedures, introducing a fresh vision, streamlining systems, and optimizing resource utilization. Jennie highlights the significance of communication throughout this transformative period, recognizing it as a key element.

Jennie’s partnership with Comtech CEO Ken Peterman takes her on regular journeys to each company site. This approach offers them valuable insights from their workforce, allowing them to grasp their needs better and strengthen a company culture founded on empowerment and core values. “These visits not only enhance communication but also underscore our leaders’ genuine concern for our employees. It showcases our commitment to listen and respond to their needs,” Jennie affirms.

Embracing Convergence

Jennie recognizes that the realm of global communications infrastructure stands on the brink of an unprecedented shift. She anticipates that the convergence of space, satellite, terrestrial, and wireless technologies is poised to revolutionize technology landscapes on a worldwide scale.

In her words, “This convergence opens the door to a nearly endless number of applications and services that can deliver smart-enabled connectivity and insightful technologies, which will transform industries and enhance the standard of living for global communities.”

Comtech has already positioned itself at the forefront of this convergence by offering technologies and services that facilitate the fusion of terrestrial and satellite network infrastructures. However, Jennie emphasizes that the company’s approach is not focused solely on terrestrial or satellite services. Instead, it’s about harnessing the power of both in harmony. The goal is to ensure seamless connectivity and provide customers with innovative services and technologies that were previously unimaginable.

Comtech’s commitment to technological integration underscores its dedication to ushering in a new era of communication possibilities. By embracing convergence, the company is paving the way for unprecedented advancements that will reshape industries, enrich lives, and contribute to a truly interconnected global landscape.

Celebrating Success and Fostering Team Unity

For Jennie, the exhilaration of achieving goals and conquering challenges fuels her motivation. She finds immense satisfaction in celebrating every success, no matter how big or small. “Each accomplishment is a testament to our efforts, and I make it a point to revel in those moments,” Jennie shares.

Surrounded by a leadership team that resonates with her motivation, Jennie extends this celebratory spirit to her own team, urging them to embrace the same approach. To her, fostering motivation involves more than individual triumphs; it’s about creating a collective environment that thrives on shared victories.

Jennie firmly believes that a thriving team is built on connections and alignment across every level. In her pursuit to motivate and encourage her team, she champions open and transparent communication. This foundation of trust allows for a sense of unity and shared purpose to flourish.

Central to Jennie’s aspirations is her unwavering commitment to shaping Comtech into an exceptional workplace—a space where employees are not only engaged but also feel a sense of belonging and purpose. “We’re a united force working toward common goals,” Jennie emphasizes.

Her drive to cultivate a workplace where achievements are celebrated, challenges are met head-on, and a shared sense of purpose unites every member underscores Jennie’s role in nurturing a motivated and empowered team at Comtech.

Embracing Passion and Defining Achievements

Jennie, a seasoned HR professional, imparts a valuable lesson to those aspiring to follow in her footsteps: discovering what one doesn’t enjoy is as crucial as uncovering one’s passions. In her advice to fellow HR professionals and aspiring leaders, she emphasizes the importance of saying “yes” to new opportunities, embracing challenges, and fostering a relentless determination to learn and find one’s true passion. To Jennie, a leader’s success is deeply intertwined with their passion—a passionate leader is a successful one.

Jennie’s journey stands as a testament to the power of passion. However, she reframes success beyond titles and monetary gains. For her, success is a tapestry woven from a range of emotions and holds personal significance across various facets of life.

In her career, Jennie defines success as a blend of happiness, pride, resilience, and support, all anchored in a clear sense of purpose. She highlights the intricate balance of these emotions, underscoring that the absence of one can dilute the feeling of success. A harmonious convergence of professional contentment and personal support shapes her perception of success, where both elements are indispensable.

Jennie acknowledges that this amalgamation of emotions evolves over time, adapting to the different stages of one’s career and life. This dynamic interplay underscores the malleable nature of success and its profound connection to individual growth.

As Chief People Officer of Comtech Telecommunications Corp., Jennie embodies the ethos of embracing passion, innovation, and empowerment. Committed to revolutionizing global technology landscapes, Comtech’s culture fosters relentless dedication to customer success. With a global footprint and a legacy of innovation, Comtech continues to pioneer groundbreaking communication solutions. For more information, visit