Andrea “Andi” Jennings, President and CEO of Lucas Group was the recipient of the 2016 Top Female Executive Awards. The awards recognize female executives who are prominent in their fields and role models in their communities.
We got the chance to catch up with Andi and talk a little bit more about her life growing up in Saint Croix, working for Lucas Group and what makes her strive for excellence.
Andi grew up in Saint Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her family moved there until she was about age 14, when she moved back to the States to Richfield, Connecticut. There she finished high school, attended the University of Connecticut and ended up moving to Atlanta. She has been married for 18 years, though she shared that when she got promoted to CEO her husband ended up reporting to her. But she laughed a little bit about it, saying, “We’ve made it work; we kid around that I’m probably harder on him than any other of my 400 employees.” Her husband, an Air Force Academy graduate, runs the company’s military transition division, which is actually the division that Lucas Group was founded on.
As we began to talk about her career at Lucas Group, I couldn’t help but think of just what a remarkable story it is. “I joined Lucas Group about 40 years ago,” explained Jennings. “I’ve been with the company my entire career. I was still in college. I had not completed college when I moved to Atlanta, and so I was still in school when I started with Lucas Group.” She joined the company by answering an ad in the newspaper for a personal assistant to the CEO. Eventually, she found herself becoming the first female recruiter in the sales and marketing group. At the age of 21, she became a member of the President’s Club and a year later became a General Manager. She was the youngest person in the company’s history to be made a managing partner.
She was named the company’s CEO in 2009, and she’s helped create a culture in the company that cares about people and realizes the impact that they can have in helping someone achieve their goals and have a better life. But is this the career she dreamed about as a kid? You’d be surprised to know that when she was a little girl she actually wanted to be a doctor, but like many of us, the mere sight of blood makes her queasy.
“I can’t see blood,” Jennings joked. “Just the sight of blood makes me faint. I don’t know how I ever thought I could be a doctor. Joining the Lucas Group was a total accident; I had no experience in the field but I’ve always had a heart for people, and that is what drove me to learn this industry and stay in it.”
I asked Andi what she does to help relieve the stress of work. She chuckled, “You’re going to laugh but I work out every day. I’m usually in the office by 7am, and after my day is done and when I’m in town I like to work out after work, either by myself or with a trainer. That is really my stress release and my way of clearing my head after a long day.”
We talked a little more about Saint Croix and what the island has meant to her, and she mentioned how she’s fallen in love with Jamaica. “It’s the people,” said Jennigns. “It’s the people who are kind and they really need tourism to survive, and I feel good about spending my hard-earned money in a country where there is such a need for help.” As she talked about her love for Jamaica, I began to see that her love for people and the culture that she’s helped create at Lucas Group is not just a business model but also something that she practices outside of work.
As we continued to talk about her after-work routine, she mentioned Kenny’s Italian Kitchen and the relationships she’s developed at the restaurant, from the valet people to Chef Kenny Bowers. “On top of my love of working out, one of the things that I treat myself to on a fairly regular basis is [that] I stop at Kenny’s Italian Kitchen and I have a glass of champagne after my workout on the way home.” While she’s not a foodie, she does enjoy cooking and does so on a regular basis. She says her guilty pleasure is her glass of champagne or chardonnay at Kenny’s, but she cooks for herself and her husband as much as she can when she’s at home.
One of my favorite parts of our interview was listening to her talk about the importance of treating everyone with respect and not treating people differently because of their status, the job they may have or where they come from, but rather knowing that people are people and their feelings are important. That, I believe, perfectly sums up Jennings–a person that truly cares about others and practices it in the boardroom, on vacation or out at her favorite restaurant.
As we wrapped up our interview, I asked Jennings to share some last words for our readers and perhaps those who are in a career transition. “No matter what occupation you choose, you have to own the moment. Be the very best you can be every single day whether it’s working out, at work or at home, it’s important that you stay in the moment. It’s important to understand that every time you interact with someone that is your personal brand, and that brand is your legacy.”