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Alumnus Encourages, ‘Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Lean into Fear’
John Jacko ’88 MBA has taken on new roles and increased leadership responsibilities throughout his distinguished career. He recently spoke to the University community virtually to share what he has learned and to inspire students to grow as leaders.
April 1, 2021
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
After John Jacko ’88 MBA began his career at Textron Lycoming, a gas turbine engine company, as a structural engineer, he was asked to take a side assignment in customer care. He accepted, and he enjoyed the opportunities it gave him to connect with customers. The experience ultimately changed the trajectory of his career.
Now executive vice president and chief growth officer for Pentair, a company with a focus on sustainability that helps customers move, improve, and enjoy water, Jacko recently visited his alma mater virtually to discuss his approach to his work. He told students about the lessons he has learned, which he calls “personal leadership experiences.”
“Don’t be afraid to fail,” he said. “Step out of your comfort zone and lean into fear. Taking risks and trying new things is so important. I tell my kids this all the time, and you’ll be amazed by what this mentality will do for your career.”
‘‘It’s important to encourage others to speak up and speak out’’
Jacko spoke to the University community as part of the Pompea College of Business’s Success and Leadership Series. He urged students to keep an open mind and embrace new opportunities, since those, like his side assignment in customer care, can be important learning experiences.
A devoted father and uncle, Jacko says he is passionate about mentoring the leaders of the future. He has learned the importance of having mentors in his own career, and he started the Millennial Council at Pentair to foster mentorship opportunities at the company – which he says he also learns from. He encouraged students to seek out their own mentors and to serve as mentors for younger students.
Stressing the importance of teamwork, Jacko compared the workplace to team sports, explaining the importance of working together and supporting each other.
“I’m a big believer in respecting the team,” he said. “Let everyone go out there and execute their responsibilities. Respect their roles on the team.”
Prior to joining Pentair in 2017, Jacko served as vice president and chief marketing officer of Kennametal, a tooling and industrial materials supplier. He concluded his virtual visit discussing what he has learned about leadership during his distinguished career, which has brought him across the country.
“It’s important to encourage others to speak up and speak out,” he said. “As leaders, we sometimes have to give people space to disagree. Lean into it. Encourage them to share how they see things differently.”