IrishCompass Recruiter Profile: Chris Jackson ’02
Chris Jackson ’02 graduated from Notre Dame with degrees in accounting and computer applications. He is currently CFO of Jackson Consulting and Christian Brothers High School.
Can you provide a brief overview of your background at Notre Dame and how that led you to your current role?
I came into Notre Dame doing a double major in preprofessional studies and political science. I grew up on the south side of Chicago and was the first person in my family to go to college. It was a lifelong dream to go to Notre Dame. I focused on accounting because I felt like I could still use other business fields. I then added a second major in computer applications to add a technological edge to what I was doing. I interned at Deloitte after my junior year, then took a full-time job and spent a few years in consulting that blended my accounting and tech background. Then I moved to McDonald’s corporate headquarters to work in their corporate controller group as a financial analyst in accounting. Notre Dame helped me secure those two jobs through the strength of its network, reputation, and training.
Having those experiences helped qualify me for Northwestern and my MBA in Entrepreneurship, Strategy & Management, and Marketing. Afterward, I found a job at a private-equity owned technology company and really enjoyed helping guide it through a transaction. This led to work for a PE firm in Chicago and then another privately held technology start-up, AHEAD. I helped grow AHEAD and as its CFO lead it through a major transaction with Court Square Capital Partners. These experiences led to me creating Jackson Consulting to work for various privately-held, middle-market companies. These engagements led to a PE firm moving my family and me to California for an opportunity. However, Notre Dame had implanted a passion in me to contribute back to the world, so I started teaching college courses at various universities as well. My love for education and hopefully making a difference led to my CFO position at Christian Brothers High School, a Catholic school in Sacramento. Notre Dame was at the origin of all of this path!
I have developed a strong business understanding through experiences, but I have a lot to learn. The ability to ask questions and learn from others is promoted at Notre Dame. Never have an ego and help whenever possible. Listen to others. Your dignity and integrity are important, and people will trust you more if you are honest. Happiness and success are not simply measured by monetary achievement and fancy titles; rather, success is living life with passion, making a difference, and enjoying your brief time here. Notre Dame’s business school helped implant that within me.
What are some distinguishing factors of ND alums?
I have hired multiple ND alums at various stops. They were integral in growing AHEAD and leading it through a successful sale (many are still working there). Additionally, they helped tremendously with a challenging turnaround situation. They have positive attitudes, are willing to problem-solve and creatively think, and are not discouraged by things they do not know. They are good team players and take pride in team achievement but are willing to take accountability when things do not work. You do not have to be best friends with everyone you work with, but you have to understand each others’ strengths and weaknesses and combine them into a team that far surpasses the sum of its parts. Notre Dame instills this in students and teaches students how to openly communicate with others. I have had alums become directors of financial planning and analysis in their mid-to-late 20s because they achieved and were able to take on that responsibility.
What are the top three skills Jackson Consulting looks for in applicants?
First, positive communication — being able to share what you are thinking and being able to grow from the inputs you take in from all areas of the business. Everyone’s ideas are important. You want a culture of inclusivity and growth. Second, having a positive moral compass. At various points in my career, this has been tested by superiors only concerned with the bottom line financially, and my Notre Dame background helped me withstand the pressure and overcome it. I see this in many of its graduates. Third, a willingness to jump in. Try to run with your ideas, and then fix what went wrong. Be autonomous and unique.
What is the value of hiring fellow ND alumni?
They are flexible, motivated, and willing to apply their unique blend of skills, education, and creativity in various ways to improve the company and the team. During AHEAD’s major growth spurt, I hired an ND alum for a finance position. However, the tumultuous state of an entrepreneurial company led to a triage need in logistics and procurement. The ND alum jumped into this different role, and not only performed well but revolutionized how it was accomplished. Over time, he was able to go back to the original finance role, but he was very willing to step up. This passion to help in another area without complaints led to a greater understanding of the entire company and an ability to make meaningful impacts far above the job description.
I can also count on Notre Dame alums to have the best intentions. They think about how they can make the company better and think about more than money. ND alums want to do something powerful for the world and know that when we move on, no one remembers your titles, but they do remember the lives you touched. Over the years, Notre Dame employees have joined me in volunteer coaching, running nonprofits, serving on Boards at the YMCA and Amate House…the list goes on. They think of ways to help and jump in.
How has your experience been recruiting fellow ND alumni? When you have posted a role on IrishCompass, were any applications received or hires made?
Yes. We have made many hires from IrishCompass. I will post a job on many platforms, but I always make sure to check on IrishCompass because I know Notre Dame alums are well-prepared. Also, the Notre Dame network is special in that even if someone does not want the job himself or herself, the individual will circulate it, think of others, and go out of the way to help me. This concept of us all being connected and promoting mentorship is huge within the ND family.
What does it take to be successful in this industry?
Build a mentor network. Always be learning from others, happy and supportive of their success, and willing to help in any way you can. Talk to people to find what you are passionate about and what industries you would like. Good deeds always come back.
Work hard, do your best, have fun, and find your passion! I have five kids of my own, and that is what I tell them. I tell my team members, students, players, etc. this motto – it really sums it all up.
Do you have advice, especially for young alumni who are entering a post-pandemic economy?
It’s a challenge, but be willing to talk and meet with people. Do not go in with a preconceived idea of what your path in life is or what your perfect career is; rather, be cognizant of what makes you happy. If you think you want to be an artist, find individuals in the field and pick their brains. The Notre Dame network is amazing. A private equity job moved my family to Sacramento not knowing anyone, but I reached out to the Notre Dame Club of Sacramento and found people willing to help. Notre Dame people are very willing to give you their time.