Jacqueline Letson’s office is tucked inside Ingram Content Group’s human resources department, down a long, modern hallway, just past the timeline detailing the company’s rise from a family-owned company dealing primarily in book distribution to a global content corporation.
With 26 locations worldwide, Ingram currently employs nearly 4,000 associates, approximately half of which are based in the company’s La Vergne, Tenn., campus.
Letson, who serves as Ingram’s vice president of human resources, earned her master’s in organizational leadership from Trevecca in 2012. The master’s degree program was recently recognized by OnlineMasters.com as one of the top 50 online organizational leadership programs in the country.
At Ingram, Letson is responsible for providing strategic and tactical HR support to the company’s profit center divisions and support departments, which make up about one-third of Ingram’s associates. She also leads a team of HR business partners, working with leadership in a consultant and advisory role.
“When they come up against people challenges, whatever those might be—whether it’s Do I have the right people to grow the business? or Do I have the right jobs to grow the business?—[I help] them evaluate those types of things,” Letson said. “Do the people I have [possess] the right skill sets? Do I need to help develop them, and, if so, what development is needed?”
Letson is a 15-year veteran at Ingram, beginning as an HR generalist and progressing through the company, from manager to business partner to director. She was promoted to vice president, reporting directly to the chief HR officer, in 2016.
She’s seen the company grow and shift over the years, transforming from primarily focusing on book distribution to a technology company focused on providing customers with content in the format they want it.
“When I started with Ingram, we were primarily a book distributor. We put books in boxes, we were the middle man between the publishers and the retailers,” Letson said. “We had this small company called Lightning Source that provides print on demand. Today Lightning Source is a huge part of our business. I’ve gotten to see it grow, as well as the digital piece of the business. We were not even in a digital space when I started, so to watch the company transform over the years has been phenomenal.”
A key component of Letson’s work—protecting the integrity of data and its analysis and reporting—reflects one of those changes. As the world becomes more and more digital, data has become a valuable resource.
“I also have responsibility for our HR information systems team,” Letson said. “They are responsible for the integrity of the data that is in our HR systems as well as the output of that data—as well as the analysis and human capital reporting.
“HR is becoming more data-driven,” Letson continued. “HR is about people, but you also have to make sound decisions on the available data.”
In human resources, carefully analyzed data can provide insight about employee retention and productivity, increase the quality of new hires, improve training and development, and more. It’s an ever-expanding area in human resources, a field that requires professionals to hone their communication skills, develop business acumen—what Letson calls “a business mind”—and conflict management.
These core skills form the backbone of Trevecca’s organizational leadership program, says Dr. Cathy Hendon, program director. OnlineMasters.com, an independent research outlet, recognized Trevecca’s program as the best holistic program in the list, highlighting the curriculum’s interdisciplinary approach.
“The core curriculum of our master’s program in organizational leadership is centered on developing well-balanced leaders who make a difference in their organizations,” Hendon said. “Trevecca’s holistic approach is designed to expand students’ knowledge of strategic thinking, innovative problem-solving, clear communication and organizational change models.”
In the end, Letson says, career success isn’t about accolades or awards. It’s about adding value and making a difference.
“As long as I feel like I’m adding value and enjoying what I’m doing, that I’m continuing to grow and be challenged, that’s success,” Letson said. “At this point, I just want to know that I’m adding value, continuing to help the company grow and succeed and continuing to be given challenging opportunities. I’ve been surrounded by a great leadership team that has invested in me and have given me growth opportunities. I’m grateful.”
Learn more about Trevecca’s master’s program in organizational leadership at Trevecca.edu/MOL.
Want to read a few of Letson’s tips for HR professionals? Visit blog.trevecca.edu.