Employee Spotlight: James Jones on How Diverse Perspectives Create Better Workplaces
By: Corporate Communications
November 22, 2021
At CF, we are committed to promoting an inclusive workplace and are honored to participate in the recognition of Native American Heritage Month. As part of this effort, we sat down with James “JD” Jones, maintenance manager at the Courtright Complex, to talk about his career at CF, what his Native American heritage means to him and how diverse perspectives create a better workplace.
What’s your background? What brought you to CF?
My family is part of the Chickasaw Nation, which is originally from the southeastern United States. I was born and raised in Texas, then moved to attend Oklahoma State. That’s where I met my wife; her father worked in the ammonia industry, which is how I was introduced to this field. He helped me line up a job as a contractor working at the Verdigris Complex. After a few years, I realized I needed to go back to school to pursue some of the roles I was interested in. So, I took night and weekend classes to earn my engineering degree. As I was finishing the program, a maintenance planning job became available with CF. I applied, got the job and progressed in various roles in the maintenance department, leading up to my ultimate transfer to Canada to be the maintenance manager here in Courtright, where I’ve now been for two years.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The challenges that come up every day. Each day is a little different, especially being in the maintenance department. There is always something that can be updated or a process that could be improved. First thing in the morning, I meet with my team to go over emerging projects. I also spend time in strategic meetings with management developing long-term plans to constantly improve our safety and reliability. I enjoy the energy and fast-paced and hands-on work it takes to keep CF running smoothly.
What does Native American/First Nation Heritage Month mean to you?
For me, it’s all about awareness. The general public isn’t always aware of our experience and varying cultures. Different tribes and nations have their own histories, traditions and deep-seated cultures. My experience with Native American culture is a result of growing up around my family and the events the tribe put on which focused on community involvement and how we all coexist. Where your tribe is located within the United States or Canada has a huge effect on your experience as a Native American/First Nation, so having a month dedicated to paying tribute to the ancestry and rich traditions is a great first step towards awareness and education. Learning from other cultures is eye-opening and expands our world view.
What unique qualities or perspectives do Native Americans/First Nations bring to the workplace?
Something that I believe Native Americans/First Nations specifically bring to the workplace is the servant-leader mentality. We are brought up believing you shouldn’t ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. You need to understand other people’s struggles, understand what you’re asking them to do and never put yourself above someone else.
Another aspect is loyalty – to your community, family, tribe and your organization. We’re very loyal to people that are around us once they’ve invited us into their safe space or “trust zone.”
How do diverse perspectives enrich the workplace?
Inviting diverse perspectives into conversations only enriches the employee experience, not just for that one person, but for everyone. We have better ideas collectively than we do on our own. We do better work when we bring an array of backgrounds to the table.
In your opinion, what do you think is important for people to know about Native Americans/First Nations and how can learning about their history help us have a greater understanding?
It’s key that people recognize that struggles and injustices are recent and ongoing. Often people think about the painful history of Native Americans/First Nations, but it is not just a historical issue. Issues like clean drinking water and land debates are still a reality for Native Americans and First Nations and have been for decades. If people understand the history and recognize its ongoing implications, we can move closer to a place of trust and reconciliation.