Compass Check: What’s your church background?
Jacob Mammen: I would consider myself born and raised, because my parents came into the Church when I was around three or four years old. I don’t remember much else before that point.
CC: What do you do for a living? How did you get to where you are now?
JM: I’m a senior financial analyst for an insurance company. In college, I first looked at becoming a pre-health professional [that is, following an educational path that will serve as a good foundation for a post-graduate degree in the medical or health field]. I was interested in making a lot of money, but I learned that I wasn’t quite that smart! So, I settled into business and went into business management and accounting. That has its own level of challenge—it isn’t the easiest field—but much of it was relatively straightforward. I enjoyed learning all about business finance, although accounting wasn’t my favorite. (That said, accounting is kind of what I do now.) I also wanted to get out of school as fast as possible, and I could do this in a couple years.
During college I got an internship as a business analyst at a trucking company. I enjoyed that a bunch, but I didn’t like the work/life balance and wasn’t paid enough, so after graduating in 2010, I found a new job at a law firm in private accounting.
After a few years of working there and a bit of networking, I landed a job at one of Chattanooga’s (and the world’s) biggest insurance companies. However, the insurance company began outsourcing positions. A couple friends asked if I’d be interested in a position at a construction company, so rather than be part of the outsourcing, I accepted their offer.
After a while working there, the construction company had a bad year and laid off a bunch of people, including me. But when I got laid off, I remember not being super bummed about it. I went to my car, prayed and told God that I was sure He had something in store for me; He’d never let me down before.
Interestingly enough, a couple weeks before being laid off, my old manager from the previous job I had held with the international insurance company contacted me about a senior position within the company, but in a different field. So, when I was laid off from construction, I sent my resumé over and, within a week, landed that senior job. I was earning better money and better benefits than I had been previously, and also received severance from the construction company, causing me to come out ahead (financially) in the end. All along I continued to believe God would take care of me. I’m still with the same company, although potentially looking to pivot to other areas of the company in the future.
It was a series of events that led me to where I am today; I didn’t intend to be where I’m at right now. People who are very career-focused have aspirations to be at a certain firm, in a certain position. That’s not me. I can do my job well, but I’m still trying to figure out what I really want to do, you know?
CC: Do you enjoy your work?
JM: I like what I do—I don’t love it. The best part of my job is working with other teams. I enjoy partnering with other departments. It’s kind of a networking opportunity too. For instance, someone might come to me to try to find an explanation for a trend in their department, and I do some research to find out what’s going on. That’s very rewarding for me. In my role, I work with a broad set of people, so I collaborate with people in IT, people in the expense department, and people in financial planning and analysis. Because of this, I have a lot of visibility into the whole company.
Right now, I’m looking for jobs where I can find a better fit with managers, and also where I can gain additional skills that will be valuable at other companies.
CC: Does your work ever come into conflict with your faith?
JM: Surprisingly not, and I attribute that to one thing. I know that many human resources and interview professionals say this is a bad move, but I do it for peace of mind and to have a clear conscience: I talk to the hiring manager about my faith. I explain how I can’t work past sunset on Friday night, but that I can work Sundays if needed. I explain that I observe annual Holy Days and that the dates for them might fall at good or bad times during the year. I get all that out in the open during the hiring process so they know up front.
I’ve also benefited from people who have come before me at the organizations I’ve worked at, who have also kept the Sabbath. They “paved the way” and worked with managers to create workarounds to complete work on Sundays instead of on the Sabbath. There’s only been one time years ago when a manager wasn’t thrilled that I couldn’t come in on a Saturday like everyone else.
CC: What advice would you give to someone in high school or junior high about pursuing a career that’s personally fulfilling?
JM: When you get past high school and if you’re doing general education in college, I suggest reaching out and talking to a bunch of different department heads to see if there are any electives or classes in their departments that sound interesting to you. Explore many majors; you might not think a particular field is appealing, but once you take a class you realize it’s interesting. In high school and early college, we don’t know what types of jobs even exist out there. During those two years before you become locked into your major, try a bunch of things and see what extra classes you can sit in on to get exposed to new things.
Use the Internet; take those masters classes that are always advertised online. Public libraries have tons of free resources that help with this too.
Another thing: Don’t feel like you’re on a timeline; you can take classes to see if you’re interested. If it doesn’t work out, even if you have to work harder later to get it done, the experience will still be beneficial.
If you have summers free, go on a really cool trip all summer. Don’t stay at home doing nothing and just hanging out, unless you really need to work. Once you’re in a career, you’ll no longer have summers off.
CC: Is there anything else you’d like to mention for additional context or helpful information?
JM: I attended University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, a public university, and graduated with hardly any student loan debt. At some point, within a year or two of working, no one cares what school you went to (aside from Harvard or MIT or something specialized). I wasn’t a very good college student, but I still scored great jobs because of networking and developing strong friendships. Once you land your first job, if you work hard, make a good impression, and have faith that God will provide for your needs , things will go well from there.