Women's History Month Profile: Jennifer L. Williams
Jennifer L. Williams
The J.L. Solution
Recently, EA Creative collaborated with a member of Chief, Sandhya Jain-Patel, for a round of questions with women in leadership positions who are making history today.
Sandhya: What was a defining moment in your career which has led to your current role?
Jennifer: The moment an old boss chastised me for conforming to the expected, as opposed to leaning into my creative strategic approach to the management of People. It motivated me to lean firmly into my 'why.'
Sandhya: When was a time in your career where it was clear that being a woman made your job more difficult?
Jennifer: I vividly recall a meeting where glaring HR challenges were openly referred to as "little issues for the woman (me) to fix," as opposed to business threats. The minimizing of the important role that the People function plays in the success of any organization certainly sparked a fire in me.
Sandhya: Have you had a mentor or sponsor who has helped you in your career, and how did they do that? Have you been able to do the same for someone else?
Jennifer: My mentor of many years, Mr. Bob Wiesner of the Artemis Partnership, has been integral in my finding my voice and refining my approach as a People professional. He has consistently provided a safe place to ask questions and challenge established norms - and he insists upon my continually leaning into, and being intentional about my growth and development as a leader.
I am adamant about the uplifting of other women and do everything to 'send the elevator back down' given the many opportunities that have been presented to me along my journey. I have a handful of mentees who I routinely interact with and craft introductions to other individuals (on their behalf) that can aid them on their respective journeys.
Sandhya: Who is a historic or living woman that has inspired you?
Jennifer: My mother, Celia J. Maxwell, MD, FACP, FIDSA . My mother immigrated to the states as a teenager from Panama, began her career as a nurse, decided to become a doctor, and is relentless about helping others. No matter the obstacles that were in her way, and the numerous times she was told 'no,' she has always persisted and succeeded. (This also means that I have HUGE shoes to fill - I either need to find a cure for the common cold, or fix the hole in the ozone layer.)
Sandhya: Is there something you would say to your younger self?
Jennifer: The (unrealistic) deadlines that you continue to set for yourself will create more stress than is necessary. Seriously. Also - adults don't really have it all 'figured out.' They've just had more time to learn from their mistakes and adapt, evolve and try again. Time is more important than money, and the consumption of cake counts as self-care.
Sandhya: What haven’t we asked you that we should, and what would your answer be?
Jennifer: What is your guiding principle that fuels everything that you do? My personal North Star (and 6 word bio) is the following: "Committed to being of service. Always." The work that I do, the way in which I approach the uplifting of both people and organizations, and ultimately the manner in which I navigate through life - all are rooted in this principle.
(The interview was completed before the pandemic - we followed up with a few more questions on how everyone is currently coping.)
Sandhya: How is the pandemic affecting your work and daily routine?
Jennifer: As an HR/People professional, my work was immediately impacted when multiple businesses were instructed to have their staff remain and work from home. As many companies have yet to scratch the surface of how to create best practices and nurture their staff in a WFH (work from home) environment, I received (and continue to receive) multiple inquiries as to how businesses can implement and optimize this experience.
As for my daily routine? That's completely been thrown out of the window, honestly. Between an overconsumption of all news Covid-19 (which I know is not at all positive, but is essential to my work), keeping my spirits up during sheltering in place (Flatten the Curve, everyone!), choosing a new restaurant or small business to support each day, and volunteering when possible to help the elderly and other vulnerable people, my new normal is ... staying 'on' and engaged, because that is the one thing I can control. I'm also aware that this routine isn't sustainable for the longterm, and I'm working towards finding a solid balance between being 'on,' and disconnecting entirely.
Sandhya: As difficult as it is, has the isolation or social distancing had any unexpected benefits?
Jennifer: I would say that the one unexpected bright spot during this period has been the rediscovery of the phone, and of actual phone calls versus texting. Now more than ever, the need for human connection is extremely important, and I'm heartened to receive (and to make) many more phone calls than usual.
Sandhya: Are there specific ways you have focused on staying positive throughout this temporary new reality?
Jennifer: Having a daily meditative practice has been key for me. As well, I went to the gym daily before this, and so having a consistent movement practice has been necessary. Connecting with friends and loved ones has also kept my spirits up. And lastly, making my mental health a priority and scheduling virtual sessions with my therapist has aided in my seeing the light at the end of this jarring and long tunnel. Especially in the midst of this, it is ok to not be ok, and to take things one day at a time.
To learn more about Jennier and keep up with The J.L. Solution, follow the link below.