Follow the Leader: Chairwoman of the Board

I recently sat down with Jen Schulze, a marketing guru at my company.  I truly respect Jen’s perspective – especially on tough topics- she is blessed with the unique ability to take a really complicated message and make it simple – put it into plain language that my grandmother could understand.  A fantastic skill that I greatly admire.

The thing that immediately comes through when you speak with Jen: her passion.  She loves what she does and it shines through – even over the phone.  She is someone who I’d pick first for my team in gym.  She is enthusiastic, positive, and motivating…especially when it comes to mentoring, networking, and learning. 

Jen has a plethora of fantastic tips to share but my personal favorite is the creation of your own “Board of Directors”.  Build your own “go-to” network of mentors and sponsors who serve different purposes and can provide guidance during every circumstance.  Jen’s “Board” is an equal opportunity employer – not based on gender, location, or organizational level.

According to Jen, “mentors do not need to be – and should not always be- a higher level than you.  There are lessons to be learned from everyone- regardless of their “level” within an organization.  Every person has their ups and their downs – just because they aren’t a VP now doesn’t mean they won’t be next week.”

What a valuable lesson!  Become the chairperson of your own personal board of advisors. Invest the energy in your relationships and take the time to learn from others.

Read more from our interview below:

1. Biggest lesson learned?

You aren’t alone in your career struggles – they are shared across roles, departments, and even levels.  Reaching out to mentors and sponsors can help you take steps to work through challenges.

I believe the richness of my career comes from the fact that I really enjoy re-inventing myself and keep building on my knowledge.  This keeps me engaged, interested and able to meet and work with new people all the time. If the opportunity to aspire to new challenges doesn’t come through my career, I find it in my personal life by doing things like learning a new language, achieving a new fitness level, or finding other goals to drive towards.

2. Biggest regret?

Not pushing harder for what I deserved earlier in my career.  Self promotion is definitely as, if not more, important as the work you do.  Not all managers will push for you as they may be busy promoting themselves.

We need to know we deserve it, promote what we do, and ask for what we want.  Even if it’s not easy to do, don’t take no for an answer.

3. Share a leadership story.

I used to think that managing effectively meant not showing weakness.  What I have found is that people need to know that you too have good and bad days. They respect you more when they see that you have challenges like they do (personally or professionally) and that still were able to deliver effectively, while being both honest and positive.

You have served as an example by keeping it together, even when you acknowledged that it was difficult. I’m now not so cautious about being me and as a result, I’ve become a more attuned to the people I work with and have been able to build my networks more effectively.  Finding the common ground to build a relationship on, whether with an employee or co-worker, has become easier and they respect my honesty. If I’m unable to deliver, they know it, even if it’s not always what they prefer to hear.

4. Your “big 3”?

On Networking- This is key to my success.  I have a strong network that I cultivate as much as possible every day.  It’s key to allowing me re-invent myself, achieve success in my career and learn about my own organization better.

On Knowledge - Keep learning.  This is something that can never be taken from you and will allow you to establish your personal brand.  It may mean going to new roles or areas that are outside your domain or level of expertise but entering into these areas and learning them well is a great way to strengthen your personal library of skills.

On Managing- Manage as you wish to be managed.  This seems so simple, yet it is not easy to do, especially when faced with difficult circumstances.  Be transparent and fair.  Find managers around you that exemplify traits you want to have as a manager and see how they do it.  Try to work for these people and learn from them how they balance their careers, families and even politics of the workplace effectively.

About Jen Schulze:

Jen Schulze has over 15 years of marketing experience spanning both consumer and services-related industries, including management roles.   Her experiences include extensive international marketing experience, partner marketing, branding, product management, public relations, and marketing communications.

Jen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from Sonoma State University and an Masters in Business Administration from San Francisco State University.  An avid learner, Jen is currently pursuing a certificate of management from University of California, Berkeley.

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  • 1
    January 20, 2011 - 10:19 am | Permalink

    Congrats on the blog Liz! Very nice!

  • 3
    January 21, 2011 - 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I think her biggest regret is shared by many, and that self promotion is one of the most important things we can do to achieve the highest levels of success. They don’t teach it in school. It’s crucial that managers and mentors guide their brightest stars to learn how to market themselves. I wish someone gave me this lesson earlier in my career. Keep up the good work and have a good weekend.

    • 4
      January 22, 2011 - 6:55 am | Permalink

      Thanks Matt.

      I totally agree. I think it would be interesting to compile a list of the top 10 things we wished we learned about the business world.


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