Today, for International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we honor Jenna’s story. Join us as we hear more about a career rooted in relationships, values and strong mentors.
Growing up in small-town Iowa as a farmer’s daughter, Jenna learned the value of hard work from a young age. “Having seen the direct impact of my Dad’s hard work taught me so much,” Jenna says. “If a farmer doesn’t tend to their farm, their yields suffer which can greatly impact their income…but my Dad knew how to balance work and family life. He was always at my events and it really instilled the value of relationships for me.”
That idea that relationships are critical, values lead you, and strong mentors support you are resounding themes throughout Jenna’s career. From thinking she wanted to be a pharmacist, to becoming a tax auditor, to thriving in her roles today as a female leader in the consulting industry, it’s been an exciting ride for Jenna!
Defining Her Path
As someone motivated by relationships, Jenna was driven by her desire to make meaningful connections and wanted to find that in a career. Having worked in a pharmacy in high school, Jenna initially applied to pharmacy school but needed to quickly pivot when she didn’t get in. Unafraid to chase what she wanted, Jenna found herself reflecting on her motivations and what it was that she really sought in a professional setting. Leaning into the idea that forming relationships was of the utmost importance, her focus shifted as she enrolled soon after to business school. Through business school, Jenna learned more about herself and her passions, which continued to be rooted in the relationships with others.
Thereafter, Jenna spent time working as a tax auditor, briefly touched the consulting space, and spent time with a large retail corporation – each position teaching her something of importance and guiding her closer to her niche. “In many of the roles I had, I didn’t feel that there was the proper balance for me,” Jenna remembers, noting that there was always something that didn’t mix for her. “I had a passion to grow my career and I knew I cared about people. I wanted to find a path that honored all my values.”
With a strong sense of what she was looking for, Jenna sought to identify and work with mentors that would drive her career with those values in mind.
When Values Align
If success is when preparation meets opportunity, Jenna landing at Protiviti was a huge achievement. She had her first interview with Protiviti in 2014 and was hired within a week. “It felt like the stars were finally aligning,” Jenna recalls as she remembers walking through the office on her first day. “I felt those warm fuzzy feelings because I was excited to work somewhere where people and values were at the center.” It was not only the care for our clients, but the care Jenna felt from her newfound colleagues and friends that made such an impact. “I had just moved to Chicago and I didn’t really have a network yet. Everyone at Protiviti made me feel so cared for as a human. They saw what was important to me and offered support in those areas, whether that be an invite to family dinners, church services, or even help with this big move to a new city – it was incredible.”
Upon joining, Jenna also got her first look into female leadership at Protiviti, which felt different from what she had experienced in her past. “In looking back to the early days of my professional career, I remember feeling like some of the leaders priorities were off and they were unable to strike the balance between work and personal life. I just didn’t see anyone like me — or those that valued what I do. So you can imagine my relief when I met some of the leaders at Protiviti – specifically my first manager! She was authentically herself without being a stereotypical girl-boss,” she laughs. “And that’s what I aspired to be! I was allowed to be a full person here – I can wear clothes that express my personality, be open about my personal life, and still do good work.”
Stepping Up to Lead Protiviti’s Women’s Network
Jenna feels her career has progressed because of the support of those around her, both professionally and personally. “I keep seeing women getting opportunities,” notes Jenna, “it’s inspiring.”
“Informal mentors have been a huge asset in helping me to foster honest feedback, challenge my own assumptions, and foster growth. I can remember one specific example where I was really doubting myself and my abilities on a project,” Jenna remembers. “I was lucky enough to be joined on a project by one of those informal mentors. The guidance that Naomi gave me to reinvigorate my own personal confidence that “I Can!” helped me conquer that project – but perhaps more importantly, it really blossomed into a beautiful partnership,” Jenna noted. “I think that it’s really important that as women, we not only inspire, but also encourage other women.”
Because of the partnership that was created during that challenging project, Naomi, who was Protiviti’s Women’s Network (iGroww) Lead at the time, recognized the leadership qualities Jenna possessed and asked Jenna to step into a leadership role and lead the women’s network. “I felt unqualified to sit in that seat,” she remembers. “Naomi encouraged me and gave me the space to combat imposter syndrome and learn how to lead. I didn’t realize how many relationships I had cultivated over the last five years at Protiviti and the impact I had by simply showing up and being my authentic self.”
And it isn’t just the women of Protiviti who lifted Jenna up, she is lucky to be surrounded with colleagues from all walks of life and identities who understand the importance of a strong women’s network in the workplace. She felt so encouraged by allies lifting up women to create a better future. “I look to these women who have inspired me throughout my career – they have a voice that has been amplified and valued,” she says, “There are also many men who have believed in me and are a big factor in my success.”
Putting Her Passion for People to Work
Now leading iGroww, Jenna’s big priority has been what drove her career from the beginning – authentic connection. She strives to connect offices, big and small, so strong female leaders are showcased throughout. She values community and creates a place for connection through ways that feel true to her. “I encourage local offices to throw out the playbook. Let’s have a meal together with no agenda, because in my experience, when you sit down at a table with someone, a portion of your heart falls out.” When she reflects on her upbringing on that farm in Iowa, she remembers meals as time to pour into each other. “That still happens, even if it’s not your family.”
Jenna’s passion for creating space for women is tangible as she speaks. She showcases what she’s been talking about so vividly. “If you show up and do good work and create space for you and your teams to be authentically themselves, people latch on to that and mirror the behavior” says Jenna. “I’ve most enjoyed working for leaders that don’t feel like they have anything to hide, personally or professionally. I try to channel that into my projects and work.”
Just as Jenna was empowered at Protiviti by strong leaders of all genders and backgrounds who acted as allies, she continues to push forward for women in the workforce. We’re so grateful she’s here to help empower us all to reach new heights. Thank you for sharing your story, Jenna. Protiviti is honored to have you!
“I love that representation for women is more equal than it has been in the workforce, but we’re not there yet. It can be lonely in female leadership. My goal is that it won’t be that way forever.”– Jenna
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