“A leader who drives results, enables success in others, and strives to make a meaningful contribution.”
Hometown: Bloomington, Illinois
Fun fact about yourself: After visiting Brazil through the Global Strategy eMBA class, I was inspired to start learning Portuguese.
Undergraduate School and Degree:
Iowa State University, Ames Iowa
College of Design, Bachelor of Architecture
Where are you currently working?
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
Vice President – Administrative Services
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:
Morningstar United Methodist Church, Volunteer, Trustee, Church Council Member
Advocacy for Disabilities and Education, Employee Resource Group Member
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Our Active Learning Project (ALP) was an assignment in optimizing the supply chain for a large oil and gas corporation. The scope was incredibly large and the organization had thirty years of systems in place that had not been routinely challenged or refreshed. When our team presented the final deliverables, the sponsors of the project commented that we had generated ideas and offered solutions to problems that they had been trying to solve for years. What made this so rewarding was that we gave them tools and resources they could immediately implement and use. We took something off their plate and returned a work product that could advance their thinking around the problems in front of them.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While I was getting my executive MBA, the business area I lead was undergoing a major transformational change and shift in the operating model. I am incredibly proud of the team of executives I lead and the entire leadership team. We contemporized how we deliver our services which resulted in a leaner organization, ease of doing business, and fostered a department culture of continuous improvement. People’s lives were impacted through different job assignments, some promotions, and some company separations– and the leadership treated each situation with the upmost care. The most meaningful comment was when another leader in the organization said our Department had “modeled how it should be done”.
What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Finance was the toughest course for me. It was also my most rewarding because it was challenging, and I’m wired to thrive on complex problems and issues. I was working on the final submittal and had sent an email to the instructor, indicating I knew I had an error, but couldn’t find it. She asked the simple question: “How do you know?” [that I had an error]. When I was able to tell what wasn’t making sense and why some of the figures in the spreadsheet were not realistic, she noted that this realization is the most important learning of the course. I knew that I had not just learned the formulas, but the ‘whys’ behind the data, and that I’d be able to apply the knowledge I had acquired with a degree of confidence.
Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Purdue University has a great reputation overall and is one of the top-rated executive MBA Programs. I knew this was going to require me to make time tradeoffs, so finding a program that was challenging, empowering, and deep in experiential learning was important. With my background in architecture, an engineering or technical school seemed like a good fit. The extent of finance-related courses I had in undergrad was aligned with construction management and finances. Plus, the knowledge I’ve gained through my full-time work is tailored to the business of insurance in a mutual company. I sought a school that would give me more depth in finance, accounting, analytics, etc. from a broader business and global perspective.
What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The cohort environment was one of the most rewarding aspects of the program. Entering into the program, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to balance working full-time, personal commitments, and the amount of group work the cohort environment demanded. We instantly built a bond of support and a “we’re in this together” spirit across the cohort. We had the opportunity to learn about other businesses, take in other leadership styles, mentor and support each other, and become dear friends.
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Our Change Management and Negotiations professor taught in a manner where we studied principles and concepts, dialogued about application and our experiences in business world, and then put in to practice what we learned. Often in business, our solutions come from enhancing something that already exists, applying a proven model, or following institutional practices. There is significant value in basing solutions in studied and proven teachings and then integrating those learnings with practice and experience. This approach to problem-solving looks at the lifecycle of an issue from problem discovery to understanding how the solution looks in practice.
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? During a visit to a business as part of our Active Learning Project, I got a call that my mom had suffered a massive heart attack and I was 10 hours away from where she was being life-flighted. It was at that moment that I felt the weight of working full time, taking care of my family, and trying to carry my part of the projects and school assignments. There were two things that were tested: my personal resiliency and the relationships I had built with my cohort. My years of experience (and trial-and-error) in defining priorities, making decisions, and executing plans served me well. Equally as valuable were the relationships I had built with my cohort and the vulnerability to ask for help, contribute in whatever way I could, and take advantage of a listening ear. I was part of an amazing team that module.
What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? There are three things I would advise a potential student. The first is to select a program that fits with their learning objectives and style. Working full-time and going to school requires intentionality and focus, so alignment with one’s own goals is imperative. The second recommendation is to be prepared to commit to the experience. There are so many benefits of this experience beyond the academic learning, it would be unfortunate to not capitalize on this part. And lastly, get really good at Microsoft Excel!
What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Academic environments can often be viewed as one-way learning. Professors with significant academic knowledge, depth, and expertise download through various teaching styles to their students. This is not the case in the eMBA program. The environment is a collaboration of academic teaching, real-world experiences, contributions of various organizational cultures and personal styles, and innovative thinking. Highest-performing environments occur when there are multiple dimensions of learning, which is exactly what I experienced at Purdue.
What was your biggest regret in business school? As I immersed in learning and built relationships, I couldn’t help but regret that I didn’t do this 15 years ago. To possess a depth in business principles is important, as is the need to keep that knowledge contemporary. It’s easy to say, “I’ll do it someday” and then one day you get a new job assignment, put on a big project, or get passed up for an opportunity and realize you can’t gain the business acumen you need overnight.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I feel blessed with the exceptional group of individuals who made up our cohort. One individual was really open about his challenges with the language barrier and possessed such great determination to contribute. One of our team members made an extraordinary effort to be at the residency weeks traveling internationally to be there. We also had a couple of team members who had new babies during our program. Several people in the group worked for non-profit organizations and that takes incredible clarity of purpose and focus. It’s truly hard to pick just one individual whom I admire.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I was talking about my development plan with the senior leader to whom I report and casually mentioned that I might be interested in getting an MBA. She instantly said, “you should!”. Sometimes all we need is a little nudge. I knew I had her support and things just started rolling from there.”
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Currently, I’m at a position in my career that I had always hoped to achieve. I lead a department of about 1850 leaders and employees who provide support services to the organization through 50+ different business functions. It is an incredibly satisfying responsibility and I work with a tremendously talented team. My long-term professional goal is to continue to develop leaders who achieve this same level and opportunity. Professionally, I also have an interest in owning a business, and possibly, teach in an adjunct role someday.
In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? If it is my cohort peers, my peers at work, or those I lead, I hope I am remembered as someone who genuinely cared – cared about who they are, what they do, what they need, and what mattered most to them.
What are the top two items on your bucket list?
- Master a foreign language
- Give back through a mission project (my sister and I are fulfilling this one in August in Belize)
What made Jenny such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?
“Jenny has fully embraced the cohort approach to learning. Her ability to drive collaboration is apparent in the classroom and in her study groups. She notes that her style is to encourage transparency in conversation, inviting participation in identifying the problem, with an expectation to participate in the solution. Success “is dependent on a holistic solution, versus individual ‘wins’.”
She took the initiative to arrange an extravagant baby shower for a fellow student during a residency, complete with a “Welcome Wagon” full of gifts from the cohort, including personalized cookies and tiny Purdue onesies! That’s typical of the care and concern for others she has displayed throughout the program.
Jenny’s positive, good-natured attitude makes her someone others can turn to for open and honest input and problem-solving guidance.
Her thirty years of experience at a Fortune 50 company has brought her to the position of leading a department of over 2600 employees with a budget of around 1B annually. Jenny has stated that she believes every leader is an aggregation of influences – people, time, experiences, challenges and victories.
We congratulate Jenny on this well-deserved honor.”
Senior Program Manager
Purdue Executive MBA Program
Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.