Jessica Jensen is my guest today on the Supersonic Leaders and Teams podcast. JJ and I worked together at Facebook in the global business marketing organization. And she was someone I looked to for sage advice about marketing, leadership, and navigating the world of ‘the book of faces,’ as she used to call it. I looked forward to meetings that I knew JJ would be in because of her wisdom and her humor. She’s now the Chief Marketing Officer at Open Table, and prior to leading teams at Facebook, Jess was a marketing guru at Apple and Yahoo, as well as a management consultant at BCG. I’m thrilled to have the chance to talk with her today about leaders and teams.
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The last time we talked was a few years ago when we were both at Lithium’s annual conference for community support platforms. And you still are with USAA, I think you’ve been there just almost eight years now. Right? It’s been quite a while.
That’s correct. It’ll be eight years in October.
Nice. And I have to admit my last role was at Facebook, and we used to look at USAA all the time for how you all did mobile support. It was fantastic. And the social support and you know, the online community was great, but now you’re heading up consumer lending?
Yes, I’m part of the bank now.
Yes, congratulations. Nice. I’ve been a USAA member for, my gosh, 30 years. 31 years. It’s been a long time. But it’s a wonderful company.
Thank you, we appreciate your membership. And you know, the bank is celebrating its 37th anniversary this year. And you know, we’ve been fortunate to have been able to serve members. And we’re, you know, we don’t have branches or brick and mortar locations, we’re largely digital or by phone. And so that is, you know, I think what distinguishes us.
Fantastic. Well, you know, years ago, when we met at the conference, I was really impressed by the work that you’d been doing with USAA on social support. Now you’re with the bank. I’d love to hear how, you know, with this crazy pandemic going on… how have things been for you as a leader? What do you see as challenges? Or what’s your biggest challenge that you’re encountering right now?
Yeah, so I think like many leaders, and many companies, especially in the industry… I guess, first of all, I’d say I’m fortunate, along with my colleagues, because, you know, we’re in a sector that is obviously in demand. And you know, as part of a large banking set of protocols, you plan for certain events and adverse circumstances. And so this was not obviously planned this specific one, but, you know, fiduciary responsibilities, reserving enough capital to endure such circumstances. So the good news is, you know, we’re still operating, we’re still servicing members, and have some, you know, a fortress balance sheet and financial strength to endure this situation at present. That being said, we’re all human. And like many companies, it was, you know, the initial shock. And we were also undergoing a new CEO transition at the time.. and stepping in and a matter of months, and made some tough decisions, but very effective ones. And within a number of a couple of weeks, we had already redistributed our workforce, from you know, many of which work across six regional offices, large contact center environments, and of course, you know, your normal exempt personnel. But for the most part, more than 90%, were working from home within a couple of weeks, myself included. So we’ve been fortunate in that regard.
Now, as you know, that brings on challenges of we were at the tail end of a school year; I’m a mom, I’m a wife. I’ve got two children, a 10-year-old daughter, and a 14-year-old son, so there was the immediate juggling act and trying to figure out okay, how do we balance this? At the time, we were just returning from spring break. So there was that component, and I personally, you know, have not been back in the office since March 3. So somehow we survive. I haven’t printed a single document since March 3. And so somehow I figured out how to be completely digital and paperless. That being said, you know, work hours somehow creep up and have gotten longer on occasion. And, you know, I’ve got other family members outside of my immediate home, some of which were infected with the virus. I’ve had one, at least, who passed away from it. And so there is the immediate stress of not being able to control the situation knowing you have loved ones affected, and not being in a position to really do a whole lot to help without exposing yourself or your immediate family. And so that’s been tough. But I’d say through it all, what I’ve learned is you have to be deliberate about partitioning and separating too much work from just your personal sanity and creating what I call mile markers, at which you rehydrate, rest, take a break, take time off. So I literally got into a mode of where you know, you work a 60 hour week, and then you’d switch to say, okay, after four or five weeks of that it’s not sustainable. And then you’ve got to take a few days off, and then you go at it again, hard, and you take a few more days off. So it’s it’s been a balancing act. And I think more than anything, putting my health first and making that a priority.
I formed an agreement with my team, for example, where we’d say, at noon, for the next four weeks, we’re going to make a commitment, and that’s going to be our exercise time. Whether you walk, whether you run, peloton, you know, jump rope, whatever you do… take time out away from the computer to re-energize yourself and take a break. So those are just a few examples. But it’s certainly been quite challenging. But I’ve been very fortunate. And I feel very, very blessed to still be at a company that has not had to make, you know, tough decisions such as layoffs.
Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my incredible interview with Renee Horne.