Jen is a Professional Speaker & Juggler
Jen returns to the podcast from episode 32 to talk about becoming a mom and how she connects with others through her experience with parenthood and how she applies her passion for juggling into her presentations!
• Applying her juggling skills towards her presentations
• Becoming a mom
• Connecting with others through parenthood
• We are not work robots
• Working with Con Edison
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Welcome to Episode 230 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work, and also hear how this message has impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon, a few other websites, check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list. You’ll be the first to know.
Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe to the show so you don’t miss any of my future episodes every Friday and Wednesday. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Jen Slaw. She’s an engineer turned corporate speaker. Now she’s with me here today.
Jen, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Jen: Thanks for having me back, John. I’m excited to be here.
John: Oh, this is awesome. Episode 32, I had no clue what I was doing then, and you were so brave to come on, so I appreciate that. I’m sure most people are like, “You still don’t know what you’re doing, John.” But either way, we fight on. Yeah, I start out with the rapid-fire questions right out of the gate now. So we’ll have a little fun. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Jen: Oh, Harry Potter. My uncle just gifted me the whole set of Harry Potter to start reading with my son. He’s two and a half, so we got a few years, I think.
John: Right. I think the fourth book, it’ll take two and a half years alone to read.
John: When I looked at it, I was like, “Whoa! That’s a big one.” What’s a typical breakfast?
Jen: Yogurt and granola.
John: Oh, nice. Very healthy. Look at you. More heels or flats?
Jen: Well, I would say heels, but I started shifting towards flats since having a baby.
John: Oh, yeah, a lot more nimble, I guess. Prefer more hot or cold?
John: Hot. Okay. All right. Brownie or ice cream?
Jen: Oh, boy, you have to have both. You have to have the brownie with the ice cream on top and the chocolate on top.
John: That works for me, combo. That’s actually a trick question. That is the right answer, both together at the same time and extra. Do you have a favorite sports team?
Jen: Not really a huge sports fan, but I would say Philadelphia Eagles. I grew up in Philadelphia.
John: Oh, wow. There you go. Okay. This is an important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
John: Over. Okay. Very good. So yes, we talked three and a half years ago about juggling and that transition. That’s still a thing for you, yeah?
Jen: Juggling is still a thing, yes.
John: Yeah. Right. I mean, you’re still actively doing it, which is awesome. You weave it in a lot with your speaking as well.
Jen: Yes. I feel really lucky to get to do what I love. I find that, as you know, juggling is such a great metaphor for life. I use it all the time as a way to illustrate a lot of the principles that I talk about when I’m speaking in terms of continuously improving ourselves and not being afraid to learn something new and working together. It’s a great tool to have in my tool belt, definitely.
John: That’s for sure. That’s great. Plus now with your son and having a family and juggling everything is both literal and figurative like, yeah, you’re doing it, which is awesome.
Jen: Definitely. That’s the big news since I’ve spoken to you becoming a mom two and a half years ago, so that definitely changed things and sort of helped me to reorganize my priorities and definitely way more of a juggling act. I feel like I have more credibility as a juggler now when I’m speaking to people because now that I have a kid, I really am juggling. Definitely a fun component also to weave into presentations when I’m speaking to groups because so many people that I’m speaking to are parents, so they can relate to the crazy stories. So that has been another way to foster an even deeper connection. Just like we spoke about, using these other skills that we have, interests and talents that we have to connect with people, I think Parenthood is such a great way to connect and maybe it’s underutilized, how we talk about what we do with our kids and how that can translate into what we do at work as well.
John: Totally, it does. So many people can relate. I don’t have any kids, but I was a kid at one point in time. We can all at least revisit that and imagine what that’s like. So that’s really cool. Really fantastic. Have you bumped into any of the former coworkers that remembered you from your juggling days?
Jen: Yes, we actually just had a little reunion a couple weeks ago where some of our group of coworkers from my old engineering stomping grounds went to the zoo together. Now a few of us have kids. So it’s been a few transitions. Most of them are actually still in engineering. I’m still the only juggler. I definitely remember that. They remember coming to performances and things like that. Like we talked about, it’s something that made me stand out from the crowd.
John: Right. It doesn’t make you less professional or less of an engineer. If anything, it’s the opposite. It’s that you have other skills that other people don’t.
Jen: Right. It’s another dimension to you, another dimension to your personality. I think people can relate to that and enjoy hearing about what interests you outside of work. Because everybody has things that interest them outside of work. We’re not these work robots. How can we find ways to share that?
John: Yeah. Have you seen anything or heard of anything where people are doing that in the corporate world?
Jen: I have. I recently did an event actually in New York for Con Edison, which is the utility company here in New York. They’re a great company. I was surprised to hear all of the great initiatives they have going on. They have all these, they call them people initiatives happening within their accounting department actually.
Jen: Yeah, where they’re really looking at empowering their coworkers, empowering each other by forming these smaller groups where some people are in charge of, let’s say, growth and training. So they’re interviewing each other to understand where they want to advance in their careers and just trying to get to know each other on a deeper level so that they can ultimately create more engagement at work. So that was really refreshing to see. I see over and over again, speaking and doing training sessions in the corporate world that the more connected the groups feel with each other, the more comfortable they are, the more creative they can be because then they’re not afraid to share their ideas. So it’s so important to foster that connection and that interpersonal connection and build that trust with each other.
John: No, that’s huge. That’s huge. Because we always think, oh, well, we work in the same office, and we do the same work. So therefore, we’re connected. It’s like, well, kind of. You’re more connected than a stranger on the street. I’ll give you that. But it’s a very surface level, and it’s not anything that people are going to remember or to value. And so that’s encouraging to hear that. I mean, even a utility that most people would think isn’t very forward thinking on that stuff is embracing that. It’s so important. Very cool. So do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that’s, hey, I have a passion but it has nothing to do with my job and no one cares?
Jen: I always say, don’t be afraid to share that passion and to share what interests you because someone else may feel the same way and maybe hiding something that they’re afraid to share, and then you can open up to each other. I found so much just becoming a parent just connecting with other parents on that level, it fosters that deeper connection. The more parents I talk to, especially in the corporate world but also in the entrepreneurial world and in the creative freelancer world, I find that really there’s a strong desire to both be present with our kids and to build that meaningful career because everybody desires a sense of purpose and to be a role model for their kids. So if we can find ways to integrate those things, I think ultimately we’ll feel more balanced and less stressed.
I’ve been reading some of Stewart Friedman’s work. He’s a professor at the Wharton School, and he has their Work/Life Integration Project. He talks a lot about these four spheres of our lives: home, work, self and community. And that the more these four circles overlap, the more connection there is between these different areas, then the more fulfilled and ultimately the more balanced we feel.
Jen: So to not shy away from trying to find these creative connections between all those different pieces and sometimes that home circle gets really big and the work circle might shrink a little bit. They kind of expand and contract depending on the seasons of life that we’re in. I’ve definitely found that becoming a mom. That family and home circle gets huge and the work circle shrinks down a little bit and then it kind of regained some balance over time. So just to not be afraid to share who you are.
So much of what makes us an interesting person or what makes us a great parent also makes us a great business owner or a leader or a team member. All those things like creativity and humor and patience and being flexible and adaptable, all those things can apply in both life and work.
John: That’s great. I love that, how there’s four spheres, if you will. So it’s not just work, and it’s also not just work and life. There’s four and even within those, I imagine that there’s multiple dimensions to community just understanding that the people around us are multidimensional and so are we. Acting like we’re not and acting like the people around us aren’t either is borderline criminal. It’s like, man, you are short changing everything. So I love what you’re doing with that.
Jen: Yeah, I think the more we can tap into our motivation, why are we doing things that Simon Sinek’s talk The Power of Why because then you can sort of figure out what are your values and what are your interests in each of those domains and why are you doing what you’re doing, and then it enables you to combine them in a more cohesive way and it enables you to communicate that better to those you work with. Of course, understanding people’s motivation allows you to solve difficult challenges with them. So that’s the tricky piece as well, I believe.
John: That’s fantastic. So many takeaways, like holy crap! My head hurts. But before we wrap this up, it’s only fair that I allow you to rapid-fire question me since I rudely started out firing away at you. So I’m ready.
Jen: Well, we know each other from our days in New York, so I’d like to know, what do you miss most and least about New York?
John: Pizza and the bagels for sure. They are hard to replicate elsewhere. That’s what I miss for sure. The least is waiting for a subway in August. That is so gross. You just have to sit there and you feel that sweat running down the middle of your back, and you can’t do anything about it. You’re just standing there. There’s no air or wind, and you don’t know if the next train is coming. Like I don’t know. It could be 20 minutes away.
Jen: Only worse than that is that when you get on the train and there’s no air conditioning.
John: Right, right. Yeah, that’s what I had to learn when I moved there is if you see a train pulling in and it’s full car, full car, full car, empty car, full car, don’t get in the empty car because there’s something in there or there’s a reason why it’s empty. So just trust me on this. If you visit New York and you see an empty train car with the full ones around it, get in the full one even if you got to sardine your way. So yeah, hopefully, those are fair answers. If I remember New York properly.
Jen: I got one more for you.
John: Okay. All right.
Jen: What is your favorite knock knock or kids joke that I could teach my two-and-a-half-year-old?
John: Oh, man! Oh! This is the one that I pull out for my niece and nephews. It’s why does Irish stew have 239 beans?
Jen: Oh, I don’t know. Why does Irish stew have…?
John: Yeah, if it had one more, it would be too-farty.
John: That’s my favorite kid’s joke ever.
Jen: Nice, nice.
John: Because the adults like grown as well. But a knock knock, probably — I’ll do it. Knock knock.
Jen: Who’s there?
John: Interrupting cow.
Jen: Interrupting cow who?
John: Moo! That’s my favorite kid’s joke, especially when they try to tell it back and then you interrupt their interrupting cow, that’s probably my favorite knock knock. So I don’t know if that helps you at all. I probably made things worse.
Jen: We’ve been working on the banana. Aren’t you glad you didn’t say banana joke?
John: Oh! There you go. That’ll teach you a lot of comedy timing, that’s for sure. Yeah, how long can I leave this out? Until they stop listening to me. That’s what that’ll teach you. Well, awesome. Well, I’m glad that you’re teaching him well in that regard. So that’s awesome. Very cool.
Well, thanks, Jen, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? It’s so fun to catch up with you again.
Jen: You too, John. Thanks for having me.
John: Yeah, and everyone listening, if you like to see some pictures of Jen in action or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.