What is your official title?
It’s funny you ask, because I really don’t like titles. At one point at Maestro we thought doing away with titles. When I’m working with clients and we have to introduce ourselves, I try to leave my title out all together, and sometimes we’ll be working with them for a few days and at the end they’ll ask “You’re the President?”
My official title at Maestro is President and I do take that role seriously as I believe that culture, company vision, and values all start with me. I really like just being Jen. I used to be a middle school teacher, and after “Mom,” that is the title I’m most proud of. So, if I were to say my title, I would roll all of those things into it. It would be mom, it would be wife, it would be coach; all of those things that are so important to who you are.
What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?
It depends what day of the week it is. They’re all different, which I love. No matter what day it is, it involves some sort of problem solving. I really enjoy working with the team at Maestro to solve client challenges with creative solutions or building our own products that solve problems in the marketplace. I love, love, love coaching and mentoring others.
What kind of projects are you working on?
At Maestro, there is never a shortage of projects. We’re a software development company that assists clients all over the country to build productivity tools; it’s our goal at Maestro to help our clients perform beautifully. We are developing and rolling out new products, all to help our clients be more productive.
We have many customers who have very large sales teams. We spend a lot of time creating mobile software solutions to improve productively and performance. The goal is to make them more productive, and to become a strong partner for them.
Right now one of my favorite projects to talk about is Lamb of God. It’s a community production, totally separate from Maestro, but there are many Maestronauts who have jumped in and have volunteered their time to help out.
Lamb of God is a huge undertaking, and has been a passion project for me. Lamb of God is an oratorio that will be performed at Chenery Auditorium March 21st and 22nd. It is a sacred musical retelling of the final days of the life of Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and Resurrection. It is told through the eyes of those who loved and knew Him best.
There are over 200 musicians involved, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know a completely different group of individuals within the community. I’ve attended the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and various musicals at the Civic and at Miller Auditorium, but actually getting the opportunity to work with these amazingly talented musicians and having the privilege of being able to work together on this sacred work is really exciting.
What’s been most fun is the opportunity for individuals from many, many churches to put aside doctrinal differences and come together in their shared faith in Christ. It will be amazing to stand together this Easter season and testify of His love and sacrifice for us.
Tickets are only $5 and can be purchased on the website. (www.lambofgodkalamazoo.com)
What do you love most about Kalamazoo?
Being in close proximity to my grandmother (granny). I grew up about an hour South of here and I’ve always had a love coming to Kalamazoo as a kid. We’d probably drive up once a month to visit so I have very fond memories of that.
It wasn’t until I moved here and we moved our business downtown that I grew an even greater affinity for Kalamazoo. The other downtown business owners–like Daniel Jefferies with Newmind and Jon Durham with LifeStory–they’re doing such awesome things, and I think for me, it’s so valuable getting to know other like-minded business owners with a strong sense of community who are building cool businesses and attracting awesome employees. I also love being in close proximately to Western and working with a few professors in the community, such as John Mueller. I don’t know what I would do without them; they’re great mentors that I can call anytime, and they’re there for me.
I also wanted to find a space that would extend our brand, and when I first walked into the space above Food Dance, I knew it was where we needed to be. I’m so glad, because I love where we are and the proximity to everything downtown is really nice for our employees; I love seeing our team go out in groups for lunch around the area.
Kalamazoo is where we want to be. We’re just a quick plane-ride away from our clients, and because of technology, we have the ability to connect with them remotely as well. I love being in Kalamazoo, and I have to say, it’s fun winning projects in little bitty Kalamazoo over our San Francisco and New York based competitors. We’ve found amazing talent here, and we’re very lucky.
What has been one of your biggest learning moments?
Everyday is a learning moment. I think starting Maestro and being a part of a startup requires a great amount of effort and patience, and you don’t really realize the extent of it until you’re in the middle of it. It’s daily learning, and adds a level of humility, whether it’s humility related to cash flow, interactions with the staff, or working with our customers. Maestro is almost seven and the learning hasn’t stopped.
I’ve had the opportunity with Maestro to learn more about myself than I could have ever imagined. There are definitely experiences I would have never received, had I not help start and run a company.
What is your background?
I have a teaching degree and taught middle school for several years. I would most likely still be teaching middle school had our oldest son not decided to come into the world early. His pre-mature birth changed our lives and moved us to Kalamazoo to be closer to family.
I stayed home with him for the first year, and during that time there were a lot of teacher layoffs so I decided to look at other options to teach. I found a sales job at Johnson & Johnson and tried to convince myself that I wasn’t selling, that I was actually teaching.
After a couple of successful years in sales, I was able to really jump back into teaching through a sales training role at J&J that moved my family to Chicago. From there we moved to Greenville, South Carolina, where I was able to lead a sales team.
What have you been jammin’ to recently? What’s on the iPod?
Lamb of God has been in my car since March of last year; but every once in a while, I listen to something else. My favorite music is whatever Zach (Maestro Creative Director) is listening to. He’s expanded my musical horizons. I like Mat Kearney, Phillip Phillips, Train, Coldplay, Ben Rector. I usually just throw an iTunes playlist on, but I’ve been using Pandora more recently.
What is your favorite app to use?
I love iBooks or my Kindle app. Having a library or bookstore in my pocket is amazing. I am constantly downloading something new to read.
Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?
I love hanging out at Waterstreet. Even though I don’t drink coffee, I love the smell of it and love hanging out in that environment. I also love heading to the Bronson Athletic Club to get in a good workout. I have an awesome personal trainer, Steve Lewis, at BAC that I workout with twice a week. For Christmas, I got new kettle bells and lifting shoes.
What is your dream for the future of Lamb of God/Maestro?
I’ll start with Maestro. I recently read a blog article talking about entrepreneurship and I really aligned with it. It was about building businesses that focus on doing good. It’s not all about the bottom line; you have to be careful with that, as it’s a big part of running a business obviously, but I love finding ways we can make a difference.
What if we created tools that helped anyone be more productive – families, and students and really anyone who wants to get the most of out of life – and we were able to use technology to help them do so?
Internally, I want employees who are wildly satisfied being at Maestro. I want to give them opportunities to work on meaningful projects, and challenge them to discover skills they didn’t know they had the capability to do. There is a lot of autonomy at Maestro, so those opportunities come often. My hope is that we’re making peoples’ lives better and creating joy in their life. Work consumes so much of our time, so I think that if Maestro can be a safe spot for people who want to experience a great culture and great people, then I’d feel like I was doing my job.
For Lamb of God, I would really like this to be something that becomes an annual tradition in Kalamazoo. I’d love for these individuals who are coming together to share their common belief to want to continue with this in the future and to have the community look forward to it!
We can tell you love to try new things. Do you know what your next venture will be?
I do love to try new things. It’s fun to learn and grow as you explore your passions. I really love fitness and think something in that area would be meaningful and rewarding. I’d love to be able to help people achieve success with their health. Lately, I’ve geeked out on weightlifting and Olympic style lifts; they’re really fun and challenging me in new ways that I enjoy. It’s just fun to feel good in general. I think my next venture will be a little smaller than what I’ve taken on this year!