Ladies Who Lead is an interview series that features young women who have carved their place into some of the most cutthroat industries out there. Their paths to the top may not be linear; they may have not always gotten it right the first time. But these driven, savvy women have succeeded thanks to their strong work ethic and will to design their lives according to their own high set of standards.
But we aren’t just going to point and look at shiny things. Instead, we are going to decode how these women got here and how we—the unemployed, the underemployed, the misguided, the interested—can follow their lead. Shedoesthecity brings career mentors right to your screen every other week. Real women, real careers, real advice.
Jenna Berndt is a program coordinator in Executive Education at Queen’s University’s School of Business. She helps teach the people who run the people—say what?! Whether she is taking on the role of concierge or putting together a killer learning experience for the nation’s top executives, this lady always has a smile on her face and creative solutions to bring to the table. Based in Toronto, Jenna enjoys a pair of pumps, live music and climbing the corporate ladder.
SDTC: Executive education- what is it?
JB: Basically, we do two different things. One, we work with companies on custom programs. A company will approach us when they want to expand their executives’ knowledge on something. For example, we are working with a major retail company right now to teach them about strategic analytics. Then we also have developed short format programs that run all year around, except for July and August. These are two- or three-day programs that range from developing your leadership presence to coaching for challenging conversations to strategic analysis, marketing, and sales. We use Queens School of Business professors and these workshops bring in a variety of people from different companies. There is an online application process to make sure that everyone who does executive education with us is qualified and on the same level.
SDTC: What are the tasks of the program coordinator?
JB: Usually, for myself, prep for a program starts about two weeks ahead of time. I work with the professors to make sure that all of their needs are taken care of for their teaching- everything from their travel to Toronto, to technology in the classroom and handouts. Prior to the program, I speak to each participant—that’s what we call the executives—through email or phone to say welcome to the program. I check in if they have any questions, dietary requirements. It’s a lot about making sure they feel comfortable because it can be nerve-wracking coming into a classroom environment where you don’t know anyone. And then, when the participants are here, I do everything from coordinating the catering and coffee to answering their questions, making sure everything is in order. I’m talking to people about other programs we offer. I coordinate and manage everything while they are here to ensure the program runs smoothly.
I also volunteer on behalf of Queen’s at events, one is called Women of Influence in Toronto. We volunteer by working a booth to answer questions women have about programs at Queen’s. We volunteer as well as at The Art Of speaker series, so we do the same thing to answer questions about executive education. And everyone is curious about it!
SDTC: What lead you to this position?
JB: I have a diploma in human resources and I worked in human resources at the college I went to, but I didn’t like it. So I did a bit of placement volunteer work in the Queen’s School of Medicine. With my connection there, they let me know about a part-time job as a program assistant. I applied for it, went through three interviews and got that job part-time. I did it for three months and then they offered me full time. From there, I just kept applying to jobs within Queen’s in the School of Business. Jobs with more responsibility, better pay and more challenges. This is the third position that I’ve held at Queen’s.
SDTC: What set you apart to get each job and move up the ranks?
JB: My boss would say it was because I was so young and ambitious. When I started, I was only 21. He could tell that I wanted the experience and I wanted to be there, which is what I did convey when I was at work. I was happy that I had each job and I was always looking for opportunities, wanting to grow my career. It was about what I wanted in life. And I still get told this all time—it’s just about being happy and joyful. It’s refreshing that I’m not just someone who is coming in and doing the motions. That’s what drew me apart.
SDTC: Have you had a mentor along the way?
JB: Yes, my first boss who hired me. He was a director and he was very good at being positive, but telling me what to work on right away. I also asked him for feedback all the time. I was open and looking for what I could do better and what his impressions were. Being that 21 year old, I really wanted to make sure I was not coming across as a child. Always take advice! Positive and negative. Always take it because 99% of the time they are doing it to help you.
SDTC: What advice would you give someone who was looking for job?
JB: The main thing is, look at a job description but know that a job is much more than that. Don’t be overwhelmed by the descriptions or ads because usually, there are a lot of filler words. If there is a job that you think you can do, would be good at or is in your interests—just go for it. Look at the company. Don’t be afraid. The worst thing that’s going to happen is you don’t get the position. But in that case, you learn from it. And think outside the box, too. I didn’t always know I would work in education.
SDTC: Go-to work attire?
JB: My go-to work attire is a pair of comfortable pumps, dress pants and a button up blouse. Or the go-to is any kind of dress that you can change by adding a blazer or necklace to make it look like a different dress. Pieces you can mix and match. Day to night, depending on the weather, the season and what is going on at the office. But my most important thing is a comfortable pair of heels and minimal jewelry if you have to type a lot!
SDTC: What is your favourite part of the job?
JB: Honestly, my favourite part of the job is at the end of a program. The participants are leaving and they always come out very surprised and happy. They just learned so much in the last two days. They’ve grown and expanded on things they didn’t think they could do. It is always very rewarding when they depart and when they are thankful for the support that I gave them.