If someone asked you to name the most interesting part of your job, what would you say? Jennifer Jo Wiseman, Vice President of Consumer and Product Insights at E. & J. Gallo Winery, has more than one answer. In her role, she is continually making choices that better the winery’s products and brands – and the lives of people around her. Some of those people happen to be her employees, many of whom see her as a career mentor and friend.
Recently, Wiseman spoke to Fairygodboss about her innovative position, where she draws her everyday inspiration, and what advice she has for the next generation of women in leadership. Here’s what she had to say.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Feeling the need to be perfect, and always thinking someone is judging them. I believe this leads many women to take fewer risks in business and leadership.
How did you know you were on the right career path?
I don’t think there is a right career path. I have always thought of my career as a set of adventures that I learn and grow from. The path I have taken has been filled with experiences that I have grown from, always in areas that are interesting to me and that capitalize on my strengths as a human.
What’s the worst advice you have ever received?
Early in my career, I was coached to “conform” to a business culture that was inconsistent with my personal values to get ahead. Although this advice did offer success for me in that one environment, it was not the right choice for me as a person. Over time, I have learned that being true to who I am, and the legacy I want to leave as a leader is more important than winning any one conversation.
Tell us the coolest thing you are working on right now.
In my current work I am able to study people, how they live, and how they work, ultimately creating products and brands that will enhance their lives. In addition, I am in a career stage where coaching and mentoring is a critical activity. When I consider my legacy, it surrounds both of those worlds – what I am able to provide society, and what I am able to provide the next generation of leaders.
How do you balance it all?
I don’t think it is possible to balance it all, at least not all the time. I have tried to make choices that have allowed me to focus on family, career, community, and self. The reality is that this blend constantly changes as my life evolves. I have been lucky to have people in my life that kindly remind me when I am out of balance. This type of support system has been very valuable for me, because sometimes it is difficult to acknowledge when we are out of balance and when we need to adjust.
What woman inspires you and why?
I am inspired and humbled by women that overcome challenges and use those experiences to better the world. Temple Grandin, an extraordinary animal and child behavior revolutionary, comes to mind. She translated her experiences as an autistic individual into tools and therapies for animals and children. She is a great example of using her own journey to improve the journey of others.
What will be the biggest challenge for the upcoming generation of women?
One of our biggest challenges in the world today and for the future is holistic, thoughtful leadership. Women tend to have the skills required, like collaboration and empathy, but the challenge for women is being comfortable with leading, and leading at all levels. This needs to be taught and practiced from a young age.
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