Jaime-Alexis Fowler jokingly calls herself a 'recovering academic.' She left a PhD program to make change in the marketing sphere, where she has worked in health NGOs, post-abortion peer counseling non-profits and newsrooms. Now, she's leading a nonprofit that combines her passions for affecting change and understanding big questions: Empower Work. Empower Work provides immediate, confidential support for tough work situations via text. And Fowler says support for the project — and the change it's making in many individual lives — has blown her away.
She spoke to Fairygodboss about how prioritizing relationships has helped her develop a career that aligns with her values and interests, and shared tips for prioritizing the relationships in your life. She also shared the anecdotes from working moms that changed her perspective on working parenthood, how she unwinds and how her nonprofit has seen such major success.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Jaime-Alexis Fowler
Founder and Executive Director, Empower Work
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
I often jokingly refer to myself as a recovering academic. Twenty years ago, my dream job was to become a professor and combine my passion for understanding big questions with affecting change through teaching. But as I pursued a PhD, I saw the trajectory to impact much farther out than I wanted. I was eager to use my skills in a more immediate way. So, I left my PhD program and pivoted into work in the social change sector, leveraging my writing, communications, and people skills in a new career in marketing.
Throughout my career, I’ve been driven by big challenges that affect people’s health, well-being and economic opportunity. At the heart of that is my passion for empowering people and robust faith in every individual’s strength, resilience, and capabilities. I've led marketing at a $100M international health NGO, jumped into operations at a national nonprofit that provides post-abortion peer counseling, built and scaled marketing at Code for America, and launched a nonprofit newsroom. At the core of every big goal I’ve tackled is people. I love activating teams that identify opportunities, collaboratively problem solve, and utilize individual and organizational strengths to move missions forward.
Launching and growing Empower Work, a nonprofit that provides immediate, confidential support for tough work situations via text, is such a natural extension of my core values that over the past year, I've had friends and former colleagues remark, "I can't believe you didn't do this sooner."
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
I'm most proud of something less tangible, but critical: relationships. There aren't always ways to quantify the impact that we can have as managers, colleagues, mentors and friends. They take practice, investment, and energy. And sometimes, they can be the thing that gets put to the side when other pressing priorities come up. Yet, at the core of everything we do is people.
I feel fortunate to have worked with a range of talented, thoughtful, strategic people. I'm proud of developing teams and relationships that last well beyond the time that we've worked together.
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?
I've worked with a range of incredible managers and leaders — too many to list here. A special shout out to a fellow manager and mom who shared a story of pumping at her computer and spilling breastmilk on her keyboard, then calling IT for a new one with me. Her normalizing of the challenges of new parenthood was the most amazing breath of fresh air right when I needed it at the end of pregnancy. And a special shout out to a fellow manager mom who shared a story of bringing her newborn into the office in the early weeks so that she could have cuddle time and still get work done (something I asked my partner to do when he was on leave, thanks to her inspiration). And to an early former manager who went to bat for me — both for a promotion and for the right things in my career — that has inspired me in how to be a manager ever since.
What do you do when you're not working?
I spend a lot of time with family, either indoors and snuggling with our favorite books and trains or outdoors giggling, climbing, chasing, and jumping waves.
If you could have dinner with one famous person—dead or alive—who would it be?
Sonia Sotomayor and Ann Richards. Growing up in Texas with a governor who straddled a Harley and stood up for women's rights inspired me to take a stand for what I believed in, and to see the possibilities for what women could do: A.K.A anything. And the whole time I read Justice Sotomayor's 'My Beloved World,' I kept wanting to dig deeper over a long dinner conversation. I imagine a table with those two would be quite an interesting one.
Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song?
Run The World (Girls). I regularly sing and dance to it in my own personal karaoke lounge, A.K.A. my kitchen, with my almost three-year-old.
Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
Pride and Prejudice. It's a lifelong favorite that I could read on repeat.
What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
Prioritize people. Prioritize relationships. That can mean different things. For some, that might mean going deeper on certain relationships. For others, that might mean more broadening of relationships or networks. Tapping into and understanding what you need in the people around you, in the relationships you have or want to have, is a great way to explore what's important to you in your day-to-day and your career overall.
Why do you love where you work?
Every day I wake up knowing that our team, our volunteers, our advisors and our board are helping people navigate overwhelmingly challenging work situations. From surprise performance reviews to unexpected meetings with HR to questionable business practices to distrust for a manager to ongoing microaggressions, what people face in workplaces across the country is extraordinarily complex. We're here to provide a space and support to help navigate these challenging situations so that people can walk into that conversation with a boss prepared, tackle an interview, or negotiate an offer they're excited about. That's pretty amazing. Plus, the energy, expertise, and enthusiasm of the hundreds of people who have gotten involved in our mission has blown me away.
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.