Women in Leadership Spotlight on Jennifer Porter

Come and be dazzled by today’s Women in Leadership honoree Jennifer Porter! The extraordinary Jen is a passionate advocate of supporting and mentoring new starters, saying no and the immense power of speaking up.

Jen is the Head of Digital Marketing at Bonnier Books UK in London. Armed with a BA from West Virginia University and an MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University, she began her publishing career at indie publisher Perseus Books Group before moving onto HarperCollins Publishers and Penguin Random House UK.

Read on below to find out Jen’s top three leadership characteristics, her experience with imposter syndrome and the advice she would give her younger self.

What quote inspires you the most?

‘If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for’ – Hamilton

 

What has been the most significant barrier in your career to date?

It sounds awful, but hierarchy for sure. I’ve encountered so many people, from management to c-suite, or stakeholders who only support new blood performatively. It is so important to nurture new people to the industry if you have any hope in seeing it succeed.

 

Have you ever felt the imposter syndrome, and if so, how did you navigate your way through it?

Very often! When it comes to appraisals, pay rises, taking on more responsibility. I believe we’re all our own worst critics. But it’s really important to acknowledge that within yourself and adapt. If you were managing someone who performed how you were performing would you give them a good appraisal? Would you tell them they weren’t working hard enough? Step back and look at yourself objectively.

 

What do you think are the three most important characteristics to be an amazing leader in your organization?

Communication, trust and creativity.

 

How do you balance career, personal life and passions?

I’m lucky that I do a job I’m very passionate about. I love talking to people about books and seeing authors succeed. That makes the stress of work/life balance a lot easier to palette though in no way erases the stress completely.

Having my children has forced me to step back and re-evaluate the time I devote to work. Obviously, there are outliers but on a day-to-day basis I set firm boundaries with my time. My current company is so supportive of this with flexible hours, work from home and set meeting times so we’re not constantly on call.

 

What has been your biggest learning when it comes to work-life harmony during the pandemic?

That you have to learn to say no sometimes. You won’t lose your job if you say no to an 8am meeting, but you will lose your job (or your passion for the job) if you work yourself to the bone. Don’t respond to those work emails after work hours, you are not ‘always on’ and if the people around you cannot respect that then it’s time to go somewhere else.

 

What is the role mentorship and sponsorship have played in your career?

I have been lucky enough to have a few very supportive, trusting and encouraging colleagues over my career thus far. I’ve also had a couple colleagues who have been the exact opposite. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to feel as if you are trusted to do your job, you are praised when you do it well, and you are encouraged to look at failure as a learning curve.

 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

You’ll get there. There will be ups and downs, changes you don’t expect. But there will be learnings, friends, crazy days and even crazier nights out. But you’ll get there.

 

In honour of International Women’s Day 2022, has there been a time where you or someone around you has had to #BreakTheBias? What was your biggest learning from this experience?

I work in a female dominated industry but where men make up the majority of the top level and earners. And sometimes it’s all too easy to see how they got there. I’ll never forget being a junior staffer and getting the courage to speak up about an idea to my boss, only for that idea to be presented back to me, and the division, as his ‘big, great idea’.

At the time I didn’t say anything, but I would hope that if that happened to me today, I would speak up. It is always in the back of my head as well when I am now dealing with junior staffers. I remember the fear I had to even voice my opinions then, and I want the people I work with, and mentor, to always feel comfortable and validated in their ideas. When an assistant on a campaign has the brilliant idea, I make sure all the stakeholders involved know that it wasn’t me, it was them, who they should be thanking.

 

Bonus Question – Who has been the most influential woman in your life/career?

My mother – we’ve never worked together (minus the unpaid work she always roped me into as a kid!) but we’ve ended up in similar lines of work. She worked her way from assistant to director level by the time I was in high school and won awards for her work, but also work in the community.

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