When Jessica Jensen started her career in American business in the 1990s, there was a rigid but unwritten rulebook about how women should look and behave. The uniform included stockings (tights), she recalls.
I remember one woman in counseling when I was starting, she said, ‘Now you have to sit down at the table, put your arms on the table and present your points,'” she said, demonstrating the stiff posture that her was recommended.
Work has changed in recent years, with the pandemic accelerating the change.
For Jensen, chief marketing officer at leading recruitment site Indeed, which employs 1,200 people in Ireland and 12,000 worldwide, these changes are positive in many ways.
“I can be my weird, ridiculous self. We can wear whatever we want — we have so much more freedom,” says Jensen, whose resume includes studying impromptu comedy in LA with teachers like actress Melissa McCarthy. “When I started working, gay people weren’t out there. You whisper really softly about someone being gay. And thank God that has changed enormously.”
As a large employer and a major player in the labor market, Indeed is at the forefront of the rapidly changing recruitment world, with many employers struggling with post-pandemic restrictions.
“I like to say the only two good things to come out of Covid are children learning to wash their hands and people re-evaluating their relationship with work.
“I think there has been a fundamental shift in terms of the need for flexibility, the desire to reduce business travel and the desire to integrate work into life rather than the other way around. All of this is causing workers to think differently about what they expect from their companies and organizations.
“It’s forcing employers to be more flexible and open-minded, and to engage with employees in ways that empower their lives and work.”
Jensen, who has held senior positions at Facebook and Apple, insists new ways of working aren’t just a fad.
“I don’t think it’s a youth movement. I think people of all ages see the value in that.”
However, some bosses are moving back into the office, especially in areas like financial services.
“I don’t know if that will work,” says Jensen. “I think workers have more power now and there are more jobs than labor supply. People vote with their feet.
“I think that companies that take a hard line about ‘back-in-the-office’
Politicians will have a hard time keeping and attracting the best people.”
Jensen took a detour into the boardroom of a multinational company. Originally from the state of Kansas, USA, her family moved to San Diego, California when she was 14 years old. Then, after attending college in Massachusetts, she lived and worked in Japan.
“My father is a painter and I was really obsessed with Japanese art,” she says.
Jensen worked for the California Sales Representatives in Tokyo before returning to the US to join the Boston Consulting Group. She later became CEO of a number of Yahoo! consumer shops.
“I realized that I’m an artist at heart – so I started to move into marketing. But I’m actually first and foremost a business strategist who has become a marketer over time.”
During her time in consulting, she dabbled in impromptu comedy and took classes with an improv company in Los Angeles called The Groundlings.
“I had no illusions that I would become a professional comedian,” she says with a smile. “I did it for redemption. I loved being silly – and I wouldn’t say management consulting is relaxing.”
Throughout her career, Jensen has worked for some big tech players. How did you find the attitude towards women in Silicon Valley?
“I’m never comfortable saying that it’s difficult for women to succeed in tech because it’s totally dependent on the company,” she says.
“But to be clear is a “tech bro” culture in Silicon Valley. I think both the startup world and the VC world have seen a lot of male nepotism in the past. But I think it’s getting better.”
Jensen sits on the board of a women’s VC council called F7.
“We’re making progress,” she says.
Given that company culture seems to differ from company to company, how can potential employees assess what it’s like on site before joining?
“I think kicking the hoops is incredibly important,” she says, adding that online employer reviews — like the ones you find on Indeed’s sister site, Glassdoor — are very useful.
“I always say to women who ask them about their career path, ‘Use your network, find three women from this company in different departments – and ask them to tell you the right story.’ That can be quite revealing.
“I think a lot of companies put on a nice ‘diversity face’, but that’s not the actual day-to-day experience of people in the company.”
Jensen spent five years at Facebook (now Meta), where she was the leader of platforms, products and insights, and corporate marketing during an incredibly trying time at the social media giant. She says the experience was “fascinating.”
“When I started we were 4,000 people – and when I left we were almost 30,000 people. I was there when we bought Instagram, when we bought WhatsApp, when we launched Messenger…
“I’ve seen an incredible portfolio of companies around the world that are not only growing, but really addressing societal and political issues. And I ran Cambridge Analytica and monitored internal communications. I would not recommend this job to anyone.”
She also witnessed firsthand the world’s increasingly wary gaze on Facebook.
“We’ve gone from exciting darlings of the tech industry to a scourge of the media – some deserved, some not. It was personally very painful to see this thing that I worked so hard on and really believed in being pilloried.”
But Jensen believes in regulating technology.
“I think technology is good for society in general because it makes us more connected and efficient – and frankly, it relieves boredom in many ways.
“However, I definitely acknowledge the ills of social media. I’m raising an 11 year old daughter so I’m immersed in the challenges of navigating and trying to control that.
“I support governments and policymakers working with companies to try to find the right balance because these things can be absolutely toxic.”
Jensen, who joined Indeed as chief marketing officer during the pandemic, is a strong advocate for equality and diversity — an ethos that has undoubtedly helped him make the top 10 Sunday independent/Statista Ireland’s 150 Best Employers in 2022, to be published today.
Gender balance is a top priority at Indeed – and the company is actively working to achieve this.
“I would say as a company we are very committed to pay transparency – both in the workplace as a whole and for ourselves.
“Let’s get it out there, let’s shed some light on it. At Indeed, we have salary transparency, and we just had a really deep conversation about salaries on our Slack channels. We believe that for a certain level, for a certain type of role, everyone should know what they should be doing.”
The company also has a very active women’s group covering learning and development opportunities.
She believes flexibility has been very beneficial for caregivers, who are often women. But she’s also quick to acknowledge that working from home has its own set of challenges.
“We are all struggling to find ways to achieve a clear demarcation between work and personal life.
“Laptops and computers give us the freedom to have a meeting while we’re waiting for our kids at the dentist or whatever — but there’s the burden of feeling constantly available. And cell phones don’t help with that.”
She believes leaders and managers should draw boundaries around personal time.
“We have to be active and proactive to push those boundaries and switch off or digital work can invade all the time you have. It’s a real concern.”
Indeed’s latest initiative to support its employees is called Family Forming Benefit. In addition to digital support services, the package includes financial reimbursement of costs related to IVF, egg and sperm freezing and surrogacy.
There was a time when employees who did not need such benefits may have refused financial benefits that were only available to a specific group of employees. However, she feels that Indeed’s holistic approach to workers avoids this.
“We equally accept people who need to take their time. We offer psychiatric leave or personal leave. I have people on my team – men and women – who have specific athletic things they want to do at specific times, and we work to their schedules.”
Although this was Jensen’s first visit to Dublin with Indeed, she was often in town when she was on Facebook and is lavish in praising the country and suggesting Ireland not get overly concerned with corporate tax changes.
“The quality of the talent here is superlative. We are there for the people. It is a wonderful hub for doing business across Europe. We have a wonderful relationship with the Irish Government and with businesses and partnerships here. This is our European home and it is vital to us.
“Do taxes matter? Naturally. But it’s much, much bigger than that.
“We see it as the Silicon Valley of Europe. We see it as a talent hub, as an innovation hub. It’s a pleasure to work with people who have such a wide view.”
While job markets are extremely buoyant at the moment, the world is facing enormous economic uncertainty. However, Jensen is optimistic.
“I thought the last two and a half years have been pretty wild and I don’t see anything calming down – which is really, really amazing.
“We are very fortunate at Indeed that the demand for labor is tremendous and we are growing very well.
“Obviously the world has shown that it can be turned upside down in an instant – but we are hiring very heavily in Ireland and in many other markets so we will continue to grow here for as long as we can.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/media/the-door-has-shut-on-the-traditional-office-indeeds-us-marketing-boss-on-the-new-world-of-work-41670567.html The door to the classic office has closed – Indeed’s US marketing boss to the new world of work