One of Jennifer Martin's first jobs was working the front desk of the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, where she got very good at asking one question: "How can I help you?"
She credits her earnest, honest interest in the answer to that question with her career success. "I learned everything that I ever needed to know about customer service from working at the front desk of a hotel," explains Jen. "And I quickly learned that I needed to have that guest service lens on in my career. How can I help? What can I do? How can I partner with you? I think if you're more open, people come to you because they know you're open to learning, they know you're open to relationships. They know you're open to failure."
From hospitality to client service to agency to now being an in-house marketer, Jen's career has taken her around the country and through several industries, but the role she feels most excited about is the one she has now: VP of Brand and Advertising for AI healthcare startup Olive.
Not only is she working with a company whose mission aligns with her own—discovering hidden connections that make people's lives easier—but as a mom of a child with a rare genetic disorder, she knows just how important it is to find those connections within the healthcare industry, which is ripe for innovation.
How Olive can help patients
Jen's daughter Sarah has Rett Syndrome. "She's great and healthy and thriving and beautiful—and nonverbal and works really hard to do a lot of the things that come so easily to most of us," says Jen.
Caring for her daughter has given Jen an intimate look at all of the inefficiencies and failures of the American healthcare system. "I understand from a patient perspective how difficult it is to navigate all of it," she says. "The healthcare industry is hard to understand for many people: prior authorization, claims, insurance, appointments, rattling off for the 100th time that yes, she does have an allergy to penicillin...We have so much more to do to fix the system and streamline the patient experience."
Olive is a healthcare-specific artificial intelligence solution that can help hospitals optimize administrative workflows including processing invoices, managing registration, authorizing claims, and verifying benefits. "I want to make [my daughter's] life better," explains Jen. "This is an indirect way for me to do that. I can draw a parallel if I can make another parent's experience with a hospital be more streamlined."
Staying open to new possibilities
If you'd asked Jen as she began her career where she thought she'd end up, she probably wouldn't have answered with her current role or even industry. That's been true for most of the professional transitions she's made.
While working at the Hyatt early on in her career, she started a pilot program with what was then a little startup out of Las Vegas called Expedia. Their partnership began selling 10 rooms, then 40, and then turned into a new role for Jen at Hyatt's headquarters working on building out the hotel chain's ecommerce functionality to sell their rooms directly.
Then her hospitality background was appealing to an ad agency who needed an account director for their client, United Airlines, so Jen made the switch into agencies and marketing work. She and her husband then moved from Chicago to more family-friendly Columbus, where Jen got a job with a women-owned ad agency and took on other big projects, like launching Sherwin-Williams' ecommerce business.
But when IBM bought her agency and Jen realized she was on the fast track to becoming a partner, she had a wake-up call. She was at a training retreat for to-be partners that asked participants to think through their values, and Jen realized her current work wasn't aligned with what she cared about most. "[My coworker] and I spent a lot of time talking about what we wanted in life, and it was in those moments that I realized I wanted my work to matter," she says.
She left IBM and started at a smaller, more traditional ad agency, but it wasn't a good fit for Jen's ambitions. "I knew I wanted to find something that was rooted in technology, rooted in automation—which was a passion point for me at IBM—and rooted in creating better outcomes for humans," says Jen. She also knew she wanted to be on the client side of things. "I wanted to feel good about what I was building. At the agency, you don't get to own it. You have to just build it and walk away from it. And I'm at the point now where I would like to nurture a brand and see it grow and see it become something."
A friend told her to check out Olive. "I was drawn to Olive by her mission to drive innovation within healthcare, to affect patient outcomes. Olive has a vision for how to do it and the right team in place to make it happen," says Jen.
And now Jen is overseeing Olive's major branding campaigns in cities around the country, partnering with Olive's product and sales teams to get their message out, and finally feeling really connected to the work she spends all day doing.
She left us with a few tips for how you can find work that makes you feel the same way.
3 tips for finding a company whose mission you're aligned with
1. Write down your values. "The personal has to come before the professional. Start there and really try to understand and dig deep into your own self. Figure out what matters the most to you," says Jen, who offers an example: "I can tell you that in this moment, my family matters most to me, and my daughter is certainly a huge part of that."
2. Do your research. Jen notes that she didn't follow her own advice when she left IBM for another agency. "Find the leaders within whatever company you're evaluating and follow them on LinkedIn. See what they're saying, how they position themselves, how they position their company. Find multiple leaders to get a perspective that's more holistic," she says. She also recommends looking at hashtags that matter to you and seeing which companies use those in their posts. "Look to see how diverse the leadership is. Diversity drives much better thinking within an organization, much more well-rounded thinking."
3. Be yourself. "It manifests in different ways," says Jen, who notes that especially now, in extended work-from-home setups, it's important to be able to be your true self at work and feel like others are being authentic with you, too.