Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.
After majoring in English at the University of Michigan, Jen Crowley said she received a lucky break when she was hired for a “real job” as a technical writer.
She said hard work and "pluck" paid off for her in the form of steadily increasing responsibilities as a marketing communications and brand strategist.
The dot-com bubble and then the post-9/11 economy created an opportunity for Crowley to start a business with her husband.
Today, she runs Grand Rapids-based Highland Group, a marketing firm and a certified B Corporation with a team of graphic designers, digital developers and "strategic thinkers."
The firm’s goal is to create a workplace where its team members "can find challenging professional accomplishment, in balance with time for a personal life and community service."
Biggest career break?
My biggest career break was early on — having the opportunity to coordinate year-2000-related marketing for Compuware’s mainframe products division. At the time, no one knew what would happen to the major computers running business applications, and there was a lot of fear that major systems like bank processing, credit cards and airlines would shut down. Compuware had a series of tools that specifically supported the conversion from two digits (MM/DD/YY) to four digits (MM/DD/YYYY). I was able to work on a global team bringing Compuware’s story to customers.
I’m hugely proud of Highland Group becoming a certified B Corporation this year. I think it’s a testament to how we continue to evolve and create value for our team members and our clients.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
“People are always trying to tell you who they are.”
“You either live in love, or you live in fear.”
“Blessed be, grit and glitter all.”
How did you make your first dollar?
My first paying job was as a bagger at a local specialty grocery store — the equivalent of a Forest Hills Foods. I spent the summer bagging groceries into paper bags, wheeling carts out into the parking lot and loading them into the trunks of customers' cars.
My wedding ring, pictures on my phone, friends and family who make me laugh
If I were president for a day, I would…?
Wish I were the historian instead!
Last book you’ve read?
I'm a passionate reader and devoted supporter of pubic libraries (including being on the Library of Michigan Board of Directors). I read loads of work-related articles on Pocket (my favorite reading app) and almost all my books on the Kindle app. I’m always re-reading "Truman" by David McCullough (Truman is my favorite president). My best book so far this year is "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry. I read it based on Linsey Gleason’s recommendation, and it’s fantastic.
Last thing you Googled?
Goalie gloves for my daughter’s birthday
Your worst habit?
Sugar. Not being able to say "no." Eating at my desk.
To unwind, I like to…?
Read. Swim. Yoga. Have a lovely manhattan served up, extra cherries.
I love classic American vacation spots: Nantucket, Maine and the Florida coast.
Person you most admire?
My dad for his integrity, devotion, sense of humor, love of words and excellence at list making.