Q&A: Jenny Waugh


Jenny Waugh. Courtesy FTCH

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.

As marketing director for FTCH, Jenny Waugh oversees business development, sales and marketing and public relations for the top 400 architecture and engineering firm.

Waugh is responsible for brand development and management, along with strategic planning, across 10 offices and 400 employees.

In her role, she also works with the firm’s nonprofit clients and serves on many boards, such as the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, Habitat for Humanity Kent County, Community Media Center and the American Institute of Architects GR.

Biggest career break?

My writing and design drew attention at the financial services firm where I worked, leading to a career change from human resources to marketing. 

Proudest moment?

All of my proudest moments come from helping a nonprofit succeed in some form or another, whether by successfully holding an annual gala or capping off a capital campaign. Right now for example, I have been creating and planning a two-mile youth walk for Detroit-Area Pre-College Engineering Program students to see downtown Detroit through a sustainability lens. We want to encourage these 125 high schoolers to consider a career in engineering, because as my industry is quickly graying, workforce development is more important than ever. The Sustainabili-D Youth Walk is scheduled for September 28 and if well received by the students, will become a model to be replicated in Grand Rapids and beyond.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

My mother used to tell me to “fake it until you make it” to teach me confidence and positivity as a child. I in turn have spent years teaching staff the importance of body language and a positive attitude when selling or presenting. Mom’s advice may not have been as eloquently stated as Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, but I have used that advice to help so many terrified sales people over the years.      

How did you make your first dollar?

I am sure most would answer babysitting because that is the normal path for young girls entering the workforce and I certainly did plenty of that too, but my first dollar came from yard work and chores for family members. I remember spending summers mowing my grandpa’s five acres for $20, which was a fortune for a little kid, but it took hours, because he had put a governor on the tractor to slow me down! I still drive too fast, but it taught me patience and the importance of a job well done.

Most-treasured possession?

My grandfather was a master mechanic for GM after receiving his engineering degree from Purdue. I have a few tools of his, and they never fail to bring back the best of memories.

Dream job?

Any job where I am connecting people and making connections, training and coaching others or serving others and sharing my talents brings me joy, such as my position right now. In my next life, I do aspire to be a chef, though.

If you were president for a day, you would…?

As president, I would open up the front doors. I’d want local experts to come in to educate and share their opinions, along with the 15- to 25-year-olds to talk about how policy changes will affect their futures. There is a generational gap and certainly a disconnect between federal knowledge and local expertise. The government could stand to learn some lessons from those they supposedly serve.

Last book you read?

I re-read the series by Hugh C. Howey last week, starting with my favorite, “Wool.” Even though it is science fiction, it is easy to draw the correlation between today’s world and Howey’s dystopian future. Just one person with courage and hope can challenge the system and make a difference.   

Last search term you googled?

I’m in marketing. We tend to use Google every minute of the day for everything from grammar rules to social media trends.

Your worst habit?

I hate vegetables. I know one of these days I should grow up and eat my leafy greens, especially as a parent. I am a hypocrite that makes my children eat their vegetables, all while pretending to eat mine. 

To unwind, you like to…?

Golf, run, read and spend time with my family.

Dream vacation?

I miss the vacations we used to have before cell phones. Any vacation where I could unplug from work, email, social media and all the other distractions that come from my cell would be a dream come true.

Favorite food?

Cheese! If you haven’t spent time at The Cheese Lady, I highly recommend surrounding yourself with the tastes and aromas to be found within.

Person you most admire?

There are so many people I admire — women like my peers who influence their communities and industries, women like my boss who thrive in a traditionally male-dominated arena such as engineering or construction, women like my sister who make exceptional medical breakthroughs to benefit mankind and women like my mom who raise their children to believe girls and boys are equal. 

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