I met Jen Novotny right here in these very comments.
A communicator by day and mother of three girls by night, she always leaves thoughtful and intelligent comments.
So, earlier this year, I sought to learn more.
She is smart, she is funny, and she likes the same television shows I do (though she may have had a meltdown by now because her DVR didn’t record all of Grey’s last night).
(And no spoilers, please! I haven’t watched this season yet, though I suspect I know what’s happened.)
I asked her to sit on the Spin Sucks Inquisition hot seat so you can learn more about her, too.
What is the Biggest Mistake You’ve Made in Your Career?
I left a job that I loved without proposing a solution to my boss that would allow me to stay.
When I went back to work after having my first baby, it was quite jarring to go from spending 24 hours a day with my new baby to only seeing her for a few hours. I wanted to keep working, but I wanted to find an alternate arrangement that would allow me to spend more time with her.
I started exploring other positions with more flexibility and took one right away because I didn’t think my current employer would ever go for an alternate arrangement.
And it’s very likely that they wouldn’t have, but I wish I had given them the chance and had that conversation instead of making that assumption.
At the same time, leaving that job wouldn’t have led me down the path of being an independent consultant, so ultimately I think everything works out the way it’s supposed to.
What is One Thing about Yourself that Would Surprise Most People?
Hmm, this is always such a hard question for me, because I feel like I’m pretty transparent. I will never be someone who buries her emotions!
One thing that people are always so intrigued by is that my parents own an engine building shop for race cars, so I grew up in a race shop and attending races all over Wisconsin during the summers.
The smell of race fuel truly is exciting to me!
My dad also drag raced when I was little, and my favorite activity was riding in the tow vehicle after his run to pick him up—of course, it was a much better ride back if he won.
While my parents build engines for local racers, I’ve attended my share of professional (NASCAR and NHRA) events.
I don’t think there’s anything more exhilarating than watching NHRA Top Fuel dragsters go 330 mph in 3.7 seconds.
I worked in motorsports PR in North Carolina on several NASCAR accounts for six months when I was straight out of college. Ultimately, it wasn’t the dream job I thought it would be.
Completely unrelated, I’ve been best friends with the same two girls (women?) since we were in first grade! Between the three of us, we have EIGHT girls, all in the same age range.
How does that even happen!?
If You Could Achieve Everything You Ever Wanted in Life, but Had to Die 10 Years Sooner, Would You Make that Trade?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from having three young kids, it’s that you can never have too much TIME.
Time is my best friend and I will welcome her for as long as she’ll have me.
(Plus, that’s too much pressure for us control freaks to identify what “everything I’ve ever wanted in life,” looks like. I’d be like, “Okay, now I’m good. Oh, wait. One more thing. I just have to do this … perfect, except, I really want to be sure, okay, wait …”)
What Industry Advice or Practice Would You Most Like to Cry Foul On?
The lack of female executives!
My co-workers and I used to laugh when we would go to PRSA meetings and other industry events and see the top male execs flanked by their legions of mid-level females.
Now that I’ve been in the business for 14 years, it’s just ugh.
In a field dominated by women, it’s maddening to see this gender equality gap as wide as ever.
Gini Dietrich is my favorite PR feminist! (I hope she’s okay with me calling her a feminist!)
What is the Best Book You’ve Read in the Past Six Months?
The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.
It’s a novel about a girl who is forced out of the foster care system at age 18 even though she has nowhere to go.
She ends up on the street, trying to navigate life without any support system or resources.
The story is heartbreakingly beautiful.
While this isn’t a true story, it’s not unlike the reality many kids who age out of foster care are faced with.
My heart really busts wide open for these kids.
I recently joined Camellia Network, a national network of citizens who want to connect with youth aging out to offer resources, opportunities, and support, co-founded by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.
Why Does Spin Suck?
Because if there’s one think that I dislike more than anything else, it’s dishonesty.
I just don’t think you can build a true relationship without trust; and without honesty, there’s no trust.
I had a boss who liked to say that the number one rule in crisis communications is to tell the truth and tell it fast.
All of the things people are trying to hide come out in the end, and then you’ve just made a bad situation worse.
Plus, the older I get, the more I realize how much easier (and more fun) it is to embrace your authentic self.
Authenticity always earns you more fans and friends than spinning a version of the truth or yourself.
Where You Can Find Jen Novotny
She blogs at On the Night You Were Born (though it’s been a year since she’s published anything new…get to it, Jen!).
If you need a solo practitioner who can be a media relations bulldog for you, I can think of no one better than Jen Novotny.