Capitol Communicator is running a series of profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “up close and personal” profile, we feature Jennifer Nycz-Conner, assistant managing editor for video and “Working the Room” columnist for the Washington Business Journal. Photography for this series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Jen, tell us a bit about yourself.
For the past nine years, I’ve held about 12 different jobs at the Washington Business Journal. I began as a feature writer, and then morphed into a sections editor, special publication producer, editor of our weekly Back Page photo and networking round-up and writer of the “Working the Room” column on networking, life at work and whatever other randomness happens to come up. Most recently, I’ve been heading up our video strategy and production. Currently, I’m also filling in on WTOP 103.5 FM doing our business reports each weekday morning, which I love doing. Before the WBJ, I served as the executive director of Women in Film & Video of Washington, D.C., a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the role of women in the media. I began my Washington career in television production and show development for the sports agency ProServ.
Are you involved in any organizations?
For many years, I was on the board of, and eventually worked for, Women in Film & Video of Washington, D.C. It’s a wonderfully supportive, educational group of women and men who create television, film and all kinds of media. It’s still a group I turn to often when I have a question or dilemma I can’t seem to solve. More often than not, someone in that group has the answer.
What are the things you are most proud of?
Personally, I’m most proud of my family – both my husband and the people my two small sons are turning out to be – and my parents, brothers and friends. I’m very blessed to be surrounded by loving, supportive, funny people in my life. When it comes to work, I’m most proud – or maybe “honored” is a better word – when someone tells me they learned something or found some sort of meaning in one of my columns. My columns are far from hard-hitting journalism but, every once in a while, someone finds something that helps them. I’m also proud of the work we do at the Business Journal. We have a smart, savvy, talented staff that cares deeply about what we do.
Who were your role models?
Like many people, my parents were my first and continue to be my most important role models. They are kind, wise and always do the right thing. They also pushed me to believe I could do anything I set my mind to. Professionally, I’ve been very fortunate to have incredible bosses. I fell into my first job in Washington at ProServ, and it was through pure good fortune that I was able to learn from two great people in the sports and television business, Donald Dell and Dennis Spencer. I took my next job at Women in Film & Video because of the woman who would become my boss, Deborah Redmond of Soho Strategies. We had served on the board together, and she ran the group with a strength, vision and sense of inclusion that I wanted to learn how to replicate, even just slightly, so I took the job to follow her around for a year. That became three. WIFV also gave me the chance to learn from another mentor many of your readers know, Jennifer Cortner of then-EFX Media and now with Discovery. Jen is one of the most unflappable leaders I’ve ever met.
The Business Journal has given me a whole host of mentors – see, I told you I was lucky! – from my friend and former editor Beth Hunt, who took the crazy chance on hiring me despite my nontraditional background and coached me into shape, to my current editor Doug Fruehling, who pushes us all to constantly strive for bigger and better, to the leadership lessons from our former publisher, seems-to-be-everywhere-leading-everything Alex Orfinger.
Did these role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
It wasn’t necessarily specific things they said, although there were plenty of them. It was more their sense of belief in my abilities and what they thought I could accomplish. More often than not, they were more confident in me than I ever was. They lent me their confidence through their belief in me.
What professional advice do you have for others?
I write half of my columns in bullet points, so why change course now?
1. Bring your enthusiasm. You can learn, or be taught, almost anything – except enthusiasm.
2. Be kind. Business is full of tough decisions. No matter how tough they may be, there’s always room for kindness. That old saying is true – people won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.
3. Do what you love. That doesn’t mean just an industry or specific job that you love. It can also just be the type of work that you do, whether it’s interacting with people, working solo or making things. I have a severe case of Refrigerator Syndrome, which I realized about 10 years into my career: I need to create things every day that I can bring home and hang on the refrigerator to feel professionally happy. Once I realized that, journalism became a scary, but great choice.
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire for your organization?
Dress to be confident. That changes with your location, your workplace, your title, you name it. But a good outfit can instill you with some extra confidence, that can give you the boost when you need it. Case-in-point: I have this pair of pink-and-black flowered heels that I love. I happened to be wearing them one day when I had to take on a source about a story. I lost the battle, but I said my piece and stood my ground. To this day, I refer to those heels as my butt-kicking shoes.
Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear to the office?
I’m far from high-fashion – in fact, more often than not, I feel fashion-challenged. Thankfully, I have some friends who have much better eyes and senses of style than I do. My day-to-day clothes are your basic mishmash from Banana Republic, Washington uniform maker Ann Taylor and Old Navy. But during the past few years, I’ve been introduced to the wonders of our local sample sales – thanks to those aforementioned friends – and I’ve discovered designers whose work I love, including Tahari and Donna Morgan. Jewelry is also one of my favorite things – not high-end, expensive pieces, but really fun, unique costume jewelry.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Like any good Jersey girl who grew up on the Jersey shore, I’m a crazy Bruce Springsteen fan. I also have a tendency to mistake famous people for people I think I know – it’s a bit of an occupational hazard. I have yet to meet Bruce Springsteen, but if and when I do, I will probably try to convince him we’ve met before.
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