Jennifer Barroll-McNamara’s working life has been one of diverse and meaningful career and leadership experiences. She’s been an actor, TV show host, marketing and communication executive, entrepreneur, leadership educator and consultant, professional speaker, emcee, and stand-up comedian. But, what’s surprising is that she’s still doing many of these jobs!
Jenny B (check out her website at jennyb.ca) is the first to say that she’s a “multi-passionate” person; and, that’s what makes her so effective at pursuing her mission: growth by any means. From co-creating a leadership program for youth at-risk, to hosting multi-day conferences, Jenny’s career path is inspiring.
Career giggles and squiggles
From the age of ten, Jenny knew she had the gift of being able to connect with anyone through her sense of humor. While growing up, she was always inventing characters and telling jokes in funny accents to get people laughing. So, when she was deciding what to do after high school, it was no surprise that she applied to the Mount Royal University Theatre Arts program. Of the hundreds of applicants, Jenny was one of the twenty accepted. Then, after acting professionally for a couple years, she moved into media presenting and production.
“Telling people about my squiggly career path somehow gives them permission to do what lights them up.”
Next, Jenny worked in radio as a morning show co-host, then did some work in television, before working for a start-up tech company doing communications and marketing. Within a year, Jenny was traveling the world, working with some of the biggest brands on the planet and managing celebrity partnerships. She remembers sitting across from account executives from one of North America’s biggest investment firms and thinking, “This is the best business degree anyone can get and I don’t even have to pay for it.”
Experience is the best leadership training
Almost from the very beginning of her career, Jenny has been in leadership roles. “I usually had people reporting to me, and I tell people that experience is the best leadership training you can get.”
Jenny moved on to run her own marketing and communications company, helping small to mid-size business owners craft their unique mission, vision, and culture. But when one of her clients asked her to co-create a leadership program for youth at risk, she realized that she was about to begin another life-changing career pivot. “It brought together everything I’d been doing and enabled me to do what I do best.” Jenny developed and ran the program for eight years, and In the Lead is still part of the high school curriculum in Alberta.
Jenny now and next
When I interviewed Jennifer for this article, she had just finished hosting a multi-day personal and business development conference in Vancouver that included over thirty speakers. “Being an emcee requires me to find a thread that ties the entire event together and keep the audience energized.” But, as you might guess, Jenny is doing a lot more. “I’m always helping individuals and organizations with their leadership challenges. I have created a program called Leadership Life that is a 3 to 3 ½-day course that is open to the public and taught within organizations. I’m writing a book right now, and I know I’ll be doing more speaking, emceeing, and stand up this year —more performing is going to be a big part of my future.”
What keeps Jenny going?
When I asked Jenny what motivates her to keep moving forward, she immediately said, “I’ve seen what happens when I just show up and try to support.” Then, she told me a story that I’ll never forget.
Jenny said, “Years ago, a friend of mine was going through a really tough time. I was thinking of her and decided to give her a quick call just to check on how she was doing. I found out that she was moving that day, and all the people who had agreed to help her didn’t show up. So, I drove to her place and we spent the day packing and moving—we laughed and had a great time. Whenever I think of that day, I ask myself, ‘What would have happened if I didn’t call her? What would have happened if I didn’t show up?’ That day confirmed that people just need us to show up and support them in any way we can. That’s what I do, and that’s what keeps me going.”
Three things Jenny B wants you to know
“First, always know that you matter. Your value—your worth—is inherent to you and isn’t determined by anyone else. Second, life is a gift because it gives us an opportunity to contribute to others; I always encourage people to find a way to contribute in all that they do. Third, identify what is truly of value to you, not what other people think you should value, then let your values guide you.”
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