Celebrating Pride Month: An interview with Jen Winter
We’ve been celebrating Pride Month by sharing stories from PK employees on what Pride means to them. Last week, we shared the perspective of Michelle Sterling-Woody, Real Estate Program Manager at PK, on Pride and how she and her family celebrate.
This week, Jen Winter, our EVP of Technology and Software, shares her story and insights. Jen will celebrate her 16-year anniversary with PK this year, and she serves as a role model for all of us here at PK.
What does celebrating Pride Month mean to you?
Jen: It means different things for me now versus when I was younger. When I was younger, I remember how amazing it felt to have space that was so supportive and helped me feel a stronger sense of freedom to be myself. Today, it’s a lot different. Now I get to be thoughtful and forward-thinking about how I and those around me can show up as role models and active allies for the LGBTQ+ community.
On the PK leadership team, you are a visible role model and out member of the LGBT+ community. In your experience, how can team members, teams, and organizations best support our LGBT+ colleagues during Pride and always?
Jen: People just want to work in an organization where they can be themselves and not worry that their contribution would be valued differently because they are “different.” So, I think it is important that leadership in an organization goes out of its way to show that. There are simple and small things you can do to signal your support. If you want to get to know someone and ask about their family, use gender-neutral language, e.g., “significant other, partner.” For introductions, encourage people to introduce themselves with their name and preferred pronouns (or a fun fact about themselves). Some people may not feel comfortable sharing their pronouns, so by including the option of a fun fact you allow for participation without pressure. Consider including your preferred pronouns in your email signature. Use a Pride background for meetings. Participate in DEI programs—for example, at PK, we had a 30 Day Pride Challenge. Encourage your teams to participate too.
How can the little and big things leaders do every day have a big impact?
Jen: Diversity is critical to our business. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are even more important because of who PK is. Our brand promise is all about creating experiences that matter—imagining transformational experiences and bring them to life takes diverse perspectives and talents. Diversity is what really helps us unlock the magic. The more diverse we are, and the more diversity of thoughts we have, the better we can imagine and build. People can’t bring the best version of themselves to work if they don’t feel embraced. As leaders, we have the most levers to pull—we set the tone, culture, and priorities.
What specific steps can leaders take to make their teams more inclusive?
Jen: One big way is through the priorities, strategies, and KPIs we set for the company. This year, we’ve elevated DEI as a priority and investment area.
But I also believe the small things we do as leaders matters just as much. We talked about some of them earlier on. One I would add: it is so important for the most senior person in the group to hear from everyone. Leaders can have a big impact when they consciously work to include everyone in the conversation. In meetings I try to go last—I want to hear from everybody first. I think practicing active listening is critical so people know you have heard them.
How did you reach your level of success? Were there challenges? How did you overcome them?
Jen: I am a naturally curious person, and that curiosity just brings a wanting to know and wanting to learn from different perspectives. I am an athlete too and that ingrains in you the desire to go after hard goals and think about a plan to get there. That has been critical for me. I am the kind of person who is really fueled by people. I work to surrounding myself with people who have different strengths than I do. This is important because they push me outside my comfort zone. You need to know what you bring to the table and what you need others to bring. I always wanted to play on a team where I was not the best because that would push me to be better. That analogy applies at work too.
What are some lessons you know now that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Jen: I wish I would have had more confidence in my gut instinct and intuition. A lot of things that I had an intuition or strong feelings about turned out to be right, but at the time I just didn’t trust that intuition. It just took time and getting older to trust this. I wish I had started earlier.
I also wish I had gone deeper in the “build” part of custom technology—that I had been a part of building technology from the ground up. I have been involved in the packaged part of tech—for example, as a Product Manager. Fortunately, I am having that opportunity now.
There is a well-studied under-representation of females in STEAM careers. How can we teach the leaders of the future and prepare girls for leadership roles and technology careers?
Jen: This is where I spend my not-for-profit time. We want to bring women into technology, and this is something you must start addressing in late elementary and middle school. I am on the board for a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM)-focused middle school in Seattle. I have met many passionate people in the organizations that are putting in the work to ensure girls are introduced to and confident in STEAM. The school also has a strong commitment to DEI and I’ve been able to continue my learning on what that looks like when done well in an education environment. These young girls are doing amazing things in the world!
You have a master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology. How does this influence how you work and lead today?
Jen: My degree was half people at work (from behavioral psychology), and the other half was data science. It still benefits me today. The part that benefits me the most is not just the curiosity, but that at the end of the day, everything we do is about getting people to shift to something new. You need to understand how to help people pivot—be open to and try on the change. I love that PK is focusing on organizational change management. If you ask people who have bailed on a technology project, it almost always has nothing to do with the technology itself, but with the people part of it. As technology continues to advance, it will be even more important to understand how we help our clients ensure their technology investments are embraced, adopted, and have the impact that they should.
About the author
Kristin Kolasinski is a Senior Manager, Marketing at PK. She has an extensive marketing and communications background working in both B2B and B2C industries. She spent the first portion of her career working in the sports industry for the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers. Since then, she worked for Whole Foods Market, a regional financial services company, and a legal SaaS company before coming to PK.