In today’s show, Meghan gets to know Jess Lund, our Creative Design Manager. We learn about some of Jess’s passions, how she originally wanted to be a writer, and the importance of compassionate listening.
Read the transcript:
Hi. Today I’m talking to Jess Lund. Jess Lund is our creative design manager here on the 20-plus person creative team. So Jess, you and I have worked together for– we both just had our seven-year anniversaries.
We did, yeah. Congratulations!
Congratulations. Yeah. We’ve survived. So one of the things that I’d like to ask you about is your– well, a group of things I guess that I’d like to ask you about. Your current job, your current job title, and what those responsibilities are. How you got to that place. We talk a little bit about your first jobs, just because that’s kind of interesting.
Maybe a little bit about your family life and experiences that you had as a child or as a young adults that kind of helped shape your career path. But I think probably the best way to get started with an introduction into who you are and what you do at Audigy is just to hear what your current title is and what your current responsibilities are.
All right. So my current title is design manager in creative services within the marketing shared services team. So I manage about seven designers, graphic designers. And I act as a mentor and kind of a process definer. I help define the processes that help our team run. And I coordinate with our managers to make sure that our shared service teams are working well together.
I act as a bridge between our graphic designers and the executive team. So it’s pretty great to be that conduit and act as kind of an advocate for the team. And I also act as a senior designer still. I’m still working on usually some more strategic type project.
So in addition to the process, maybe more like rigid part of your role, you also have that creative side also. So how does that balance? I mean, how do you rectify that in your head? Like, do you schedule half of your day for the more process-oriented task-driven type stuff and then carve out part of your day for a more creative-focused project? Because I can imagine those are two very different processes. And creativity, at least in my mind– those are two different mindsets, right?
They are very different. And block scheduling has been a huge topic for our team lately. How to best approach that. How do you balance several meetings throughout a week with defining processes that come out of those meetings and also those creative projects. And definitely have to block out several hours at a time to focus on any side of that spectrum.
Sure. Yeah. Yeah.
But I like both. I’ve always been able to do kind of a balance of creative and more structured.
Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. So talk to us a little bit about your first job in the creative field. What was your first– did you go to school for design?
So that gets complicated. I actually was going to be a writer. I was always good at writing and I had teachers throughout my education encourage that for me. And I went through high school. I was on the newspaper. I was a co-editor. That was my one academic commitment. Otherwise I just wanted to get out of high school. In middle school I took pottery for a couple months and calligraphy. But I did not take art classes other than that.
So I actually went to you U of O for journalism my freshman year. And I kind of got disillusioned. I took a really good communications course that was entry level where the instructor was pretty real in how he spoke to the state of media and how difficult it was to get a job in journalism and be ethical. So I really appreciated that and at that time I was willing to pursue it, but I also decided after that first year to move back to Portland.
I was not happy, culturally at University of Oregon. I hated the dorms. They were the worst. And I came from a background of– I started working when I was 16. I really enjoyed having other things than just school year. And so to go to a college town was really a challenge for me. I had to work and you couldn’t really work off campus. I did find a cool job there.
So in my decision to move on from U of O I went to PSU which did not really have any kind of writing program at that time. And so I decided I had always been interested in anthropology and they had that program. And so I transferred into it. And I think I tried it out for about a year and realized I did not like their program. And that if I really wanted to do something with it, I would need to continue my education beyond my bachelor’s.
And I just– I knew that I wasn’t that committed to it. So at that point I really was at a loss. What am I going to do? I was also working at a job that was really stressful. I was a student aid at a liver transplant office.
Wait. Let’s stop. You were a student aid at a liver transplant office.
So that seems really specific. And I’m trying to– like, my mind is immediately like– typically you’re able to visualize– I don’t know how you guys process information, but usually when someone tells me something I can create a mental picture. And I have like nothing here. So I’m trying to picture what– well, my first question is, did you see any livers?
No. No real livers. Photos of livers. Yeah, photos. So I was working in the admin office pretty much. OHSU has the liver and pancreas transplant department. And so–
Doesn’t the liver regenerate?
If you drink enough it’s a goner. Most of our patients had substance abuse in their history or there are folks that are born with certain conditions that require transplants. There was a really bad episode where a large family had gone mushroom picking and needed assistance–
Because they had eaten something? The mushroom?
Yeah. Yeah. Really a variety of situations happening. And folks are actually, usually on the transplant list for a really long time.
So what was your specific responsibility as the student aid?
There was the small group of us. We supported the nurses and the doctors and the admin team. And our big role was making sure patient labs were up to date and that we had all the most recent reports because the nurses would review those on a regular basis. And they would also have regular clinics where they saw the patients. So we were going into different systems on the computer or calling labs to make sure we got every unit that we needed. And we would transcribe them into their labs and also update their files.
And we answered phones.
How many liver transplants were done? Like what was the number? Do you have any idea how many were performed?
I don’t remember to be honest. We had two doctors at that time. A physician’s assistant and I think two or three nurses. So there definitely was plenty of business happenings.
Sure. OK. So you were the student aid at the liver transplant center while you were going into PSU and deciding the anthropology was not something that you wanted to pursue?
Then what happened?
Well, so, I had gone on that track after growing up with my grandmother. We would go rock hunting and she was really intrigued by the Native American culture.
Is this Groovy Granny?
No. That’s my other grandmother. This is my grandma Helen. So that that’s actually what caught my intrigue. So I was at this point where I really felt like I needed a lot of change in my life. I needed to switch my job because it was fulfilling but it was really stressful and it paid really poorly. I was not happy with my degree. And I knew for a fact that I could not give up. I had, throughout my life, had it kind of pounded into my head that I needed to get my college degree to have a better life than what I grew up with. And so I was kind of at a really low point. And my boyfriend at the time, now my husband, Tyler– we were in his apartment one day and I was really stressed out and we were just talking.
And he said, “well, have you ever thought about graphic design?”
And I was like, “what’s graphic design?”
Because at that point, that wasn’t something they offered. And he asked me, “well, didn’t you like doing layout when you were doing newspaper in high school?”
And I was like, “yeah, I like layout.”
That’s kind of what it is. I looked into it and it was intriguing and also intimidating. And I thought, well, I have tried these two things that have been more comfortable for me and that hasn’t worked. Why not? Why not try this out? And I fell in love with it. And I had a huge learning curve. I was going to school with a lot of art students, people who had been art all their life. But the beauty of it is graphic design isn’t just art.
So I had some challenges. I had to go through a portfolio review my sophomore year of the program. And I got deferred, which meant I had to do more work to prove that I was worthy of the program. And I waited really last minute that summer, because I was so torn up about it. But I did it and I proved to them that I was design worthy, which was huge for me. And I really enjoyed the program because it was creative, but it was also very strategic and required a lot of research. And it really challenged me.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you landed– we kind of touched on this just a little bit. But how did you land at Audigy? What was your interview process like? You were one of the first of us.
How did you land at Audigy and what was that initial experience like?
It was 2008.
2008 when, you know, the job market was horrible. It was really bad. I had just graduated in June with my BS in graphic design. And I was really hopeful. And at that time I was working part-time at Regents Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon as an executive admin. And I knew that– I mean, they had really helped me and supported me to get my degree, and knew I was moving on but also I knew that my job was being closed out in the fall. So there was extra motivation.
So I spent that summer applying like crazy for all jobs, like admin jobs and a few graphic design jobs, because there really weren’t a lot out there. And I was barely hearing back from the admin jobs. And these were really low paying jobs that were putting people through excruciating measures to even get an interview. So it was, I think, late August or early September. Yeah, it must have been late August and I got a call back. And I got an interview with HR, and the number was from–
Which was weird. That happened to me too.
Yeah. And they explained that they were contracted. And I had a really good interview over the phone. And I had gone on the website and did not understand what the company was about. It was very confusing. But I was comforted when I did that interview because the HR consultant kind of reassured me, oh that’s OK. It’s a very confusing site.
And so I ended up getting and in-person interview. And at that time, the corporate office, there was three floors. And the only floor– I didn’t know it at that time but the only floor that was built out was the third floor. So I interviewed in the boiler room, which is a very kind of prestigious, intimidating conference room, all glass walls, the fireplace.
And I remember meeting Matt Murray and having a really intense interview. And him bringing in the team at that time, which was Misty, Kirsten, the designer, Cheryl. I want to say there was one other person but I can’t remember. And they looked over my work. And one of my projects for my senior project was actually I did a campaign against ageism. And that really obviously struck a chord with the–
Good choice. Yeah. Yeah.
Had no idea that would play out, but–
Did they offer you the job on the spot?
No. But I did get a call pretty promptly from Matt offering me the position, which was interesting because I had to start as a kind of a contractor for a couple weeks before I started full-time. But it was just crazy how quickly it happened. And I never once though, oh, this is a small company. What does that mean?
Yeah. I think that we were very much in start-up mode in 2008. And it’s a lot easier to see it now that we’re in 2015 and we have some systems and processes and history under our belt. But yeah, when you’re first building out a process and building out a team and learning– you don’t have data or history to fall back on when you’re decision-making. It’s a very different work environment.
And there are only a handful of us who are around to fully understand that I think the way that you and I might. And you’ve grown in that. There’s so much that you get out of going through– because a lot of it is– I mean, growth is painful.
It’s not comfortable. And it’s a number of different positive and at the time feeling very negative and comfortable things that get you to the point where you’re at.
Where you’re at today. And it’s really inspiring to me to hear you talk about how you got into design in the first place, and kind of what your initial introduction to the company is. And now you’re managing this team of seven people. And not only do you manage their workload but you also play a big role in leading that team in the development of their careers on a number of different levels, both from a design mentor– stand, ship. Standpoint, stand-ship. And sort of just a general mentorship. So if you take a look at– like, let’s say– let’s pretend you’re an old lady right now even though you’re definitely not and you’re looking back over the history of your greatest creative accomplishments.
Oh my gosh.
Without thinking about it– you have like three seconds. What comes to the top of your mind? It can be something that you worked on professionally or it can be something that you did maybe for outside of work. Just a project on your own or maybe you did some type of assistance for, I don’t know, a charity. What comes to mind? Three seconds has passed so what’s coming to mind?
All right. So my greatest accomplishments as a designer when I’m an old lady looking back–
I like how you’re buying more time by repeating the question.
I’m really looking forward to being an old lady to be honest.
So I think the first thing that comes to mind right away is impacting other people. And that can be other designers, helping grow their skills and their passion for what they do. That’s one thing that I’m really nerding out on with my current role, is being able to do that better and better.
And then how my design impacts people through story, I would argue we’re doing every day in our work, helping communicate the services that our members bring to patients and improving that patient experience. And then also connecting folks to these needs that will improve their lives. That really gets me excited. In my personal time I do volunteer quite a bit. And so–
Yeah. I volunteer my design services, and I also do peer support within the burn survivor community.
Oh, that’s right. Yes.
Yeah. So with that side of my experience, it’s interesting because I started out doing work with the Oregon burn center and one of the first projects I kind helped implement was– I had realized when I volunteered with the nurses that our volunteers had no presence with the patients or with the medical staff. And so I worked with the other coordinators to develop a kind of a peer support bio book that featured each of our peer supporters and the–
What’s the definition of a peer supporter? And, can you give us a little bit of history into why your you’re involved with the burn community and then what is peer support?
Peer support. I know it’s really vague. This is good. So to give you my origin story with all of this, actually tomorrow is the 27th anniversary of a car wreck that my family was in. And the car was hit by a drunk driver. The gas tank blew. And we lost my brother on impact. He was two and I was five. And my mother and her boyfriend were in the car as well.
But that led to severe burns. I was at the Oregon burn center for about a month. And I had some reconstructive surgeries. Once I healed from that initial impact. I think it was first grade, I had a couple of reconstructive surgeries. So this was back in 1988. We kind of went on with our lives. And about four years ago I was having a really hard anniversary. There’s a lot a loss that day.
And it’s really interesting because sometimes I would forget and I’d be, oh, last week that was the anniversary.
By this year in particular, I really was feeling reflective the entire day. And I went home and my husband works swing usually and I was alone. And I was so tired of feeling alone in that experience. And–
Would you talk to your mom about it or was it kind of something that wasn’t–
No. No. It was not something that I felt comfortable– there are times I would talk to her about it, but it really it was more than that. It was something– I needed to dig deeper. And I realized that was when I needed to do a few things differently. And so one of those things was, I went online and I searched, “burn victim” for the first time ever. I was like 28. And wow, there’s stuff out here. And there seems to be communities and there’s resources. And that blew my mind.
Was it comforting to see that? Or was it– how did you feel?
Yeah. Yeah. And also kind frustrating because that I didn’t know before.
And I also questioned why I hadn’t looked. But one of the things I ended up doing was, I went on the Legacy Emanuel website and their burn center web page is really lacking. And it’s actually something I’d really like to help them develop more. But I ended up filling out a generic form and said I was interested in volunteering with burn victims or survivors of drunk driving wrecks. And I didn’t really think I’d ever hear back. And actually I heard back pretty promptly from their volunteer office. And they connected me with a woman named Helen at the Oregon Burn Center.
And then Helen asked me, “can you come in next week during you lunch to meet me?”
And I went in and I met her in the basement of the burn center where she works. She’s an outpatient therapist. And she kind of just asked me what had happened originally and what had gone on over the years and what brought me there.
And for the first time I heard someone say, “Jess, you’ve obviously done really well, but it must have been hard at times.”
And it’s that last part that I never really had anyone acknowledge.
And that was the beginning of a beautiful, beautiful journey. It was amazing.
Thank you for sharing this. Like I’m crying because it is such a good story of strength and determination. Do you get that a lot now? I mean, do you feel like– do you feel like having that conversation was very empowering and really made you realize what a strong person you’ve been?
Yeah, I don’t know. I think there is definitely resiliency. But I think what’s been so fascinating for me is understanding how I got here and understanding that everyone’s survival mechanisms and processes of grieving and morning– they’re all so different. And there’s not one right way to do it. And so kind of getting a grasp on how I got to that point where I was ready to kind of break open to that vulnerability.
So I’ve had, like, from that one conversation just several conversations with all sorts of people I never expected that have broken my mind open in different ways.
So you spoke with Helen and then what came of that initial conversation? She gave you some acknowledgement and just–
She was like, you can volunteer. And at that point I said I want to volunteer right away. So I started volunteering with the nurses. And then–
How do you volunteer with the nurses? Like what do you do?
I only did that for a couple months. I would go in, like every Saturday for about four hours and help them with the phones and with people coming in and out of the units. Because there are certain periods where it’s locked. I would help with just some of their admin work and then there were a few times where maybe there was a child on the unit and I would spend some time with them. Or I would stock towels in the rooms.
So it was really intriguing to be on that side of things. And it definitely brought up some triggers for me. Like the hospital smells that were really good to confront. So that was kind of my launching point. From there, there’s actually a training that you go through to become a peer supporter.
There’s the Oregon Burn Center, but there’s this larger organization called the Phoenix society. And they have been around since the ’70s and grown. It’s for burn survivors. And they have developed some amazing tools and programs and a huge community.
So one of their big programs is SOAR, S-O-A-R, Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery. So the concept is, you are essentially a living example for people who are very early in the stages of survival. I think at the Burn Center we require that you are two years out of your injury before you can become a supporter.
And this is amazing because there was a time when folks would come in to visit patients and there was no program, there was no training, and there were some bad situations where maybe that person would come in and just cry the entire time or try to sell lotion or share some really kind of scary photos. And obviously if we’re on the health practitioner side, that’s not good.
So they want to protect their patients. And that’s not really a healthy visit. So the SOAR program, you go through about an 8-hour training where you learn different ways of compassionate listening, like what you’re there for. And we role play with other volunteers. And it’s actually information that I’ve used in all aspects of my life.
I’m sure. I’m sure. Yeah. This is interesting and inspiring and I think some of the best content that we’ve ever– like in terms of the caliber of like a leader, someone who has been through something really, really difficult and come out the other side of that and is able to share that experience in the most positive way with everyone that comes into your– like, that is– there’s really no one else that we’ve interviewed who has had that type of skill set. So I think it is related to work in a number of different ways. I just want to kind of try to–
–tie that in. So what we’re just talking about? The SOAR program.
How it’s good that the person has to go through a little bit of a time.
Yeah. Yeah. So Jess you were just telling me that the SOAR program is something that you can get into– you can be this peer supporter after you have been– I don’t know if you want to call it an accident or after like some type of an event. After you’ve healed for two years or–
After the trauma.
After the trauma.
Yeah so after two years and you’ve done some healing probably both physically and emotionally. You can go through the certification process where you can help others to do the same type of healing. And you were just telling me that that certification, that peer support certification has been not only beneficial for your work in the burn community but also you apply that to numerous other aspects of your life like the people that you manage and coach in your current role. Can you tell me a little bit about that? What’s something that you’ve learned through that training and experience that you use really regularly with many different types of interactions?
I think the biggest tool is compassionate listening. So–
Define that. Because that sounds really, really nice. And I can get like a general idea for what it is. But tell me, how do you practice that?
So when you’re in a position where you’re trying to be supportive, sometimes we tend to want to just fix things for people. And so we will lean on, “you shoulds,” and, “I would” or those kind of phrases that actually oftentimes put barriers up for people.
So the emphasis is on listening and being engaged and showing that in verbal and nonverbal ways of making eye contact, head nods, leaning in. But then when you do have something to offer that you want to verbalize, you frame it in your experience and from your perspective.
Or if it’s something that you hear a lot of other people experience, you frame it from that perspective. This is what I have found that helps me, that kind of thing. Or a lot of people I talk to experience that too and this is the result. It’s just a subtle, it’s the subtlest a change in frame.
But empathetic rather than instructional.
Right. And we don’t learn those things growing up. We don’t necessarily learn communication techniques.
So I just I have found that– I think I’m a total fixer. I hear someone is really hurting or they’re stressed or they’re having trouble and I just want to fix it for them. But using these techniques you actually empower people to do it for themselves.
Sure. And that’s a great leader, right? When you’re not just fixing people but you’re giving them the tools to.
Right. And what’s amazing is you often end up learning something great from them.
But, yeah, so that’s one of the biggest goals.
Sure. Yeah. Yeah. So thank you so much for sharing all of that. I always like to end these interviews with– because this is really interesting to see how people respond. And again, I’m not going to give you a ton of time to think about this. But if you could define your perfect day wake up to bedtime– you could do anything you wanted with that day. You’re not on any type of budget or whatever. Let’s say tomorrow was that day. So when you went to bed tonight, you knew that as soon as you woke up on Wednesday morning, perfect day starts. What happens?
Right. Well, so right now it’s really kind of stormy out, windy, rainy, grey. I would go for a quick jog with the dog in the morning. And then I would find a cool used bookstore or maybe a book sale going on. And Tyler would have the day off with me. And we would go rummage and leave probably with at least a box of books to add to our library. But I you would go somewhere cozy and warm. Maybe a coffee shop or just get things really cozy a home and drink some coffee and just read the books that we just acquired. Really kind of peruse them and get to know them.
You’re going to read them cover to cover or you just like scanning right now, just seeing like, all right, let’s see what one I want to read first. Is that what you do? Because that’s what I would do. I’d sit down and look at them.
Probably looking at photos to see what I want to engage with first. and then, yeah, kind of do a scan before we get them put on the shelves and I move on to the next hunt.
Because it’s like a treasure hunt.
Yeah. Oh, I hear you.
So I think that right now, in this moment, that is what I would really love to do.
Yeah. Yeah. I hear you. What do you eat?
What do I eat?
Yeah. Are you just going to drink– because you’re going to get hungry.
I’m going to get really hungry.
My blood sugar drops. That’s like a whole other conversation because right now by we started subscribing to Blue Apron.
Oh you did?
Oh, I want to hear about this offline.
Oh, yeah. I love it.
We love it, yeah.
Do you get a meal every day or do you get a meal–
Three meals a week.
So would it be a Blue Apron day on this bookstore perfect day?
Yeah. Because they’re not too stressful and you have everything you need. And the payoff is always really good. It’s so satisfying to make a meal and you’re using ingredients, maybe you never have before. And you’re cooking things you might have never cooked before so you’re learning. And then it’s delicious at the end. It’s huge! It’s so satisfying.
Thank you so much. You are a great interviewee and I can’t thank you enough for sharing all that you did.
Well thank you for inviting me. This was really a privilege.