Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

MEET JEN RIEDEL: A FACILITATOR AND START UP COACH

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This is InnovatorsBox’s “IB Backstage series, where in celebration of InnovatorsBox’s 6th year anniversary in November 2021, we are highlighting the stories of our incredible team members.

Jen Riedel is a patient curator who sees possibilities where others miss. She’s a community builder, bridge builder, and facilitator having worked in the hustling bustling founder and startup space. So Jen naturally understands the intensity and uncertainty that innovators face. Whether it’s founders needing new insights to teams wishing to understand each other better, Jen knows there are always ways to improve. 

These days, Jen is the Head of Platform at One Way Ventures where she backs exceptional immigrant founders and works alongside a global network of founders, investors, and advisors.

I’m glad we met through startup networks like Startup Weekend, Techstars, and StartingBloc that brought us closer together. Through team building and facilitation projects, we helped others see new possibilities. And now we can’t wait to help you, no matter what stage of the business you are in, to see new ways to thrive. Jen also loves outdoors and having a balanced life, her tips in optimization and time management is something you wouldn’t want to miss. 

MONICA : How would you describe yourself in three words? 

Jen : Adaptable. Strategic. Empathetic.

MONICA : Why is creativity important to you?

Jen :  Creativity is the essential skill needed for a fulfilling life, for innovation, and at the root of what’s needed for new solutions to old problems. It’s important to me because it feels like the critical element in any conversation or context to create a better future for ourselves and others. 

MONICA : What was your favorite project, experience or memory working at InnovatorsBox?

Jen :  My absolute favorite experience working with InnovatorsBox was bringing to life a multi-day workshop for the Supplier Diversity Program at NBCUniversal in Los Angeles. This was pre-pandemic and it was incredible to see the impact, the community, and the creative thinking that was unleashed in these few days together. 

Trends about work:

MONICA : What drove your interest into startups and founders? Why do you like working with them?

Jen :  Initially, I was looking for a tribe or a group of people that I felt like represented the mindset, attitude, and hunger for solving real problems that I did. I was and remain to be attracted to working with entrepreneurs because this group of individuals has more resilience, open mindedness, dedication, learning per day, passion, grit, intelligence, and world-changing ideas then any other group that I know. 

Entrepreneurs help me to continue to think creatively on a daily basis because they are always exploring the unexplored and pushing boundaries. The other attribute that is important about entrepreneurs is they are not simply ‘ideas people’ they are action-oriented in their approach. They take big ideas and turn them into something tangible that we can all experience or benefit from. I love it. 

MONICA : From Techstars to InnovatorsBox, you’ve always been in roles where you oversee community development, project management and innovation. How do you balance it all? How do you make time to connect and personalize relationships and not burnout? 

Jen : There are two practical ways that have helped me. Firstly, many tech startups have unlimited vacation policies, and many people don’t use them! I was in this boat for a long time. In 2020, I made a pact to myself that I would take 1 week off every quarter as a way to reset and reconnect with loved ones. This has worked incredibly well for me and helped me to have consistent times to check-in, stay grounded, and make time to connect with other aspects of my identity outside of work. 

The second thing is this idea that everything you do is either ‘heck yes’ or ‘no’. I’ve worked really hard over the years to get better at saying no. Saying no to interesting projects, an extra business trip, etc. so that I can maintain focus on the projects that need my attention most. By doing so and by knowing my own limits, I can protect myself better from burnout when the ‘yes’ projects could stack up. This one takes a lot of practice! 

MONICA : What do you do that helps you stay sane and feel connected?

Jen :  Funny enough, simply picking up the phone to call a friend has been a wonderful way for me. I love long phone calls and with many friends that now live all over the world, setting a time and offering up a walk and talk together is a great way for both of ways  to take a break and reconnect with fairly low stakes on the table.

MONICA : One tip you’ll share with all startups and entrepreneurs should do to be a better leader?

Jen :  Be honest with yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are and then hire people that help you fill in those gaps. The diversity of thought, of strengths, and of skills will help you win in your market. Honesty is a big part of this. 

MONICA : Why is facilitation and bringing people together skills important? 

Jen : This is important because it is something that you do every single day. Whether you are hosting a morning stand-up meeting, an end of project retrospective, a one on one discussion with your manager, a three day strategic retreat with your colleagues, each of us ultimately needs to have facilitation skills to get by. We need to utilize facilitation skills in order to achieve real results in the workplace, to remove barriers, and to continue to feel that collaboration is possible. This is all done in part by the way you facilitate and the way you communicate.

MONICA : What are you worried and excited about how the pandemic changed how we think about well-being and leadership development in the startup? 

Jen : I’m excited that employees have the ability to work remotely more of the time. I’ve seen this greatly benefit people who are neurodiverse, have families, and/or have plans to move out of big cities. I think this trend towards the ability to work and live where you’d like is fantastic for society. 

What worries me is that employers are using this time to try to cut wages or haven’t sorted through the minutiae of how to keep everyone in the organization engaged, productive, connected, and contributing. There will be a long road ahead of us to sort through the finer details of a hybrid or work-from-home culture in the long-term.

There will be a long road ahead of us to sort through the finer details of a hybrid or work-from-home culture in the long-term.

Getting to know Jen

MONICA : What advice would you give your younger self? 

Jen : I would tell myself to trust the process and enjoy the transitions more.

MONICA : What is a book that you couldn’t stop reading?

Jen :  Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

MONICA : What are you watching lately that you are enjoying? 

Jen : Squid Games

MONICA : What is your favorite way to decompress? Why? 

Jen : Going for a swim because I was a competitive swimmer for a long time, so being in water is like a second home to me and it is also like moving meditation. The other way is long bike rides with friends because I love that we can catch-up and get some miles in! 

MONICA : If someone is visiting Boston for the first time, where would you recommend they go, eat, or do? 

Jen : I would recommend they go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, eat at a really good oyster bar like Saltie Girl or Select Oyster Bar, and use the Blue Bikes (Boston’s Bike Share Program) to take a tour down the Esplanade

MONICA : If you could travel anywhere and do anything, where would you go and what would you want to do?

Jen :  I have my eye on walking the entire Shikoku Pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku, Japan. The entire walk takes between 30-60 days and you visit 88 Buddhist temples along the route. 

MONICA : Anything else you want to share?

Jen :  An easy, simple way to begin to stretch your creative brain is through the Creative Mornings Field Trips program. You can see the weekly offerings at https://creativemornings.com/fieldtrips. All of the sessions are free to the public. I’ve taken classes in everything from Moroccan geometry drawing to nature journaling

Thank you, Jen for being so passionate about designing experiences for entrepreneurs and innovators, always bringing your energetic self to the work that you do, and for saying yes to working with us at InnovatorsBox! We look forward to collaborating in many more days to come.

To connect with Jen:

Twitter @jenvonriedel

Website www.jenriedel.com

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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