Jessica Irwin, Verizon
“Leadership means so many things – being agile, being present, being empathetic, being confident, being humble, being authentic, being visionary, being consistent.” Verizon’s Jessica Irwin is no stranger to big changes and bold ideas; before her role as Director of Consumer Insights, she played a major hand in the evolution of one of most recognizable brands in the world: the Gerber Baby logo. With a BA in International Studies from Towson University and an MBA from The University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business, Jessica cut her teeth working for Saatchi & Saatchi X where she managed a wide range of Shopper Insights projects for major CPG companies and retailers.
Today — and with 20 years of experience under her belt — Jessica spends her days focusing on bringing together the Digital, Product, and Retail Experiences of Verizon’s international consumer base. She is passionate about using data to drive the business including everything from new product development to the digital experience to the communications that support those products and experiences. When pressed to choose what most excites her on the forefront of technology today, she enthuses, “anything 5G! The possibilities of the technology are so exciting and I feel so lucky to be working on it.”
For Jessica, being an Insights leader at one of the largest communication technology companies in the world requires tenacity and the ability to advocate for your own work in a sea of big ideas and bold thinkers. “I think that Market Research as a discipline sometimes has a hard time “being heard” or “being respected,” she notes. “When you couple that with being a woman, it’s a double-whammy in some environments.” Her recipe for stepping into one’s power as a leader is one part inspiration, two parts authentic action. “I’ve had the benefit of some strong leaders in this space to look to for inspiration in how to break that down while staying true to myself and my own style.” Luckily for Jessica, inspiration isn’t hard to find: “I’ve met many people through WIRe that I look up to, current and previous bosses, current and previous mentors, family & friends. It’s not one dimensional.” Another source of inspiration? Podcasts. “I do also love the Freakonomics Podcast; I always feel inspired by something in that hour; whether it’s a new process or way to frame up a questionnaire, I love feeling smarter when it’s over.”
Jessica’s advice for those entering into Market Research is all about staying true to yourself. “Find your voice – what you can say and do that’s authentic to you,” she urges, “and find your support network - It’s really hard (and unnecessary) to go it alone.” For Jessica, one such support network is the WIRe community: “I’ve been involved about 5 or 6 years now; it’s been so incredible to open up the industry in this way to build support networks. I love that it is not about “selling” but about support and helping each other.” When it comes to following the path toward leadership, Jessica advocates for following your truth — and all that comes with it. “I think in the end, all anyone can do is follow what they believe to be the right next step; and if they get it wrong, be humble enough to course-correct and learn from it.” And just in case that path should lead you toward one of the world’s leading providers of technology, communications, information and entertainment products and services, she suggests taking the leap: “we usually have openings (mostly due to growth, not turnover!) … if working at Verizon sounds exciting to you, let us know!”
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