Employee Spotlight: Jess Coenen
Jess leads TIAG’s overall communications strategy and ensures we are continually driving deeper engagement, connection, and awareness around our brand and culture. She leverages her almost 20-years of experience driving initiatives for start-ups to Fortune 100 companies to help TIAG and our customers shape mission-focused marketing and communications strategies.
Jess has spearheaded many programs across TIAG and is the host of our TechConnect: Talks that Transform series where she sits down with leaders throughout TIAG to talk about industry trends, insights, and best practices.
She is also an adjunct professor at an all-women’s private university where she teaches entrepreneurship, advertising, and marketing. She is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and passionate about raising awareness around diversity and cultural competence.
We hope you enjoy this special edition employee spotlight in celebration and honor of Pride month and all our LGBTQIA+ employees and allies.
What does your job entail?
At its core, my job is to make sure TIAG’s mission and story are heard loud and clear internally and externally by our employees, customers, partners, and network. Being at the heart of TIAG’s messaging is something that is never lost on me. Myself and the entire Creative Team go to great lengths to make sure that TIAG-ers feel seen, heard, and valued across all our communications–from our internal comms and websites, to tiag.net, our social platforms, and the media.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love the strategy and essence that drives creativity. Creativity is often thought of as a eureka moment, a sudden lightning bolt of inspiration that leads to a breakthrough solution. The reality is that creativity usually emerges from a slow and steady process of gathering experiences and perspectives. By exposing ourselves to new ideas and different ways of thinking, we develop the ability to see the world in a new light and find creative solutions to the challenges we face.
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, what does diversity and inclusion at work mean to you?
It breaks my heart that millions of people are made to feel like the way they show up in the world is a problem. Especially at work, where it’s been proven countless times that diversity is the key that unlocks the door to nonlinear, novel thinking and ideas.
Diversity and inclusion at work means that we are respecting and valuing each other regardless of background or identity; that we take responsibility for our biases and make sure we are accepting each other for who we are, not for who we think we should be. That leadership is intentionally building diverse, equitable, and inclusive practices into the fabric of the culture.
Because we do our best when we are seen for who we are–not what we aren’t. And when people are at their best, challenges that would otherwise be impossible become breakthroughs.
Why do you think openly LGBTQIA+ employees are underrepresented?
This is a big question with many, many variables. I encourage people to Google this for insights from people much smarter than me.
While there has been progress made in acceptance and visibility for marginalized groups in general, the workplace remains one of the riskiest places for people to show up as their true selves due to the considerable repercussions–discrimination, harassment, microaggressions, isolation, and more. So, the first part of this is that people need to feel safe, and trust they are safe, before they can be vulnerable.
Another (of many reasons) comes down to representation. Just 26 of the 5,670 board seats across Fortune 500 companies are held by openly LGBTQ+ directors and it wasn’t until 2018 that the first female CEO running a Fortune 500 company came out.
Representation matters–for everyone. This is especially important for marginalized communities who have been intentionally invisibilized for so long. Representation has the potential and power to change hearts and minds. It humanizes groups of people who have been demonized. It gives hope to those who have been told they are not good enough simply because of who they are. When you see someone who looks like you on TV, in business, in life, in the world–it’s a validation of your own existence and a reminder that you are not alone. Seeing really is believing.
What’s something you think people can do, especially during Pride Month, to gain awareness about important issues impacting the global LGBTQ+ community?
Whether it’s Pride and the LGBTQIA+ community or any other marginalized group and movement–I encourage people to lean into what makes them uncomfortable. The reality is that it’s difficult to open ourselves up to others who may be different from us due to the biases and stigmas that exist within us all. We may feel uncomfortable or even threatened by things that are unfamiliar. But sometimes what we’re feeling isn’t accurate or helpful in our growth, decision making, or relationship building.
I also think it’s important to remember the goal of celebrating and promoting marginalized groups isn’t to take away from or at the expense of others. It’s, as I like to think of it, a visible way to make amends and honor the fact that these groups were historically/currently not afforded the level of social and systemic rights and privileges many others were.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing more beautiful to me than any effort or message that promotes the importance of everyone having a fair chance to succeed, regardless of who they are or where they come from.
What advice would you give people wanting to work with diverse and inclusive companies?
Do your research and look for representation at the highest levels of the company. Look for companies, like TIAG, who are committed to evolving and doing better, are creating environments where people of all backgrounds can thrive and reach their full potential, and are intentionally harnessing the power of diversity.
What else would you want people to keep in mind?
In any industry, but especially those driven by creativity and innovation, it’s never going to be enough to just be tolerant of diversity–everyone must actively create truly inclusive environments.
Take responsibility for building your cultural competence. For a lot of us, understanding and appreciating each other’s differences takes relationship building and empathy skills that we just don’t have today. Building cultural competence gives us these abilities and from there, we can create inclusive teams, more meaningful relationships, and truly diverse cultures.
At TIAG, our greatest asset is our people. Our unique, unified company culture is composed of many brilliant, creative, well-credentialed business and technology professionals just like Jess. Want to learn more about TIAG or work for a company that truly puts people first? Check out our current opportunities!