The Intersection of the Past, Present, and Future with Jenna Powers: Director of Recruiting Operations with Amazon, and a surprise guest!

Kimberly Faith:
[00:00:03] Welcome to the sisterhood report. I am Kimberly Faith, your host. We are in a changing world, my sweet sisters, and it's such an exciting time that I hear from a lot of you, you'd like to think about what all these changes mean for you, for your life, for the life of women in general. But, who has time?

Kimberly Faith: [00:00:20] Well, the good news is, I've done the heavy lifting for you. And each episode of The Sisterhood report, I sit down for a one on one conversation with a guest who is an influencer in their own way, and together we connect the dots. So let me ask you, what if you could see the much larger story unfolding? What if you could learn new ways of thinking that could absolutely revolutionize the way you and other women see themselves each other in the world? Well, the fact is, is that we can change the world, one woman, one sister at a time. It starts with you and me, right here, right now.

Kimberly Faith: [00:01:00] Today’s guest, Jenna Powers comes to you from Amazon.

Kimberly Faith: [00:01:04] She is actually the director of recruiting operations at Amazon and actually, more importantly, I met Jenna when she first started with Amazon. She has a long career of being an authority in employee engagement. She's worked for Coca-Cola, so much I could tell you about all of her expertise. But most importantly, Jenna really has some fascinating stories about running marathons and ultra marathons. And she recently completed the longest race to date. 206.5 miles, this is just a small snapshot of the power that Jenna brings to the world and her discipline and perseverance is second to none.

Kimberly Faith: [00:01:44] You'll enjoy Jenna powers.

Kimberly Faith: [00:01:44] We are in for a real treat today as I have already shared with you. We have Jenna with us from Amazon. Welcome Jenna.

Jenna Powers: [00:01:59] Hello.

Kimberly Faith: [00:02:00] And we also have Jenny's mom Linda. So Linda please say hello to everyone before I explain to them why you're actually with us this time.

Linda Powers: [00:02:09] Good morning.

Kimberly Faith: [00:02:11] Good. I'm so glad to have you both with us. So, when I actually reached out to Jenna to be a guest on this podcast and I asked her about the date, the stars aligned and it was actually a very special day at Amazon. I'll let Jenna tell you about that. So we can explain how we arrived here. 

Jenna Powers: [00:02:29] Today is "Bring Your Parents To Work" Day at Amazon. So at Amazon HQ in Seattle, we've got about six thousand parents that have descended upon campus this morning including my own.

Kimberly Faith: [00:02:41] That is fantastic. Now, I have to ask before we get started. Why did Amazon do that day? Because that's not a very common thing.

Jenna Powers: [00:02:49]  No, it's not. You know I think everybody is very familiar at least in the US with "Bring your children to Work Day", which Amazon also celebrates. But I think, you know, we realize this is the third year. Two years ago we realize that, you know, yes we've got employees that have fantastic little people in their houses but that the the older people in their homes and in their community they're really a big part of an Amazonian's journey. And, you know, what a better way to let the people that care about us and support us in to see where we come to work every day and so since they started three years ago, it's been it's been a huge hit every year and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Kimberly Faith: [00:03:36] Well, Jen I love the idea. I wish more companies would actually copy that and maybe some of the listeners that work at some of these corporations would spread the idea because I think it has such tremendous impact. And it also lays the groundwork for why I thought it was such a good idea for all three of us to be on this podcast today. So Jenna why don't you share from your perspective. You actually said ",Kim I think it be really interesting to have a conversation with my mom". And once you explain it, I would love to hear from Linda about why she said yes.

Jenna Powers: [00:04:06] I'll skip her, I didn't give her a choice but I'm sure she'll say  something much more thoughtful than that. Yo know, from my perspective Kim, knowing you really well and having had some great conversations with you in the past as I was thinking about coming on the podcast, you know, I've been in the workforce now full time for about 20 years and certainly I have a perspective after 20 years in the workforce but my mom has been in the workforce longer than that. And you know certainly growing up with someone that was, I don't know at the time that I realized that was inspirational, but you know, in my mind women work that's what they do because that's the example that I grew up with and so when you and I talked about doing a podcast and knowing my mom was going to be here and we would talk about women and women in workplace these, I thought what a great opportunity to get not only the 20 year perspective but the 40 plus year perspective on women in the workforce.

Kimberly Faith: [00:05:12] Absolutely. Linda,I would love to hear from you. So she asked you to be a part of this or strongly encouraged you to be and what were you thinking?

Linda Powers: [00:05:21]  Well, I think at first I was like,  "I can't do something like that, I am not comfortable doing something. She inspires me. She takes me out of my comfort zone and even at 70 years old, I can still take chances and I. I'm looking forward to doing this with her and just listening to her talk. I guess I never realized that I had inspired her so this is this is a great compliment to me too.

Kimberly Faith: [00:05:52] You can't cry out OK.

Linda Powers: [00:05:56] I will not cry.

Kimberly Faith: [00:05:57] So, Linda, one of the things first is I really think the chances for us all to really begin to look at aging very differently. So, it's 70 years young and we always have a chance to kind of reinvent ourselves. So, I wanted to kind of go back in your life and kind of where you started with a workforce because actually you were a bit of an anomaly, from what I understand about going into work, where sometime at that period of time, not all women work. So, could you take us back to that kind of time in your life.

Linda Powers: [00:06:29] Well, like I said, I've been in the workforce, I mean, I've started working part time when I was in high school. So, I've been working since I was 16. My parents, they were not rich people so their job, I think they felt was that I was to get me through high school and then I was on my own. So, I started in the workforce at 18. I graduated high school and there was a new company starting out in my locale and they actually went to the high school that I was at into the teacher and they were looking for a pool of women who would come to work for this new company. So, that's what I did. I went and I applied and I was accepted and I worked in an accounting pool for [INAUDIBLE].Back then, that's what is was. It was all women, all the men were senior executives and I worked my way up. I just I kept my nose to the grindstone. Anytime I saw an opportunity for advancement in a different department, I would take it. This company also invested and I'd say they sent us to school. I did take some college courses. Anytime there was any kind of course, I took them and they did advance us but certainly not quickly.

Kimberly Faith: [00:07:51] Sure.

Linda Powers: [00:07:52] I ended up working for that company for 35 years.

Kimberly Faith: [00:07:57] Wow.

[00:07:58] Yeah I did, but back then, a company that they invested in you because they wanted you to stay. They wanted to take advantage of whatever I learned and what I could bring back to them. But at the end, you know,at the end of my career what I was telling Jenna last night was my longevity turned out to be not a good thing because I was making more money and holidays and benefits were really good and they were bringing in younger people who, you know. 

Kimberly Faith: [00:08:36] Sure.

Linda Powers: [00:08:38] You understand what I'm saying that they didn't have to pay the benefits and all of that so.

[00:08:42] Sure. Well and so they're really kind of dual issues that happen there. So, I'm curious because when we talk about when you entered the workforce like that, that was about the mid 1960s versus when Jenna, Jenna when did you enter the workforce, what was that? 2000, 1998?

Jenna Powers: [00:08:59] Yeah, So I  first entered the workforce in the late 90s after getting an undergraduate degree and worked briefly before going back to law school. So, I really sort of think about you know, kind of unbroken. I graduated law school in 2004.

Kimberly Faith: [00:09:19] Ok, 2004. If we were to compare about, what was the difference when you go into the work world then versus now. Because part of what I'm learning and part of why I even wrote the book was that life would be very different for women in the past and unknowingly, we kind of carried some of those thought processes with us as we've now kind of crossed over an invisible threshold. So, I would love for you two to kind of say what was life like when I was in the workforce early on versus Jenna you now.

Jenna Powers: [00:09:48] One of the things, when we were coming on the podcast and we were having a conversation that I thought was really interesting that we realized with maybe some similarities and my mom talked about being a woman in the typing poling. Can you tell the story of getting the coffee.

Linda Powers: [00:10:06] And the book in the department's pool all. Think there were probably 12 of us 18 years old just graduated from school and there were men executives sitting with visitors from other companies down and asked to have two of the girls from the pool come up and take coffee orders and donut orders from the company. So, we would go down and I'd be scared to death because these were top executives but we would have to go in and take coffee orders and have to go give them coffee and donuts for their breaks. I laugh at that now because today I would probably say get your own coffee. But back then I was 18, just starting in and I was scared and it was the big executive.

Jenna Powers: [00:10:53] But I thought like that story was so interesting to me because again these are accountants, they're not, you know I mean,it's not their job. They're not receptionists but if that was the expectation one of one of the first stories that I remember and this was post law school at this point. So you know I've got I've got a law degree and I went to visit a client. I went with a partner, who is a male partner, and we went to visit a client and we were meeting with the client and this was, it had been a long drive and we stayed overnight where the client was. So, it wasn't right in the city where I was working. So it was an overnight trip and we had a break in the meeting and the client who is a man said to me like he sort of looked at me and he saw that was wearing a wedding ring and he said you're married. I said yes. And he said your husband let you travel and I thought like let me. And you know, I don't know how old I was 26 or 27 years old. I have a law degree you know. And this idea that we think about the views of the stereotypes and views of women you know that male executives at my mom's job had 40 years ago about, you know, well they're women so they'll get me coffee. You know, it's not that far removed from this idea that the male client had which is like well you're a woman and I you know I can't believe you're sort of out here on your own. You know surely you must have your permission to be out here.

Kimberly Faith: [00:12:26] And I thought it was interesting Jenna what you told me is that there you were, forty years later at a meeting where you were what, the only woman?

Jenna Powers: [00:12:32] Oh yes. So, that was another thing we talked about. So, my first legal job out of law school, I worked in a really traditionally male dominated area of the law and I loved it. It's what I wanted to do. And I found myself at a firm meeting and it was a subsection of the firm but I looked around this conference room, there was about 40 people in the room, are all lawyers, and I was the only woman, I was the only person of color and I was the only person under 40 in the room and again I thought like this was 2005 probably. And I was like, Oh my God like this is 200.It was shocking to realize.

Kimberly Faith: [00:13:15] So, Linda I was curious. It must be interesting for you,as you have watched Jenna and her career. I have a tremendous respect for Jenna as I've watched, you know I've known her since she started with Amazon and we've had several work interactions together and such an impressive woman. Watching the life change for her in this era versus where you were what were the two or three observations that you've made watching her.

Linda Powers: [00:13:38] Well, number 1, as you must know, we are both terribly proud of her and are proud of her focus and her determination. And you know, I'd like to take some credit for that because I think we always had. I always had, my husband always had such great work ethics. And I think we transferred that to her. And I've seen her grow with her confidence because I think we gave her a good base. And I'm very very proud of her.

Kimberly Faith: [00:14:07] Wonderful. Well, and so let's talk about it you both brought up that you brought up your husband and you mentioned your dad Jenna and I know that he is there supporting you. But I do want to talk about Jenna. You heard me speak at the Indiana basketball recruit girls association when you and I spoke together and it was you know a large group and we spent some time talking with that group about the fact that it's not men versus women that things have changed now that we need to come together. So, I'd love to, Jenna, to hear kind of your perspective of that. And then, please Linda feel free to add in any commentary.

Jenna Powers: [00:14:38] Yeah absolutely, I think you're exactly right it's not men versus women, certainly. And I think that we continue to bolster each other both men and women in this area. And I think about the mentors that I had in my life, especially early on, were always men and men was probably because that's who was at the top. I was really, I don't want to use the word fortunate but because I hate to think about it that way, but you know I have never had  that stereotypical experience of a woman that was, that I felt like was trying to undermine me as another woman, ever. Certainly, all of the women that I've come in contact with in the working world, most of whom had been peers, were very supportive. But but the men gave me opportunities. And so I was always very grateful for that and thankful for that. Now being where I am in my career and I'm, I still have mentors certainly but in in a spot where more often I have mentees I I mentor both men and women but I'm also very cognizant of the fact that I want to make sure that I'm helping out the other women and at least acting as a role model for them. Again, I remember many times in my career looking up the management chain and there wasn't a woman above me and it's not like I was so high up, either. It was just because there weren't any women, that has certainly changed. I think I look up my own management chain and I look across and I definitely see women now  which is great. But I think that the women only get there, certainly with the help of other women but with the help of men as well.

Kimberly Faith: [00:16:20] Sure, Linda, I'd love to hear your thought because and the days when you started working life is very different. And men also have their own narrative to handle because they've also been told this is the way life should be. So, you've been watching this kind of a road and change and shift over your life. Any thoughts you want to share about that.

Linda Powers: [00:16:40] Well no, You know Kim I'm still working and as Jenna was speaking, I'm thinking I'm still working just part time but the whole it's the whole atmosphere has changed. Now, I work for our hospital where the CEO is now a woman. There are so many women in the workforce now and I'm almost envious. I wish I could start over again. And, you know, start my career over again because they're in such a wonderful, women are in such a wonderful spot right now that they can do almost anything. And I have a wonderful husband who supported me all the time and it actually pushed me to do a lot more out of my comfort zone. So, I guess he would he would be my mentor.

Kimberly Faith: [00:17:28] Aww, very nice, very nice. So I'm curious. The reality is though is that I'm working with women at all levels. Jenna you've heard me talk about this and even women all over the world, they still tend to sometimes hold themselves back by this dialogue that's happening in their brain and I'm convinced that it's a relic of all these things that we're hearing from the past. So either one of you, I'm curious. What kind of inspiration can we give to other women to realize that yes, things have changed to such a degree that now what's the biggest obstacle is maybe the narrative that's happening inside of our brain.

Jenna Powers: [00:18:02] I'm a big, I believe you can do anything you want. And I really believe that. And not just work but in in your personal life also and whether that is: I want to make this career pivot, or I want this promotion, or I want to climb this mountain, or I want to do a head stand in yoga, you know, like  whatever these things are. You know whenever I hear someone say like "Oh that seems so great",that seems so cool. I would love to do that but I could never". To me, right away, I'm like, yes you can, yes you can. Now, things take a lot of work...

Kimberly Faith: [00:18:42] To my listeners, just to give me a heads up, to my listeners. This is from a woman who just completed a two hundred miler right. Impressive that I mentioned there early in the bio but I also understand that she really does walk or talk. keep going, Jenna.

Jenna Powers: [00:18:56] Yeah. You know this idea of like "I could never" I think is ridiculous. Like you can and we can do anything we want. And like that to me is a really important message for all women. Now, I'm not saying it's easy and I'm not saying that you don't have to sacrifice or you know, you don't have to make hard choices like you know all of those things are definitely true. But, to me it's really important for women at all areas and in all stages to understand like if you see something and that looks like something that's really interesting to you or passionate like, you can do it. There are there are ways to do it. You can do it. So, like stripping that word, like "I could never", "I can't". Like no you can't, yes you can.

Kimberly Faith: [00:19:38] We need a T-shirt for that.

Jenna Powers: [00:19:40] A hashtag.

Kimberly Faith: [00:19:40]  That's very nice, hashtag. You hear her speaking like that. What would you say to women that are still having some of those those old mindsets that might be in their way?

Linda Powers: [00:19:51] I'm one of those very cautious people and that's probably held me back. I'll be honest about that. So, if I'm watching Jenna speak and saying "I can do that, I can do that". She's right. I mean women today I think have such a wonderful opportunity in front of them. They can do anything they want. And you know, I encourage them to not be so cautious, to take chances.

Kimberly Faith: [00:20:17] So, Linda is it possible that that viewpoint of cautiousness came from kind of the collective and the culture back then where women were not encouraged to do, so, that perhaps maybe it isn't just Linda.

Linda Powers: [00:20:29] No, you're absolutely right. It was it was the way I was brought up. So, you're right.

Kimberly Faith: [00:20:35] Where i sit, I hear that from my mother and I hear that from many other women too. It's that that really was the nature of what we were told for quite some time. And so, what's happening with I think Jenny's generation and mine of course is that we're kind of straddling here in the middle of all the things that Linda and my mom and others were told and then we have a hand there and a hand in the future and trying to figure out which way do we go. And that's part of what I'm trying to bring to awareness is how do we begin to pluck out those old mindset and begin to look at life differently.

Jenna Powers: [00:21:08] I think Kim, too you reminding me like you mentioned my running which you know I'm very passionate about because I'm passionate about what I felt like. I feel like it's brought to other parts of my life kind of the risk there. And you know there's a there's a woman whose name I cannot recall but she wrote a wonderful book called gutsy girl. It's a book for younger girls. But her message is that you know even from a very young age, right. And children play, right like we all go out and play and the boys go out and play and they wrestle and they ride their bikes and they fall down and get hurt and bruises and those things.  But when the girls go out to ride their bikes the first things that their mother say to them is "be careful". And, this idea like my mom said about being overly cautious like we as a society, I think tell girls from a very early age that they need to be careful. And you know I'm watching, like I may anger some sports fans here but you know flipping through a TV and you know I played softball growing up, I was never good but I loved it and I played. And nowadays I'm watching you know, softball and baseball so not professional right. Like even you know high school and collegiate and that the helmet that the girls wear now have [INAUDIBLE] it's almost like football helmets. And the boys aren't required to wear their helmets and all i keep thinking is because we don't want the girls faces to get messed up like they cannot be pretty. Now, I don't know why this, if that's why they have the helmets but I cannot think of another logical reason, because if it's for safety, then why don't the boys have.

Kimberly Faith: [00:22:53]  Very valid point.

Kimberly Faith: [00:22:55] Why the girls have to do that? it's that kind of stuff that to me it's it's like, because we need the girls to be really careful.

Kimberly Faith: [00:23:04] Interesting.

Linda Powers: [00:23:05] Jenna is making me think of you know, now I'm going back like when I grew up, I grew up with three brothers and she's absolutely right.  They were double standards. It's definitely double standards.

Kimberly Faith: [00:23:17] So, well what's interesting I just read in fact this week. I just read a story, as a matter of fact Jenna I mentioned that when I was with you in Indiana but about this young girl who was at a parade and she thought I heard the announcer talk about the boy scouts when they were coming down the street and said "oh these are our future leaders of America". And then shortly thereafter with the girl scouts coming down on their float and the announcer said "oh, these girls are out and have a great time today". And she actually wrote a letter to the editor and said why why are we having those double standards. So, as we as we go into the final segment here I just wanted to kind of ask how do we make all of us a little bit more aware of when these old narratives are playing. What are some of the phrases that would be good for us to catch? What are some of the actions or  some of the words being said by others that we could say "wait a minute, we're in a new era".

Jenna Powers: [00:24:09]  I think that you bring up an interesting question with a double standard. I think, looking for anything that artificially differentiates men and women. Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. Again, I'll go I'll go back to running because I think there's a lot of parallels here. Everyone, whether or not you run,  everyone has seen like the race bib, the number on the front right racers wear the number on the front of themselves. And, I was in a race, a marathon earlier this year and the men's numbers were just the number right. Number 1,2,3,4,5 and the women's wear F, 1,2,3,4,5. F for female. Now, there were no duplicate numbers, by the way, like everybody had a unit number but the women had the F in front of it and there was another racer that actually tweeted about it. I hadn't noticed but another racer tweeted about it and said you know thanks marathon organizers for recognizing that the men are the norm and we have to call out the abnormal which is the "F" the women. And so those are kind of like artificial, like you tell your son to have fun with his friends and be home at 6 p.m. and you tell your daughter engage in the same activity to be careful. And so like are what are the messages both overt and subtle like the 'F' on those bib.

Kimberly Faith: [00:25:37] That's just good point. 

Kimberly Faith: [00:25:39] That's just different. And then ask yourself like why is that? Does that really need to be different because of course I'm not arguing that men and women are the same. And we have many differences but you know is is what you're calling out actually a difference or you've just made it the difference. Those are things that we can all really be conscious of and keep our eyes open to.

Kimberly Faith: [00:26:05] Very good point, Linda, any thoughts that you have.

Linda Powers: [00:26:08] No, I'm listening. I'm sitting in this room and I'm watching my daughter and I'm just like I said I am. She brings up such good points that it's making me more conscious of the subtle differences.

Kimberly Faith: [00:26:22] Yes, because for a long time in all fairness it's been a little bit like a fish just a water. It's so ingrained and what it is that we see and do that we don't even notice it because Jenna that was actually what I was thinking is that you said I hadn't I hadn't even noticed. And so I think that's what we're trying to all do is begin to bring awareness to that. just say "hmmm" maybe it doesn't have to be that way. Now Jenna, I know someday maybe I'll have to have your father back on a podcast because I'm sure he has lots of thoughts and keeps on listening to all of these comments there. But I was wondering if the two of you could that could help me close that with podcast by sharing it. It's not mothers and daughters relationships or sometimes not easy because there are a great deal of generational differences and the two of you being here today I think just sends a wonderful message to others. But for moms and daughters sometimes that don't do well with each other. How do you go through and begin to understand and even respect the differences that we can begin to understand that both of you were all part of the narrative of being a woman and it's not just about mothers and daughters?

Jenna Powers: [00:27:25] I think, like for me it's finding commonality. I think, like I was, like my mom and I, you know, my mom and I are very different in a lot of ways. But I always was very, I was always very proud to get to have a mother that worked like it didn't matter what she did. The fact that she left the house every day and had a job to go to. I was always very, very, very proud of. And in many ways similar. She said she was she got her first job at 16, I got my first job at 15, not because they made me but because I was sort of like well that's what you know strong women work.

Kimberly Faith: [00:28:01] Yes, we do.

Kimberly Faith: [00:28:02] Smart women work, strong women work. No disrespect to non-working  women out there but like that was the model that I had. And so, like in that way, I think that we're always connected.

Kimberly Faith: [00:28:15] I like that I had the advice of finding commonality because sometimes we can lose sight of that but when we begin to consider it in a larger narrative. And Linda, what would what would be your advice?

Linda Powers: [00:28:25] To always listen. Always be there to support no matter what she does. And I am one of those that when she did a 200 mile race, I think I said to her be safe. I didn't say be careful I said be safe. So, you know, we're evolving. I'm 70, she's 40. We're evolving and we try to find things like she said their commonality. She actually had me running a five K Road Race with her at 70 years old when she did her fortieth race.

Kimberly Faith: [00:28:59] Oh, that's wonderful!

Jenna Powers: [00:29:01] And she won her age group by the way, she won the race.

Linda Powers: [00:29:05] So she, she's as much an inspiration to me.  She takes me out of my comfort zone and I am forever grateful for that.

Kimberly Faith: [00:29:18] You know, I appreciate you both sharing your perspective today because I think sometimes for all of us. Sometimes we'll have a hard time remembering that the world that our mothers and grandmothers grew up were so very different. And if we slow down long enough to begin to think about that and have more I think compassion and understanding for why many lives turned out the way they did and maybe even a renewed source of strength as we all go forward. And Jenna I want to thank you because you have brought to my awareness how important that message is.

Kimberly Faith: [00:29:48] I hope you found this edition of The Sisterhood report thought provoking and inspiring. Please know the role you play in the collective story that is unfolding is powerful. The world needs you. Yes, you, y o u and everything that you have to offer. Thanks for joining us today. As always, you can find my book, "Your Lion Inside" on Amazon 1 800 CEO Read and all e-book sites. It is truly my privilege to serve you today, my sweet sisters, until next time.