A quote from her nomination: "If you asked Jen, while the outside success is something to be proud of, the accomplishment most dear to her heart is the role she has played and continues to play internally in developing future leaders."
How I got here: "I went to school through the SDSU Hospitality and Tourism Management program in its inception year. From there, I found my passion for the hospitality industry after looking at a couple of majors. I originally started my focus in psychology, which has been a good addition to the skills I learned through that coursework. I worked with a small but mighty third party and was on a team that managed the Bank of America and Pacific Life accounts. It was like drinking from a hose, and I’m grateful for the foundation it set forth in my career.
From there, I was recruited into Access—and 25 years later haven’t looked back. It’s been the most rewarding and fulfilling career anyone could ask for. When I joined the company, we were a much smaller organization. I’ve held every position at Access, from entry-level operations to CEO. I’ve always been a dreamer, but even this surpasses anything I would have dreamt my career to be."
Greatest career accomplishment: "This is a hard one to answer. I’ll start with my happiness factor. After 25 years at Access, there’s not one thing I would change about my path and where I am today. I’m just as excited about the future of this company as I was in my first year—that’s pretty incredible.
There have been so many moments over my career that have built into a culmination of this incredibly rewarding period in my life. In most recent years, I can speak to the build-back of a 50-year brand, through the hardest time our industry has ever experienced. My partners and I brought Access back through a process from the investors in July 2020. That was a momentous moment, and from there the build-back has been epic. We started to build back a 50-year brand, honoring the history with a focus on the next 50 years.
We’ve focused on being a best place to work and creating an environment where our team can create the same opportunities for themselves that I’ve experienced. To create is one thing; to experience is the ultimate joy. We just held our first company incentive trip where we took 90 people to Playa Mujeres. Since 2020, we’ve held an all-company meeting called Envision as a way to connect, have fun, and ideate toward the future. This past year, we had over 220 team members experience Nashville; this year, we’ll have over 260 people experience New Orleans. We’ve achieved milestones and broken records never thought possible.
We created what some thought was impossible—to us it was always possible. Access has a unique story and one that I’m honored to be a part of."
A specific improvement I’ve made: "One of the aspects of my role is to communicate the vision and the values of our organization. We focus on culture and what it means to be a team member at Access. If there’s one area that I hope to have left a legacy, this is it. Culture is the single most important thing to get right in any organization. I believe this has been a big part of our 'secret sauce.'
When I stepped into the role of CEO, we spent a year with the organization dedicated to emerging with values that were created by our team. Today, we live by those values; they are more than words to us and you see them show up in daily interactions of our team. I guess you can say it has always been a dream of mine to have an organization lean into its values. Our values are the red thread into why we do what we do, and how we do it."
The biggest change I've observed in the industry: "The biggest changes relate to technology and time, specifically with smartphones. We used to carry pagers and a pocket of dimes (now I’m really aging myself). It’s not just technology; it’s also how that relates to expectations and time. Things that were once mailed or then faxed now get sent by a simple keystroke. Technology changed our perception of time, and that influences our expectations around deliverables. We curate experiences at Access, and time is essential in creating experiences that inspire."
What I do outside of work: "I’m a mom to two amazing young men! I love to work out; Lagree is my new obsession. I picked up pickleball (just like everyone else) during COVID and love it. I’ve played in a few tournaments and enjoy meeting incredible people, whether it be through work or my personal time."
The career advice I'd give my younger self: "Trust yourself! I had some self-doubt like a lot of young people do, and I questioned myself a lot. What I now know to be true is no matter the mistake, it’s never too great to learn from. And life is about learning; it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself."