Jessica (Scheetz) VenkerMay 1, 2018
Jessica is a communications and HR professional with experience in corporate messaging, graphic and instructional design, and talent management. At present, she works for Energizer Holdings – best known for its namesake battery business, but also a manufacturer of portable lighting and automotive fragrance and appearance products. Jessica lives in St. Louis with her husband Chris and their two cats, Castle and Zooey. They like to spend their time cheering on the St. Louis Blues, exploring up-and-coming breweries and restaurants, and watching the latest movies and TV shows.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I mainly worked for student media – specifically as Editor-in-Chief of Detours magazine and Content Editor of TMN-TV (formerly News 36). I also was Managing Editor of Harry: A Journal of Thought and Action, a member of Lambda Pi Eta, and a student manager for the Women’s Volleyball team.
Outside of Truman, I completed a summer study abroad program in Rome, Italy, and a summer internship with Parents magazine in New York, N.Y.
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
No. After graduation, I jumped immediately into the workforce. I have no immediate plans to attend grad school.
What was your first job after graduation?
I had two remote jobs right out of college. I freelanced for a digital marketing agency, writing web-optimized content (blogs, Google+ posts, website pages, etc.) for boutique and major hotels. In addition to that, I worked for a travel website that published one-stop-shop city guides. My responsibilities included fact-checking articles, writing blogs and online content, and using social media to promote our brand and interact with fellow travelers.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
I am a Sr. Talent Development Specialist at Energizer Holdings (or, as I often like to say, I work for the pink bunny ). I manage communications, training, and system administration for our corporate giving, performance management, and learning management systems. I also provide support on global talent processes, including HR communications, career development, change management, succession planning, and training design and development.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
Communication is such a pivotal part of business – it’s everywhere from project management to meetings to email. I didn’t realize until entering the workforce just how much communication is taken for granted and that many individuals do not understand the basic facets for how to do it well. Having the ability to craft a message that’s clear and succinct goes a long way in today’s working world.
Even if you aren’t a COMM major, take as many communication classes as you can while you’re in college. The skill sets you learn will easily translate across many different fields.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
Not sure that I truly “disliked” it, but in retrospect, I appreciate my Broadcast Production class (now called Digital Video Production) much more. Although I do not presently work within the journalism or broadcast industries, that class has helped me tremendously in my current role. Thinking through script writing and how to piece together something visually for an audience is crucial now that I’m responsible for developing web-based trainings for our company.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
Without a doubt, all the work put into Detours magazine. I had an incredible team that worked tirelessly to make the publication the best it could be. After my and my co-editor’s first year of leadership, we worked with our staff to make some fairly drastic changes in year two. We kept some of our best attributes – great storytelling, photography and design – while sprucing up our overall look and format.
For the print magazine, we added new content types (including Q&As, travel tips, and #25, where we highlighted 25 aspects of a particular topic) and introduced standard categories for content. We also upped our digital presence by creating our first-ever iPad app, designing a tablet edition, and writing web- and tablet-exclusive content. It was a huge undertaking and would not have happened without the efforts of every staff member. I am forever thankful for the time I spent learning and growing with them – both personally and professionally.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
It is filled with passionate people. Many of my professors were thoughtful, genuine individuals that cared about my well-being – not to mention they were extremely passionate about their area of expertise. The students are the same way – genuine, caring and passionate. I think if you’re spending as much time and money as you are to get a degree, then a place like Truman is where you would want to be and those are the people you would want to surround yourself with.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
Two things: complete an internship and get involved. The only way to know whether or not something is a good fit for you is to try it. If you hate it, then try something else. If you love it, then you know it’s something you should consider pursuing. While not impossible, it can be more difficult to change your career post-grad than while in college – and you should absolutely be doing something that you love.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
Be confident in what you have to offer and stay open to new possibilities. Just because your degree is in a particular area doesn’t mean that that’s all you’ll ever do. Your career may take many different turns over the years. Although I never once took any HR-specific courses at Truman, the skills I learned and developed through my coursework and activities remain at the core of my skill set today (i.e., communication skills, critical thinking, leadership, and work ethic). Yes, there were still some other things I had to learn, but what I learned at Truman remains at the core of my skill set.
So, at times when you may feel a little unsure of yourself because you’ve been asked to do something that may not be what you went to school for, just remember to take it as a learning opportunity. Use the skill sets that you’ve learned from your previous experiences (e.g., classes, activities, jobs, etc.), and apply that to what you’re doing. You’d be surprised how much can carry over from one job to the next – even across industries or fields.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
Being able to walk everywhere! Even on what seemed like a long trek to Barnett Hall (editor’s note: it really isn’t that long), it was still great to be outdoors in the fresh air amid all the landscaping and buildings. Now living in St. Louis (where I drive everywhere) I miss it. It’s truly a beautiful campus.
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
Ha, perhaps “COMMunicate: Sending the right message”?
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
Oh, that’s tough – maybe something called “Personal Insights”? It would be about helping people better understand themselves and others (their style, their strengths, and the value they bring). Then how to apply this insight to become a more effective communicator, build strong working relationships, etc.
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
Learning doesn’t stop after you get your degree. Make sure to embrace every opportunity that surrounds you as potential learning and development – not just the traditional training (e.g., courses, seminars, etc.). Consider the feedback you get from others, the challenging assignments you get, and the problems you solve. Embrace all of it and apply it to your future work experiences. No matter your age or experience level, lifelong learning is vital for success.