Effective leaders see their daily activities as opportunities to grow in their personal and professional life. On a larger scale, effective leaders see agency-wide projects as doors through which they can get a glimpse on how the organization is doing as well as the steps required to help the company grow.
One such transformational and empowering leader is Jennifer Cisneros. She is the Vice President of Marketing at BioMicrobics, Inc. She promotes a culture of Water Innovation. Jennifer is excited to share her personal experiences and provide tips for career advancement in today’s competitive environment. She shares three key behaviors that have helped her be effective in her current role, and gives us a short snapshot on her employer ’s social media landscape. Lastly, she lists some tips that may be helpful for women pursuing a similar career path. Her experience makes her a top thought leader in her industry.
“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the way choice of many alternatives
While it has been a challenge to market to multiple customer segments around the globe in 80+ countries, Jennifer is eager to support the 120+ BioMicrobics distributors and help communicate the company’s mission. “Water touches on everything we do on this planet,” Jennifer shares. “Water is the thing people cannot live without and seem to value the least.” Jennifer is always eager to address questions people may have about water. She brings a strong, technical voice to customer and inhouse conversations. She quickly learned that we needed to educate our communities about our current technologies, industry regulations, and rely on science-based stats, which show environmental risks directly impacting our water supply.
In addition to serving as Vice-President of Marketing for BioMicrobics, Inc. and its subsidiaries, Jennifer manages her employer ’s communications, online presence, social media, and event planning. Jennifer supports 120 distributors across 80+ countries. Behind the stage, 17 languages are spoken. She works in tandem with Technical Practices Committees (TPC). These are groups composed of scientists and water process engineers with different skillsets and levels of expertise. Participants encourage science-based methods and explore technical practice areas (e.g. the impact that chemicals may have on humans and our ecosystem). For 6 years, she served as the Marketing Chair of the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA).
Her efforts have been paramount to achieving recognition for BioMicrobics as unveiled by the following awards: Kansas Exporter of the Year in 2011, President’s “E”[Excellence in Exports] in 2012, “E Star” in 2016, Top 10 Wastewater Management Solutions Provider in 2019, and Global Water & Wastewater Company of the Year in 2020.
In a male dominated industry, such as the water industry, organizations create offshoot groups to focus on promoting and recognizing women who exemplify leadership within their companies that support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Production careers. Jennifer received The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Award in 2017 and the Empowering Women in Industry Award for Leadership in Manufacturing in 2019. Recently, Jennifer was interviewed as a “Woman in Ballast Water” for her contributions to one of the company’s most recent acquisitions. The article described Jennifer as “no stranger to leading the way and not just in gender equality.” Jennifer comes from the wastewater industry and was drawn to ballast water because she wanted to be a part of the solution.
Carved her Own Path
On each of the small companies she’s worked for throughout her career, Jennifer often found herself managing her own workflow. Due to the high-paced environment intrinsic in most small companies, formal career mentorship was not often accessible. “Fortunately,” she mentioned, “informal mentors abound when we stop to take a look.”
Within her chain of command and within every layer in her employer’s organizational structure, she has found people who exemplify leadership traits she feels compelled to model after. With regard to her technical background, Jennifer confides, “I originally pursued an architecture degree. But as time went by, I switched my academic focus to writing and graphics design as these topics aligned more closely with the activities I was interested in.” Most of Jennifer’s operational experience was obtained by working ‘in the trenches’ and by having to deliver on projects with competing priorities and aggressive deadlines.
Jennifer believes a key trait of a good leader is to be agile. While it is common knowledge that projects must be divided into manageable, actionable items, we must see these items as flexible constructs, which must be reassessed and adapted periodically.
On this topic, Jennifer shares, “we can’t fixate our minds on a rigid execution plan when we know life will bring us surprises. An agile, flexible mindset is a must if we are to effectively flow through the issues and achieve our overarching objectives.”
When company leaders fosters a safe work culture (e.g. respect of everyone’s ideas and open feedback), creative ideas flourish which, in turn, brings forth a healthy dose of risk-taking, new possibilities and previously overlooked opportunities. While safety and risk-taking appear to be two ends of the spectrum, Jennifer feels both are tied at the hip.
Within her organization, Jennifer states, “Without trust, there is no safety; without safety, there is no space to dance with risk. With safety, you create an environment for people’s ideas to flourish, even if those ideas may become highly disruptive.” There can be safety around speaking up and letting people know where you stand.
Taking calculated risks comes from the trust you have in your colleagues and in yourself. Even if you fail, you can grow from the experience. When Jennifer makes a mistake, she asks herself these questions: What went wrong? What could I do better next time? What can I learn from this? Undesirable outcomes may open doors for unexpected opportunities and even valuable life lessons.
In international business, risk can be found everywhere. Speaking up as soon as risks are identified is essential to the day-to-day management of a firm’s operations. At BioMicrobics, there is considerable exposure to political risks, cultural misunderstandings, economic fluctuations, and other entanglements. Jennifer said she is fortunate to work for BioMicrobics whose approach to remain open, driven and flexible speaks to its heavy emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and company growth.
Finding your Passion in your Current Role
Some corporate positions, Jennifer asserts, may not appear as attractive as other segments within an organization. “However,” she adds, “any role can lead to finding your passion as long as we take the time to reflect on what the company stands for and how we want to serve our customers. I found out I have a passion for supporting the environment by contributing to the distribution of clean technologies, which are designed to solve world water problems.”
Next to her Communications Studies Leadership Award in her office, she has a small brass plaque that says, “QUALITY…never an accident; Quality is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”
Participate in or, if not available, set up cross-knowledge transfer sessions. These activities are effective at building a team that works effectively together, as each participant has a better understanding of how everyone plays a role in the team and organization. Jennifer promotes a cross-team mindset by training coworkers on the same skills and tasks that she is responsible for. Doing so provides employees with promotion potential and advancement opportunities. She wouldn’t ask someone to do something that she herself wouldn’t do. She is excited to come to work every day, as she feels she learns something new every day and she wants others to feel the same excitement she feels.
Thanks to the vision of BioMicrobics’ founder, the company has expanded its operations, support programs, and product offerings all over the world.
Her willingness to participate in international travel has afforded Jennifer many opportunities to grow at the personal level and in her career. She has visited 18 countries thus far and expects to visit many more. Through her travels, she has met the most amazing people in the Water industry. Many colleagues within the BioMicrobics network often visit her workplace for training and participate in corporate events. She states that while everyone comes from different backgrounds, the interaction creates unique perspectives. A big plus is that you often meet like-minded people and sometimes make life-long friends.
Bringing the Water Industry in Limelight
Jennifer expressed her committed to the company’s tag line: ‘Better Water. Better World.’ She has proven vital to the company’s growth by integrating Biomicrobics’ marketing efforts with those of three corporate acquisitions and six technology acquisitions over the years. She has also integrated the company’s social media presence into a cohesive unit.
BioMicrobics has a new target audience: the “conscious consumer.” This consumer does his/her own research and is interested in improving the management of their properties’ water systems. Some of our conscious consumers are highly active in social media. We have found them retweeting and sharing posts about BioMicrobics’ environmentally-focused content. Jennifer has helped develop a loyal fan base for the company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. BioMicrobics into a transparent company by providing. She has also provided labeling, technical know-how, and educational materials to the industry.
Enlightening Upcoming Businesswomen
Regarding her advice to emerging businesswomen, Jennifer says, “Be patient when setting and working on your career goals. As Napoleon said, ‘Dress me slowly, I’m in a hurry’, we must not rush the details as this is where mistakes happen and deadlines are missed. Have a chance to sharpen yourself for the long term through clear intention and cast-iron integrity; we must walk a career path steadily, taking the time to reflect on the lessons learned and lending a helping hand along the way. Doing so will help support the organization and customers with confidence and a clear purpose.”
Her final thoughts leaves us ready to reach new heights: “Be agile, speak up, and participate. Be committed to delivering excellence on every task you handle; even the morning email we send is a reflection of who we are and what we stand for. And this same reflection is also shared through every daily interaction. Lastly, find your joy, delegate, empathize, develop boundaries, exercise and drink plenty of water!”
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