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Week 5: Jessica

The coming of 2020 had brought about a sea-change for Jessica Chasen. She had embarked on a new career as the head of annual fundraising campaigns for JCA in Sydney, after moving from an established event manager career in a Fortune 500 company. Jessica had been giving back to the community by volunteering her time, and decided to make her work with the community her sole focus. It was a new career, new challenges, new environment - 2020 was going to be the start of an entirely new life that she had worked so hard to achieve.


Simultaneously, the entire international professional community was forced back into homes and apartments as quarantines and lockdowns moved from being novel phenomena to figments of the everyday. The daily contact that had been taken for granted instantly ceased, and workers had to teach themselves how to function and perform their duties all over again. Jessica got an early taste of life in lockdown away from the rest of the world. She had a potential contact with someone who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and had to begin her own personal quarantine before most of the rest of Australia. Although her years of experience in a high-intensity corporate environment had already given her many of the skills she needed to remain effective, productive, and steadfast during these extraordinary times, she nevertheless had to rapidly adapt to an ever-changing situation and find the skillset, the resolve, and the support she needed to carry on.


She put her energy into navigating her new role, and into learning the skills necessary to adapt in the remote workplace. It was imperative that she learn how to raise funds during lockdown. Jessica found herself in charge of fundraising for the JCA, but bereft of any of the normal circumstances or events that made these annual campaigns possible. Her role had to be reimagined and innovated anew, and fresh skills had to be acquired to give her the efficacy to generate funding. If success were to be secured, she would have to quickly adapt a skillset that, while tried and true under any other circumstance, could not be applied to the new world. In addition, the trauma of a global crisis weighed down on her entire team. Jessica began to open group chats for her coworkers to keep morale up and provide a safe place for her and her colleagues to express their distress and comfort one another in turn.


Sometimes, the best support lies in simply being available to listen to the hardships of others and share that vulnerability in turn. Jessica knew well that the cornerstone of human resilience and connection is the simple act of vulnerability - the vulnerability to share distress and the courage to listen. These vital human connections and the strength they inspired ensured that her team consistently met their fundraising targets to guarantee their ability to help the Jewish communities they served.


Leadership, as Jessica sees it, cannot be competitive in this new world. Before the pandemic, the position of a leader was a coveted one. People strived with each other to reach for these roles, and how high someone was able to climb was a definitive measure of success. With the urgent necessity brought upon leaders during this international emergency, it was quickly obvious that such a model of leadership could not be sustained. Jessica couldn’t afford to worry about whether or not she was suited to a certain role. If a leader showed themself to be best suited for the job, the only responsible thing to do was support and follow them. If she showed herself to be particularly suited to lead, there was no time like the present to do so. Leadership had suddenly shown itself in its truest form - cooperative rather than competitive.


This is why Jessica found LaunchPad Leadership to be particularly effective for leaders grappling with this new reality. In an online, remote space, leaders come together to help support each other as they face unprecedented challenges. They are encouraged to share their burdens and spread their weight over many strong shoulders. She saw how LaunchPad Leadership created a structured and safe space where participants could network, socialise, and learn, igniting the spirit of cooperation and collaboration. In this spirit, connections and achievement are allowed to grow. In addition to being a welcome point of focus for Jessica, she was also in a place where she could learn the most about community and how it functions under duress. In character with her efforts to reach out and help her coworkers and friends, she wanted to learn as much as she could to be an effective support for the community she now served.


With her background in event planning, Jessica was particularly impressed with how seamlessly this intentional environment is created. She remembers a particular ice breaker held at the beginning of the session, where participants were encouraged to show two pictures and tell their own story to the rest of the video conference. The simple action of taking a minute to let a personal facet shine out broke down so many barriers. Jessica felt that she had gotten to know her peers in the program, and that there was no remaining obstacle to connecting with them.


Whereas before the pandemic, Jessica would have had to build up those relationships in a more formal, incremental manner, at LaunchPad Leadership, these relationships were nearly instantaneous. What stood out to her personally was her ability to focus on getting to know her peers first and foremost, and build that rapport before beginning any larger endeavour.


She also felt, in those moments, that she had found a place where she was surrounded by equals and peers, and that they were all there to help each other overcome the challenges ahead.

At the end of LaunchPad Leadership 2020, participants were asked a hypothetical question: if you were to present a workshop for LaunchPad Leadership, on what would you present? With her background in event management and fundraising, Jessica felt that perhaps she should draw on her professional experience in drafting an idea for a workshop. She paused, however, and put down the title for her workshop idea: “Tips and Tricks for Navigating a Stressful Life.” After all that she had overcome during those stressful weeks and months, she felt deep down that this was something sorely needed. She had behind her years of experience in an intense and demanding professional role, and now direct understanding of how to combat the trauma of a global crisis on an individual level. Jessica felt empowered to use her time spent helping her colleagues, friends, and family remain grounded and present during lockdown to help others remain resilient, empathetic, and confident during crises.


And Jessica was right. She presented this workshop for LaunchPad: Behind the Screens, and provided her peers with methods of managing stress and finding balance between the demands that come from all sides and personal well-being. Through LaunchPad Leadership, Jessica not only found a cohort of leaders with whom she could find community, support, and opportunity, but also felt inspired to take a leadership role and help those around her to surmount the difficulties ahead.






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