Author Andy Smith | Juniper Women in Leadership Series: Part Five of Five
For a generation, Juniper Communities has created a strong environment for ambitious young women who want to “do well while doing good” and the same factors that have helped women of all ages thrive at Juniper have been especially beneficial for those just launching their careers.
Two of the most important ingredients are active mentoring and a non-judgmental willingness to listen to left- of-center concepts, from any level of the corporate hierarchy. Young leaders also site a readiness to let them implement new ideas, and a commitment to transparency, which gives team members at all levels the information they need to do their jobs.
In this article, the last (for now) of several celebrating the role of women in leadership at Juniper, we focus on two young leaders on the rise. Pennsylvania-based Katie Kensinger and Erin McDermott are two fast-rising team members who’ve benefited from the guidance and constructive criticism of Anne Campbell, former Executive Director of Juniper Village at Brookline, State College, PA and now National Director of Special Projects. Meanwhile, Katie is helping guide Erin’s career.
Taking Chances—More than Lip Service
What emerges is an environment that celebrates risk-takers, aspiring leaders with inventive ideas who are willing to work hard to achieve their visions. Equally important, it’s a culture that understands the importance of permitting team members to fail, learn, reboot and start again rather than celebrating middle-of-the-road “perfection.”
Now in her third year with Juniper, Katie Kensinger grew up in a small town, Martinsburg, PA, surrounded by cornfields, attended a small college (with lots of leadership opportunities), majored in marketing and planned on a career in arts administration in New York City. After college a great opportunity – handling marketing for a hometown bank – fell into her lap and she returned home.
She then became a community liaison for a home nursing agency where “Juniper was one of my accounts.” Always impressed with the company, when a community liaison position opened up, Katie jumped at the opportunity.
“Anne Campbell approached me about applying for a position. I was honored that she gave me this opportunity,” Katie added. “Juniper has such a wonderful reputation in the community.”
And building Juniper’s relationship with the surrounding community has become important to Katie’s mission. She’s formalized a group of community volunteers into a highly proactive Community Advisory Board, “The Friends of Juniper.”
“My idea of marketing is to have people come on campus and allow residents to connect with the larger community.” She adds, “We have members from a variety of backgrounds, including ones from the Penn state Geriatric Center for Nursing Excellence.”
Poetry and Broadway Musicals—LIVE!
Drawing on strong theater background, Kensinger has taken every opportunity to partner with outside organizations to bring the arts and opportunities for creative expression to her Juniper community.
She helped introduce programming that allowed residents, including those in memory care, to share their life stories. “So many amazing stories here. We had a man who had an opportunity to participate in the first moon launch, but he wasn’t able to do it because he was adopting a baby instead.”
Katie then worked with faculty at Penn to pair published poets with residents to create poetry based on their lives. This initiative resulted in a live performance and a published book. She hasn’t stopped there. Her community has converted its cafeteria into an intimate theater for two live musical performances—“Guys and Dolls” and “Singing in the Rain.” Both are collaborations with Music Theater International. “Again, Lynne Katzmann brought this opportunity to me.”
Only a few years into her job and Katie is already taking new employees under her wing, specifically 2016 Penn State grad Erin McDermott. “She’s our newest director of community relations. Erin interned with Juniper and worked as a social worker and now I’m mentoring her in the marketing role,” Katie says. “I’m also helping with other communities, including one on Bucks County (near Philadelphia).”
Young Millennials Rising
Another essential point—at Juniper, mentoring is often a team effort. Before Kensinger began playing her supportive role, McDermott, Director of Community Relations, State College, PA, was hired and fostered by Campbell. Now based at the Juniper Village Brookline campus in State College, PA, in Longfellow’s words, “Within 18 months she was promoted to a director of community relations position – essentially responsible for maintaining census across a 140 bed senior living campus.”
While caring for people was always in McDermott’s plan, her original goal was to work with children, including children living with cancer. She interned at Juniper following her Junior Year. and after gradation moved into a social work position full time.
Like all Juniper interns, Erin got in-depth experience over three busy months. “At first I shadowed every department and got involved in many processes, including working with quality assurance.” Anne supervised her internship and brought her to other networking events as well. “Everyone let me assist with creative problem solving and encouraged me to be an active participant,” says McDermott. After her internship, she continued as a part-time employee, assisting residents in the skilled nursing department, before going to work full-time.
McDermott spent about two years in a full-time social work position, and, in April 2018, she moved into the Director of Community Relations role, another example of Juniper’s flexible approach to career development. “I’m the one that schedules tours and shares information. I also coordinate the move-in process into independent living, personal care and memory care,” McDermott says, adding, “It has been really nice to use the tools I learned in social work, helping families through difficult situations, to take what I’ve learned and apply it at Juniper.”
She continues, “My goal was always been to be someone’s angel and to hold their hand through a difficult time. I thought that would be through pediatric cancer.” Instead, it’s holding the hands of elders and their families during difficult times.
Mentorship Made the Difference
She’s shown talent, grit and initiative, but McDermott believes mentorship was the secret sauce in her fast rising career.
“Anne’s support has been incredible; she’s served as a mentor to me throughout the process. She makes herself available to me for both professional and personal development. She’s been an amazing sounding board for ideas,” Erin adds that she believes this ongoing woman-to-woman mentorship is prevalent throughout the Juniper system. “I really appreciate her expertise, her knowledge and willingness to listen.”
McDermott is planning a long career at Juniper, but doesn’t have a 100% clear vision of what that career will look like. “I’m open to anything. My original goal was to be a nursing home administrator and that’s still a possibility. One thing that’s great about Juniper is that there’s really no limit. They nurture us and there are so many opportunities.”
Empowered and Ready for More
Obviously, Juniper’s leadership is thrilled with the commitment of emerging leaders like Kensinger and McDermott, both in their mid- to late 20’s, but what’s even more exciting is to hear the empowered confidence in their voices as they talk about the future.
“Before starting here, I researched Lynne Katzmann and found she had a strong history of leadership and innovation. And, when I got here, I discovered it to be true,” Kensinger says. “She embraces innovation and opportunity.”
McDermott agrees, stressing the importance of values and opportunities for women in her decision to pursue a career at Juniper. “It was really the values. I really identified with things they were saying. It’s really awesome to work for a community with such empowered female leadership,” she says.
Summing up what she believes makes Juniper different, Kensinger returns to a theme that’s cropped up throughout this article—a willingness to listen to team members at all levels and take chances on promising ideas from any source, regardless of age or experience.
“What I love about Juniper and its leadership is that Lynne trusts your instincts, and her own instincts. Success here is less about having to prove yourself and more about what you bring to the table. Regardless of your years of experience or the initials (or lack of initials) behind your name, your ideas are valued here.”