Woman Wednesday Issue #41

The Assist Newsletter
October 12, 2022
Woman Wednesday

Name that Woman Trailblazer: She is first woman to swim from mainland Rhode Island to Block Island (10.4 miles in five hours and 19 minutes). The 29-year-old, three-time Olympian, said she is “humbled and honored” to have made the achievement. Her swim helped raise funds for cancer research and programs — her dad died from pancreatic cancer several months earlier, and she began her swim next to his favorite restaurant, Ocean Mist.

👉 Click here to reveal this woman.


Meet Jessica Norris 👋


Jessica Norris Woman Wednesday

Hi, I’m Jessica Norris!

I was raised in the suburbs of Cleveland where I’m currently raising my own children.

I got my Bachelors Degree in Communications from Ohio University and my Masters in Writing from the University of Edinburgh.

I’ve worked for The Cleveland Orchestra for over ten years!

🔗 Want to connect with Jessica? Say “hi” on LinkedIn and Instagram.


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Jessica’s Secrets


Q: How did you get into your current role/industry?
As crazy as it sounds I stumbled upon it.

The economy was still in a recession. The general public operates similarly to a public school system, meaning when funds are tight, we tend to cut arts, sports, and hobbies from our budgets first (as they are the least essential).

The Cleveland Orchestra is one of the world’s best orchestras and I wanted to be a part of making sure that didn’t go away. I wanted to help get people back to concerts, because while concerts and sporting events tend to be limited in tough times, it tends to be when people need them most to escape their hardships.

I started in fundraising, and with each move in the organization, I focused on the aspects of that position I liked most. I looked to where I could do more of what I loved and less of what I didn’t love. Sometimes this was through promotions, and sometimes it was with lateral moves.

Q: What’s something you do to help boost your productivity?
A: Lists and schedules are my life.

I section off 5 to 6 main areas of my job and block off time throughout the week to work on those broad areas. I don’t block of time for specific items to avoid spending too much time on scheduling.

Each day I have my regular list of activities for the day no matter what. This is put in as a reoccurring meeting in my calendar with the list in the meeting notes to help make sure I don’t miss items.

In the morning, I create a top 3 list of items that must be completed that day. Then a few items that would be great to get done if I can. Those items tend turn into my top 3 for the next day. Sometimes the items are whole projects and sometimes they’re a step to a larger project but it’s what I need to stay on track.

In meetings, I tend to take notes during the meeting and email them out to the participants so that we all know what items we are each responsible for and to make sure we are all on the same page.

This also helps get people up to speed when they miss a meeting and makes it easy to remember where we left off on particular items. My prep for meetings goes down when I just need to bring up my meeting notes from the previous meeting. I had been doing these notes just for me, but realized we all benefit from them to create clarity.

Q: How do you find work-life balance?
A: Communication is the biggest aide.

1. Hard stops and boundaries as much as possible. But you can’t have hard stops and hard boundaries without first communicating them.

For example, I don’t just leave a meeting when it was scheduled to end. At the start of a meeting I will let the organizer or all participants know if I have a hard stop or need to leave a certain time.

This does not mean there aren’t times when I’m jumping on the computer to work outside my schedule — concerts are happening all the time, technology can go wrong, etc. — but it eliminates a constant 60+ hour work week and/or getting burned out.

2. Establish expectations. I make sure to vocalize items or issues with my supervisor, team, and direct reports — When do you need this by? Is this a soft deadline or a hard deadline? X is going on this week we need to push this to next week. I’m currently working on X, Y, Z — how would you like to prioritize these in conjunction with this new project?

I make sure that I meet my goals by giving myself enough time and confirming those expectations with all participants.

3. If I’m in a meeting or on a project that I don’t believe I am adding value to, I bring this up to the organizer separately to see if I’m needed. I will then either exit the project or we will better determine what it is needed from me.

Working from home makes achieving work/life balance harder. I, like many others, got burned out and was reminded the importance of turning off at the end of the day and coming back refreshed.

Remember, your colleagues have similar work-life balance items on their agenda as well, and most likely want to work with you as best they can.

Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received so far?
A: Don’t be scared to ask questions.

When it comes to promotions or raises, don’t wait for them to present themselves — if you want them you need to actively participate in the conversation.

Q: What’s your favorite software or app that helps with your workflow?
A: Outlook calendar and a pad of paper.

Q: What’s a book or podcast you’d recommend to a colleague?
A: Ask a Manager podcast and book were helpful for me starting out.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time outside of work?
A: I love to run and go on hikes with my family.

🗣 Read how to better communicate with your coworkers.
🙋‍♀️ If you get nervous to ask questions, read this.


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ABL (Always Be Learning)


We learn more from what goes wrong than what goes right.

Make sure to hold meetings after projects are completed to see what went right and what can be improved the next go around.

COVID was a huge learning curve for everyone in the workplace.

We had not cancelled concerts before, and when the pandemic first began, cancelling all concerts was one thing as they were weeks (sometimes months) away — but cancelling a concert hours before it starts was another. And guests are not shy about sharing their feelings.

From one Sunday to Monday, my team of 5 people received 1,500 emails. Many guests believe we are staffed 24/7, or that items are instantaneous. Even with these misconceptions, the guest feedback helped the institution and my team learn how to improve the process.

We can’t eliminate the frustrations of a cancelled event, but we can make the process as easy as possible for the guest.

Some improvements included texting out cancelled concerts to ticket purchasers, creating mass emails asking how they’d like to proceed with their tickets, which eliminated the need for them to contact us.

We clearly stated the turnaround time to work through the requests and response times for other inquiries. We established FAQ sheets for common questions to avoid putting guests on hold to find answers.

On the back end, we were able to process some items in mass, as opposed to the first time when we needed to do each one manually.

There is always room for improvement, but our process has improved exponentially from that first instance.

Now we just hope not to cancel any more concerts that would require all that we’ve established.


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