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Women’s History Month Profile: Director, Project Management Office Jesslyn Rodriguez

April 25, 2022

Jesslyn Rodriguez is Noodle’s Director, Project Management Office. Originally from St. Louis, MO and raised in Winter Park, CO, Jesslyn is now based in Dallas TX with her family. She received her BFA in Acting from Webster University’s Sargent Conservatory of Theater Arts. Jesslyn shares that she’s spent her whole life being surrounded by educators. Many of the women in her family got their degrees in Education, dedicating their lives to the field, including her mother, both grandmothers, and several aunts and cousins.  She shares that education has been the ‘connective tissue’ within her career journey. Jesslyn works together with her team in Noodle’s Project Management Office as they provide innovative services that improve communication and efficiency for Noodle systems, processes, and projects. She supports her colleagues through her honest and open communication skills which she is proud of.

Get to Know Director, Project Management Office Jesslyn Rodriguez

A great leader will choose to surround themself with people who come from different backgrounds and experiences, share their strengths, learn from others and encourage growth through collaboration.

What elements or traits does a great leader exhibit?

To be a leader, you have to be able to see the bigger picture—what’s working AND what’s not. A leader knows their strengths,  their weaknesses, and can identify the strengths and weaknesses in those around them. A great leader will choose to surround themself with people who come from different backgrounds and experiences, share their strengths, learn from others and encourage growth through collaboration.

When you think of great leadership, who comes to mind? Why?

‍When I think of great leadership, I think of my mom, who has always put loyalty and dedication at the forefront of her leadership style. Employees, clients, parents, and children she’s worked with still keep in touch with her. I grew up watching and learning from her knowing one day I wanted to make an impact like that. I also think of Peter Sargent, who was so insightful and supportive. He could recognize someone’s strengths long before they could, and he’d help them develop those traits while giving the person full ownership of the transformation. He saw what people and his industry needed on a personal level and at scale and he helped shape both.  

How has your personal leadership style evolved?

Over time I have learned the value of balance. However, I’m still trying to master applying it. But in general, I think I have a more holistic approach to working with my team and how we weave together our ever evolving skills. I used to spend a lot of time trying to make everything perfect or find a solution for every problem myself— rather than spending more time teaching my team how to improve their skills or give them space to create something new.

What is it about your background or career experiences that successfully positioned you for your role at Noodle? Describe that role.

It often catches people off-guard to hear that I studied Acting and Directing in college because it seems so far removed from my role in Solutions Architecture and the Project Management Office. However, I believe my background in Theater has set an exceptional foundation for me. The preparation that goes into the work, the research, and the world that has to be built before the first day my team comes together is something that I have taken with me. I believe it benefits me every day.

Also, the need to understand systems from beginning to end has been ingrained in me. The idea of understanding a piece of work or project, its players and their objectives, obstacles, and how they will get there is what I have learned to apply to anything and everything.

How do you support the success of your team?

I encourage my team to set goals for work they are passionate about and they feel benefits the company, our team, and them individually. We also set cascading goals. This helps ensure that the goals they set for the year are supported by smaller milestone goals set each quarter. Similarly, in our weekly meetings we check in about how the work they are doing week to week is progressing them towards those quarterly goals.

At the same time, I do my best to be really open and honest with my team so that they know they can do the same with me. I think that ensures we set realistic expectations with each other. If I’m having a bad day, I don’t say “I’m fine.”  I’m honest about where I’m at and they hopefully can be too. I hope it lets them know that we are all human and I care about their overall well-being and not just their output or performance.

Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places or experiences. Please provide a specific example.

My mother was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She moved to the US when she was 16. I have very specific memories of traveling when I was young to small border towns in Mexico and to Panama to visit my family. I remember being emotionally impacted by the class division and seeing children, like myself, without their basic needs met. Something that has always stuck with me is the memory of a tourist haggling with a young girl for a decorative item the area was known for. The girl was no more than 5 years old and wanted $25. The woman wore her down and paid $2 in the end. The tourist was so proud of herself—what a deal she got from the little girl with no shoes. I remember asking my mom why she wasn’t in school? Her reply was, “She might not get to go to school, at least not every day like you do”. I knew, from a young age, what privilege is and what it meant in education.

I think growing up in a Hispanic culture and having these experiences help me to approach the world and my work with great passion and a sense of empathy. I have always been deeply drawn to be connected to work that leaves this world a better place. It’s why I was so interested in coming to work at Noodle.

What are some of the most effective tools in your leadership arsenal?

Communication, honesty, and knowing how to “control your table” are my go to tools. I truly believe that communication and honesty are the pillars of any successful relationship—business included. A team has to know how, when and what to communicate to each other in order to work effectively and efficiently. That can’t be done without the freedom to be able to speak candidly and openly. Similarly, I believe that the best relationships with clients are built with candor and communication. When you are honest and communicate often, you have the opportunity to set realistic expectations upfront, provide alternative options, set the tone, and control the narrative, all while building trust. ie, “control your table”.  

Please tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn.

I am a HUGE sports fan and I went into labor during game 7 of the Stanley Cup. The Blues won for the first time in franchise history, and we added Gloria as my daughter’s middle name.

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