Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2022 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Women like Jen Shelley are making “Herstory.”
As Director of Communications for Whitehouse Post, Jen Shelley oversees PR and Marketing for the award-winning company’s four busy offices. She began her career in Operations, and has worn many hats over the years facilitating everything from office relocations and design, to travel and recruitment. The common thread has been a penchant for working with creative people to get the job done, hopefully with a smile on everyone’s faces at the end.
A big fan of events, Jen has planned many theme parties for Whitehouse over the years, and also helped with AICP Post Show planning. In her free time look for Jen at the ice rink, roller rink, or beach, likely chasing her soon to be five year old with a big bag of snacks.
How did you get into Post Production?
Honestly, somewhat by chance. I was a film major and initially thought I’d work in set design or as a cinematographer. After a summer internship working on set, I realized that while exciting, production wasn’t for me. After graduation and a brief time in NYC interning at a documentary research company, I moved to Chicago. My best friend from high school was working at Leo Burnett and cutting a Nintendo commercial at Whitehouse Post. I attended a session with her, handed them my resume, and got lucky because they needed a receptionist to start asap. That was 16 years ago.
Who were your mentors?
I’ve been lucky to work with so many incredible people at Whitehouse. The company excels at growing and promoting from within, I’m just one of these stories. There are two women that taught me so much and to whom I’m forever grateful. In my early years, Lacey Walsh (our Director of Ops) took me under her wing and really molded me. I will always be struck by her determination, when there were roadblocks, she’d simply go another way, and she always found a way. Operations is often about doing something new, having to figure something out and come up with what makes sense for the company. It has given me some great backbone skills that I’ll always draw from. When I became more interested in communications, Sue Dawson (our Executive Director of Post) helped me to grow into the role I currently inhabit, in the most supportive and encouraging way. She excels at putting things in perspective, and is a constant go-to for opinions and reality checks. I owe a lot to both of them.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
It’s such a loaded subject, but I think I’m most proud of being a busy, working mom, and feeling like I’m “balancing” it fairly well. I love my job, and I love my kid, and I’m really happy to have them both while working somewhere I feel supported in doing that.
What drives you to create?
I don’t sit still, so I’d say boredom, energy, and a desire to communicate with people. & la croix!
What shows are doing the best job of portraying strong women on TV?
I just binged The Morning Show and really loved it, to watch workplace dynamics unfold with covid in the
background is fascinating. Mad Men is my all-time favorite show and I love Peggy, Joan, and Betty so much. Elizabeth Moss again in Handmaid’s Tale, oof hard to watch but so good. I also just finished Yellowjackets, survival shows really get me, I’m not that tough!
Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman you would like to attend each function with.
Coffee: Karen Kilgariff
Lunch: Martha Stewart. If you aren’t following her Instagram, check it out. I love the lack of filter and that she clearly posts when tipsy and doesn’t care. & I’m sure the food would be great.
Happy Hour: Shonda Rhimes (currently devouring Bridgerton Season 2).
What is the biggest challenge to women in your industry?
I think the biggest challenge is to decide what you want, to really know, and to believe in yourself and go after it.
If being a woman is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?
Many years back we started saying “velvet hammer” at work – meaning getting things done but in a nice way. I’d like to think that’s how I work. & I think being kind is the best kryptonite.
How has having the superpower helped you?
You get more bees with honey, as they say. The world is intense, especially now, and everyone is just trying to do their best. I try to remember this and am always working on being more patient both with myself and with others.
When you’re not creating, what do you do in your off time?
I live in Evanston and am at the beach with my son as much as possible, walking along the lake, picking up sea glass, doesn’t get better. Also gardening with my husband and taking long walks with the dog. Vintage shopping, ice skating, roller skating, anything nostalgic & fun!
Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?
I hope I’m still working at Whitehouse, I love it here. I have an idea for a true crime script I’d like to write, and I want to open a roller rink in Evanston. Stay tuned!