Jennifer Chinburg, 2023 Outstanding Women in Business recipient
Jennifer is the Vice President of Marketing & Corporate Development at Chinburg
After graduating from Boston College in 1991, Jen earned a certificate in special studies in administration and management from Harvard University in 1996, leading to a career of over 30 years of experience in areas such as marketing, management, strategy, public relations and economic development. She received her certification in economic development from the Department of Resources and Economic Development and worked in that field at the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce for three years.
Her career also includes experience in financial management with Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She went on to become the chief of staff at BankBoston Development Company. Jen currently serves on the board of GoodWork at Carey Cottage, and is an investor in and an advisor to several businesses, many of them women-owned.
Additionally, she founded MillYoga in the Newmarket Mill in 2012, where she helped foster a healing and growth space for teachers and clients. She passed the business on to two women co-owners in 2023.
What challenges did you experience in your storied career?
There was a pretty big obstacle in my career during a merger between Fleet and Bank Boston. Bank Boston had a very long legacy and history of “doing well by doing good,” and I really aligned with that in my role in a venture capital group investing in urban, minority and women-owned businesses. Fleet was a larger, more corporate bank that was coming in and was going to be absorbing some of the departments. And with any merger, everyone was potentially on the chopping block. I was a young woman with a high salary in a high-profile position. So initially my position was noted to be eliminated along with my boss and mentor’s as well.
I had made a plan that I really wanted to make a transition in my life and take an opportunity to travel and just reset and take a breather after a rigorous and stressful position. At that point I was 30, and I had a plan to pursue my way to the corporate corner office. But in that moment, I needed to take a break and just see the world and reset. I took a month and I went to Australia and China. When I returned, I moved to Portsmouth, and felt like I had come home. It was really where I was meant to be, both professionally and personally. So, the path to get here has been a little bit of this, a little of that and turning what initially felt like a negative into a huge positive.
How important is mentorship to you?
I think that people really need a sounding board, more than someone telling them what to do. I’ve mentored women in our business, in the yoga world and women business owners. I just want to be very accessible to people and to listen and ask the questions that help them come to a conclusion, or share what’s relevant about my story so that it can help them take pieces of that that might resonate for them. It’s really being approachable, open to conversations, empathetic, being a good listener and then reflecting back a perspective based on my own experiences.
What advice do you have for new female business leaders?
One thing that I have said to other young women who are starting out their career, and what is part of my philosophy, is to make yourself invaluable. Find what it is that the people who you are striving to emulate or rise into their circle, particularly your own direct managers, prove that you’re invaluable to them and to the organization. Find the skill set that they didn’t know that they needed, and be the one to fill that. And your managers and the people who are in a position to help promote you will recognize that you have a skill set that they may not even have known was missing. Observe, and be willing to work hard and figure out how you can use your unique skill sets to meet an unmet need.
Within my career, I haven’t really been someone who sees a job description and then applies for that job. I’ve tried to create jobs based on what I see the needs to be, and then be willing to work really hard to fill that niche. Also, be curious. Be someone who’s dedicated to continuous learning. Recognize what your passions are and align them, if you can, with your career choice.
Being in the building business, we’re also very much in the people business. We’re in the communities where people live, work and play. What drew me to this industry was the opportunity to help create amazing properties and communities. I love that people live and work in them, have a great experience; that we can provide an environment in which they can thrive. That aligns with my passion and my professional goals.
Look for opportunities, be curious, ask questions and use your own skill sets and passions to find the niche where those elements intersect. That is where your will enter the “zone” that will set you apart and get you to a place where you will shine.