Jessica Hooper is a Los Angeles based project manager and content producer at DEC Artists. Jessica is also the lead ambassador and event producer for Ladies Get Paid.
At DEC Artists, Jessica’s works spans all facets of the company, from national and global activations working with organizations such as Wounded Warrior Project, Bezos Family Foundation and CASA. She is currently an original programs producer for DEC Artists newest venture, Werk! TV.
Prior to joining DEC Artists, Jessica explored many career paths from banking, life on a studio lot at Fox and Sony, and freelancing as a small business strategist and social media consultant. It was during her five-year break from cubicle life that she got married, became a mother, and began to explore how to add value to the world.
Jessica currently serves as a lead ambassador, event producer and guest blogger for Ladies Get Paid in Los Angeles. Her work, along with a committee of ambassadors, consists of hosting town halls, coffee meetups and happy hours to help women advocate for themselves in the workplace.
Deciding what I wanted to do for a living at 17 years old felt daunting. I’m an only child with two military parents, I was born at March Air Force Base. I knew that wasting time and money was unacceptable. I felt confident in being smart and resourceful, but I just didn’t feel called to any set career path. I enrolled at Riverside Community College to give myself some time to figure it out.
What started as an interest in psychology was quieted by the realization that I wouldn’t want to pursue work related to the field. From there I toyed with the idea of following my mother’s footsteps and becoming a registered nurse. But, that was short-lived after I dropped microbiology. Finally, I decided on accounting. It felt safe. I did well in my courses and took a job at Bank of America to start making connections while I pursued a degree.
After all of the changes and finding a sense of security, something still didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want to be in school. I never did. I went because I was supposed to. The memory is still fresh in my mind of being terrified to tell my parents I was dropping out of community college. In the end I was met with their support and a stern warning of how hard things could get down the road. Every job I’ve ever held has listed a degree as a preference or requirement. Every interview triggered imposter syndrome from my feeling that I didn’t belong.
Oddly enough education has resurfaced in my life recently by way of my borderline obsession with finding the right school for my daughter to attend. The universe has a sense of humor.
MY FIRST JOB
Much like my short-lived college experience, I have taken on several directions over the course of my career. I’d say my first career role was as a Relationship Manager at Bank of America. Beyond getting people to sign up for banking products and walking them through the process of getting a home loan or refinancing a home, my people skills were put to the test daily. I worked at a highly competitive branch in Beverly Hills and got some advice from a colleague who routinely crushed our monthly goals while I struggled. He told me to “ask for the business.” This simple lesson shows up in how I network at events, the way I write emails, and how I make friends.
I loved talking to people in the lobby and helping them with their concerns but I never flat out asked for their business. After taking his advice, I asked one of the investment bankers that would stop in to meet with clients if he would be my mentor. He became the first of many mentors I would have as I moved forward. Sales still aren’t my jam, but I am forever grateful for that advice.
MY FIRST BIG CAREER BREAK
I got my first big break in my career by way of the 2008 mortgage crisis. The sky was falling, and banks were folding, and a headhunter called me at work. The woman on the phone wanted me to interview for a role at Fox Studios. By this point, I was now working in Investment Services for Bank of America… see what mentors can do? I had my resume ready to send out as layoffs were looming. I never thought to look for work beyond banking and I took the phone call as a sign to try something new.
MY TYPICAL WORKING DAY
I begin each day by “paying myself first.” Not with money but by making an agreement with myself – if I’m going to be all of the things to all of the people in my life, I must do something for me first. That usually looks like movement, until a few months ago it would be at Fryman Canyon. I would start the day with the 3-mile loop blasting hip-hop or a guided meditation. These days it is the local Pilates studio for reformer or circuit training. If I can start my morning off by accomplishing something I feel like I’ve already won the day.
From there it’s back home to get my daughter ready for school, I insist on doing the drop off with her because it gives us some time together before the day gets crazy. After taking her to school the day can take on many directions. Sometimes I’m at my desk reviewing numbers to make sure a project stays on the budget, or I’m off to meet with my boss at NeueHouse for some brainstorming and status updates. Other days are spent checking in with the artists we work with and finding out what they need.
My work pulls me in different directions from event producer, cat herder, accountant, and so much more. Sticking to my morning rituals and then diving into days that are often anything but typical meet my need for both routine and adventure.
Right now my work spans all facets of DEC Artists. From national and global activations working with organizations like Wounded Warrior Project, Bezos Family Foundation and CASA, to managing the production of socially impactful content with civil rights icon Dolores Huerta. I’m currently a producer on three original programs for DEC’s newest venture, Werk! TV, set to launch in 2018.
When I’m not working I love to spend time with my husband and daughter; they are a massive source of what drives me. Exercise is also pretty high on the list, not for weight loss but for managing my anxiety and stress. It has also been an excellent way of making new friends.
I’m always inspired by women. We do so much, we are under so much scrutiny and yet we still find a way to thrive. I see other women winning as reminders of what I am capable of too.
MY SECRET TALENT
I’m good at being able to name a song after only hearing a second or two. Like scary good, I seriously need to find a way to get paid for it!
MY BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT
My biggest achievement so far is learning to trust my talent. My time spent freelancing was terrifying at times, but it was also the most significant confidence boost to see that I could create opportunities based on my interests. I made decisions in my life that on paper looked utterly counter-intuitive, such as getting married and having a baby without a full-time job. I gained a new appreciation for the companies I had worked for in the past. Doing my own invoicing, advocating for myself, securing health care and being responsible for my hours highlighted perks about my previous cubicle life that wasn’t so bad!
I LOVE WHAT I DO BECAUSE…
I have tried on different careers and learned something about myself each time. I often find these experiences popping up in my marriage and parenting style. It helps me take a step back to watch my partner and my daughter find their way without jumping to intervene out of fear.
Looking ahead I’ll be doing work that inspires me and that serves a higher cause. Over the years life has shown me that the unexpected is far more exciting than the plans I come up with. I will continue to trust myself, my magic, and take on projects and career pivots that scare me into growth.
Over the years of trying to find my path, being of service to others has always brought the excitement to do the work. Finding a cause that is bigger than me serves as a way to stay both humble and grateful. It also gives me the motivation to work harder.
You can find Jessica on Instagram @stuffjesslikes and on Twitter @stuffjesslikes.
Interview by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema