Katie Smith sits down with Jenni Phillips, one of CPG’s founding members.
Katie: Let’s start off by learning a little bit about you. Tell me about your background.
Jenni: I grew up in Michigan. I was a swimmer in a previous life, so I’m enjoying watching the Olympics this summer. These days I only care about swimming once every 4 years! It’s very interesting to see how the strokes and turns have changed somewhat since my day, and of course the suits are completely different from when I swam.
I went to school in Ohio and settled in the Cleveland area. I have a ten year-old son, Jacob, and I’m quite a proud mom.
Katie: What originally sparked your interest in cognitive sciences?
Jenni : I have always been very interested in what drives people, how they think and act and relate to each other. I suppose psychology in general has always been a curiosity of mine, and neuropsychology in particular, believe it or not. I never considered going into counseling or clinical psychology. As opposed to brain disorders or behavior abnormalities, I’ve always been much more interested in how regular people relate to each other and perform and excel on a daily basis.
So, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about work that has been done in that area. I began my career at Klein Associates and worked with great professionals like Gary Klein and Beth Crandall. While I was there, I studied how people make decisions in the real world, and it was the most fascinating thing I could possibly imagine. Examining how skilled people perform their jobs and make tough calls under pressure was fascinating. I never looked back.
Katie: What then piqued your interest to continue into Armed Forces cognitive sciences?
Jenni : When I first started this work I was quite unfamiliar with the military! I hadn’t had much exposure to it at all. But I quickly learned, like when I was thrown into a week-long Combined Arms Exercise at Twentynine Palms! I’ve had the opportunity to work with Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen. I have always been very impressed with how they, and the forces as organizations, do business, especially post-9/11. The tasks that our country asks of these individuals and the way they excel at these tasks is just inspiring to me. I have had the opportunity to do many critical incident interviews. I hear about these individuals’ worst days in combat, and not just about all the things that can go wrong, but the victories and those things that go right.
To me, how could you not want to support these people who do incredible things and make incredible sacrifices that many of us will never truly understand?
In actuality the military is always being asked to do more, and often with less. The Services as organizations are great exemplars of how you can instantiate a culture that enables people to do go beyond what they believe to be their limits. And, everyone knows they are contributing to solutions, no one treats it as a job. They treat it as life. The organizations are built to support the challenging tasks that these people have to perform, and it is rewarding to be a part of that in some small way.
Katie: Some of our readers may not know that you operate out of CPG North, in Cleveland. Most of CPG’s business is conducted in Orlando, Florida. What have you found to be the most challenging part of running a business remotely?
I really enjoy the intellectual stimulation that comes with being face-to-face with people and being able to build on each other’s ideas and energy. I like working through concepts together and using everyone’s creativity and abilities to generate great outcomes. So what I miss the most is the ability to be stimulated by my co-workers on a daily basis. That is the hardest part. On a lighter note, I’d take Ohio weather over Orlando any day! I get to ski, and play on the lake, and I can run outside in the summer without passing out!
Katie: That is the truth! Thanks for your time Jenni
Jenni : No problem, thank you!