Blog

Tracie Hephner Joins J&M as Strategic Consultant

J&M Strategic Consulting is pleased to announce our addition of Tracie Hephner as a Strategic Consultant.  Tracie has over twenty years of experience in IT and has worked as a project manager for almost four years.  She has focused in implementations and has been a key member of IT support teams on major financial projects in the past.

With J&M, Tracie will be a project manager to ensure that our clients are headed down the right path in order to exceed their goals.  She will assess client needs to create and implement a custom IT strategy that aligns the people, process, and technology by which our clients will succeed.

Our excitement at J&M stems from Tracie’s success and her relationship with J&M President Jen Dodge.  Having collaborated on numerous projects in the past, Jen knows how Tracie will exemplify the Vision & Values in and out of the office.

“I met Tracie on a project a few years ago and it didn’t take long to realize that our engagement wasn’t just a reason or a season,” Jen stated.  “As hockey moms, we have a unique connection.  We treat our projects just like our children’s hockey games: no excuses, work like a team, and no “I can’t.”  When upper management asked me if she was in the right role or could handle a transformation, I explained without hesitation that she could be placed anywhere and will succeed.  The most important thing to Tracie is the success of everyone else around her.”

Tracie’s selflessness and dedication will make her successful in everything that she does.  We are honored to have her as a part of our team and look forward to our shared success.  Please join J&M in welcoming Tracie Hephner to our team!

Question of The Month: How do I lead when I am not in charge?

Every month, the J&M team gets together for a leadership meeting discussing a topic chosen by one of our employees.  The most recent topic is relevant for anyone in any business that lacked authority at some point in time.  How do you lead when you are not in charge?  This question goes deeper than just trying to lead other people.

Our discussion spawned from an online webcast on May 17 called “How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge.”  The entire premise of the two-hour show focused on leading yourself before you can lead other people.  By managing yourself in a positive manner, you can influence those around you without being in a position of authority.  Be an observer, stay positive, think critically, and reject passivity.  Stay within yourself in that no one person is more important than the mission and the vision of the company.

That meeting got many of us thinking here at J&M about how we manage ourselves and how we can be better individually to lead each other to success.  Now, we want to know your thoughts on this topic.  Comment below and tell us: 

  • How do you lead when you are not in charge?
  • What have you done in the past to overcome this challenge?
  • What have you done in the past that backfired?

Missed the webcast?  No problem.  Click here to register for an encore presentation this Wednesday, and let us know what you think!

My Journey to Become a Strategic Consultant

Part 3:  Becoming a Professional

by Terry Langholdt

When I was 10 years old, my grandfather Russell told me, “If you want to write a good story, grab their attention.  Start at the end, and then take them to the beginning.”

Through the first two parts of my story, you have seen how the intrigue of technology formed the path that I followed through high school and college.  In my third and final of installment of this trilogy, that endless path continues to where I am today.

I accepted my first job in IT.  It was exactly what I hoped it would be.  Uniting people with technology by making the machines perform all the repetitive, mind-numbing work was immensely satisfying.  I worked long hours and traveled frequently, but I didn’t care.  This was the IT learning curve.  As an IT professional at the time, I had to do everything from gathering the requirements to delivering the product.  It was the full package, and I couldn’t think of a better way to begin this career.

In reflection, my career was so focused on technology and people that I didn’t realize my customer service skills were radically evolving to this new thing called the “internet.”  I owned a small computer store that sold “customer service” and invested in people to show them how we could close distance with technology.  For example, there was a man that used to mail letters to a friend in Germany on “onion paper.”  This onion paper was lighter and cheaper to send via the post office.  Little did he know, there was an even better way.

The idea of electronic mail baffled him.  After hours of practice, his world seemed to shrink as he could email his friend and get a reply within an hour without spending any money!  The entire process used to take weeks and could get expensive.  Now, through technology, he could experience the flow of conversation in only a few minutes!

My career quickly moved into large corporations that needed assistance in introducing new, cutting-edge technologies.  This sparked the leadership phase of my career.  I chuckle that I’ve been managing people for 20 years because it only feels like a blink of the eye.  Helping people find their passion and encouraging them to be the best is truly where my career feels complete.  I’ve made many friends along the way and earned a title from some as a “great boss”.  I smile, as I feel all I did was listen, and push them to be better than they could ever imagine.

Now, I’m 48, married, with six kids, and I look back at all I’ve done, but more importantly, what I still want to do.  I want to find the people that want to help others through technology, and teach them as much as I can.  My title reads strategic consultant.  To me, it’s my passion and drive culminating a 30 year career that gives me the ability to lead, the perseverance to get through the hard times, and the never ending hope to find the best of everyone.

As I close this series, I hope that I have inspired you to keep going in your career.  Know that there will always be challenges and that the biggest thing is to believe in yourself and play every day like it is the Super Bowl.  I love my career, and I thank my higher power for giving me the drive to take that 12-year-old kid and mold him into what I am today:  a leader, a manager, a strategic consultant.

 

Congratulations to Our New Sales Associate

For the last six months, Linda Vance has been a critical piece of the J&M puzzle.  As Executive Administrator, she has guided many projects on the marketing and sales sides of the company while maintaining an organized back office to keep our entire team on track.  Her commitment to the team and the energy she brings to work everyday reflects highly on the growth and success of J&M over her time.

Given her proud track record and past sales experience, J&M has promoted Linda to Sales Associate, focusing on inside sales.  In her new role, Linda will continue to support marketing campaigns by building relationships with potential clients.

Linda continues to be a role model to everyone both inside and outside of J&M, as she resembles our Vision & Values in the finest form possible.  We know this move will lead to even greater success for J&M, our clients, and for Linda herself.

Please join us in congratulating Linda Vance on her new role!

My Journey to Become a Strategic Consultant

Part 2: College and the Early Years

by Terry Langholdt

When I was 10 years old, my grandfather Russell told me, “If you want to write a good story, grab their attention.  Start at the end, and then take them to the beginning.”

In part one, I took you from the genesis of my career through the first half of high school.  Now, my journey continues into college.

As I went through my junior and senior years of high school, I excelled when I could use my computer to write papers or enter data on the early forms of a spreadsheet.  I assisted many of my classmates with an introduction course, and helped my teacher answer questions during lab time.  It was rewarding for me to assist them in seeing how this could really guide their futures.  I graduated with straight A’s in any course that was technology-based.  Although I had discovered my passion, the next stop on my journey was still unclear.

I remember the thought of college being heavy on my mind.  Several universities offered me scholarships, but surviving a four-year education that wasn’t solely based on technology seemed impossible to me.  Being young and very strong-headed, I chose to attend a two-year tech school that would provide me with the necessary experience to pursue a career in IT.

Western Iowa Tech Community College was the quickest  way for me to get into the technology world.  In college, we had a computer that was a NASA grade machine.  By today’s standards, that machine’s power is nothing compared to your smartphone.  But to a young mind that had been focused on basic computers, the power and capabilities of this mainframe was extraordinary.

My classmates and I relied on each other.  We pushed each other to succeed.  Almost 150 of us began this journey together.  When it was all said and done, less than 30 of us earned a degree.  I’m proud to say I was one of them.  It required grueling work seven days a week – constantly reading books and learning about the inner workings of talking in zeros and ones.  I lived in the computer room every day from 6AM to midnight.  If IT was a drug, I was a dealer, and I loved the high of the breakthroughs by exploring things that were just being created.

In the winter of 1988, I began my search for a job.  I bought “the” suit, attained “the” business haircut and spent hours of practicing my job interview skills.  These interviews were very difficult since I had never had a professional role before, but I kept going and never gave up.  This is what I wanted to do, and I was meant to do it.

I interviewed with several firms that winter, and came away with highs and lows.  The struggle of not being offered every job was a new feeling to me.  My instructors kept with me and said the right one will be out there: “Just keep looking, and be yourself.”  I spent my Christmas season hunting for a job.  That’s not exactly how I planned on spending my holidays, but at 19, I expected the world to move faster.  It was early January when I received my first job offer, and a day later, a second.  Now, the world was operating at my pace.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Healthy Habits for Women

by Scott Schramm

J&M Strategic Consulting is always committed to providing a rewarding and fulfilling environment where teamwork, community, and passion are of the highest priority. This week, we have been celebrating National Women’s Health Week by keeping with the spirit of J&M’s Vision & Values.  They were created by J&M’s president, Jen Dodge, and no one resembles these traits better than Jen.  Her work ethic and integrity are exemplary of the strong women in today’s world.

Here are a few health tips that will benefit all women in our lives.

Have A Screening Plan

Women should make it a priority to visit with their doctor on a yearly basis and discuss a variety of topics including:

  • Family planning
  • Family health history, particularly about cancer
  • Weight, diet, and physical activity level
  • Any mental health concerns
  • How often to get specific tests (ie. mammogram)

Get Your Vitamins

Women need a variety of vitamins and minerals that may not always be feasible to consume through diet alone. Do your best to make sure you get the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamins A and E – reduce macular degeneration and cataracts, protect skin from signs of aging and skin cancer
  • Vitamin K – maintaining strong bones, blood clotting, and prevent heart disease
  • Folate and Folic Acid – cognitive function, metabolism regulator, aids in fetus development and birth defect prevention
  • Iron – transfers oxygen to various parts of the body, reduces fatigue, boosts immunity, and reduces blood loss during menstruation

Exercise!

Keeping a strong back is important for women as the weight of the chest could cause rounded shoulders, which leads to poor, hunched posture. Incorporating squats into your daily exercise routine will maximize calories burned and reduce fat stores in the thigh and buttocks areas. For the quickest and best results, try the following exercises:

  • Squats
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Rows
  • Hip Raises

Women are a crucial and indispensable part of our society as well as the J&M team. Integrating a sound fitness plan including medical visits, a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and regular exercise will improve the overall health and well-being of all women.

Convenient Workplace Exercises for The Busy Professional

by Scott Schramm

Approximately 40% of all employed people in the United States aged 19-64 work as professionals or managers, according to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Much of this work is performed while seated at a computer for several hours a day, five days a week. This can create difficulty in focusing on an individual’s well-being. It is crucial to supplement your work life with exercise to ensure a healthy mind, body, and attitude. This post showcases three simple exercises that can be performed at the office to help improve your overall well-being.  For additional exercises or to establish a personal exercise plan, please visit my website, SchrammerTimeFitness.com.

Stair Climbs

Stair climb

This is an extremely simple exercise that benefits desk workers by strengthening calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. These are the biggest muscles in your body and require maximum calorie burn for muscle repair. Follow these preliminary goals for the best results:

  • Four reps up and down 8-12 stairs
  • One minute break
  • Repeat twice more

With regular practice, climbing stairs will become much easier and you will be able to set higher goals. These goals allow most of your calories to be burned while at rest, making the exercise incredibly time efficient for your busy workday.

Wall Sits

Wall sit

Wall sits will greatly improve a desk worker’s posture if performed regularly. The focus is to correctly place pressure in your hips and legs instead of in your back. Wall sits are so simple, they can be performed while waiting for a meeting or after returning from the water cooler. Here’s how to get started:

  • Press your back and the back of your head into the wall
  • Walk your feet out a bit (shoulder width is preferred)
  • Point your toes slightly outward
  • Slide down the wall until your upper legs are parallel with the floor
  • Start with three to five 30-second sets
  • Progress up to 60 and 90-second sets

Bridge

Bridge

The bridge is another simple exercise that every professional can perform at the office. Many desk workers experience lower back pain and this exercise will strengthen that area. Pairing this exercise with wall sits regularly will reduce the frequency and severity of lower back pain.

  • Lie on the floor or a mat on your back with your head down
  • Keep your hands and feet on the floor with your knees bent
  • Extend your pelvis upwards and hold there for a one count
  • Return to the starting position
  • Begin with three sets of ten reps
  • Increase sets and reps with progression

Strong legs, good posture, and a durable lower back should be of primary concern for desk workers when contemplating an exercise routine that can be performed during the work day. With these exercises in your arsenal, you are well on your way to a healthier well-being without sacrificing time or commitment to your job.

My Journey to Become a Strategic Consultant

Part 1: The Beginning

by Terry Langholdt

When I was 10 years old, my grandfather Russell told me, “If you want to write a good story, grab their attention.  Start at the end, and then take them to the beginning.”

I am 48 years old, married, with a family and an incredible group of friends.  I work for a company that “gets it.”  Our company’s core, or GPS, includes leadership, faith, integrity, passion, and community.  Our company’s vision consists of six words:  balance, transparency, commitment, teamwork, excellence and inspire.  We work hard, play hard, and I am extremely proud to say that we even pray together.  Together, we are family.  We celebrate together.  We cry together.  And we rely on each other.  This togetherness makes J&M an amazing company to work for.

I have been blessed with a passion for IT, which I discovered when I was 12 years old when my math teacher introduced me to an Apple computer.  It was the most pleasant green screen my eyes had ever seen.  I was immediately hooked, and wanted to understand everything about this exciting new technology.

When I was 13, I worked an entire summer to save up and buy my first computer.  The drive to learn how to program was so compelling that I took nighttime college courses while finishing the eighth grade.  These classes were comprised of people that were much older than me, which was uncomfortable at the time.  But once we got into the lessons, our shared interest and eagerness to learn allowed me to relate with them.  That’s when I realized that I could  turn my knowledge into something much bigger.  

At 14, I wrote my first “system” to print customer labels for a local business.  Manually writing these labels took an entire day, once a month.  I was compelled to find a way to automate this repetitive, time consuming task.  This was the first time I saw the value and efficiency that IT held in automation.  Still, I wanted to make these systems faster.  That process only took one day out of the month, but it took me almost two months to write it.  It only fed my desire to find innovative ways to write programs, and to learn how to type faster.  That provided the motivation I needed so that I could take the next step.

I was now 16, and this drive to improve technology led to a week-long course at a University that was reserved for college students.  Imagine the tenacity of a high schooler to meet with the head of the college department and convince him to let you attend after he had rejected your application on the first attempt because you were not old enough.  I worked three jobs to be able to afford this class.  I wanted this more than anything and wasn’t about to miss out.

TO BE CONTINUED…

It’s SchrammerTime at J&M Strategic Consulting

J&M Strategic Consulting is pleased to welcome Scott Schramm as our new Wellness Coordinator!  Scott is an at-home personal trainer who has been working with Jen and Mike since the beginning of the year. In that time, Scott has delivered results while displaying a mentality that falls in line with J&M’s Vision & Values. According to Vice President Mike Dodge, “it didn’t take long to realize Scott would be a good fit with our culture and that he had something to offer our team.”

In addition to keeping J&M fit, Scott owns SchrammerTime Fitness providing personal training in the Pittsburgh area and fitness programs for everyone. Scott’s motto of Train Hard, Get Smart, and Have Fun Doing It reflects his approach to improving his clients’ fitness. We’re excited to apply Scott’s motto to the J&M team.

Feel free to check out his website, www.schrammertimefitness.com, to learn more about J&M’s newest member and read his incredible story.  Please join us in welcoming Scott to our team.

J&M to Attend Elevation Outcry Tour in Pittsburgh

by Koby Uhrig

At J&M, we believe the one thing that sets us apart is our people.  Creating a custom IT strategy is only a small piece of the pie that represents our success and reputation.  Our team completes that pie by fulfilling J&M’s vision & values in everything that we do.

Each month, we take the necessary time to review how our team is tracking towards J&M’s goals while upholding the vision & values.  Faith in the workplace is part of that discussion.  Our J&M team members review a given sermon once a month, and relate it to the business.  The focus is solely on important life lessons that can be used at a personal level or at the business level.

Now, faith is a topic that can sometimes cause an uproar or a sense of uneasiness within conversation.  I, personally, have never been open about it but have always respected everyone’s beliefs.  Whether I am involved in J&M’s conversations or not, I am always able to take something away that leaves me with something to work on personally.  That’s what it is all about.  At J&M, we don’t stop at creating better businesses.  We create better people.

“You know, many people believe that faith in the workplace is a no-no,” Jen Dodge states.  “We provide an optional, flexible, no pressure learning experience for our employees to share…no matter what their faith is.  Today, one of our employees told us that she feels she’s stepped up her faith due to those sessions.  Watching your employees grow is such a great feeling.”

Jen, Cheryl, Linda, and Natalie of the J&M team will be enjoying their “ladies night” one week from today, May 2nd, at the Elevation Outcry Tour at PPG Paints Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, PA.  We invite you to join them in a celebration of faith including live music, readings, and more.  For additional information on the event, including other cities and dates, visit their website.  Join J&M in the discussion and help create a better you!