"Take time this month to learn about & thank the 'ordinary' women in your life who are doing extraordinary things!"
~Jenifer Jarriel, President & CEO of Depelchin Children's Center~
Who is a woman leader/mentor in your life and what impact has she had on your life and career?
I have been blessed with many great women in my professional and personal lives (men too). I have always found ways to learn wherever my career lead me. I am a good observer of people and I learned what to do and just as important, not to do in my work-life. Early in my career, I learned to let people know what I wanted as my next step, and these great mentors would direct opportunities my way. Along the way, I learned to be prepared for meetings, communicate to be understood, how to have “grace under fire”, have critical conversations, listen more than talk, and be direct yet kind.
How did your leadership role at Depelchin Children's Center develop? What is your story?
I had a muti-decade career in academic healthcare IT as a Chief Information Officer and one day (7 years ago), I received a call from an executive recruiter who wanted to talk with me about the CEO position at DePelchin Children’s Center. At that point I had no idea what DePelchin was and I at first was very hesitant to begin this conversation. Being the expert executive recruiter that she was, she asked if she could send me information on the position and asked if I would just browse it, and I said yes. From there, the process began, and it was quite extensive. The process started with an interview with the executive search firm, then recruitment committee of the DePelchin Board, then interviews with the Senior Leadership team, HR Officer, and dinner with Board members. The last hurdle was a request on a Thursday to develop a long term plan for DePelchin that would be presented to the Board a day and one-half later on Saturday. I cannot discreetly share what I thought about this whole process, but I do love a challenge, so I agreed. That Friday evening, I was in Kinkos at 10:30 p.m., making copies of the presentation for the meeting the next day. I made the presentation in record time, answered a few questions, and politely excused myself. I received a call the next Saturday with an offer. I was somewhat taken aback, and asked to give me the weekend to think about it.
A goal of this campaign is to shed light on the statement that "Women are making a difference in Texas child welfare." What are your thoughts on this? Can you speak into this statement on behalf of Depelchin?
Women are a large part of the workforce in Texas child welfare, so by the fact of sheer numbers, we are making impacts. Women bring a perspective, style, and approach to our work that can complement our counterparts. DePelchin Children’s Center was started by a pioneer woman, Kezia DePelchin, who took three abandoned young boys from the hospital and started her home in 1892. The women in Houston helped Kezia as the need and number of children grew. These women were instrumental in engaging the community to provide Kezia the needed support. When she died only a short time later, these dedicated women of the community continued her legacy. Fast forward to 2019, DePelchin still continues to rely on community support to meet our mission.
Have you faced challenges in your leadership role as a woman? If so how did you or are you over coming them?
My leadership role presents me with many opportunities and in addition to leading I also know how important it is to serve others. Having been in organizations for many years, I have experienced offensive interactions, and occasions that would not be tolerated in present times. But I always viewed my role as equal to others, I responded with respect, and I held myself to the highest of standards and integrity. I have the privilege of leading an exceptional organization of dedicated professionals serving some of the most vulnerable children, youth and families in Texas. I treasure the work that I do, and hold myself accountable to contribute every day. Because that is what my team, collaborators, our children, youth and families deserve.