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Leading Ladies of Simantel

Things have been a little hectic down here at 321 SW Water Street but we couldn’t let Women’s History Month slip away without acknowledging some of the talented women leaders on our agency roster. We’re proud to have such skilled, driven professionals leading critical areas of our company. Meet the co-owner and female members of the Simantel executive team.

 

Misty Dykema

Misty Dykema, Owner/Principal

As an owner/principal of Simantel, Misty focuses on developing new and enhanced capabilities for the agency, building the Simantel brand and growing our client portfolio. Since joining the agency in 2004, she’s held many positions on her path to ownership, but her favorite job is still working with people – both Simantelites and clients alike. It’s what made her stay for 18 years and her reason for walking in the back door every day. She truly believes anything is possible, and she pushes hard to make big things happen with her team.

What is a core belief/motto you live by?

My mama always said to me, “Let go, and let God.” As someone who struggles to relinquish control, it’s a good reminder to me that I don’t always have to be in the driver’s seat to make a big impact. In fact, it’s usually better if I remember there isn’t really a driver’s seat anyway. We’re all just along for the ride.

What is your best work-life balance advice?

Work-life balance, for me, is more about work-life integration. I’ve been working harder to be fully present wherever I am, so I feel less “out of balance” overall. Beyond that, – I’ve learned to take time for me. It seems counterintuitive to put ourselves first when there is so much to be done – and yet, sometimes that’s the very best we can do to show up for the people that matter in our lives.

Misty shares this heartwarming story of a woman who played an important role in her life, her grandmother.

My paternal grandmother had one of the hardest lives of anyone I’ve ever known. And yet, she never spoke an unkind word about anyone. In her final year of life, she moved to a nursing home more than an hour away as she had lost her eyesight and hearing. Despite the trek, I remained committed to visiting her weekly. I especially remember holding her hands in that last year, to remind her of my presence and that she wasn’t alone. On the day of her death, I remember racing from work to be with her so I could hold her hand one more time. And still today, when I miss my grandma, I feel that in a way, she’s now holding my hands. She regularly reminds me of her presence and that I’m not alone. And, I know she’s smiling down letting me know, it’s all going to be okay.

 

Lori Johnson

Lori Johnson, Executive Director of Service Management

Lori joined Simantel in 2008 as an account manager and now serves as Executive Director of Service Management, leading our management team of project planners and overseeing resource management. Her background in all things management includes scoping, estimating and keeping projects moving on time – and that makes for happy clients.

What is a core belief/motto you live by?

I try to always give the benefit of the doubt and seek to understand, so I can help or coach in the way that’s most needed.

What is your best work-life balance advice?

I like to think of it more as work-life integration because they often are so intertwined. Sometimes you have to take care of a personal thing at 10 a.m.; likewise, sometimes you have to work at 8 p.m. The most helpful realization I had in my career is that stress is an emotion that you can control.

A common practice of mine it is to take inventory of the week or day and make sure I have carved out space for the important things (personal and professional). You need to be aware of when other things get in the way and ask yourself if you can or need to take it on. It’s really all about being able to quickly assess your role in a situation and if it is important to spend time on this very moment. Of course, communicating and setting expectations around how you need to spend your time is KEY.

What’s your favorite thing about working at an organization with such strong female leadership?

It has been so inspiring to watch all the amazing females at Simantel navigate work and life and succeed personally and professionally. They have taught me there isn’t one way to lead and that you can still be an amazing leader while being vulnerable and asking for what you need! I love that we are all such high performers and can absolutely count on one another.

 

Chrissie Niedens

Chrissie Niedens, Chief Financial Officer

Chrissie began her journey with Simantel in 2010 and has held multiple positions in accounting while rising up the ranks. She was recently named Chief Financial Officer, marking a major milestone for her and our agency. Chrissie holds the purse strings and works on all financial aspects of the agency to keep our budget on track.

What is a core belief/motto you live by?

I think it’s quite simplistic but fits into every aspect of life: “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” Having empathy, compassion, and “giving grace” in the day-to-day swirl are qualities worth appreciating, and I strive to be that leader every day.

What is your best work-life balance advice?

Take time off! Too often we try to work through portions of a “sick” day, or work on a family vacation; I know I’m guilty of this. Especially as leaders, our actions speak louder than words. Time off is such an important part of our wellbeing as humans – take the time!

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Another familiar phrase we’ve probably all heard: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you’ve got.” Now, I love a good blazer and stilettos 😉, but I believe this goes so much farther than the clothes we wear – it’s how we present ourselves in meetings, how we interact with staff at all levels, how we approach our day-to-day work. It’s all a representation of our professional selves. Present yourself in a way that will take you where you want to go!

 

Jillian Light

Jillian Light, Chief Operations Officer

Leading an HR department is not an easy task, but the many pandemic-fueled challenges of the last two years have made it even tougher. Not only did Jillian persevere, but she earned a promotion from Director of HR to Chief Operations Officer. Like the other leading ladies of Simantel, Jillian has served numerous roles in her 16 years here that she can use to help keep business operations ship-shape.

What is a core belief/motto you live by?

Always be open to constant improvement, even when you don’t want to hear it! As an Enneagram Type One (The Reformer), understanding the rules and mastering them is a core part of how I try to operate, so it works out that I’m in HR!

What is your best work-life balance advice?

Everyone is different but for me, I need the down time to recharge so managing my time is huge. I must work on not overscheduling myself because I don’t want to disappoint people, but that ends up in burnout and not helping anyone! Detaching from work is huge for me by not keeping my technology close to me at night, including my phone and computer. There are of course deadlines that must be met, and emergencies that come up, but as much as possible when I’m home I try to keep that in a different room. I think society glorifies being over-busy. Recharging by doing nothing is healthy if that’s what you need. I have to remind myself all the time I don’t always need to be checking off my “to do” list!

Real or fictional, who’s your favorite “important woman in history” and why?

My favorite literary woman is Jo March in “Little Women” written by Louisa May Alcott. My grandmother was a librarian, and she gave me “Little Women” as my first chapter book that we read together. I loved Jo March because she was a talented writer, had an adventurous spirit and created her own path in a time when women didn’t have a lot of options. I admired her courage, her kindness, and her love for family. Louisa May Alcott’s book made an impact on me and it’s still one of my favorites.

What’s a challenge you’ve encountered as a woman in a predominantly male industry and how have you overcome it?

Not being listened to or dismissed because I was the woman in the room. I’ve been in meetings where I shared an idea, and literally a minute later a male in the room says the same thing and suddenly it’s a great idea. I experienced a situation very early in my career with a client where I was presenting thoughts and clearly wasn’t being heard. Being newer to the work force, I didn’t know how to handle the situation, but a strong female leader stepped in and supported me. She made sure I was heard and stuck up for me unapologetically. I will never forget that and hope I can do the same for others. Though, ideally, we wouldn’t have to do it at all!

 

Abby Bell

Abby Bell, Vice President

Abby has been named a woman to watch, and we’ve been excited to see her catapult to the executive level as Vice President of Simantel. She brought her years of sales and marketing experience to the agency in 2015 and now oversees a team of marketing automation, development, research, media, content, strategy and analytic professionals.

What is a core belief/motto you live by?

Love God and love people. Those are the two most important things to me. When people know that you care and they see you take action – either for them or on their behalf – it forms different types of relationships. They become very genuine.

What is your best work-life balance advice?

Just because it’s a balance doesn’t mean it’s going to be 50/50 every day. Some days work needs 80% and some days my family needs 80%. But if I can get it to average out, then I feel pretty good.

As a woman in leadership, you have many talents, but if you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I don’t think anyone will be surprised by this, but I’d love to have super speed! I could get so much good done at work, at home, volunteering my time. And, the kitchen would always be clean. Gotta love that, right? I’d also probably run to the beach every once in a while!

Who has been the most influential person in your life/career?

My high school marketing teacher, Ms. Margaret Justiss. Yes, we had marketing in high school because I went to a business high school. We didn’t have football, but we did have sales and marketing competitions and I loved it! Ms. Justiss opened my eyes to the business world. She taught me how to dress for it, how to speak intelligently, what to expect and even which fork to use at a scholarship luncheon. She took us on a trip to New York and showed me how big the world really was. We still keep in touch and she still has a crappy craft I made for her with the “4 p’s of promotion” on it. She changed my life. Great teachers have a way of doing that.

 

Erin Bowald

Erin Bowald, Executive Account Director

Erin is a proven leader at Simantel and an excellent coach and mentor to those just starting out. Since becoming a Simantelite in 2007, Erin has worked in various client services roles and now leads a team of client service pros to help set the strategic direction for our clients.

What is a core belief/motto you live by?

Kindness goes a long way. You never know what someone’s been dealing with in their day – there’s no reason not to show them some kindness.

What is your best work-life balance advice?

Create boundaries, hold to them and communicate them. You really CAN say no or not yet to things – but you have to commit. And hold those boundaries tight. But make sure to communicate them to your team so they know what to expect and respect it.

You can’t pour from an empty cup (hey – that would have been a great motto!). When I’m my VERY best at work, it’s because my energy is THERE with my team, my clients… because I’ve allowed myself the time I need AWAY from work (either spending time with my family, with my friends, or doing something just for me).

Real or fictional, who’s your favorite “important woman in history” and why?

I absolutely adore Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her fight for gender equality is so important to celebrate this month. Not only did she graduate first in her class in law school, but she did it while caring for a sick husband (who she also helped get through law school) and raising her children. She was SUCH a badass.

It isn’t always easy working in a male-dominated industry and with clients at heavy industry brands. But these female leaders have met the challenge head-on and learned to thrive personally and professionally. The best part? They’re cultivating a culture of connection, compassion and empowerment at Simantel because at the end of the day, we’re all humans. Our success lies in our ability to create engaging, positive experiences for our team and our clients.

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