Forte Foundation Article: Career Advice for Women

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Jennifer Colosimo – DaVita: Seeking Wisdom vs. Seeking Promotion

Jennifer Colosimo has the enviable and somewhat daunting title Vice President of Wisdom at DaVita Healthcare Partners. “It’s extremely difficult to live up to!” she jokes. The vision for the position began with DaVita’s CEO, who hoped to create a function that focused not only on learning, but also on quality of life for DaVita’s 60,000+ employees.

“Our definition of wisdom is this: things you can learn that can help you grow personally and professionally,” Jennifer explains. Wisdom oversees DaVita University, internal marketing and branding, corporate social responsibility, sustainability and green initiatives, to name just a few.

“I couldn’t have ever foreseen that there would be such a job,” she reflects. That said, her role today is consistent with her life-long interest in organizational communication, technology, and change management.

She started out at University of Utah as an undergraduate, focusing on organizational communication, and went on to earn a joint MS in organizational communication and business from Purdue University, which helped her round out her core interests with a deep knowledge of finance, operations, and business.

Right after graduate school, she joined Accenture, a place that championed broad exposure and mentoring. “At Accenture, people were always challenging you to do more than you thought you could do,” she recalls. She had the fortune of meeting a fantastic female mentor – something Jennifer notes was even more rare in 1994 than it is today.

During her time at Accenture, Jennifer worked on the merger between Franklin Quest, creators of the Franklin Planner, and the Covey Leadership Center, an initiative of the noted author Stephen R. Covey. After the merger, she joined as an employee of the company, and stayed for 15 years, eventually ascending to COO. She even co-authored a book with Stephen R. Covey called Great Work, Great Career.

Jennifer says she got where she is by seeking out new solutions rather than seeking promotion. “The way I think about it, when you’re at work, people have problems,” she says. “If you look at what you can do to solve those problems, and approach the conversation by describing what you’ve noticed, and suggesting what you might do to address it, you open up opportunities.”

She continues, “ ‘How can I get promoted?’ is the most boring question in the world. Are you trying to solve a need? Are you trying to do something you are passionate about? Or are you comparing yourself to your friends and thinking you should have a better title? If you look for the big challenges in your organization, and think about what you might do about those, and you deliver on your commitments, opportunities come your way.”

Jennifer joined DaVita, lured by the promise of contributing to a unique corporate culture and staying close to home after years of constant travel. Although that gave her more opportunity to have dinner with her two daughters and her husband, something they try to do most nights, it wasn’t an easy transition.


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