Meet Jen Shoop
Jen is co-founder and COO of Fizz, an HR technology that reimagines performance review. Prior to founding Fizz, Jen held executive positions at two edtech startups, focusing primarily on product strategy. Originally intending to pursue a career in academia, Jen holds an advanced degree in literature from Georgetown University and an executive MBA in social entrepreneurship from Stanford University. She spends her free time reading and blogging (she moonlights as the fashion blogger behind TheFashionMagpie).
What scares you?
I am positively haunted by the idea of letting people down. I am in the midst of getting my company off the ground, and, like all startups, am perpetually face-to-face with existential threats (i.e., will we exist in three months?), but the fear of failure is minuscule compared to the fear of disappointing the incredible people who have invested in me and cheered me on to this point. For this reason, I have a very hard time saying no and an even harder time coping with moments where I feel I’ve fallen short of expectations. On the positive side, I think this is an incredibly good insurance policy on the product front: you want your product person to be so concerned about delighting the customer that she will never stop until the product is meeting her customer’s needs. On the negative side, I’ve come to realize I often feel selfish doing what I want to do or saying no. (Then again, my incredible mother told me that her primarily child-rearing philosophy was: “Say yes as often as you can so that when you say no, they know you mean it.” And she’s the best mom in the world. So there’s that.)
This topic is especially interesting to me given my work on my new company, Fizz, which facilitates ongoing feedback in the workplace. One thing I had noticed as I progressed in my career was that managing people was the most interesting and emotionally draining part of my job. I think I spent 80 or 90% of my emotional energy fretting about was my team and its dynamics—the actual work accounted for so little of my stress and emotional stamina! And I found that all of the good managers I knew felt the same way. It made me realize that strong managers always have a healthy level of concern over their teams, a certain amount of anxiety over whether they’re giving their teams what they need. So maybe my fear of letting my team down was good fuel.
What is your favorite place to travel to?
I’m a true homebody, but, provided that I’m traveling with my family or closest friends, there are two places I’d love to be: Aspen, Colorado or San Sebastian, Spain. I spent most of my summers growing up in Aspen and am an absolute hopeless romantic when you ask me about it. Hiking with my siblings, camping and fly-fishing with my dad, renting books from the little library there, watching the fireworks over Aspen Mountain on the fourth of July—it’s magic. I am an urbanite through and through but when I think about relaxation, I daydream about walking along the Rio Grande trail, hearing the unique sound of wind rustling through the Aspen trees, engrossed in conversation with my sisters.
My other favorite destination is San Sebastian, Spain, and more specifically, staying at the Hotel Maria Cristina there and dining out in all of the little pintxo bars around town. I had the most gorgeous vacation with my husband there—we were two love-drunk travelers obsessing over the cuisine, the kindness of the people, the luxury of the hotel. It was over the top.
What expression or saying do you love (or hate)?
Thomas Edison said: “I haven’t failed; I’ve just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.” This resiliency is an absolute pre-requisite for launching a business. I like to keep this quote on a post-it so I remember it whenever I’m feeling like a failure. The goal is to test something, measure it, learn, and iterate—full stop. If you’re learning, you’re succeeding. In contradistinction, there’s that other quote, “the definition of idiocy is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result.” You’ve got to have a learning mindset as an entrepreneur, and you’ve got to see everything you’re doing as an elaborate process of hypothesis testing. If you don’t, you’ll burn out or shutter your doors.
What do you hate?
I am a very forgiving person, but I find rudeness unpardonable. If someone stands me up for a meeting, acts dismissively or impolitely, or cuts me off—I just have no patience for it. It’s hard to win back my respect after you’ve been rude to me. At Fizz, we have three core values that we defined through a very intensive, intentional process, and one of them is civility. We take this value incredibly seriously in our interviews for potential hires, in our conversations with customers, in our negotiations with investors, in our internal brainstorms. I have to attribute this to the impeccably good manners of my parents and parents-in-law.
Who is your favorite character?
This is an impossible question for someone who once pursued an advanced degree in literature! One of the most beautifully written characters is Lady Brett from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises—impossibly haughty, unexpected, mesmerizing—but the character I love and relate to the most is Anne Elliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. She is deeply thoughtful and intelligent, has a fantastic sense of humor and an absurdly high EQ, and lives her life with integrity—she’s just the kind of woman I want to be. Her relationships with her sisters are also incredibly real and smart.
(By the way, I absolutely despise that Austen is often categorized as “chick lit.” Her work is brilliant and masterful at capturing character and the nuances of relationships, and it’s not her fault that the only subject matter available to her was the goings-on of the domestic sphere. Read Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and then tell me that Austen is a “chick lit” author. [End rant.])
Photo Credit: Jamie Kelter Davis Photography