January 28, 2020 Ripple Effect


All month long, we’ve posted content on Ripple Effect’s intentions as a company for 2020, along with career development tips to help you succeed and grow this year. Now, it’s time to hear from a group of our brightest Ripplers about how they Work Smarter to achieve their goals and what they would like to accomplish in 2020, personally and professionally. Read their thoughts below in our newest Ripple Roundtable!


Meet Our Roundtable

See yourself in any of our Ripplers? Inspired by something you read? Connect with them on LinkedIn—their bios are linked below.


Imelda Fuentes, Federal Contracts Administrator

Alex Haederle, Senior Content Developer

Stephanie Jackson, Executive Support Specialist

Kate Poindexter, Public Relations Specialist

Michael Speiser, Research and Evaluation Associate

Brenna Valentine, Clinical Research Assistant


The Questions


Welcome to the Roundtable! First question: What were your professional/personal goals in 2019? Did you achieve them?

Imelda Fuentes: My professional goal was to complete my MBA degree and grow my career, and I did both! I finished the MBA last March, and joined Ripple Effect last August. Personally, my goal was to learn Russian; while I couldn’t fully complete that, I did learn the Cyrillic alphabet. 

Stephanie Jackson: My roles shifted during 2019, so my goals shifted accordingly. Working as a recruiting coordinator early in the year, I wanted to expand my knowledge and become more comfortable communicating with candidates—on phone screens in particular. With a good script and some training, I did become more comfortable! 

RIPPLE EFFECT: What did your role shift to? 

Stephanie: I moved into executive support, which is more in my wheelhouse. I wanted to hone my skills in managing schedules, needs, and communications for our executives, while learning each of their styles and preferences. This helped me work towards another goal: develop a better understanding of company operations. Getting to plan and work the back end of corporate initiatives and events was invaluable, so overall, I think I achieved my 2019 goals.  

Alex Haederle: Professionally, my goal was to help Ripple Effect’s people, project teams, and products look and sound their best, through content we publish and awards we win. I believe we achieved that! Personally, my goal was to travel a lot, because 2018 mostly kept me in the DC area. I went to Mexico, New Mexico, Italy, and Ireland, all with close friends and family. It was fun to fill up the passport, but I need to recharge my PTO balance now. 

Kate Poindexter: [Laughing] My goal was to find a new job! I was working on a contract that was coming to an end, and needed to find a communications/public affairs position that would fit well for me. Ripple Effect emerged, and I was ready! 

Michael Speiser: Same here. I wanted to move into a career that fit my professional goals—more quantitative survey work, namely—and I think landing my job at Ripple helped me accomplish that. I’m happy to see where this journey takes me. 

Brenna Valentine: I joined Ripple Effect pretty recently, in late 2019, so I didn’t get a chance to set any goals for the year! 

RIPPLE EFFECT: Oh, you just wait! We encourage everyone to set goals. Your time will come.  


Pick a word to describe your intentions in 2020.

Imelda: Balance. I give all my time to work and family. When I completed my degree last year, I was often up until 3am to finish the coursework. That’s ok every once in a while, but not something I want to do every night to learn new skills. 

Alex: Same! 2019 had me all over the place, between work, travel, performing music, and moving to a new neighborhood. It tired me out, so I’m excited to ‘shrink’ my life a bit this year. 

Brenna: Growth. 

Michael: Exposure. I want to see and try as many new things as I can, and learn from them.  

Stephanie: Creative thinking. Does that count as one word? 

RIPPLE EFFECT: “Creativity does…  

Stephanie: Let’s go with that.  

Kate: Open. (Can I use more words?) Being more open. I do an exercise every few days where I write the title of my autobiography, and I choose the title based on how my day is going.  

RIPPLE EFFECT: And what’s the latest title? 

Kate: “I’m Not Crying, I’m Meeting a Deadline: The Kate Poindexter Story.” 


What is one skill/competency you would love to learn this year? 

Michael: Being able to better pace myself with tasks. I tend to dive head-first into things and consuming as much as I can, as quickly as possible. 

Kate: A ‘down the rabbit hole’ type, then. 

Michael: Absolutely. Sometimes it’s better to slow down and not burn myself out.  

Stephanie: I want to become more comfortable speaking in front of people.  

Imelda: I want to finish learning Russian, and refresh my French skills. 

KateLearn how to produce podcasts. 

Brenna: I want to learn more about leadership, and put it into practice. 

RIPPLE EFFECT: Make sure you check out our Ripple Leadership Roundtable! We did this same roundtable exercise recently with our company leadership.  

Brenna: Great! I’m excited to learn what they say! 

Alex: Skill? Piano. Competency? Paid social media advertising—running promoted post and page campaigns. This will be only be more valuable in the future as an area of expertise for our Communications team.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in relation to developing your career? 

Stephanie: Be confident and swift in decision making.  

Brenna: It’s all about networking. Making connections and understanding how people overlap and relate to one another. 

Kate: Be bold. I always bring several recommendations/solutions to client meetings, and never leave without presenting the adventurous, bold one.  

Alex: I love that. 

Kate: Yeah! The boldest one isn’t always chosen—rarely, in fact—but presenting it lets my client know that I can generate fresh ideas. 

Michael: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And don’t be afraid to say “no” and challenge conventions. Essentially, all of these amount to “Don’t just accept the status quo.”  

Imelda: Never be satisfied. And I love what Michael said—if something doesn’t sit well with you, go ahead and question it. A teacher gave me that advice when I was 25 and unsure of my next steps.  

Alex: “You’re more than just a copywriter.” A good friend and mentor told me this years ago, after they persuaded me to take a new role within a big company. At the beginning, I was assigned stories to write, and I did well. As I wrote well, I was then asked to lead web development projects, then marketing strategies, then large branding efforts. Self-doubt crept in at each step, but I had people around me and above me saying, “You can do this. You’re more than just a writer.” They might have been right. 


What’s one thing you know how to do, but don’t get to do as a part of your job? 

Imelda: I wish I were able to do more research. I love looking for information, whether it’s work-related or just fun facts. 

Brenna: I’m creative in my personal life—arts and crafts, etc.—and that’s something that’s not often part of a “regular job.” But I try to incorporate it into the workplace, even if that just means that I get to add some flair to a spreadsheet or database. 

Alex: Voice impressions. I have about 20-30 great ones, ranging from US Presidents to South Park and Family Guy characters to Owen Wilson and my personal hero, Nicolas Cage. But those won’t help clients, so my professional answer is that I’m itching to do recorded voice-over work. 

Kate: I know how to interview people and write video scripts. I haven’t had the opportunity to do this with my client…yet. 

Michael: Seconded on video. I have years of experience in television production and used to make and edit short films at my former colleges. If Ripple ever needs a film editor/director, I’d love to take a stab at that! 

RIPPLE EFFECT: Say no more. We’ll update your job description.


What’s one non work-related practice that you use to help you work smart and achieve your goals? 

Kate: I sing show tunes. That’s difficult when sitting at a desk, so I usually use my inner voice. But once in a while a lyric or two will pop out. I apologize often to my desk mates.  

Michael: I try to eat something small every couple hours. Waiting too long to eat can cause me to lose focus and feel tired, but eating too much can do the same. The key is to find the balance between quantity and frequency.  

Alex: Certain music helps me focus—piano-based jazz, classical, and hip hop instrumentals. There’s a fair amount of research out there indicating that music at specific tempos heightens focus and boosts concentration. I choose to believe that.  

Imelda: I always have to listen to something while I work, to. I either listen to documentaries or reality TV.  

Alex: Oh, I can’t do that. No words for me—I’ll just get distracted. 

Brenna: I have a personal planning and organizational system. (It’s a secret.) But it really helps me individualize my workload and stay on task.  

Stephanie: I just listen! I pay attention to what people are saying, whether it’s hallway chatter or across desks. Often times, there are dots to be connected.


What’s the best book you’ve read, TED talk you’ve watched, or podcast you’ve listened to that’s helped inspire you to grow and achieve your goals? 

Brenna: It’s hard to pick just one! I’m currently reading Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky. Not only is it very informative about stress management, but it also inspires me to keep doing research. Findings like his add to our knowledge and can help all of us perform better.  

Stephanie: I don’t really have one of those. But, I really do get inspired by my co-workers. The people at Ripple Effect are so hardworking and that is an inspiration in itself. I haven’t always been surrounded by like-minded co-workers. 

Alex: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – also a favorite book of Ripple’s Eli Crutchfield. This one is all about cutting through your inner BS and overcoming procrastination and self-doubt. It speaks to creative types, and I reread it every year. 

Michael: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. It teaches you to not judge people and ideas based on preconceived notions. It’s important to really listen and understand why people say what they say, and not simply dismiss their ideas because of who they are, or what you think they know or don’t know. 

Kate: I recently read The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. It’s a collection of profiles of womenliving and dead, who have really rocked their lives and contributed to making society better.  


How has Ripple Effect helped with your professional development? 

Imelda: Ripple has helped me learn to refocus my time and energy on specific things, and to take charge of my own tasks. I can ask questions and not feel like I’m wrong for doing so.  

Brenna: This is just the beginning for me! As a recent undergrad, I’ve already begun to build networking, communication, and project management skills here.  

Alex: It’s given me the freedom to take what I’ve learned in recent years, adapt it for a new environment, and execute it—and see tangible results and successes. Then, the confidence to teach that to others. Also, the chance to learn more about spaces I knew little about before, from health care payment to human subjects research. 

Michael: It’s put me in a position to apply and learn new skills across a diverse range of complex projects. They all require constant innovation and assessment, and that keeps me on my toes. 

Kate: Helping me communicate scientific information to non-scientific audiences. It’s also helped me build better relationships with colleagues I may not normally talk to—finding ‘go-to’ people at HQ who I can connect with, learn from, and collaborate with to develop better products for my client.

Alex: We actually just did that back in December, Kate! We had a great discussion on digital comms and social media tactics for your client. 

Kate: Exactly! 

 Stephanie: From monthly Brown Bags to pursuing professional development avenues on my own, I find that Ripple is always trying to help us all work smarter and gain as much relevant knowledge as possible. That encouragement alone is above and beyond any other place I have worked. 


When 2020 is over, what would you like to have achieved? 

Brenna: Per my 2020 SMART goals, I would like to have developed professionally by completing courses and attending conferences, and also grown leadership skills like planning events and research discussions among my client site coworkers. 

Stephanie: At the end of the year, I would like to have managed my time better—worked more efficiently and with less distractions and slow-downs.  

Alex: I would like to have led a modernization of Ripple Effect’s website, helped win new business for the company, and improved how our work and capabilities are represented in the marketplace. I’ve also been writing a satirical country music album, and I’d like to record that. Under a pseudonym, of course. 

Kate: I’d like to have written articles about the extraordinary work being done by my client, and have placed them into publications to make them accessible to non-scientific audiences. I’d also love to have written and produced a video or two.  

Imelda: I would like to have achieved my goals: Balance and learning a new language. But I’d also like to have goals set for 2021 before the new year begins. I hope I’m never satisfied with where I am, but willing to look forward to some new challenge.   

Michael: Specifically, I’d like to have programmed a survey instrument, implemented it, and analyzed the results. More broadly, I’d want to have tried something new and different—something I can look back on and say, I accomplished that better than I imagined! But even if I didn’t, then at least I tried something and learned from it.  

RIPPLE EFFECT: Love that. Learning from both successes and failures is how we all grow.  



That’s all! Thanks so much for sitting down with us and sharing your stories.

We hope you found this Roundtable fun, engaging, and helpful. Please comment with any questions you have, and if you see yourself as a future Rippler, please visit our Careers page and apply for an open position. We’ll see you next time!

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