Be careful what you wish for, goes the old adage. But for people like Jess Chenoweth, it might be more important to be mindful of what you’re not wishing for. A couple of the biggest and best things in her life are exactly what she said she would never do.
For instance, Jess joined Hormel Foods upon completion of her graduate studies, figuring she would spend two years with the global branded food company before moving on. She soon added three years to her deadline, but that wasn’t enough either. Now, with six years under her belt and a role as manager of business planning and analysis, she’s hard-pressed to come up with a valid reason to leave the company that has given her so many exciting challenges – the best part of working for Hormel Foods, she says.
“That has kept me really interested and engaged. People have given me a lot of trust and room to figure things out and to grow,” Jess says. “And then the people … they are willing to teach you something.”
One of her so-called teachers has been Fred Halvin, the recently retired vice president of corporate development. After the Pride of the Jersey award was bestowed on him by CEO Jim Snee, Fred had the task of finding the next recipient. It was an easy decision; Jess is a “rockstar,” he says.
“Jess always has a positive attitude, and her work quality is exceptional. She is extremely thorough and has the ability to communicate complex projects in easy-to-understand terms,” Fred said when passing the company jersey to her. “Her ability to focus on the most important issues and not let immaterial ‘noise’ get in the way is as good as I have seen.”
Jess always has a positive attitude, and her work quality is exceptional.Fred Halvin
Part of Jess’ job responsibilities is leading the finance component of the mergers-and-acquisition team, which made Fred one of her unofficial bosses. Working with him, she has been instrumental in the company’s closing of a number of deals, including the Planters® snack nuts business, the largest acquisition in the 131-year history of Hormel Foods.
“It was certainly a big project,” Jess says. “With M&A, there’s volatility. There are times when it goes silent, and times when it’s your full-time job plus. You have to be nimble.”
Jess is adept at managing her time and responsibilities. She is likewise not afraid to speak up and even to disagree with more senior members of the team.
“We are really good at separating task conflict and relationship conflict. Fred is the master at that. There have been so many times when he and I haven’t agreed, and it hasn’t come close to harming our relationship. He never had an issue giving me the room and respect to express my opinion,” she says.
That’s heady stuff for someone who not so long ago was a summer intern working on her undergraduate degree at New Mexico State University. Upon graduation, Jess immediately began pursuing her master’s degree and then looked again to Hormel Foods to begin her career. The company not only has given her countless opportunities, she found her life partner there, something else she said she would never do.
And yet, Jess met her husband, Dan Blomberg, on a blind date arranged by co-workers. Because he is a night lead supervisor at the Austin (Minn.) Plant, she knows she would never have crossed paths with him otherwise, given their different schedules. The stroke of serendipity has resulted in a union based on a shared love of church, tent camping, their dog Wally, and best of all, the son who is on the way.
Looking back on things, Jess must surely know now what to wish for. It’s everything she has, all rolled up in a Hormel Foods shirt.
“Getting the jersey is so great. Getting it from someone you respect and hope to emulate … I’m going to remember it for the rest of my career.”