1in10 Success Stories: Jennifer Teig von Hoffman

Since 2013, I have been a Lead Project Manager in the Information Services & Technology group at Boston University. In this role, I call upon my eclectic background: degrees in philosophy and admin studies, 15 years in BU’s Research Computing group, and work in smaller non-profit organizations. 

I met Dr. Raquell Holmes through our respective positions at BU. She worked in the Center for Computational Science, which frequently partnered with my department. We collaborated on a number of events at BU centered around scientific computing and visualization. We also joined together on projects beyond BU through both the National Computational Science Alliance and the SC Conference Series.

I participated in a number of improvscience activities that Raquell led for the SC Conference Series. In addition, Raquell recruited me to provide facilitation support at an improvscience event in San Diego. Our paths also crossed on a day-to-day basis at BU. Over the years, we developed not only a good working relationship, but a great friendship.  

What I primarily received through knowing Raquell, observing her philosophy and seeing how she works, is an understanding of the function of improv in my day-to-day life, both professionally and personally. I learned from her that it is not only okay to take risks, but that it is necessary for my personal development. She taught me that if I was not failing it meant I was not ambitious enough—I was not stretching myself! 

Stretching beyond my comfort zone is a gift I have received from participating with Raquell in her Uncomfortable Independent Conversations (UIC). This is a safe place for me to practice stepping out of feeling comfortable and feeling confident in speaking my truth. I now trust that if I “make a mistake,” or if someone is affected by something I say, we are together in the safe, structured environment created by Raquell. I can learn from my missteps and mitigate any harm I may have unintentionally caused.

What I learn about communication at UIC I bring to less structured environments, including my volunteer work with the Boston Bulldogs Running Club, which serves people dealing with addiction and its impact, for which I am the Coaching Coordinator. Running together provides not only the empowerment of physical challenge, but also teaches us to connect with others. In the context of our running programs, we are developing a plan to improve our ability to engage a wide variety of communities.

I'm the sort of person to easily get caught up in my head, and overthink things that would be better served by listening to my feelings and intuition. Intuition becomes available to us when we are willing to Not Know, when we are willing to improvise and even to play. From knowing Raquell, I have discovered that I am more effective at finding answers when I remember that I don’t have to find ALL the answers…and I don’t have to find them alone!