Jennifer Glaisek Ferguson, SVP and Global Director of Corporate Affairs at Christie’s, and Cornell Graduate
Jennifer Glaisek Ferguson has had a varied career, all played out in the New York City area, that has involved – as befits the Gotham locale – lots of glitz and glamour. Now the SVP and Global Director of Corporate Affairs for Christie’s, the famous auction house, she has also worked as an Account Executive for powerhouse talent agency PMK/HBH; as an SVP for National Publicity for Miramax/Dimension Films (promoting lots of pop-culture movie hits, as opposed to their indie roster); and as an SVP in Global Communications for Kerzner International Resorts. It can be said therefore that she is a go-to person for any type of PR project that involves entertainment or luxury in the public realm.
Ferguson is a Cornell graduate who is also a proud new mom, listing that – despite the razzle-dazzle of her roles listed above – as her favorite job ever. She also keeps an eye, however, on the global reach and vision required for her position at Christie’s, saying that “brands need to think globally and be mindful of different cultures in their planning.” She also cites her very first job, while growing up, as being “incredibly motivating to have to work for something and see the dollars rack up…it was a great lesson,” but now also acknowledges how far she is removed from that — now of course interacting exclusively in the corporate sphere — by recommending The Art of War as a go-to career book, as others in this series have done. Read more below about this heavy-hitter in the PR field whose work habits include a super-healthy breakfast and detailed planning in order to balance both personal and professional duties.
Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I have had a long and interesting career in communications, beginning when print and television media were the only outlets to tell a story and then running right alongside the introduction and explosion of digital technology and its profound impact on media. My career has never been boring, and has challenged me to constantly learn and evolve my way of working.
What does a day in your shoes typically look like?
Since I had a baby seven months ago, I have to be very efficient with my time! I wake just before she does (about 6 a.m.), and try to catch up on emails with my EMERI and Asia offices, while also sometimes having calls with Asia. Then my daughter wakes and I multitask between getting her up, dressed, fed and playing with her, while also checking emails and getting myself ready. My husband is great and we tag-team this one!
Then I head to the office and read news on my way. I usually have con-calls during the first part of the day because of time differences, and then meetings in the afternoon with internal business groups or local agencies. I keep a running list of the calls and outreach I have made throughout the day and whatever is not completed, gets flipped to the next day. I try to leave the office by 5:15 — which is a HUGE difference for me — but she goes to bed at 6:45 p.m., and I want to see her before then.
So I rush home, get lots of snuggles, give a bath and get her down and then go back online. I finish up emails and work for the day; then my husband pours me a glass of wine and we catch up with each other while prepping dinner. I go back online after dinner for another peek, look at my calendar for the next day, and list out priorities for that day and the next. I usually also catch one “guilty pleasure show” with my husband, and then head to bed.
What are the first three things you do when you wake up in the morning, and the last three things you do before you go to bed?
Morning: I check my iPhone for emails and news, say good morning to my husband and get my daughter.
Night: Check my iPhone for emails and news, prep my daughter’s bottle for the morning, then check on her and the temperature in her room.
What is your breakfast of choice?
Greek yogurt with fruit, raw seeds and dry coconut, plus a Ginger tea.
What keeps you energized and motivated at work?
The people I work with — their passion and intelligence.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I love critical thinking and innovation, and both are cornerstones to strategic communications.
What and who inspires you at work?
The art and the people. At Christie’s, there are many employees who have spent their entire careers here because they are so passionate about art. I find that level of passion inspiring. And the art is incredible. To be able to walk through the galleries before a sale and see art that may have been hanging in a private home for the last fifty years is truly incredible.
Do you have a ‘Power Outfit’ that you wear for a big meeting or important work event?
I love dresses because they are easy, look great and are still feminine, but I don’t have a “go-to” one. It changes every season, although I always gravitate towards the same shapes.
What is your favorite leisure activity after a stressful work week?
I love to cook. I find reading cookbooks incredibly therapeutic and love to plot out meals, do the shopping, and then spend a few hours prepping and cooking for my family.
How does your culture/background influence your work?
I am American by birth, but I hope that my exposure to — and interaction with — different cultures over the years has influenced the lens through which I view the world. Everything we do and produce is sent out into the “global, digital ether” in a matter of seconds. We don’t have any borders anymore, and there is a real benefit there. My ethos is informed by this view – brands need to think globally and be mindful of different cultures in their planning.
What was your very first job?
My brother and I were young entrepreneurs (and green ones!): we collected newspapers in our neighborhood, and would load up my Mom’s station wagon and drive them to the recycling plant for payment. Our parents would match us dollar for dollar when we wanted a big-ticket item like a new bike or stereo. It was incredibly motivating to have to work for something and see the dollars rack up. We also knew how much work went into earning a dollar. It was a great lesson.
How many times have you changed your career direction?
I have always worked in media – just on different sides of it, in publishing, film, entertainment and luxury. After a brief stint at a magazine, I worked as an assistant to a journalist and then I moved to PMK, first as an assistant and then as a publicist. I have been a communications specialist ever since.
What has been the biggest obstacle in your career, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest obstacle was probably lack of connections in the beginning. But I was incredibly persistent, knew what my capabilities were, and didn’t take no for an answer. I must have also had a guardian angel watching over me, because I have always landed great jobs at terrific brands.
What are your most steadfast “don’ts” rules regarding work and the workplace, and what are our most cherished “do’s”?
- Do have a goal towards which you are always working. That way you are always growing and no time is wasted.
- Do challenge yourself to work with people or projects outside of your comfort zone. You will be better for it afterwards.
- Do a job only if you love it. Anything else is a waste of time and energy.
- Don’t say “I don’t know.” Always say “I’ll find out.”
- Don’t make work your life. You will be a better employee if you have a life outside of work too.
- Don’t stay in a job that makes you unhappy. If you are unhappy, it’s time to leave, not time to try and change everyone else around you.
What are the most important qualities of a good leader?
Intelligence, compassion, decisiveness, confidence, and integrity.
What are the unforgettable traits of role models who have inspired you most?
Passion, intelligence, drive, creativity, and insane confidence!
What are three questions you like to ask during an interview to know if the candidate (or job) is the right fit?
- “Tell me why you’re looking for a new job?”
- “Tell me about the most challenging project you’ve worked on?”
- “Tell me about your life outside of work?”
What advantages do you see as a woman in the workplace?
Women can multitask better than men, and women have a high level of intuition that makes it easier to read a situation before reacting.
What advice would you give to women starting their careers?
Be bold, don’t be afraid to take chances, and don’t let work get in the way of having a family. Just be strategic about it, and have an exit and re-entry plan. You can do both.
What book would you recommend for women just starting their career?
The Art of War.
What is your favorite quote you try to live by?
“Don’t ever let the place you start dictate where you end up.”