Episode 42

 

Jessica Hanson may seem exactly like the “Woman Who Has It All”. At just 40, she’s president of a major beauty conglomerate and a happily married mom of 2 seriously cute kids. But for all that’s been going right, there was a time not long ago where things seemed anything but. Here, she candidly shares her journey to parenthood – one with devastating heartbreaks and losses. But what got her to the other side were the same traits that make her such a great leader today: Tenacity, nimble problem solving and a whole lot of trust in others.

 

Announcer

Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.

Jodi Katz

Hey, everyone. It’s your host, Jodi Katz. This podcast series Where Brains Meet Beauty is my side hustle. I do in fact have a day job. I am the Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency. We are an omni channel branding agency, hyper-focused on the beauty and wellness industries.

Today’s guest is Jessica Hanson. She’s the new President of AmorePacific US. Last week’s episode featured Gay Timmons, a huge force in natural beauty movement. I hope you enjoy the show.

Good morning everybody. I’m so happy to say that we’re joined today by Jessica Hanson, she is the new President and General Manager of AmorePacific US. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty.

Jessica Hanson

Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here.

Jodi Katz

You look so beautiful. This is the second time I’m seeing you in person and you were so beautiful then. Are you someone who gets dressed every day? Is this what your point of view?

Jessica Hanson

I try. When I’m on the weekends just with my kids or I have all of maybe 10 minutes, then it’s a very quick splash of the face and a little bit of skin care and then a tinted moisturizer and that’s it. But I do try to at least on the weekdays, I really believe in living my craft.

I actually learned that at L’Oreal. It’s called having metier. That metier means any time I’m asked, “What do you do?” And I say, “I work in beauty.” I want to demonstrate that. I’m asked a lot, “What are you wearing? What is that lipstick color? What is that nail color?” It’s more about really becoming a real ambassador to the beauty industry.

Jodi Katz

Well you definitely are. And the first time that you, and now your hair is just awesome. I noticed this because I’m not, hair doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m usually a bun kind of girl or a pony. But it’s so amazing.

Jessica Hanson

Thank you. Thank you. I have had my hair colored for the past, let’s see since 2001. That’s when I went blonde, which was totally crazy because my hair is about your shade. It’s actually quite dark. I really try to take care of it because there’s a lot of processing. I’ve learned a lot about the art of hair, hair styling, hair care.

I’ve actually only used Paul Mitchell Focus Salons, which my husband thinks is ridiculous. Because I go and seek out the next salon everywhere I’ve been. But yeah, it’s kind of ritualistic in how I take care of it. Because I know that I’m doing some damage, but I try to keep it in the best condition.

Jodi Katz

Well it’s awesome.

Jessica Hanson

Thank you.

Jodi Katz

When I see friends with awesome hair, I think about how many YouTubes do I need to watch to attain that? Because I do, I want it. But I just don’t make the time for it. I’m not there yet. But I dream about it.

Jessica Hanson

I think finding a good stylist is the first step. And someone that you really trust. And then being patient. One stylist told me, who was just styling my hair, I think it was for my sister’s wedding. I watched from the mirror in the back and watched his technique and he said, “You have to train your hair to do what you want it to do.”

Jodi Katz

Yeah, I don’t know what I want. But I love what you have. I want to tell everybody how we met because I think it’s one of those really nice, LinkedIn stories that if you asked me a year ago, two years ago, “Do people respond on LinkedIn?” I’d be like, “No one is ever going to respond when a stranger.”

But I had read that you became the new President of AmorePacific US and I just reached out and said, “Congratulations. LinkedIn. I never met you before but I just wanted to celebrate with you.” And then a week later, I booked a meeting with the Laneige team, so I was going to be in your office.

I sent a note back saying I’m going to be in your office. You came by and you said, “Hello.” To me when I was there. I’m a total stranger to you, but you took the time to make that effort and it really touched me and I really appreciate it.

Jessica Hanson

Well I actually have to give a lot of credit to my husband. He is the ultimate networker. He was probably one of these people on LinkedIn who was using it probably way earlier than I ever did. He really said to me, “As you go through your career, you need to take the time to meet people. You never know what opportunities could come about. And at a certain point,” Which is kind of the point that I’m at, “You’ll need different outlets than you’ve had before. Between mentors and people who have taken similar roles. People who have started new ideas. You’ll need to surround yourself with a different type of people. You won’t be able to talk to your team about everything.”

He’s really encouraged me to respond when people reach out to me on LinkedIn. Some are a little bit strange. Lots of people are just trying to get new business, things like that. But when I can see, and of course I look at people’s backgrounds and who they’re connected to, you can very quickly make some really good instant connections.

Jodi Katz

Yeah, LinkedIn surprised me. I started to, two years ago, maybe at this point, I reached out to a woman that I didn’t know very well, but I knew her name. She ran very big agencies in New York. I just reached out to her to say hi and would she be willing to talk about I’m running an agency and doing this in the [inaudible 00:05:49]. We met and now she’s an advisor and she’s the President of J. Walter Thompson. She’s super major. She spends time with me, helping me guide my business.

Since you and I connected on LinkedIn, I started to actually reply back to people who ask me to connect, whatever they’re asking for. I just say, “Thanks for reaching out.” Because your husband said, I don’t know who any of these people are and I have no idea why they’re being presented to me in my life. But I should take advantage of that.

Jessica Hanson

I totally agree. I reached out to a couple people and haven’t had responses. It is a little bit disappointing. It’s like, “Why are you on LinkedIn?” Now I adopt this idea of if you’re going to be on there and you’re at all checking the feeds. I think that’s actually where LinkedIn made a huge improvement over the past, at least 12 to 18 months. Is the relevance of the information that’s being fed. The recommendations of people to connect to. It actually has improved a lot. It’s enriched every day different stories that I read. Even about different industries. It’s really fascinating.

I’m trying to really encourage my team. I have a leadership team of about 13 people. We have what’s called a daily standup. I bring in articles that I find on LinkedIn or other news articles that are fed to me each day, so that they get a little bit more of an outside view. I really want to encourage them to by myopic and really enrich their lives as well.

Jodi Katz

This was not a paid advertisement for LinkedIn. It just happens.

Jessica Hanson

This is not a sponsor [crosstalk 00:07:23] No, not at all.

Jodi Katz

It just works.

Jessica Hanson

We’re just advocates.

Jodi Katz

Right, work it if it will work for you. So tell us how you’ll spend your day today.

Jessica Hanson

Today I have a couple of different things that I’m doing today. Right now we’re in the process of year-end reviews, which I take very much to heart, because I think if no other time in the year, it’s the moment for employees to really understand how they’re being perceived, how they perceive themselves and then have that honest conversation about what’s their future in the immediate sense or in the long term.

I’m just about three months into the job. Of course, it’s a little bit of a different exchange, because people are still getting to know me. But it’s been really helpful, I think, for them to see my observations and then to really express my expectations and what I’ve already seen from some of them. I have four reviews today. And then I’m also interviewing a company who also reached out to me over LinkedIn, funny, called Films For Industry.

Jodi Katz

I know them. We work with them.

Jessica Hanson

Yeah. Oh great. Their work looks amazing. I wanted to work with them for a while, actually, but hadn’t had the opportunity for one reason or another. So I’m putting together a pretty comprehensive video of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. We have a major conference in just over a month, that we’re doing in South Beach. Almost the entire organization is coming. I really want to set a different tone and ask for a different mindset. So this video will really demonstrate.

Hopefully they can be proud of some of the things that they’ve accomplished. But for even those who are very new to the company, to really grasp what really is our objective and where is the vision of where we’re going. And to do that in about two minutes, set to music, I’ve done it a couple of times. But of course every time I do it I now want to do it better. So I have a session with them today, to go over what we want to accomplish.

Jodi Katz

They’ll be a great partner. They’re incredible to work with. We’ve worked with them several times.

Jessica Hanson

Oh great. Good, I’m glad I have another endorsement.

Jodi Katz

So your new job means that you’re moving from California to New York.

Jessica Hanson

Yes.

Jodi Katz

And you’re picking up the family to do that?

Jessica Hanson

Yeah.

Jodi Katz

Tell us about what that process is like now, going from one coast to the other.

Jessica Hanson

I like to say back to New York. So back in 1998, I made the decision right after graduating from undergrad, Cal Poly, go Mustangs, to move to the East Coast. And again, that was in the encouragement of my husband now, boyfriend then, to really break free from going right back to where we’re from in California. California is such a big state. A lot of Californians think that that is the United States.

We both were like-minded to say, “Let’s experience something else.” We thought we’d be in New York for about two years. We were here for 10. I spent my 20s in New York. I spent my 30s on the West Coast between San Francisco and Seattle. And now I just turned 40 in September. I’ll spend my 40s in New York again.

I’m really excited, so is my husband. We know how much the city has to offer. We also, I think always had this little bit of a wish that we could give our children the opportunity to become a little bit worldly. I do think New York is probably the best city in the US to do that.

It was nice to start a family in a little bit more of a calm, West Coast mentality. There’s some benefits to that. Definitely weather benefits. But I do think that this will be a nice transition to open up possibilities for both my husband and I and for the kids to really feel a little bit different energy and a different mode.

Jodi Katz

So they’re going to start school in January in New York?

Jessica Hanson

Well it all depends on when. My daughter is in first grade. My son is in preschool. He’s a little bit easier, more flexible. It’s a little bit more challenging in first grade. So whenever she gets in is when they will make the move.

Jodi Katz

Oh right New York City schools.

Jessica Hanson

Yes. New York City schools.

Jodi Katz

Don’t just show up.

Jessica Hanson

Exactly. So getting an address is the first goal. And then making the transition. She’s in an amazing school. It’s a performing arts school in San Francisco. So of course we have very high expectations of the type of school.

My husband’s actually a former educator. He has already done all of the research and has eliminated a lot of schools just because of what he’s seen and read and their ratings and test scores. I’m very lucky he does all that homework.

Jodi Katz

Yeah, how nice to have someone guide that process. Just split those jobs. So you’re a September baby. Are you a Virgo?

Jessica Hanson

I am, through and through.

Jodi Katz

What is your date?

Jessica Hanson

September 7th.

Jodi Katz

I’m the 20th. So I’m a Virgo to.

Jessica Hanson

Okay, you’re almost cusp.

Jodi Katz

Yes, I know.

Jessica Hanson

But if you’re willing to really dive into the Virgo pool, then you’re brave.

Jodi Katz

I’ve always been very Virgo. I’m actually trying to unravel my perfectionist tendencies, ’cause it’s not working for me anymore. They get in the way of moving forward, quite often. I’m little by little unraveling that.

Jessica Hanson

Yeah, I have to tell myself, “No one’s going to notice that your black shoe is just slightly off from your deep navy dress.” I really have to say, no one’s going to notice that small chip on your nail. It can become an obsession.

But I love that all Virgos, I always say, “I’ve never met a Virgo I didn’t like.” It’s so crazy. So if we could just have our own planet of perfectionism, we might die happy. But while we’re here on earth, we need to really just accept that not everything is going to be as so.

Jodi Katz

Right. It gets more in my way of work than personal. If I’m going to write an article for LinkedIn, I sit and I stew and I write. As opposed to, get your thoughts out, put them into the universe. It doesn’t have to be perfect. There is no perfect.

I’m really understanding in life now, that the word perfect shouldn’t exist, ’cause it’s not real. Right, there is no perfect. It can’t have any meaning. But it does. That’s the challenge I’ve had just saying to myself, “I did it. And that’s what I’m supposed to be doing in this moment. That should be good enough.” And just trying to move through things without being held back by this perfectionist goal.

But I am very orderly. I get really uncomfortable when we, we’re growing, so we have growing pains as a company. There was a few weeks where it’s like, “Who’s doing what?” I can’t stand that, not knowing who’s doing what. It takes time to work it out. We have to talk about it as a team. We have to experiment. I get so uncomfortable.

Jessica Hanson

I know, me too. I actually think I have strangely more tolerance at work than at home with the perfectionism and with having things a certain way and in a certain order. I’m just gentler with people about it. But I try not to be passive aggressive about it. Saying almost, “Do you need me to help you?” Or, “How can I help you to achieve this?” Or just being very clear. Like, “Is that really our best foot forward?”

Whereas, in my personal life, I’ll just do it and then be really frustrated by it. I’ll straighten the pillows 10 times and still come home the next day and they’re not straightened again. It’s weird, I actually probably need to channel more of my persona from work, of being patient, but wanting that perfectionism rather than getting really frustrated by it.

Jodi Katz

I’ve noticed that myself and my friends who are similar to me, we’re hardest on ourselves.

Jessica Hanson

Of course.

Jodi Katz

I’m hoping that my team doesn’t think I’m as hard on them as I am on myself. And having kids is helping me unravel that, which is if my son had a bad day at school because of whatever, a test or something, a sport, I’m really kind to him, like, “You did your best. This is what was supposed to happen. You’re supposed to learn how to lose.” Or, “You’re supposed to learn a different way to do the math.” Or whatever it is. I’m very kind to him.

But when stuff like that happens to me, I beat myself up. I’m really working hard. This is kind of like I’m a work in progress, is what I like to say. I’m working hard to just make every day a little bit easier for myself by taking some of the pressure off.

Jessica Hanson

One of the things that I did because I think that it is about a little bit, giving yourself some credit instead of criticizing. There’s this book that you write a happiness list, every week for 52 weeks. It’s a year long project. Each week it’s a different type of happy. List the things that make you most proud. List the things that you’re naturally good at. At the end of the list, then it asks you to reflect on them. List the processes or routines in your life. And then it says, cross things out that frustrate you. Circle the things that make you happy.

I found, I’ve only been doing it for about maybe about the past seven weeks. I kept seeing the book in different shops that I was going to. I said, “Okay, this is following me. I need to get it.” That’s actually helped a lot to say, “Hey, you’re not ever going to be perfect. Nobody is. But here’s the things that you can really look back on.”

In the moment, it really does make you happy. In the moment, I’m smiling the whole time that I’m making this list. Because I know that I’m doing something good for my own well-being. And then when you actually revisit them, you have this journal of things that you do need to remind yourself of. Maybe not every day, but at least once a week.

Jodi Katz

Yeah, it sounds almost like a meditative opportunity too, to reflect.

Jessica Hanson

Which I’m not, that’s usually not my first way of coping. So it’s new.

Jodi Katz

What a great thing to be doing as you’re entering a new again city, a new job, new people, new pressures. So I do want to talk about your career, ’cause I’m really fascinated by it.

But I would like to start somewhere else, with something that you said to me when we first spoke, which really resonated. You told me, “I worked so hard to be a mom.” Can you tell us what that means to you?

Jessica Hanson

Sure. I grew up not being even in my teens, I did do some babysitting. I never said, “I have to be a mom.” It was never something, especially as going into adolescence and early adulthood, I was never baby crazy. I actually had no real interest in even holding babies. Someone did tell me that when you turn 30, something else clicks. I think that yes, that happened a little bit.

Right before I turned 30, my husband and I were both graduating from business school. We were deciding what the next chapter was. What probably made me want to be a mother more than anything, was being a family with him. He’s so good with kids. He was a kindergarten and first grade teacher. He has his masters in education.

He’s just naturally good with kids. He’ll talk to kids on planes and I’m like, “You know, parents might think you’re a little strange.” And he’s this big football, ex-football player guy. I’m like, “Yeah.” But seeing him with kids made me want to experience that with him. And I thought it would be easy. Everybody in my family, I’m one of 23 grandchildren, just on my mother’s side.

Jodi Katz

Oh my God.

Jessica Hanson

Everybody has kids. Everybody. Whether it’s … And had them probably even somewhat earlier than maybe some of them should have. You just naturally think, “When I’m ready, it will just happen.” ‘Cause that’s what you grow up with. And it didn’t. So we spent two years battling infertility. Unexplained infertility. We had every test possible. It wasn’t us. It wasn’t us, it’s just the universe. It kind of was.

It was the universe telling us that we need to become parents in a different way. That took a little while. It wasn’t actually that, it wasn’t a grief process, actually in the moment. It was sort of like, “Okay, we’ve got to find another way.” Both he and I are problem solvers by nature. One day, he says to me, “I think we need to look into adoption.” And I said, “Oh.” We only know it from the media, international adoption or adoption stories that go really wrong.

So we looked at international adoption and saw it was a three year, at least three year process where you never have a newborn join your home. It is a child. Youngest is probably about eight months. Just because of the legalities and process in the system. And then we looked at domestic adoption and that’s where the world opened up to a chapter that we never really knew. We never really knew it existed. And probably most of white collar homes don’t think about the challenges that are actually here in our country of people who either aren’t ready to be parents or have children already and that next child puts them into poverty.

So we educated ourselves over the next six weeks, went to different classes to hear from adoptive parents, birth parents who placed their children, pediatrician who both with an adoptive parent and has really helped with healthcare, because you don’t, you’ll never know everything about your child’s lineage and anything that could be happening with them either mentally, developmentally or health wise. We learned from a different perspective every week. By the end of the six weeks we were ready to pursue this idea of domestic adoption.

From start to finish, our daughter, it was only about a little bit less than a year, which is actually pretty fast. But it was a little daunting. You had to open up your world and your life. It became an open book. The agency knew everything about us from our health history to our financials. They do what’s called a home study, so they come in and they ask you questions. And then they even check your temperature of your water heater.

To become a parent, not through biological way, I’m just to start off with, just more got the seal of approval. I’m like, “Wow, nobody who actually conceives has to go through this.” You do go through moments of a little bit of, “This isn’t fair.” But you know why this is the process. And then when we got the call. We got a couple of calls that I knew weren’t going to work out. You had this sixth sense about it.

But we got a call, it was actually right around Labor day, which is right near my birthday, from a woman in Indianapolis, or near Indianapolis. She already had a child. She found out right around her first daughter turning one that she was pregnant again. She said, “Listen, I can barely do it with one. I can’t do it with two. My entire family offered and said they would help with my first. And I’ve had to drop out of junior college and put all of my goals on the back burner. Although I love my daughter, I can’t do that again. I don’t want to have an abortion. I want to place this child for adoption.” So we were just like, “Oh my God.” And we texted with her for the next three weeks and started to build a relationship. That’s what you do when you’re, I was turning 33 at the time and she’s all of 19. So we got to know her.

We then started talking about visiting her. And then I think she went a little bit silent because she had to really think about whether she wanted to do this. Meeting us in person is, that’s a big step. But then after a little while decided it was still what she wanted to do. We met her on Halloween. That was 2010. I ran the New York City marathon a week later. And then my daughter was born in January. We were there for her birth. I helped deliver her.

Jodi Katz

Oh, that’s so beautiful.

Jessica Hanson

She was born on President Kennedy’s 50th inauguration, so we named her Kennedy. It was one of our three names that her birth mother and my husband and I had discussed. But then it was like a sign. She was born about five days early and on his inauguration. It was all over the news for the 12 hours that she was in labor. Yeah, that journey was all around positive.

What happened next is we wanted another because this was so great. We had this now extended family. She was this amazing baby. I mean slept when we needed to. Ate when she needed to. She traveled coast to coast with me at least a dozen times. She was a dream child. She still is. We said, “Let’s do it again.” So about 11 months.

Jodi Katz

You don’t even try the infertility path this way again?

Jessica Hanson

Not yet. I’ll touch on that. I did go back for a second opinion. So 11 months, we said, “Let’s do it again.” Actually to go through adoption again, you have to start all over again. You don’t get a free pass. You don’t get the … ‘Cause now your family has changed. So you start all over. At least you know now, so it’s a little quicker.

We started getting contacts right away. We were prepared for that because the agency told us what will happen is they will look at you as a family unit and they will of course look at this beautiful child and now they can envision you as parents. Where before, it’s sort of like, “Oh, who are these people? Why can’t they have their own?” There’s so many questions.

We started getting contacted right away. It was contact after contact that were all quite possible. We entered into another relationship with a birth couple. It was their first. It was a very different situation and then were matched for five months. It was actually pretty early in the pregnancy.

There were lots of red flags and we sort of knew that it wasn’t going to work out. But you have to keep going for the chance that it does. There were a lot of complications with the birth. Then after five days in the hospital, on the day that I left, I was there. Back and forth. Same process, because now we had gone through it. We had named this child. We had this close relationship with the couple. But I knew it wasn’t going to work out.

That’s exactly what happened. On the fifth day, the day that they were being released, we got the call that they just couldn’t go through with it. It was tough because we named this child. We held this child. We were at the hospital with our daughter who was two and a half who has a, “I’m a big sister.” Sticker on it. And everyone’s calling her the big sister, even the birth parents.

Jodi Katz

Oh my goodness.

Jessica Hanson

So that’s where real grief happens. I just got chills. ‘Cause it’s hard to talk about. But you have to believe that there is a reason for everything and your journey is not done. But it took us a while. It took us a while. We had brought everybody along on our journey.

Jodi Katz

Right, so this is like sobbing? Is that the level of [crosstalk 00:27:26]

Jessica Hanson

Oh yeah. It’s heartbreaking.

Jodi Katz

Yeah.

Jessica Hanson

We luckily had a really great nanny who took our daughter and said, “You guys just be with each other.” We sent a note to all of our friends and family and said, “This has happened. Don’t grieve for us. Please don’t reach out.” Especially saying anything negative about the birth family. It’s human nature.

Jodi Katz

Right.

Jessica Hanson

So we said, “We just need to be alone and we need to figure out how to press on and how to get to our next journey.” What I had actually done, I had actually left my job a month before. I was working for Sephora. I had been there for five years. Because I knew that this might happen, I had said to my boss, “I couldn’t imagine walking in.” I had wanted a change anyway. “I couldn’t imagine walking in after this heartbreak and just coming back to my same job.”

Jodi Katz

Right.

Jessica Hanson

So I’m leaving to pursue other things.

Jodi Katz

‘Cause you weren’t the same anymore.

Jessica Hanson

I wasn’t the same anymore. It really, it’s profound. She understood of course, she’s a mom.

Jodi Katz

But you had this instinct about this?

Jessica Hanson

Oh yeah. You do. When you go through and you meet and you hear mothers that’s a big part that I forgot actually, was you make connections with other families. You learn, you go to support groups. This is why adoption versus infertility is such, or I should say fertility, is such a different path, because in fertility, when you’re getting treatments, you aren’t connecting with people. There’s actually very little support. In fact, you’re sitting in the waiting room waiting for your tests or treatments or whatever and nobody’s even making eye contact.

With adoption, agencies are bringing people together. We still go to a play date every month of adoptive families in San Francisco. You form this network because you know that you have to draw from one another, either their strengths, their stories, their energies.

And then once you’re a family. At some point, your kids are going to have questions. You better have somebody, in either your friends or family or your circle, to be able to say, “This is okay. Families are made different ways.” And then at least you can relate it to children as, “There’s other families that are like ours to.”

So anyway, the job that I decided to take back with L’Oreal. I had rejoined L’Oreal. But this time with a different division and working on a business that was located in Seattle. We moved from San Francisco to Seattle.

Jodi Katz

After the loss of?

Jessica Hanson

Yes. That was the role that I decided to take.

Jodi Katz

In your head space at that moment, with the devastation of, you did have a loss. A legitimate loss.

Jessica Hanson

Yeah, of course.

Jodi Katz

Did you just want something new?

Jessica Hanson

Yeah.

Jodi Katz

Were you just desperate for something new and fresh?

Jessica Hanson

I knew that I would. I probably knew that even, say it had all worked out. Even after maternity leave, I would have wanted something different. Sephora is an amazing, amazing company. But I had been working with the same teams. I managed 60 brands in the fragrance division. I just needed change. So I knew I wanted a different journey.

Learning something new is always where I draw a lot of energy. Working with different people and different teams, building culture. Those are all things I can really put my whole self in. So I started to do that. That’s exactly what this group needed. It was after the acquisition of Clarisonic by L’Oreal. But the decision to keep the business on the West Coast, which was a first for L’Oreal. Usually they acquire a brand, it within a year moves to New York. This was a decision to keep it in Seattle. So I moved up to Seattle.

Let’s see, I guess it was about 11 months later, not even. About eight months after we moved, we were contacted by a birth couple who wanted to specifically place in Seattle. And there were only three families with the agency in Seattle. So we’re like, “Our odds are really good.” And so we met them. They met Kennedy and now, at this point, now she’s three and a half. So this is a full year later.

It was an immediate connection. It was very different. Their situation was different. They had three other children with their past partners. And they weren’t parenting those children. So they knew their lifestyle was not about, it was about them and not necessarily about raising children. So they knew that they didn’t really want this child to go on this journey through the country with them. They traveled around and lived very free. A lifestyle I don’t really know.

I think that the challenge was they were going to stay in Seattle for a certain amount of time. But we weren’t sure how long. So it was a little bit, this relationship of, a little bit of spontaneity and trying to be flexible while we had this life that we’re trying to manage with our daughter and our jobs and everything.

I had decided to stop traveling. He was due on December 11th. I was planning to stop traveling on the 15th of November. That was my plan. I have a month, no more travel. This is happening. We told very few people, our neighbors and my boss. That was it. We didn’t even tell our families, because of the heartache that we took everybody through a year prior.

So on November 8th, I get a call from my husband. He never calls. He always texts. He said, “There’s no easy way to say this.” I was traveling still, ’cause this was only November 8th. I was going to stop traveling on November 15th. And he said, “He’s born. He was born five minutes ago. It was really fast. And I’m sitting on the hospital floor because there’s no room. She gave birth in triage. But I’m holding him. He has to go to the NICU ’cause he’s five weeks early. And they gave me the wristband because only one parent can go. And they gave it to me. So this is all happening. I need you to get home. I need you to call the lawyer. Are you okay?”

And I’m like, “Yep. I’m good.” I’m at QVC. We have a TSV on. I’m with my entire team in the green room and I’m like, “Okay.” And amazingly, I didn’t break down. This was like my moment of strength. I have my phone in one hand, an iPad in another. I’m rearranging my travel. I’m calling the lawyer. I’m actually a pretty good multi-tasker. And I can’t believe that in nine hours, I was back in Seattle holding my baby in NICU.

Jodi Katz

I’m like, honestly goosebumps. I’m welling up with tears because how beautiful that the parents knew in that moment that your husband is going to be the dad and they gave him the hospital bracelet.

Jessica Hanson

Yeah. That’s when you know. That’s why the red flags that we saw with the previous one and knowing that this was the right one, what was meant to be. It’s when you just know. So he was tiny. He was just under five pounds. They actually called him big boy on the floor. 42 babies in NICU in Seattle at University of Washington. He only had a little bit of jaundice about 24 hours later. But he was great.

The one really interesting thing that you learn along the journey, because he was considered a preemie and in NICU, we were actually able to buy breast milk. This is one thing we weren’t able to do with our child. We know how good that is for building immunity. We were able to buy it. It was $20 an ounce.

Jodi Katz

Wow.

Jessica Hanson

This meal is more expensive than most meals that we eat in these cities that we live in. But it was worth it. So we were able to give that to him for the first month to really build his strength and his immunity.

His name is Carson. We actually named him after, their last name is Carson. So they weren’t as involved. They couldn’t pick a name. They said, “Whatever you want.” They were very emotionally detached from this journey. We had a couple of different names and then we said, “What if we named him Carson, after your last name?” And they said, “Oh my God. That would be such an honor.” So that’s his name.

Jodi Katz

Thank you so much for sharing this. I mean, I’m really grateful that you’re willing to be so revealing. I went through infertility treatment. I was in that room with other women, nobody’s making eye contact. We’re all desperately sad to be in that room getting our blood tested. It was like every day, every other week, whatever it was. It was awful.

I have a ten year old and a seven year old now, thankfully, from the process. But in an instant I can go back there, to the desperation and the loneliness and the fear that I wasn’t going to be a mom.

Jessica Hanson

Yeah.

Jodi Katz

As I’m doing in this moment. Because I had no control over it. I can control other things, right.

Jessica Hanson

Everything. And as Virgos it’s the worst. Talk about wanting order, wanting to decide your destiny and now saying, “You don’t get to choose.” That was actually, I think what was so empowering about adoption, is we actually got to choose.

The executive director of the agency who we went with said, to a room of all of us who were all feeling this pain, “I can give you 100% chance you will have a child. I can’t tell you when. I can’t tell you where this child will be born. I can’t even tell you exactly what ethnicity it will be. But I will guarantee you, that if you’re willing to change your mindset, you will be a parent.” We were like, “Sold.”

Jodi Katz

Right.

Jessica Hanson

I’m not going to argue with 100% chance.

Jodi Katz

Right.

Jessica Hanson

But that was again, I give my husband a lot of credit. I wasn’t coming up with creative ideas on how to do this differently. It took him saying, “Let’s really challenge ourselves.” That’s what we do together. It was great. And it’s been an amazing journey. I think we’ve grown, as people. I appreciate things in such a different way.

I still am a bad mom sometimes. They are adorable children. But they are not perfect either. But I do think it allows you to be a little bit more spiritual, thankful, reflective and I don’t know if I would be the same person if I had ever conceived.

Jodi Katz

Right. I think often about my mindset and my business, because of the way I feel about being a mom. I think because it was hard, and I didn’t know if it was going to happen. It wasn’t … I did have friends who literally on their wedding night got pregnant.

Jessica Hanson

Yeah, of course.

Jodi Katz

It’s just so foreign to me. So I work really hard at seat belting myself into my chair and saying that, “I chose this path in my work because I want the flexibility to go to the school or do this or do that.” Whatever it is with the kids. And that if I let myself go on this path that’s very seductive, growing the business is incredibly seductive. Or getting anywhere in business is incredibly seductive, I’m going to lose that I’m going to give that up. So it’s a constant navigation point for me. When they are being, you know, sometimes my son’s a jerk. He’s 10.

Jessica Hanson

That’s the word my husband’s using for our son, who’s only three. It’s amazing how a three year old can be a jerk.

Jodi Katz

They can be. Even in those moments where I’m really struggling, I do go back to that gratitude of this is where I want to be. Sometimes I choose to work. Sometimes I choose to be there. Whatever it is, it’s my choice that I’m making. But I’m very cognizant of it.

Is there anything that you think that’s happening in your life, the way you handle work or when you shut your phone off at night, or whatever it is, that’s because you think directly related to how challenging it was to get here?

Jessica Hanson

Yeah. I do think that’s where I tell myself constantly. I used to be so proactive. I used to be ahead of every deadline. I give myself some reprieve and say, “It will all get done. It will all get done.” And trusting in others as well. That’s especially with the birth parent relationship. I had to trust, even if it wasn’t going to work out. I had to trust that they were going to do the right thing for them and for the child.

There is this, I talk a lot about trust actually, with my team. I have them reading this book called The Speed of Trust. Because for them to grow as leaders, for them to establish relationships with each other, and for them to be a real influential figure to their teams, they have to put trust in others before anybody puts trust in you. I think that, that’s how these lessons, although they’re not textbook, they’re real life, they really can continue on. And they can be real building blocks for you.

Jodi Katz

I think that we could probably have a part two podcast ’cause there’s much to talk about. For our last topic, I’d like to talk about something that just made me so excited, shifting gears totally.

Jessica Hanson

Sure.

Jodi Katz

In talking with you is that you are an expert in production.

Jessica Hanson

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jodi Katz

From your very first job, right? You were a production manager?

Jessica Hanson

Yeah, first job, at the Wall Street Journal, yes.

Jodi Katz

I don’t get to meet a lot of people in the client space who are total pros around print production and packaging production, video, photo production. Everyone has a little bit.

Jessica Hanson

Sure.

Jodi Katz

But to be able to talk with someone who has a real, true, deep understanding, is asking the same questions and has the same thoughts about process, stock, whatever.

Jessica Hanson

Exactly.

Jodi Katz

It is such a thrill. There’s not a lot of people who take the time, I think, to go on press for the project.

Jessica Hanson

Sure. Oh I love it.

Jodi Katz

Or to visit a manufacturer, or whatever it is. I think people are too pressed for time. They’re too anxious about the workload. How is that level of expertise that you developed as a production manager, years ago, how does it impact the way that you ask your team to learn?

Jessica Hanson

That’s such a great question. I don’t get to reflect on that very first job very often. But I did learn a lot. I think working with mostly creative people, okay so up until now, my roles have been very marketing focused, sales focused and consumer focused. So what the consumer sees in a brand is so different. Whether it’s online or in real life. The quality and what you’re trying to convey will come across in different ways.

Whether it’s developing a holiday program that feels really special, but doesn’t feel so branded. I was just buying holiday gifts for our partners that we work with. I said, “I want to give them something that they will look at every day and think about us. But it doesn’t have to say our brand name all over it.” Because I’ve been in their shoes.

I’ve been the recipient of a beautiful necklace that had a C on it for a brand I won’t name. I still wanted to wear the necklace. I wish I had it now, because now my son’s name is Carson. So at least I could say that, but then I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to be wearing their brand logo. Are you serious?” But it was a beautiful necklace.

So paying attention to quality really relating it to how we will be perceived. What message does it send, is how I encourage them. I also learn by mistake of not having someone on press and then not getting what we want. What I try to explain to the teams are, no matter what vendor we use, however long they’ve been working with us, however well you think they know our brand, our product, our objective, they’re not with us every day.

So if you’re not there to coach them, they’re an extension of our team, then you have to be accepting of the result. Being around press is so much fun. I’m like, “If you don’t enjoy doing it as a creative director or in brand marketing, then you might need to reconsider what role you have in the company.” But I think it’s all about really creating something with purpose and being able to communicate that and understand or say.

This film that I’m going to be producing, this video, I said, “We’re not going to shoot anything new. Because we have so many assets. We have so many things to show. But we need great CGI.” Of course, the entire marketing team is like, “I hope she’s going to say what that means.” I’m like, “It needs to have this graphic effect. It needs to convey this message in two minutes.” Meeting with companies where you actually speak their language, I think they really appreciate it. And then you get much better work.

Jodi Katz

Absolutely, 100%. When we’re working with client partners, who even if they don’t know. If they show an interest and a curiosity, the work is so much better. It probably ends up being cheaper to produce.

Jessica Hanson

Totally.

Jodi Katz

It gets done faster. It’s really challenging to work with a client partner who’s not invested in that process because it’s technical.

Jessica Hanson

Absolutely.

Jodi Katz

We found over time, and we’re starting to stick up for ourselves a little bit more, like the right client partners for us are people who really want to be partners, really collaborate. You don’t have to know everything we know. But you have to be open to hearing our point of view. And then come on press, or come to the manufacturer, come to those meetings. Because there’s just too many moving parts in these projects to say, “You just do it.” Right?

Jessica Hanson

Oh yeah. Or over-involvement is the other side. I have something that I’ll share with you that you can take with you. I’ve tried to teach this now to, I think this will be my third team. It’s the principle of good, fast and cheap. You can only ever have two. If you apply it to anything, apply it to clothing. Apply it to a restaurant. Apply it to a hotel. You can have good and fast. It won’t be cheap. You can have good and cheap. It won’t be fast. You can have cheap and fast and it won’t be good.

So when I worked, especially with luxury brands or really wanting. If you want something to be really good, figure out what you’re going to sacrifice. It’s going to either take some time, or you’re going to pay the price. It applies to everything.

Jodi Katz

I love it so much.

Jessica Hanson

If anything ever seems to have all three, it’s a scam.

Jodi Katz

Something’s wrong. Right. Okay, so can we borrow this?

Jessica Hanson

Absolutely. I love spreading it. I adapted it from something that I read. It’s awful of me that I’m not giving credit to however I came up with it. But I’ve said it to so many people. Some people are just like, “Oh my God. She’s so crazy.” And then those who really adopt it and there are many, especially my marketing teams, I will keep saying it. Because I’m like, “You need to really set your expectations in this mind frame.”

Jodi Katz

Yeah.

Jessica Hanson

So no, I want people to remember it, because I’m telling you, I have applied it to everything. I’ve applied it to my own personal life with adoption. It’s the same thing. I got a really good outcome. It wasn’t necessarily fast or cheap.

Jodi Katz

Right.

Jessica Hanson

Sometimes you only get one.

Jodi Katz

I love it. I love it because it addresses misguided expectations. Or unaligned expectations. We’re going to borrow it. We will give credit to you, in the meetings that we talk about it with. But I think it’s genius. Thank you for that wisdom. And thank you so much for your honesty and how revealing and open you’ve been with us. I know a lot of our listeners are really going to relate to your story. I think we’re going to get a lot of fan mail.

Jessica Hanson

Good. No that’s great. One of my future aspirations, I started a book right after, it was probably about a year after my daughter was born. I haven’t finished it. I probably need someone to help me actually really write it and get it published. Maybe it turns into a blog. I don’t know. I don’t have the time or the bandwidth right now to do it.

But at some point in my future, I really want to personify the story of adoption. It can be through a little bit of fiction based on real events. But I think that there’s so many myths of parenthood. So many myths of fertility and adoption and all these things that I want to demystify. So that’s my hope for my personal life, that I actually find the time to do that one day. Maybe someone out there hears this and wants a project.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. I actually have a friend for you. So I’ll tell you off [crosstalk 00:49:04]

Jessica Hanson

Great.

Jodi Katz

Thank you so much, Jessica, it has been incredible.

Jessica Hanson

Thank you.

Jodi Katz

For our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes. And for updates about the show, please follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast

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