Jenny Moran: Communications Alumnus shares career advice for future communicators

With nearly two decades of Communications experience, Jenny’s journey began when she first graduated from SFU’s Communication program. As a Richmond BC native, Jenny was curious to discover her roots as her parents immigrated from Finland to Canada in the 70s. “I left my first job out of SFU and went travelling across Europe for a few months and ended up in Finland and started looking for work while discovering my roots.” Jenny succeeded in her job search despite repeating the same one outfit for all four interviews. “I only had backpacking clothes and not much money so the one pair of black pants and black blazer I bought from H&M was going to have to work.” She got the job at Nokia and joined their communications team and got to launch products all around the world, “it was a dream job, and I spent a lot of timing traveling as well as honing the craft of communications in that role.” Eight years down the line, Jenny was offered an opportunity to lead a team in Silicon Valley and later had an opportunity to work at Microsoft when they acquired Nokia’s devices and services business and that’s where she’s been working ever since.

This year, Jenny became a member of the FCAT Dean’s Advisory Board Council where she is focused on building – and learning from – the next generation of leaders. “This was an opportunity for me to share back what I’ve learned over the years and also get insight into the next generation of communications professionals.” 

Why did you pursue a degree in Communication?

I went to SFU to study business because I wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps. In my second semester, I sat in Communications 110 lecture for 45 minutes. Dr Donald Gutstein talked about media, power, story, and influence and I was hooked. It was in those 45 minutes that I decided to change my major and that’s when the path changed for me, and I’ve been one that path ever since.

When you were completing your degree, Communication was in Applied Sciences at SFU. Do you think it helped you break into the Tech industry?

I don’t think so because the way I broke into tech was through our Communications Co-op program. It was an accident because the last Co-op placement I did before graduating was a non-profit that invested in the commercialization of technology by BC-based inventors. I applied to the job because it sounded both interesting and scary at the same time. And I got it. That’s how I fell into tech, and I haven’t looked back.

Looking back on your time at SFU, is there anything you would do differently?

I wish I would have spoken up more, and specifically debated and challenged more. I was a quiet student, took notes, was very diligent, good at listening, showed up to all the classes and lectures. I wish I would have recognized in that moment, as a student at SFU, I had a safe and encouraging space to practice those important skills. I didn’t realize that until I got out of SFU and they’re things I’m still working on.

How has the Communication industry evolved since you began your career?

Maybe I'll start with language that was part of my day-to-day work back then. Press release, mass media, newspaper, physical press kit - those are things I don't hear much of these days. Communications has evolved into a much more strategic discipline where on our best days we're not seen as a discipline where communications people simply take a message that's given to them and amplify it in different ways, but instead we're more central to what organizations do. Especially in tough times, we're at the table (or virtual table) driving strategy and decision-making.

How do you handle mistakes? Do you have any advice on how you process those moments?

I make mistakes and my mistakes feel bigger now because of the job that I’m in and they’re more expensive to be honest. If my gut tells me that a mistake matters, then I would raise it, own it, and then find a way to fix it. Because if you don’t the mistakes would get bigger. Mistakes can be good because you get to learn from them and build more trust with people when you’re open about them.

Where do you think the study of Communications is headed in the next 10 years?

I really love this question. I can’t predict the future and one thing that we know for sure is that we don’t know. So how do we prepare communications professionals to thrive knowing that we don’t know? I think it’s the softer skills that need a little bit more investment than hard skills like learning platform A, platform B and various programs. As a communicator you need to understand where information (and disinformation) is, how it’s shared, and how people absorb it. Also, being able to practice agility, empathy, curiosity, and diplomacy will make us better.