All Ideas
October 30, 2012 | Linda Kay Klein

Changing Careers: Take Your Expertise With You

Name: Ruthie Ackerman
City: New York City
Job Title: Senior Consultant, Global Philanthropy at the JPMorgan Chase Foundation

Today we’re excited to hear about a day in the life of a mover and a shaker in corporate philanthropy. Prior to joining the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Ruthie Ackerman was an award-winning journalist who focused on women, wealth, and politics. She traveled and worked in countries such as Liberia, Russia, and Lebanon as well as closer to home. Ruthie’s proudest work-related moment was writing a story for Slate about how young people in the Middle East reacted to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s visit to Lebanon in 2010, and the dream she just won’t let die is writing a memoir. Today, Ruthie uses all this expertise to help develop communications and social media strategy for a Foundation that donates over $150 million annually to make a difference in communities globally.

How would you describe your work?
I’m a senior consultant in Global Philanthropy at the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, which means every day is different. I do a bit of everything: from helping to ensure our Facebook and Twitter messaging is timely and relevant, to helping to implement our crowd-powered philanthropy initiative, Chase Community Giving. This is not a 9-5 job: Our team is often emailing late into the night to hash out program details, and during the launch periods we tend to have all-night meetings to make sure everything is running smoothly before we go public. Right now we are focused on the American Giving Awards, where 25 past Chase Community Giving grant recipients, will be showcased on NBC on Dec. 8. A lot of hard work—and energy—go into making sure these programs are a success!

What qualities would an individual need to do the work that you do? 
A sense of humor, patience, great communication skills, and the ability to collaborate—EVERYTHING we do is about team work.

Do you have a guiding principle for others who want to do work that you do?
Ask a lot of questions. I transitioned from being a journalist to working in the foundation world. I had written a lot about philanthropy, but working in philanthropy is totally different. My advice is: don’t be afraid to ask; you can’t be an expert at everything. My skill set is in communications, but every day I am expected to jump in on projects that are completely outside of my wheelhouse. Learning new things is part of the challenge—and fun—of any new job. You just have to dive in the deep end and relish it, otherwise you will drown.

Great. Let’s dive into your typical day! 

6:30 AM - My alarm goes off. I hit snooze and linger in bed checking my work and personal emails until 7:00 AM.

7:00 AM If it’s a good day I head to yoga or a spin class before work. Going to the gym helps me feel like a real person before sitting down at my desk for the day. Once I get to work it’s hard to sneak out, even for lunch, so getting my heart rate up first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day and makes me feel like I had some “me” time.

8:30 AM - I arrive at my office and grab a coffee before heading to my desk. I start by planning out my day: making a check list of what needs to get done, checking my email, and checking in with my colleagues. In the corporate foundation world there are tons of meetings so I spend a lot of time preparing for them—reading documents, preparing presentations, and coordinating with colleagues. I try to make sure we are all on the same page and that I understand who will be doing what and when.

10:00-12:00 PM – Work on our Twitter strategy for the American Giving Awards with a colleague. We have to make sure everything is in place before we bring our ideas to the team. The Awards are only 6 weeks away so we have a lot to do on a tight time schedule. 

12:00-12:30 PM - I jump on a call with the team to plan for the show. We make sure we are all on board with everything from the look and feel of the website to coordinating the ticketing for the event to vetting the celebrities, who will give the show its star-power.

1:00-2:00 PM - I listen to a webinar session with Paull Young of charity:water who is speaking to our marketing department about social innovation in the global marketplace. I am amazed by how charity:water has taken a very un-sexy topic—clean water—and made it something that everyone from top celebs to passionate young professionals care about. While listening to the webinar I eat my homemade lunch at my desk. My husband Erik and I cook our lunches for the entire week together so eating my lunch allows me to bring a bit of home with me to the office.

2:00 PM – I email with one of the charities who participated in the Chase Community Giving program. When you are dealing with tens of thousands of charities, it is critical to have open communication and answer any questions that come up. Since I used to work with nonprofits, and even ran my own small organization working with Liberian youth in Staten Island, I understand how much even a small grant can mean.

2:30 PM –I jump on another call to discuss our Facebook posts for the next six weeks. We hash out the content: what important events should we highlight, which charities are doing innovative work that we may want to mention, and what is happening in the news and social media sphere that may be relevant.

3:30-4:30PM - My team meets—in-person this time!—with all of our partners for the American Giving Awards. Our agenda for today is to discuss the red carpet, the social media lounge where bloggers will interview celebrities and charities, and how we will reveal the 25 charities participating in the show to the world.

4:30 PM - I catch up on odds and ends: from helping to plan a launch event for a top women’s funding organization to diving into a report I am putting together on social media recommendations. The fun part of my job is that I am working on many little and big projects all of the time.

6:30 PM - Grab a coffee with Becky Straw, co-founder of The Adventure Project, to catch up and see how I may be able to advise her and the organization going forward. I try to attend networking events or meet with people I admire several times a week to keep myself in-the-know and inspired. I love that living in a place like New York City I get to spend time with amazing women like Becky and watch them grow fantastic organizations that touch so many lives!

8:00 -10:00 PM - I walk in the door and take some time to catch up with Erik about our day. We like to drink tea together before eating a quick dinner. Then we catch up on email and do last-minute work.

10:00 PM - Unwind. Sometimes we read in bed or catch up on a TV show like Battlestar Galactica, our current favorite.

11:15 PM - Last minute check-in on my work email just in case I have to answer a quick question or missed any after-hours developments. If I don’t check my email for even an hour my inbox fills up and I feel totally out of the loop. Even when I’m supposed to be disconnecting I can’t seem to let myself go completely off the grid.

11:30 PM - Time for sleep so I can wake up and do it all again!

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