Crystals. A drawer full of herbal remedies. And a half-eaten avocado.
It might sound like the checkout counter at a health food store, but it’s just Jess’ typical desk accessories at EF Education First’s Toronto office.
“EF has made me feel confident in who I am by allowing and encouraging me to always be me,” says Jess. “I’m not the typical ‘corporate girl.’ I have crystals on my desk, I have herbal remedies in my desk and probably avocado on my keyboard, but I’m never asked to change. EF has always asked me to bring my passions in and use them as strengths.”
As a Manager of Customer Loyalty Programs for EF Educational Tours in Canada, Jess creates and drives initiatives that support sales teams in building long-term relationships with teachers who take their students on tour.
“My role is to make our customers feel part of the EF family and to feel supported, valued and proud of what they do through the loyalty programs we have in place,” explains Jess.
Before jumping into customer loyalty, Jess spent seven years as a Tour Consultant building relationships with teachers in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. She’s worked in both EF’s Montreal and Toronto offices during her almost-eight-year tenure with the company.
“The opportunity to transfer to Montreal forever changed my life,” says Jess. “When the opportunity came to expand my skills and career by moving to Toronto, I was encouraged. I took it and trusted that I was in the right place.”
Some of Jess’ favorite EF moments have happened on the road while she was traveling with tour groups and visiting teachers and students in their classrooms.
“I’m very proud of the work done alongside teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador to make student travel with EF such a school tradition across the province,” she says. “I’m from Georgian Bay…and I know what it’s like to grow up in a small town. I’m so proud of the work these teachers do to help show their students the world and expand their horizons.”
As a 6’1” teenager in Georgian Bay, Jess was involved in all kinds of sports and dance activities. She also studied diplomacy and several languages throughout high school: French, Spanish, and some Russian, Italian and Arabic. She was eventually recruited to play volleyball at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and went on to become the school’s Junior Female Athlete of the Year and an ESPN Academic All-Star.
Jess had her sights set on playing professionally, but after dislocating her knee cap twice in her final year of school, her course shifted. She leaned into her newfound sense of spirituality and her belief that everything happens for a reason, and redirected her focus toward two other key interests she had already been developing alongside her athletic pursuits: traveling and international development.
Her on-campus work with a non-governmental organization out of Washington, D.C., was followed by an offer to intern with the UN in Tajikistan. Jess decided to jump in with both feet. She picked up her life in New Jersey and set out for a new adventure. Going from a daily life of studying and playing volleyball in New Jersey to being immersed in a completely new place and language was shocking at first.
“I had moved my life from Canada to the U.S. and that was fine, but when you move completely outside your comfort zone it’s a whirlwind,” says Jess. “Then I started to put myself out there. I met other people and discovered a country I never even knew existed.”
Jess later spent a month near the border of Afghanistan working as a program analyst, translating reports into English. She was the only woman and the only person from another country in the office.
But as she embarked on this life-changing experience, Jess fell ill and her health only continued to decline. She was falling in love with her new home but had to make the difficult choice to return to North America and focus on getting better.
“I had a complete epiphany that no matter what you do in life, your health and your mindset are number one,” says Jess, who worked with youth NGOs, did community outreach and even dabbled in modeling when she returned to Canada—all while trying to figure out how to resolve her health issues.
After a long string of appointments, Jess saw a holistic nutritionist and within six months of overhauling her diet, all her symptoms disappeared. She started practicing yoga, and went on to become certified in both holistic nutrition and as a yoga teacher.
“It’s interesting to look back and see how your path was redirected for a reason,” says Jess. “I decided I was going to take [what happened to me] and use it.”
Now, Jess says working at EF has allowed her to merge all her passions. She leads healthy living-themed talks at EF Toronto and teaches yoga in the office, in addition to her work building relationships with Canadian teachers who Jess calls “some of the coolest, most selfless people.” She was even presented with one of EF’s core value awards a few years ago for a very fitting company core value she embodies: passion.
“There is a certain feeling to an EF office,” she notes. “Everyone is very open, curious and adventurous. It doesn’t feel like work; it’s like a home.”