Jen Hankee

August 19, 2006
Posted in interviews
August 19, 2006 Terkel

We immediately had a similarity with Jen when we sat down at our business office, aka Starbucks. She took a 3 1/2 month road trip in an RV when she graduated college too! Unfortunately that road didn’t lead her to her true passion, but she learned a lot along the way. These lessons later gave her the courage to leap head first into what eventually would become her career.

Her story begins at Purdue University where she studied Communication. From there she furthered her education at the Illinois Art Institute-Chicago. There she found reward in having a finished product at the end of the day. Growing up, her engineer dad designing dream homes in his spare time. Her mom was creative too, always making something special out of nothing in particular. Jen put the two together and developed an interest in interior design. But when it came time for college (the first time) she was discouraged from pursuing design because she felt that she would have to be a brilliant artist and that there wasn’t much money in it. Her lack of knowledge of what interior design really consisted of led her down an HR career path after Purdue.

She didn’t dislike her HR positions, but after about six years she felt she had to do something else rather than show up for work and go through the motions. She started to take notice of the things she really enjoyed doing and remembered the things she had seen her parents enjoy. She looked around the room, took notice of her surroundings and realized that she had to see her interior design dreams through. She signed up for interior design school within two days. She knew that interior design didn’t pay well, but took a leap of faith, deciding that even a small reward was worth the risk.

She would soon realize that a number of her pre-conceived notions about interior design were not accurate. She found that designing includes a lot of work with auto CAD. She also learned that it was more architectural based than she had known. Being artistic was not nearly as important as being detail oriented and organized, two of her strongest skills. She loved what she was doing and after two and a half more years of school, she accepted a position with a hospitality design firm in Chicago.

She has worked on hotel projects in downtown Chicago, Florida and Virginia, as well as condos in Jamaica. She is motivated by what each project brings. She loves going to work every day and feels accomplished by seeing a project go from the drawing board to life. All because she took the time to put two and two together and take a risk in the pursuit of happiness.

She advises students to, “try not to get pushed into things because they seem like the right thing for someone else or because it is what you think you are suppose to do. Take the time to constructively figure yourself out. Mark what motivates you, note those times you are most content with and what it is you are doing when those moments pass. Write down the things you are good at, verbalize your characteristics and then talk to people about these things to see how you can translate them into a career. Most importantly don’t be afraid to try anything or to fail. You might just accidentally bump into your passion while trying.”