Jenn Holtz is a natural networker and someone I’ve interacted with off and on for years. She’s been involved in a range of telecommunications, national security and cybersecurity, and broadband infrastructure and funding matters over the course of her career, and Jenn recently took a new job as Vice President Regulatory Affairs at JSI which is in Greenbelt, Maryland. JSI has greatly expanded its portfolio of regulatory, engineering, and financial services to offer complete business advisory services to small and rural telecommunications clients. Among other things, Jenn is riding the wave of broadband grant and infrastructure work coming out of APRA and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. I was delighted we could highlight Jenn this month.
Q. What attracted you to the field of communications?
A. As a kid, my dream jobs were to be an actress, a politician, and a flight attendant.
Studying political communications and electronic media at George Washington University, I learned about the then-delayed digital TV transition. I was fascinated by the fact that there were rules and policies governing communications and found my field! I also had an incredible internship during my senior year of college at the FCC’s International Bureau, working for Linda Dubroof. I loved every minute of it. Then, I taught English in Japan after college through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme and I had a Japanese cell phone with incredible functionality, and that’s when I knew I definitely wanted to work in the telecom law & policy sector.
Q. Have things unfolded in your career more or less the way you planned?
A. Not at all. While many of the people I’ve met in the field say they fell into it, this was something I knew that I wanted to do. I did a number of unusual things between college and graduate school but before law school, including political consulting at Glover Park Group working on several major communications company mergers. I also interned at CTIA, CTA, and Google; however, graduating from law school in 2008 during a terrible economy presented obstacles to working in the field. Nevertheless, I persisted and started to work on BTOP grants and state broadband mapping at e-Copernicus and moved on from there to Booz Allen, NTIA, a law firm, and the FCC. I am grateful for each opportunity as collectively they’ve led me to where I am now.
Q. What’s the most interesting or challenging thing that you’ve done in your current position?
A. Working directly with small and rural carriers, I have a newfound appreciation for all the challenges they face trying to close the digital divide and serve their customers in the country’s most remote areas. JSI has opened my eyes to how difficult it is for smaller providers to service their customers, add new customers, and easily comply with the myriad of state and federal regulations imposed on them. On a side note I would like to see Congress make broadband subsidy and grant programs easier to navigate for would-be awardees, incentivizing inter-agency MOUs, but I digress.
Q. Is or was there something interesting or someone who surprised or impressed you during your career and why?
A. I remember being surprised at how collegial members of the bar are with each other even though they may be on opposite sides of a particular issue at any given time. That’s what I love about the FCBA. Despite our business differences, our members are always there for one another, no matter which side of the aisle.
I have been so fortunate to have several mentors from the bar, and I am so impressed with each of their careers and dedication to helping grow future generations. I would not be here today without the support and mentorship of Kris Monteith, Deborah Jordan, Jeffrey Carlisle, Jamie Barnett, Jennifer Richter, Rudy Brioché, Chris McLean, Bryan Tramont, Tricia Paoletta, Rick Whitt, and Jennifer Manner. Each has played such a vital role in both my personal and professional development.
Q. What do you enjoy reading?
A. I enjoy a mix of genres and authors. On the non-fiction side, I like to read stories about defectors from North Korea or those who lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution. I also enjoy some business books, such as Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration; Hack Your Bureaucracy; Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World; What Got you here Won’t get you there. On the fiction side of the house, I love medical mysteries, including those by Michael Palmer and now his son Dan, or political or espionage thrillers by Vince Flynn.
Q. Can you share your perspective on the pitfalls to avoid or other career advice for those who are just getting started in the communications field?
A. One of the biggest lessons I learned early on is not to ask the person you are meeting for a job. Asking for a job puts unnecessary pressure on the encounter and can dissuade the person from being motivated to help you. A more effective approach is to treat networking as the building block for long-term professional relationships, which will happen over multiple conversations over time. To begin with, think about what can you learn during your informational interview. Such as:
• How did this person get started in the field?
• What challenges did they face? How did they overcome them?
• What advice do they have for a recent graduate?
• What kinds of issues or matters did they work on after law school?
• What trade publications, blogs, or webinars do they suggest you read or watch to stay current?
• What types of opportunities should you consider?
• Can they provide any feedback on your resume? Can they suggest anyone else you should talk to?
And lastly, and most importantly, always, always, always offer to be of assistance. How can you possibly add value to the relationship? Even if you can’t help the person right now, always look for a way to add value. Can you facilitate an introduction? Can you invite them to be a speaker at your school? Can you share an article that might be of interest?
One option is to set a Google news alert with their name. Maybe they win an award or are quoted in the news. This is the perfect opportunity to follow up and send a brief congratulatory note while staying on their radar.
Even if you don’t share anything with them, send a thank you email within 24 hours, recapping the meetings, noting any follow-up items, and thanking them for their time. And be sure to follow up again, letting them know you followed their advice!
I share more advice about networking in an article I wrote that you can read here.
Q. What is something interesting about you that people are not generally aware of that you’re willing to share?
A. I successfully advocated for my graduate school, the London School of Economics (LSE), to go smoke-free. After meeting with professors in their offices while they were smoking or walking through clouds of smoke to enter academic buildings, I started a coalition of students and local health organizations, including the Royal College of Physicians and the British Medical Association, and presented a proposal for a smoke-free LSE to the Director. Within a year, LSE released a consultation to solicit student, faculty, and staff feedback on the proposal. One year later, LSE went smoke-free. This was significantly easier than trying to get Daytona Beach to pass a smoke-free restaurant ordinance in the 90s!
Q. How has your life changed as a result of COVID-19?
A. I am an extrovert by nature, but I’ve become much more introverted. I spend more time at home and am much less comfortable traveling. Because it was nearly two years before I saw my family, I now prioritize seeing them more often.
Q. How long have you been an FCBA member, and what to you is the value of FCBA membership?
A. I joined the FCBA when I was finishing graduate school in 2004. After being in California and London for graduate school and then writing my dissertation in Florida, I needed to find a way to explore the DC job market in the communications policy space. I found the FCBA and reached out to members for informational interviews. I wanted to learn about the communications law field in DC and explore the jobs I might be qualified to do.
Fast forward a few months, I found myself at a formal dinner with nearly 2,000 communications attorneys, not knowing anyone other than one or two people from my college internship at the FCC. It was utterly mortifying, but I stepped out of my comfort zone to try to connect face-to-face with those I had talked to by phone, using the then highly coveted printed map of sponsored tables. Eighteen years later, the Annual FCBA Dinner is one of my favorite events, and I am so excited to see everyone in person this year.
In addition to helping me explore the communications law field through hundreds of informational interviews, I attended as many CLEs as possible while working at the Glover Park Group between graduate school and law school. I even volunteered to judge the moot court competition before going to law school.
In sum, the FCBA has given me a solid education in many facets of our industry and provided an invaluable network of mentors, friends, and colleagues. There’s really no downside and lots of upside to FCBA membership and participation.