I had the opportunity to meet virtually with Jenny Prime, who is currently the Senior Director for regulatory affairs for Cox Enterprises. I’ve long had great admiration for the company, as in years past while at Dow Lohnes & Albertson I’d helped Cox Communications take its first steps into the telecom and wireless services space. So it was great to hear more about Jenny’s experience leading up to and including her eight years (so far) at Cox. In her role, Jenny helps to develop and implement the company’s public policy strategy and she also work closely with Cox Communications, Cox Automotive and its new ventures on relevant regulatory issues.
Q. What attracted you to the field of communications?
A. Before law school I had a variety of experiences from working on a feature film, to helping produce the morning news for a CBS affiliate, to exploring digital art. I am from Indiana originally and I attended the Indiana University Maurer School of Law back when it hosted the Federal Communications Law Journal (FCLJ). I ended up taking Fred Cate’s Communications Law class and working on the FCLJ. I was definitely interested in communications law after that pivotal semester. However, the driving force for me was finding a public interest job. I would have taken a public interest job in another field, but I was lucky enough to find one in communications. After law school I moved to Washington for a fellowship at Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation (IPR). I found a wonderful mentor in Angela Campbell, who taught me how to advocate before the FCC, FTC and before appellate courts. I also made some of my closest friends during the fellowship and along the way they have helped guide my career.
Q. Have things unfolded in your career more or less the way you planned?
A. No. I thought I’d only be in Washington for two years. And here I am 15 years later … Seriously though, I didn’t have a detailed plan for my career other than making sure I was doing interesting work that challenged me, progressing in my career, and working with people I enjoy. Thankfully communications law and policy weren’t lacking in opportunities in any of these areas. After IPR, I was able to find challenge, professional growth, and great colleagues at the FCC in the Wireline Competition Bureau. I enjoyed transitioning every couple of years to a new division within WCB or another challenge at the FCC. And now at Cox, I enjoy having a broad communications portfolio, including tackling new issues in the automotive space, and I work with a great team, including FCBA President-Elect Barry Ohlson.
Q. What’s an interesting or challenging thing that you’ve done in your current position?
A. In my first few years at Cox, I went to Phoenix, Arizona for a Cox Connect2Compete event. Connect2Compete is Cox’s low-cost internet solution for families with school-aged children who are enrolled in certain assistance programs. The event was held in a sunny courtyard of a community primarily comprised of people relocating and resettling in the U.S. Cox had partnered with an organization that day to provide a free desktop or laptop. I spent the day watching people go from having no broadband connection to learning how to set up a desktop and connect their devices to Wi-Fi so that they had communications options. It was empowering to spend a day being a champion for digital equality, see instant results, and hear kids so excited about getting a computer.
Q. Is there was something interesting or someone who surprised or impressed you during your career and why?
A. All along the way in my career, it’s been the generosity of senior leaders that has surprised me the most in terms of their willingness to take time, to listen and to mentor me. This has been true at the FCC and at Cox. I’ve never had a leader that I admire turn down my request for help or mentorship.
Q. What do you enjoy reading?
A. I generally enjoy reading historical nonfiction. But I have a two-year-old and a 9-month-old so I’m mostly reading children’s books and nonsense poems these days. My favorite children’s book right now is the Boy Who Spoke to the Earth. It’s about a boy searching for happiness with the Earth showing him the way. He rushes through the landscapes too quickly and can’t see happiness. The illustrations in the book are lovely, and the book itself reminds me to slow down, linger and enjoy the moment.
Q. Can you share perspective on the pitfalls to avoid or other career advice for those who are just getting started in the communications field?
A. I can only offer what has worked well for me and that is doing the work at hand, while treating people with respect. That has always served me well. I haven’t found a substitute for putting in the time and doing the hard work. Beyond that, making the conscious choice to venture outside of your comfort zone and to collaborate with others, and providing direct feedback can build trust, confidence, and a network you can tap into for career advice. It’s also critical to figure out how to recharge and take the time off to do it.
I’d also say it’s good to “mix it up” in the sense that different jobs provide different perspectives and growth opportunities. As I look back at my time at the FCC, my work and that of others was more often than not as a subject matter expert, while at Cox I get involved in a wide range of issues where it is just not possible to delve so deeply. There’s value in learning to operate and thrive in both environments.
Q. What something interesting about you the people are not generally aware of that you’re willing to share?
A. Well, years ago I used to blow glass. However, now I’m the president of my local civic association. Check it out: U Street Neighborhood Association (ustreetcommunity.org). I grew up in a very small town and find myself trying to bring some attributes of a small town – like the sense of community, getting involved with a variety of people, and being a resource for others – with me. The civic association allows me to do those by connecting with a diverse set of neighbors, businesses, learning about city resources, and creating spaces for people to gather and learn.
Q. How has your life changed as a result of COVID-19?
A. The pandemic has affected people unevenly, so I do have to remind myself to consider where others are coming from and the challenges that they face. This can add much more grace to my day.
Aside from working from home, dealing with the challenges of pandemic childcare, and not traveling as much, my day-to-day life hasn’t really changed. What has changed is the way I think about things and the ways I connect with people. I’m amazed how quickly we transitioned to remote work and how that’s had some positive effects. In fact, it’s easier for me to connect with colleagues in Atlanta now than it was pre-pandemic. I’m now able to join meetings that would have required a trip to Atlanta or elsewhere, and I’m having random coffees with people at Cox that I likely never would have met. And instead of simply hearing a voice at the other end of the phone, I often see people’s faces which forges deeper connections.
All in all, I am embracing the evolutions these transitional times offer by challenging myself to grow and evolve personally and professionally.
Q. How long have you been an FCBA member and what to you is the value of FCBA membership?
A. I have been an FCBA member for over 15 years. I first joined when I was in law school, and except for a few years, I have been a member ever since. I even found a job through this newsletter’s job bank!
When I think about what I value the most, it must be the members, staff, and the home base the FCBA provides. Regardless of where I have been in my career, the FCBA has given me something I needed. When I first started my career the FCBA offered me a way to meet people who welcomed me. I miss those in-person events! When I needed to learn new things or had experiences to share, FCBA CLEs had me covered. And what I’m looking forward to this year is working with the interns in the FCBA’s Diversity Pipeline Program. So, there’s no one thing about the FCBA that’s valuable, to me, it’s a constellation of things.