You Should Know… Jessika Portney

Photo courtesy of Jessika Portney

Jessika Portney is on a journey that she says has taken her from “bossy and bubbly little girl” to “confident and engaging woman leader.” After working in a leadership position at the Brookings Institution, Portney, 34, started a leadership coaching business, Journey On, to show other women how it’s done.

Has the need for leadership coaches increased during the pandemic?

The need for leadership coaches has exploded. I think that people have all of a sudden had their personal and professional lives completely blurred, especially women who serve the roles as caretakers and caregivers. Having that sense of work-life balance has been particularly challenging for women during the pandemic. I would say that, on the other hand, it’s also been such an opportunity for women to say “I don’t actually have to work for an organization. I could actually go out on my own and become an entrepreneur.”

Why the name Journey On?

I’ve realized through my work in leadership development that there really isn’t that much of a distinction between our personal and professional journeys. We are who we are and how we show up at work is very much tied to our own self-discovery and our own growth as human beings. The name Journey On is because when someone comes to work with me, we’ll just be walking a chapter of that journey together.

Do you have one main idea that your coaching is based on?

My work with women helps them fully recognize their inherent wisdom and knowledge as a woman. In a lot of ways through this patriarchal society, that’s really shut down in a lot of spaces. Women are not encouraged to bring our feminine wisdom into the spaces that are very male dominated. A lot of what I’m helping women do is to trust themselves, is to believe in themselves, to not feel that they have to conform to anybody else’s expectations or views on what leadership looks like, and to really define their own leadership style based on their unique strengths.

What is your process when you get a new client?

I pool from a lot of different frames of leadership methodology, as well as my own work within my own spiritual development and my own personal journey. I have this toolbox from which I’m able to pool based on what that client really needs. I would say that my process begins with exploration where we really try to understand who you are, what motivates you, what gets you excited and when have you really felt like your best self.

What’s the most rewarding part of this job for you?

I had a woman that I worked with from an organization here in D.C. who was coming to me to work on her confidence and her leadership style. Through our conversations, we discovered that she was not able to bring her full self to her job, and her job was not allowing her to build on her strengths and do the type of work that she wanted to do. Throughout our journey together, she actually left her organization and has started her own business.

Watching that business take shape has been just so incredible. We had our closing session together this week and hearing about the confidence that she has now, that she’s doing something that ignites that passion in her and allows her to be her full self was so incredibly rewarding.

What role does your Jewish identity play into this?

The idea that we are here on this earth right here, right now. We’re not waiting until we die to be forgiven for our sins. It’s what we do every day that matters. I would also say that the concept of tikkun olam has certainly influenced my coaching as well, which is the idea that it’s the little pieces that are putting things back together to make this world a better place. The women that I am working with feel a sense of higher purpose in the world, so they’re doing work that they find is meaningful to make the world a better place.

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