Published: July 30, 2021 By

Our latest faculty spotlight is on MENV's Career Coach, Jana Sanchez. Jana has been helping companies and leaders get results for more than 20 years, with an extensive background in organizational management, marketing and facilitation. On an individual coaching level, Jana specializes in helping people magnify what they’re passionate about and connecting them to resources and people. She will serve both as coach and the instructor for the Capstone Innovation Lab (CIL) and Capstone Leadership Lab (CLL) courses this fall.

Tell us a bit about your background. How did you become a professional coach?

jana sanchez headshotIt wasn’t something I set out become. I’m a Stage Manger by early training. That means I spent a lot of time managing the product development cycle that is putting on a play, and doing it in tight timeframes with small budgets. It’s a stress inducing environment. There are a huge number of people and personalities involved in every production, and navigating those challenges gave me tremendous insight into how people operate, what they need to feel valued, and where gaps in communication existed.

When I left theatre and moved into the corporate world, I was usually in charge of managing interns for whatever company I was working for at the time. Helping interns understand how to navigate a professional environment came naturally and soon I was being put in charge of teams of new employees. I spent almost as much time coaching them on their careers as I did teaching them how to do their jobs! As my career evolved, I had more opportunities to coach on higher levels within organizations. Eventually, people started paying me to coach them.


What is your approach to coaching? What makes you stand out as a coach?

I take a very outcomes-based approach to coaching. For coaching to be valuable to an individual, they need to feel that not only were their immediate needs addressed but understand where this challenge fits into the larger picture of their goals and dreams. Helping people grow into that gap between present and future is something that drives me. I’m also practical and results focused because I’m aware of how time crunched life is for grad students. 


What are the most important professional skills you have developed that would be valuable for MENV students?

Communication is my top strength. And for MENV students, my ability to wade through a lot of words and help tease out the most concise and powerful way to talk about skills and accomplishments is something I hope all of you will take advantage of. I’m also a great resource for understanding team dynamics and conflict so your capstone teams run smoothly.


What should incoming students start thinking about now regarding professional development and/or career planning?

Start collecting job descriptions that really interest you. Looking at what skill sets are common to all the job descriptions can help you focus on what classes you’ll need and opportunities you should take advantage of as you go through the program. It’ll also help you narrow down who you should focus on networking with to develop relationship with companies.


What should second year students start thinking about now regarding professional development and/or career planning?

Filling skills gaps for your ideal job and networking with people in similar positions or within companies that hire that position. Building a solid network now will really help in your job search.


What is something people may not know about you?

I’m a huge geek. I read sci-fi and fantasy, and know more about comics than the average middle-aged mom. I’m also a klutz and will usually have a bruise somewhere on me from running into something. I was a swimmer growing up because you can’t fall down in the water.