25 Jun
Posted in: Life, Profiles
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10 questions with Jenn Pedde, community strategist at 2U and co-founder of #cmgrchat

This Q&A is the 15th in a series of profiles on my blog. What’s the criteria, you ask? I think you’re cool and want to ask you questions. Jenn’s tweet about a job opening at her company led me to my job at 2tor, so now she gets the pleasure of working with me 40-plus hours a week. I affectionately call her my favorite crazy person because there are few things in life she isn’t willing to do — and she’s already done so much, it’s ridiculous.

I’m going to do an impression of you: “Go, Syracuse! Yay, Otto! I love basketball and things that are orange!” (Pretty good, right?) But seriously, what is it with this school?

Best impression ever.

Syracuse is the most productive cult you’ll ever come across. Honestly, I guarantee you there’s a Syracuse grad in every office across America. And if for some strange reason there isn’t, someone in that office is friends with a Syracuse grad. I swear that school has 10 million alumni.

Ya know, I don’t really know what it is. SU has something around 17,000 students for both undergrad and grad, which isn’t terribly big, but when you all huddle together for warmth during the snowy months of… October through April, you form some really great bonds with a bunch of really great people. It becomes an extremely tight-knit community that lasts a lifetime. It’s a creative environment, die-hard powerhouse sports school (football, LAX, and basketball), internationally exciting, and the alumni stick together and excel in every industry. When your mascot is a fun-loving giant orange, it’s hard not to have anything but love for the place.

You’re also passionate about boats, Apple products and “Walking Dead” zombies. What else gets you fired up (good or bad)?

All true. And I also love, love, love aquariums. Which leads to my love of dolphins. If you were interviewing 10-year-old me, she would be telling you that she would grow up to be a dolphin trainer.

On the flip side, and you’ll hate this, Erica, but I also really hate 98% of all reality television. I think it’s degrading American culture, and negatively impacting the world since we syndicate everything to international locations. I don’t think Real Housewives, The Bachelor, or the Jersey Shore are accurate (or positive) representations of Americans and it makes me sad knowing that generations of kids here and elsewhere grow up thinking that these are role models. Some know it’s mindless entertainment, but most are too influenced by its lack of substance.

Do you have any fears or phobias?

Generally speaking, no. Who has the time? I’m that little kid who used to run around a pool like an idiot and accidentally falls in the deep end and needs to figure out how not to drown. Life’s too short to be afraid of anything. Take life by the horns… seize the day… do dumb things… figure it out, and laugh a lot along the way. You’ll have excellent stories to tell when it’s all over.

You love to travel. If, right this second, you had no obligations at work or home — and an unlimited budget — where do you go, and why?

My brain just exploded. So many options, so little time.

Really though, I’d be on the first Cathay Pacific plane (first class, of course) to Hong Kong, no questions asked. I just really feel at home in Asia, because you can’t step outside your front door without it being a new adventure.

Though, if I had an unlimited budget, I would never stay in just one place. I’d be off to places like the Philippines, or Indonesia or the Maldives and become a scuba instructor. I’d make my way around the world for the rest of my days.

You recently wrote a post about 30 things to do before you turn 30. You’ve already accomplished an obscene amount of things. What’s next in the near future?

I like to think that I’ve done more in my (almost) 30 years than people do in their entire lives. That being said, I’m not sure what my future holds. Probably silly little things like skydiving, getting a scuba license or learning to sail. Really though, nothing I do is ever planned. Someone tells me a cool story, an idea usually hits me, or an opportunity arises and I jump at the chance to do whatever it is. My philosophy is constant entertainment and self-improvement, so because of that I say no to very few things. Life is very much about the story you get to tell and the people that are in it.

You’ve eaten live octopus, swam with giant lobsters, accidentally lit yourself on fire and your favorite instrument is the banjo. What else would people be surprised to learn about you?

I really do tell you too many things. ;)

Let’s see… there’s the simple stuff like the fact that I have three tattoos and am working on the fourth. Or the random time I went blind after a dumb bike accident as a kid for, like, 8 hours (Don’t worry though — 20/20 vision today!) Or there was this one time that I had my passport stolen on a two-day trip to Tokyo, and wound up spending a week on tour with Simon & Garfunkel thanks to an amazing friend. That’s my favorite random thing to tell.

Who’s been your biggest influencer/mentor/role model? Doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you know personally.

Well, truth be told, I grew up in a fairly emotionally/physically abusive household until I was about 14. It was OK most of the time, but when it wasn’t, it was really, really bad. I never talk about it because the past is the past, but I’ve always looked up to my mom for finally getting us out of such a bad situation. So many women stay in abusive relationships and never have the courage to leave. I’m glad she did for both her sake and mine.

Ever since then, I haven’t had a true mentor. I’d like one though… so if anyone’s in the market for one, let me know! I tend to learn something from everyone I come across, whether it’s big or small. I’m interested in the choices people make and how they go through the process of making decisions, and I always learn the most from people who push me. For instance, Kelly Lux forced me onto Twitter, which was life-changing in 1,000 different ways.

Who’s the coolest person you’ve ever met, and why?

Oh man, this one’s tough. I got pranked once by Chad Kroeger from Nickelback when I was an intern at K-Rock… I’ve met Jay-Z a handful of times and he’s actually a really nice guy… I helped Scott Baio out of a building once when he and Wayne from “The Wonder Years” got lost in my office… but one of my favorite memories, oddly enough, was being on stage with Bon Jovi at Giants Stadium in New Jersey with two of my best friends during a crazy thunder and lightning storm in 2007. Not safe, but totally awesome.

You’ve been called “the community manager’s community manager,” and you recently transitioned to a role that might be just that. Tell us a little more about it.

Haha, yes — Mashable called me that earlier this year from all the stuff we do with #CmgrChat and TheCommunityManager.com, which was really cool for me. It’s been an epic couple of years with those projects. I learn something from everyone in these communities daily, and it’s a good thing, too, because a month ago I became 2U’s “Community Strategist.” What that means, is that I’m figuring out ways to get our students in our online programs at USC, UNC, Georgetown and WashU more active in those university communities. In order to do that, I’m putting together ambassador programs, useful webinars, offline meetups and thinking more about what we can offer in the way of communication. I’m just starting out, but I think I’ve got my work cut out for me!

Where can people find you online, both personally and professionally?

Everywhere. All the time. I love chatting about anything.

@JPedde / @TheCmgr

www.jennpedde.com / www.TheCommunityManager.com