12 questions for Cooney Waters Unlimited EVP (and ultramarathoner) Julia Jackson

The Cooney Waters EVP explains how she stays sane despite waking up at 4:45 a.m. and commuting two hours to work - not to mention running marathons and the occasional ultramarathon.

Morning ritual
An early riser, I wake up at 4:45 a.m., pet and feed the cat (Frankie), and put on my sneakers for a run. I usually run about 5 to 8 miles in the morning on the boardwalk next to the Atlantic Ocean. I live in Long Branch, New Jersey, and it’s a close-knit community. I see the same cast of characters on my daily run, including a group of 60-year-old women. If I don’t see them, I’ll grow concerned.

Once I get home, I check the news looking specifically for client-relevant issues that may need to be addressed. I’m back out the door at the train station in 39 minutes. My routine is short because I prepare everything in advance. I schedule coffee to brew the night before. On Sunday, I make all my meals and lay out my clothes for the week.

I leave the house and get on a train to Penn Station. I haven’t taken the subway in years, and prefer the 15-minute walk to my office in Flatiron. That time is my transition period when I think about the client schedule for the day ahead and our team so I can arrive ready to attack the day.  I then check in with clients to close loops and with the team to recognize special life events, such as birthdays, or patting some of them on the back for a job well done.

First app checked in the morning
Facebook to check on what my family and friends are up to; Twitter to check the latest news.

Do you consider yourself a ‘supercommuter?’
Absolutely. My commute takes, on average, two hours. I’ve been doing it since college. As technology has evolved, I’ve used it to my advantage. I get a lot of work done on my commute via my iPad, which is loaded with client files. I conduct internal calls from the train and am accessible to my clients.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve figured out a seasonal strategy. During the "on" season, when people travel to the shore, I avoid the crowds by starting my commute a bit later than I do during the colder months, and I avoid the Friday afternoon crush at all costs.

How do you pass the time during a two-hour commute?
Very productively. Reading helps to clear my head. Sometimes I’ll take a 15-minute nap. But, I’m mostly working.

Secret for having a two-hour commute and staying sane
Accept the factors outside of your control. Some days, the commute won’t go as planned. I was once stuck on the train for more than four hours and gave away my only granola bar to a pregnant lady who looked a little peaked. But, there was no point in getting worked up about it. On days when there’s inclement weather or construction, I choose to work from home.

One thing that would surprise people about healthcare comms
People often perceive healthcare PR as an area that lacks creativity because the industry is heavily regulated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, stringent regulation makes us think outside the box and become extremely creative, and we have to work harder at it than some of the other industry sectors do.

Book you’re reading
"The Things We Keep" by Sally Hepworth

First professional mentor
I had a creative writing professor my junior year in college who encouraged me to write a novel. He taught me to be fearless in my thinking and brave enough to share it with others.

Business hero
Paul Newman, because he was the first to create highly sought-after products that give back. This was groundbreaking and the beginning of corporate social responsibility.

Richard Branson, because he puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to recognizing employees. He understands the importance of human contributions and individualism and that leads to happier employees. Teams that are happy and work well together can accomplish great things.

Favorite TV pleasure
Modern Family, Yankees postseason baseball, Redskins football.

Explain what you do at Cooney Waters in layman’s terms
We create communications programs that reach healthcare providers and consumers where they are looking for information to help them to make better healthcare decisions. I serve as counsel to clients and staff on a daily basis. My day is never boring and can range from strategic planning of new healthcare campaigns, leading client meetings, developing new business proposals, to counseling clients on issues affecting their brands.

Of all the hobbies out there, why run marathons?
Marathon running didn’t start out as a hobby; it started as a challenge. Once I completed the first challenge, I realized that I could do better. Training for me is about personal growth, not the physical effects, but the emotional and intellectual changes.

During a 20-mile run, I once put together a $3 million strategic plan from start to execution. I thought it out during the run on Sunday, and wrote it up in the office on Monday.

Running teaches me perseverance, helps relieve stress, and helps me be mindful. It’s an opportunity to think through strategy, but also my daily interactions with my colleagues and clients. An added plus is that I see so many things that I would otherwise miss, such as butterflies, leaves changing, and untouched snowflakes. I ran my first 50-mile ultramarathon last November in 11 hours. I am looking forward to the challenge of cutting an hour off that time this year.

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