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Jackie Donovan: “Be hopeful if you have your health and are taking the steps to stay healthy”

History! History shows us that this has happened before and we will get through it. For those that have jobs, it is important to have perspective. There are many out there that have been laid off and are having difficulty finding work. Find the joy in your work and ride the wave. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected […]

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History! History shows us that this has happened before and we will get through it.

For those that have jobs, it is important to have perspective. There are many out there that have been laid off and are having difficulty finding work. Find the joy in your work and ride the wave.


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place. As a part of my series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jackie Donovan, Chief Operating Officer at Pond Lehocky Giordano. She has held that position since 2012. Before that, she served as the firm’s Office Manager/Administrator from its opening in 2010. Under her watch Pond Lehocky Giordano has become one of Pennsylvania’s largest workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania. Jackie is a proud former D1 athlete.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I originally wanted to attend law school. I had a connection to the firm and was interested in getting some legal experience. Through my personal connection I was hired as a legal assistant and lucky enough to start working for Sam Pond. He believed in me, coached me, and pushed me to be my best. When he and the other partners started Pond Lehocky I was offered the opportunity to switch to the business side of the law firm. That is where I fell in love with management and operations. I loved figuring out processes, tweaking them and making things as efficient as possible. This isn’t typical of law firms but that’s what makes Pond Lehocky different — the thought leadership that comes from the top! Further, I was able to get back to being a leader. Starting young, allowed me to learn a lot of mistakes early and continue to grow over the years. Leading is my passion so this was clearly a match.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

At the risk of sounding cliché, the transition to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic was by far one of the most interesting things to happen to me in my tenure. While we were aware of the impending pandemic, the time to make plans and decisions happened quickly as it did for the rest of the country. As a firm that doesn’t have a history of remote work, there was much to be done operationally in preparation for the entire firm to transition to working remotely. At the executive level, we were uncertain what was ahead and how much of an impact it would have on incoming work. Further, it was uncertain what level of slow down would come to fruition and what impact that would have on inventory, capacity, cash flow, etc. It was a new challenge that I found interesting to navigate with some of the smartest people I know. The team came together and was able to accomplish a nearly seamless transition to remote work. In addition, it was especially rewarding to see one of our biggest departments transition to an entirely new workflow to streamline the operation during quarantine. Just when I thought I had seen it all!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are working on moving all of our practice areas from a legacy system to a Salesforce based platform called Litify. It is the most sophisticated case management system in the legal field and will help our firm, employees, and clients in countless ways. It allows us to, finally, clean up workflows and take advantage of automation. We feel strongly that our highly skilled legal staff should only be working on tasks that match their skills. Litify will allow these highly skilled staff to focus on those tasks while automation takes care of the rest.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

While there are quite a few to thank, none are more important than my parents. They laid the foundation and cultivated who I am today. They exemplified work ethic, a healthy dose of common sense and household full of unconditional love and equality. When I say equality, my mother often drove the family car and mowed the lawn. It was only weird when I saw only fathers doing these things in my friend’s families.

I have Sam Pond to thank. He saw something in me early on in my career and has paved the path towards the position I’m in today. He has always made me feel like my voice is welcomed and heard. He has pushed me better than any coach and has helped me grow in countless ways as a business person and leader.

I have to thank my coaches over the years as well. Many of whom were women. One in particular was once the best lacrosse player in the world (Yes, I said the world). These women not only made me feel that my competitive fire was normal, it was badass. It made me proud of a characteristic that is really the driving force behind much of my success.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

My biggest challenge is being a working mother. It is difficult to find equal time to be the COO of the Donovan’s and the COO of Pond Lehocky. There must be sacrifices on both ends and sometimes the decision making in those sacrifices can be gut wrenching.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Early on I was so focused on the firm having a seamless transition to remote work that my family took a back seat. Once the chaos of the initial transition calmed, I made the conscious decision to structure my day and prioritize what was most important — both at work and at home. If I wanted to find time to exercise, I made the effort to find time outside of work and family time. Point being, if I wanted to do things for myself, I had to get up earlier and make time.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

I’m not sure work-related challenges during the pandemic are gender specific. In my opinion, challenges have been less about gender and more specific to personality. For example, I prefer to talk out challenges in face to face. Often times, operational hurdles can be complicated to work out through email. Early on in the pandemic I would get overwhelmed with working through issues without the ability to walk to someone’s office on a whim.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Like the rest of the country, I had to become familiar was video calls. I like to see my teammates every day and talk through our challenges. Most importantly, I love to share laughs with my teams. During the pandemic, I have found that a sense of humor has been critical to putting people at ease.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family? Same as above.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

Thankfully, I really enjoy spending time with my family. However, my husband and I have taken deliberate steps to talk more, exercise, journal, and read meaningful books to help us keep perspective. I have learned that you can’t wish for things to happen. You have to make the effort, put in the work and stay committed. Which is what we have done and has worked for us. We have each other and our health. Not much more we can wish for.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. History! History shows us that this has happened before and we will get through it.
  2. For those that have jobs, it is important to have perspective. There are many out there that have been laid off and are having difficulty finding work. Find the joy in your work and ride the wave.
  3. Be hopeful if you have your health and are taking the steps to stay healthy. Both physically and mentally. We can all agree it has been a challenging time to stay physically and mentally healthy. Putting your health first will help your happiness and the ability to stay hopeful.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Personally, I have avoided the news. Outside of the sources I find objective, I try to block out the noise. I would recommend this to anyone feeling anxious. The news can drum up a lot of doom and gloom. While it is important to stay on top of current events, make sure your sources aren’t exclusively delivering bad news. This can all be overwhelming but try to find the joy in life so that you may ease the gravity of the situation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Being confident and believing in your own self-worth is necessary to achieving your potential.” — Sheryl Sandberg

I’ve learned that women, even intelligent and confident women, often doubt their self-worth. The inability to BELIEVE you are not only capable, but worthy is one of the biggest hurdles I’ve seen women face in my career and personal life. While the support of others you respect is incredibly encouraging, you must truly believe deep down in your self-worth. That is one of the keystones of success.

How can our readers follow you online?

Via LinkedIn!

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


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