Jill Allen is the Director of Business Development at Brightstone, a coaching and mentoring residential facility for young adults with autism.
Jill went to college to become a high school history teacher and thought she would be teaching at a public school and coaching sports, but her first job turned out to be teaching at a therapeutic boarding school. After that, she became a behavior specialist at a school specifically for kids with autism and got to work with kids of all ages and really loved coordinating services for them. She relocated to Florida and began working as a community case manager to bring resources and support to families with kids with autism.
After a move to Georgia, she ended up finding out about Brightstone and instantly fell in love with its mission and working with the young adult population who often have fewer services available to them and they can be just as vulnerable as the younger children. She started as the Transition Coordinator, helping clients who went through the program, and then moved into the Director of Staff Development role, supporting our staff in training since there is not a specific degree program preparing people to work with this population. Now, as the Director of Business Development for Brightstone, Jill handles admissions and marketing.
Tell us a little about your industry and why you chose to become part of the team at Brightstone Transitions?
Growing up, I was not really aware of this whole subset of kids that had struggles and challenges, but my first job out of college was teaching at a therapeutic boarding school and it really introduced me to this whole world of kids with mental health diagnoses and through that I learned about autism and began to shift her focus to working with kids on the spectrum.
What surprised you the most when you started your career, what lessons did you learn?
What surprised me the most was not knowing what I did not know. In the beginning, I did not have a full awareness of how many people are affected by different diagnoses in mental health and autism and the stereotypes that are out there. I’ve learned to give myself and the people that I work with more grace. In the beginning you feel a need to present a persona of confidence, but you are not always right. Being more humble and willing to learn has helped me a lot.
If you could change anything about your industry what would it be and why?
I wish there were more resources for the young adult population, and I think that is definitely growing. The silver lining we’ve seen through COVID is that more and more organizations are pushing to make things more sustainable for families to access resources faster. It may be even with kids that don’t need full programs, but they still need some help.
How would your colleagues describe you?
I am willing to help. I’ve been at Brightstone for three years now and worked in several parts of the program, so I am fairly knowledgeable about the different areas. I’m always willing to jump in. I am pretty detail oriented and very much a type A person.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
Because of my personality it is sometimes hard for me because of what I put on myself, not necessarily the program. I set boundaries for myself at home. I do not enter my home on a phone call. I don’t want that to be the first interaction that my daughter or husband have with me when I walk in the door. I want to be able to give them my undivided attention when I walk in. My phone goes automatically on silent at 8:00 at night so I can disengage and spend time with my family. If I want notifications, I have to check them myself.
What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?
I use my computer for emails, and I use an app on my phone to organize my food, exercise, and that kind of thing, but I also still carry a planner and I like to write things down.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
I am so passionate about my career and have been working really hard wherever I have been and have always proven my worth to the organization and ended up taking on more responsibility making a bigger impact. Because of transitions with my husband’s job, I’ve had to start over a couple of times and prove myself again in new positions. But I do finally feel like having a home with my job here at Brightstone.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My mom has been a role model to me, especially when it comes to work ethic. She is a self-made woman. She was a single mom and worked two or three jobs and did whatever she needed to do to get by, and I’ve seen her follow her dreams and blossom into a really great career in graphic design. She gave us responsibilities as soon as we were old enough to handle them, and she taught us a level of accountability that taught me a lot.
What does success look like to you?
It looks different for everyone. It is not about the money or the job or the hours put in. Our society makes success look like money you have in the bank, but I disagree. If you have people in your life that love you and support you and if you are healthy and happy, that is real success to me.
What is one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with?
Everything in life is individual to who you are. For the parents and families that are coming to us, they might have an expectation of what success might look like to them or for their young adult, but it is a different path for everyone. It is really important to give people the grace to be on their individual journey and not put too much pressure on someone to fulfill your idea of success.