Try to make a difference in your life, in your workplace, in your community. Although it may not appear overnight, bit by bit, one by one, you can inspire people.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jed Meyer, who serves as Managing Director, North America at independent media and marketing consultancy Ebiquity. In his role, Jed provides counseling, mentorship, and innovative solutions to 70 of the world’s 100 leading brands to help CMOs achieve a better return on their media and marketing investments. Previously, Jed served as Director, Brand Measurement at Google, where he spearheaded cross-functional efforts to grow the platform’s revenue by driving measurement product adoption, client partnerships, and industry perspectives. Prior to that, he led the corporate research function for Univision Communications, Inc. Jed also managed global media, client service, and research teams at Omnicom Media Group’s Annalect and Nielsen, providing him with deep expertise across the agency and streaming spaces.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
Igrew up in the city of Boston in the 1970s and 80s. At that time, it was fairly unusual for families with kids to ‘stay in the city to raise their children.’ I grew up in great neighborhoods like the Back Bay, the North End, and Charlestown. My mother was a true pioneer of women’s liberation, as we called it back in the 1970s. An architectural history PhD, she started a non-profit called Historic Neighborhoods that taught children and adults about the history of Boston’s neighborhoods. One of her signature events was creating a walking tour for kids and families that mirrored the Robert McCloskey book Make Way for Ducklings. My father, a journalist at heart, worked at community newspapers early in his career. However, by the time I was born and we lived in Boston, he worked in job development and served as a probation officer at the Urban Court in Dorchester. I played Little League (not well!) on the Boston Common and learned to sail in a program called Community Boating on the Charles River that enabled city kids to sail for $1 per summer if memory serves me correctly. We did not even own a car until I was a teenager, so I grew up taking Boston’s T (subway) all over town to school, sports, and other activities. By the time I turned 14, I asked my parents if I could go to boarding school because I wanted to stay with my friends versus take the T for an hour plus daily commute. I ended up at Northfield Mount Hermon and found it amazing; my friends were right there on campus with me, and I had so many opportunities to try new sports, activities, and courses. I had several teachers at NMH that left deep impressions on me — Mr. Cerillo in History, Mr. Halsey in Math, Mr. Kellom in Chemistry and Cross-Country Skiing, and Mr. Hamilton in crew.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
Afew years ago, while working at Univision, my boss, Jessica, held a training session on “building a growth mindset” with her team. It left quite an impression on me and helped me crystalize my approach to new opportunities and managing people. I’ve navigated a broad range of roles in the media industry across buying, selling, and vendor stakeholders. Within that, I try to create work environments centered around the central notions of a “learn and grow” culture where each person develops core competencies and can then build additional skills on that base. I tend to seek out roles where client service and responsiveness serve as critical elements, building a foundation of knowledge as a launchpad for growth.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
Itvaries quite a bit, due to client meetings and external requests, but consistent elements include regular time with my direct reports (either in 1:1 meetings, client meetings, or team exercises), executing and refining our corporate strategy and priorities, and email and other meetings. I generally like fast-paced environments. When I was in an agency environment, I would screen candidates on whether they “liked their hair on fire.” Some people like being deep domain experts focused on a single thing, while others prefer a wider lens view. I prefer the latter, perceiving agencies and vendors as providing a great vantage point on the broader marketplace. Technology empowers us to work across boundaries of time and space more easily. However, it can’t serve as a replacement for sitting down face-to-face, hashing out complex issues, and building teams in the process. I encourage my teams to avoid becoming tethered to a computer or device — get out and see people in person, have phone conversations, and strengthen working relationships.
Thank you for that. Now, let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development? Can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
I’ve had roles where I was ‘more present’ at home and others where I was ‘away or occupied’ more. Earlier in my career, I worked for Nielsen, which was a family-friendly company — but I traveled extensively for work. It impacted the environment at home and the amount of time I could spend with both my wife and kids. The most extreme example of this experience manifested when I embarked on a two-year expatriate assignment in China with my wife and two young children. The work, while perhaps amongst the most interesting and challenging I had experienced, did not come without its trade-offs in the amount of time I could spend at home. That experience informed some of my later career choices in terms of seeking roles requiring a bit less travel. Now that my children are older, I still notice that they appreciate it when I am home. Even if they don’t want to speak to me every night, they like knowing that I am there!
According to this study from The Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
When my children were smaller, I liked to take them on regular trips to the park or playground. We’d play on the swings, use toys, or ride bikes. Years ago, before a very nifty renovation, our local playground in Brooklyn, JJ Byrne Park, had a giant sprinkler that my daughters loved run through on hot days. On more than one occasion, I’d also run through the sprinkler with them — which caused them much joy and my wife some small embarrassment.
I’d also take my younger daughter for regular lunches on the weekend. An adventurous eater, she loved to try different foods, so we’d visit a variety of places in the neighborhood for those trips. When she got a bit older, I made a flipbook of those trips to commemorate the time together and cuisines we enjoyed. Now, we love exploring the wide variety at our local food co-op, one of the oldest and largest active ones in the United States! I like going with her because it is saner and more relaxing to divide and conquer as we get through our shopping list.
The experience often calls back fond memories of going food shopping with my own dad on Saturdays. We’d go to lunch first at a local fast food restaurant and then go to the grocery store for the week’s food. My dad was great because he’d let me pick the restaurant. Sometimes, it was Wendy’s, where he loved the chili. Other times, it might be Burger King or a local spot in Boston like the Tasty.
I commuted with my elder daughter to her school for several years and enjoyed the time together on the subway. Now that she’s older, we go driving together and often stop along the way for a meal or coffee. She loves diners — so we keep a running list of how New Jersey diners compare to Long Island and other regions.
Both of my daughters also have taken on active roles in sports. If they both had practices or meets, my wife and I would often ‘divide and conquer’ for coverage. Fortunately, at times, they had different seasons and schedules, which would allow me to take them both. My elder daughter had a lot of regional tournaments, and we’d enjoy the drive time together listening to country music. For both of my daughters, I enjoyed watching the competition unfold at their tournaments. It did not matter to me if they won or lost; I just enjoyed encouraging their efforts, discussing team strategy, learning the rules of sports that were new to me, and seeing how different coaches supported their teams.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers five strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.
Broadly, juggling work and family remains an ongoing challenge. I bristle a bit when I hear companies and people talk about “work/life integration” because, to me, that just means that the company wants you to work 24/7.
Technology is a great enabler. It allows us to work remotely, check in on clients or projects from afar, and cross multiple time zones with increased ease. However, it also can burrow deep into your life. To remedy that, I’ve experimented with the ‘two-phone’ strategy — having one phone for work and one for personal — to help create ‘space’ between those competing demands.
At home, we try to eat dinner together as much as possible. Usually, it shakes out to three or four nights per week given the variety of schedules that everyone juggles. We put our devices away during meals. My wife is the slightly more patient between the two of us and always asks questions to engage our daughters. Various people cook in the house, but I am almost always in charge of cleaning up. My family thinks I’m crazy because I do the dishes by hand — even though we have a dishwasher. It’s a couple things — a) a reminder of my father, who also did the dishes b) a nice routine to unwind, and c) a better outcome than the dishwasher, which often does not get everything clean. My younger daughter now helps take the dishes out of the drying rack — nothing makes my day more than seeing that empty rack!
My father was always a big proponent of “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” While we don’t all eat at the same time, we’re often all in the kitchen, juggling together at the start of the day.
I’ve endeavored to find common, broadly appealing media that we can all watch together, but it’s is a challenge in 2020! When we do find a show or movie that we can all agree on, at least one person seems to burrow into their phone during the program — which takes away, a bit, from the communal experience. Some shows, like The Amazing Race, have proved unbelievably durable in the Meyer household! I also still read printed newspapers and magazines — and ‘clip’ stories for my family to read and enjoy. We’ll talk about them at the dinner table or on car rides.
I’ve worked for some companies that paid lip service to work/life balance and others where its importance became evident. When I interviewed at the Agency, I recall the CEO saying: ‘We want you to take your vacation and really step back from the office — I’m not just saying that.’ I was also impressed (and surprised) when I came to work at Ebiquity that the CEO encouraged people not to email over the weekend. In fact, his PA scolded me for emailing on a day off!
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
Being a good parent is really challenging. It is a 24/7 job with ambiguous job description. I try to nurture my kids — encourage them to try new things, advocate for themselves, and not be too hard on themselves. When they have setbacks, I remind them that we all get knocked down, but you must get up again. It is an ongoing process, and I learn and get inspiration from other parents all the time. I worked with someone in LA many years ago who had two daughters about ten years older than mine. He’s not only a great friend, but also dispenses great advice on what will come next in terms of life stages and parenting challenges. Recently, he shared pictures of his daughter’s Instagram proposal, and we both remarked on how much technology has infiltrated our lives and routines.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I’m a firm believer in using our God-given talents and skills to make a positive impact on the world. We all need to make a living and support our families — but, to me, we must also contribute to our larger societies and communities. Those efforts can take many forms — from your church or synagogue to your neighborhood group or sports team. When I was younger, I was very active in volunteer organizations like NY Cares, Community Redevelopment (ATL), and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, all of which offered flexibility and impact. For me, some of the giving back had to pause when my children were smaller. However, as my daughters have grown, they’ve been able to join me in some of the community activities that I like. I like doing park clean ups and working at food pantries, but giving back can take many forms. My hope for my kids is that they use the talents they possess to positively impact the world, too. My elder daughter took a leadership role in her school’s Special Olympics “Polar Plunge,” which gave me great pleasure.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Defining success is a challenge, but I’d start with ‘balance.’ When I was in school, I’d often observe that you could experience success in academics, sports, or social activities — but rarely in all three areas. I found it remarkable when my direct boss at the Agency basically mimicked that advice and said to ‘choose two’ (of three) while the leadership team debated priorities.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Iread a lot and rely on The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and various other sources for general news and lifestyle information. I find great value in the weekly “Q&A in the NYT Sunday Style” section, and WSJ has ongoing series on “Work & Family” that I find informative.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are too many to choose from! But the one that got me started came to me back in the mid-1980s in a cold, damp boathouse in western Massachusetts. My coach, Mr. Hamilton, challenged us all to ‘seize the day.’ His message was to ‘act now’ — because waiting had no benefits. That adage still guides me, to this day.
Recently, I went to a YMCA Board Summit and had the opportunity to hear Jay Williams speak. You may be familiar with him and his remarkable life story. Basketball star at Duke, high draft pick for the Chicago Bulls, and then a massive motorcycle accident, followed by recovery that ushered in the next chapter of his life as an analyst for ESPN. Like so many people, Jay had a simple, compelling “Y story” he shared with the summit’s audience. Each time he went to his Y as a youth, a woman greeted him who said: “Life is a series of events; some good and some bad. But if you’re lucky enough to be here, it’s your job to carry the torch.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
When I first started in the workplace, I heard a variation on the starfish quote from one of the community organizations that I volunteered at, likely NY Cares or Hands on Atlanta. It has been paraphrased by many, but goes something to the effect of:
“You must be crazy. There are thousands of miles of beach covered with starfish. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The young man looked at him. He then stooped down and picked up one more starfish and threw it back into the ocean. He turned back to the man and said: “It made a difference to that one!”
That always stuck with me. Try to make a difference in your life, in your workplace, in your community. Although it may not appear overnight, bit by bit, one by one, you can inspire people. At every organization I’ve joined, I’ve introduced ‘community service’ time. We usually go to a local group such as the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, but, in other cities, I ask the local teams to pick the organization. The outing aims to inspire people to do more events like that in their own time, in their own communities. My teammates often tell me that they didn’t realize how easy it was to get involved or how much impact they can have. Much like the starfish, if one person from my teams has gone on to volunteer in their own communities, then it made a difference!