by Jennifer Green
Passion, curiosity, and a desire to help or teach others. These are just some of the qualities information professionals have; Ulla de Stricker, Rebecca Jones, and Jane Dysart have them in spades, and they’re why these women are so successful in their field. In 1992, these three information professionals left stable jobs to start their own consulting businesses, and twenty years later, we celebrate their entrepreneurial success.
Jane Dysart and Rebecca Jones
Starting your own business is never an easy decision, particularly when so many new enterprises fail to survive past the first year. Jane Dysart and Rebecca Jones founded Dysart & Jones Associates with a clear vision of how they wanted work and what they wanted to do with their clients. What kept them going, explains Rebecca, was deciding that “if we weren’t having fun that we needed to get out of the situation.”
Not surprisingly, running your own business means you have to take risks sometimes, but Jane and Rebecca are quick to say that while one of them might have to prod the other into accepting a project, later the roles will reverse. Maintaining that balance between stress and having fun and remembering their original vision for their business are why these entrepreneurs are so well known in the consulting field. “Your skills can be used in so many places, so don’t limit yourself,” says Jane. “See what gets your juices flowing and what you feel passionate about. You have to like what you do, enjoy your work, and then you will make a difference.”
Having worked with Jane and Rebecca long before their business was founded, Stephen Abram, VP Strategic Partnerships and Markets for Gale Cengage, commented that “few have the track record of success…accomplished by Dysart and Jones. Combined with their intelligence, vision, integrity, and belief in themselves and their clients, Jane and Rebecca are role models for our profession.”
Ulla de Stricker
Going with her gut and remembering that original passion she had for the job is also what has kept Ulla de Stricker on a successful path. As the founder and president of de Stricker Associates, Ulla originally started her own consulting firm to “venture into new territory.” Ulla’s desire to provide a valuable service to her clients “and leave them better off” is what drives her most. “Customer service is key,” she says, and like Rebecca and Jane, Ulla also believes that enjoying what you do and listening to your intuition is important for success, emphasizing that “being one’s honest self on the job is a strength, and letting passion guide career choices is powerful because it unifies ‘who I am’ with ‘what I do.’”
For many new graduates, the job market might be looking a little bleak, particularly this past summer with all of the news articles about the relevance of libraries today. It would be easy for Rebecca, Jane, and Ulla to feel that sense of dread themselves, but they haven’t. In fact, it seems that times like these are when these entrepreneurs thrive most! Take a look at their respective websites, and all of them are speaking at or organizing conferences, writing articles, and blogging about staying relevant, strategic planning, self-promotion, and being indispensable in your field. For them, being an information professional is all about thinking beyond the degree they earned in library school and, according to Ulla, “seeking out opportunities with potential [by] studying the world around us—demographics, climate, the public sentiment for a start—because developments in that world will drive future public investment and consumer market choices.”
Assuming that working in a bricks-and-mortar library is the only career option available to those with a library degree is limiting, and grads “need to look at how they apply their masters in many jobs that aren’t in libraries,” says Rebecca. “They need to look at the masters education as learning a way to think, a way to understand how people apply information, how information is created, flows and develops.”
In addition to this, Ulla, Rebecca, and Jane feel strongly about passing on knowledge and information to others so goals and expectations are clear. All three women thrive on mentoring new professionals and long-time colleagues, not because it makes them look good but because they enjoy seeing others succeed as they have. “When I’ve had the privilege to be a manager or a mentor, nothing makes me happier than watching those individuals excel, watching them move beyond me, watching them truly reach their potential,” says Rebecca.
While Jane herself has been a mentor to many information professionals throughout her career, she, too, has had “some great mentors and bosses” who’ve helped her create and develop conferences and given her room to experiment and grow over the years, including Tom Hogan and Alan Meckler.
Connie Crosby of Crosby Group Consulting had nothing but praise for Ulla de Stricker, her co-recipient of the 2011 Outstanding Teacher Award from the University of Toronto’s iSchool Institute, and her mentoring skills: “After one of my first meetings with her she encouraged me not just to observe, but also actively participate in the discussion. I realized then that she valued my opinion, and I appreciated the confidence she placed in me.”
Being passionate about your work and taking a not-so-straight path to success aren’t principles that these women apply just to their own lives, another reason for their achievements over the years. They’re all believers that libraries and organizations should be doing the same and taking risks, keeping up with trends and changes, and developing a clear vision for their businesses if they want to provide the best services possible to their clients. It all comes down to asking “what’s the worst thing that can happen if you try this?” a phrase Jane is known for.
Twenty years ago, Ulla, Jane, and Rebecca all took a big step that was going to have an impact on their lives whether it was good or bad. Thanks to some good intuition, a little curiosity, and an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm and interest in looking at the big picture, these three entrepreneurs have done more than thrive in their field, they’ve become powerhouses. None of their success, though, came without a great deal of hard work, long hours, and admittedly some mistakes. The time and effort, though, have been worth it–ask any of them! “I have stimulating work where I can be creative and fun,” enthuses Jane. “What more could you ask?”
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Jennifer Green is the Readers’ Advisory Librarian at the Oshawa Public Libraries.