Why She’s Amazing
Jen Lada doesn’t want to be a princess. She wants to be more.
While studying at Marquette University, classmates told Jen that she’d be a good sportscaster. At the time, Jen didn’t even know that was an option. Look at her now!
After beginning her career as a FOX6 sports anchor, Jen advanced to a position with Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the number three market nationwide. There, she grew her following as well as her already highly respected reputation. In June 2015, Jen began working at ESPN. During that time, she has hosted Baseball Tonight and has co-hosted a radio show.
We had a chance to ask Jen a few questions. Something tells us that this modern day trailblazer is only getting started!
“Don’t be a buoy. A buoy stays afloat but it’s chained to the bottom with the waves dictating its direction.” – Jen Lada
Q & A
Q: When you were a young girl, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
A: When I was very young (elementary school), I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer. My parents were always very good about complimenting our talents, and I’m sure at some point they had conveyed the prestige associated with those professions. Like all kids, I wanted to make them proud. As I got older, I enjoyed reading, writing and presenting and it became more obvious that I would enjoy and excel in a role that allowed me to marry those talents instead of a job where I had to look at other people’s blood.
Q: What did people think when you told them that?
A: People were usually very impressed that I had such lofty ambitions.
Q: Did people call you “princess” when you were a little girl and, if so, how did that make you feel?
A: I don’t remember ever being called a princess. I was such a tomboy – playing sports, climbing trees, building forts, leading adventures. I had so many grass stains and scrapes and bruises, I can’t remember anyone confusing me with a traditional princess.
Q: How did you become interested in sports media?
A: In college, I was already pursuing a job in broadcasting when some classmates suggested I would be a good sportscaster. I honestly had no idea that women could be sportscasters – there just weren’t that many out there. It sounds so archaic now, but once I started to pursue the path, I realized it would be a great fit for my passions.
Q: Did you have a mentor or role model who inspired you?
A: This is tough because I am always been hesitant to name singular role models. I try to learn as much as possible from everyone I interact with. I think I am quick to identify skills, behaviors and attitudes that have proven beneficial to others. Sometimes, that’s also seeing and identifying a tactic that doesn’t work well in the professional environment. I’ve learned that everyone is in the position they’re in for one reason or another and the sooner you can identify what factor (or factors) contributed to their success, the sooner you can figure out if that is something you should adopt. It’s important to be authentic but also important to be self-aware. Our strengths and weaknesses fluctuate during our careers. Taking regular inventory of not only the things you do well but also how those fit with your company’s needs. Fortunately, we are always interacting with colleagues and professionals who remind us of how we can improve.
Q: Did your family and friends support your aspirations?
A: Absolutely. I have been so fortunate to have a supportive family that raised the bar incredibly high and never allowed complacency. It was always “how can you do better and be better?” When we were kids, Dad used to tell us every morning to “Take the opportunity” the day provided. Even when I was deciding whether or not to move my family across the country and take the job at ESPN last summer, my parents reminded me to believe in myself and take a chance. They knew I would regret not exploring the opportunity and encouraged me to learn as much as I could from a new place and new people.
Q: Did you think about being called a “trailblazer” for choosing this path?
A: I didn’t think about it too much because when you’re IN it, you are focused on other things. I was always trying to get better and earn respect and credibility so thinking about the significance of my position would be counterproductive. Occasionally, someone will make me aware of the uniqueness of my position and how important it is to have women in roles traditionally held my men and I appreciate that viewpoint. I think when I walk away from this career, I’ll give more thought to whether or not I was able to contribute and make a difference.
Q: What motivates you?
A: What motivates me has evolved. When I was younger, it was making my parents proud. Wanting to honor my talents and not let them go to waste. I have always been very hard on myself, expecting more and wanting to achieve more. That certainly still exists but once you’re successful on any level, you feel the need to maintain success. To keep climbing. I think that comes down to ego – worrying about the perception other people have of your life. I’ve learned that is a false motivator though since everyone’s view of success is so different. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself motivated by my son. I am now in a place where I want him to be proud of who I am. I want to be a person who he admires and wants to emulate. That places less emphasis on WHAT I am doing and more on HOW I am going about my business. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. If I am telling him to carry himself a certain way, treat people a certain way, work on certain things, then it’s important for me to do the same.
Q: Of what are you most proud?
A: What I’ve learned during my life. I am collecting experiences and lessons. They’re invaluable. I’m proud of my path.
Q: What would you like people to learn from you?
A: Don’t be a buoy. A buoy stays afloat but it’s chained to the bottom with the waves dictating its direction. You have to move to grow. Work hard. Write your own story. Do what you’re passionate about. Be strong in your conviction.
Q: What three words would you like people to use to describe you?
A: Smart. Kind. Candid.
Q: What do you want people to know about you outside of your professional accomplishments?
A: I can say the alphabet backwards faster than I can say it forward. I know every word of The Princess Bride.
Q: Who do you follow on social media that shares your passion for new experiences and inspiring stories?
A: @juliedicaro @trenni @espnmichele
Q: If you could eat lunch with one person, whom would it be?
A: Tom Hanks
Q: Which woman would you choose to have on U.S. currency?
A: Gloria Steinem
Q: What advice would you give to a girl who right now wants to be just like you?
A: Be yourself. There’s so much pressure to fit a mold. The most interesting and valuable women I know are renegades. Authentic and open and strong. Failure is necessary for success.
Bonus Question: What question would you ask the next Modern Day Trailblazer we interview?
A: Is there anything, with the benefit of hindsight, you’d do differently?
- The last book Jen read was On Becoming Fearless…in Love, Work, and Life by Arianna Huffington.
- Her go-to karaoke song is “Take it Easy” by The Eagles.
- Jen is usually late since she always tries to cram one more thing in before she leaves.
- She LOVES the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling.
- Jen is currently binge watching Homeland and Making a Murderer.