Jennifer Kowalski Markham
35, Vice President/Market Leader for BB&T Bank, Portsmouth
Business community involvement:
Something that makes you stand out in your industry?
I think what sets me apart from other bankers in my industry is my client service mindset, my ability to wow my client and to be flexible to their needs. That is very vital when dealing with small business owners, most of which spend time working in their actual establishments. I come to them, I handle their needs, we meet routinely and we truly develop a partnership. I know the value of having honest and trustworthy conversations when it comes to dealing with clients’ finances, and I take pride in giving them the best advice possible.
Someone who keeps you motivated?
In general, I have always been a hard worker and a self-motivated person. My dad taught me at a very young age that if I want something, I have to work really hard for it. However, after having my daughter, Olivia, two years ago, I think motivation comes to me in a different form. I am motivated to be involved in my community and to have a strong work ethic because I want to set a good example for my daughter and teach her that she does not have to succumb to the societal pressures and views of what a woman should do with her life. The key to success and happiness is hard work and helping others along the way.
Most important aspect you look for in a workplace?
I have worked in a team environment for almost 15 years here at BB&T, and to me the most important aspect that I look for within my workplace is communication. It is the foundation of all that we do. We have to have effective, candid and transparent communication among my team for my branch to be successful and for clients to have the best experience possible.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current position?
I have my undergrad and master’s degree in criminal justice, so my old boss Amy Geddings and I used to joke that if we weren’t in banking we would be great partners in a law firm. We enjoy a good debate, and we are pretty good at persuading people to see our side of the story. I am also an avid lover of gardening and cooking, so if I was not a banker, I would love to be a small restaurant owner that brings the farm to the table!
What new idea or development are you most excited about in Coastal Virginia right now?
I would have to say I have been pretty impressed with the Something in the Water festival. We talk a lot about travel and tourism in Coastal Virginia, so what a great way to bring outsiders into the area and show them what we have to offer. This event is going to be great for local businesses and I hope they continue to execute the festival in the future. It is a great way to bring diversity and unity together through music and with a great beach scene in the background!
Favorite place in Coastal Virginia to go on the weekends?
I enjoy spending time on the beach with my family and friends. So, I am usually headed to Ocean View or to one of the many great beaches off of Shore Drive. There is nothing better than relaxing in the sun and staring out at the water!
From her nomination:
“Her dedication to leadership and her commitment to her team are unparalleled. Jennifer truly believes that success is a shared journey. She is the kind of person that you meet and can never forget because she changes you instantly for the better.”