Family That Works Together Stays Together
In May, we celebrate Mother’s Day. It’s generally a day that brings to mind times when our mothers were supporting us, comforting us, or encouraging us. It’s a Hallmark movie in our minds. Now, think about working with your mom. Does that movie genre change to a comedy? A drama? A B-horror movie? Well, if the thought of working with your mom makes you chuckle, sigh, or shudder a bit, you will love meeting the mother-daughter team of Jean Herron and Crystal Phillips of Federated Group.
In November 2020, Jean celebrated her 30th work anniversary at Federated. Her career started in 1990, when a friend of hers was hiring for an accounting position at Federated. After a year and a half, she moved into the Information Technology Department for a data entry position. With Federated moving to bigger and better computers, Jean was asked to fill a newly created Help Desk Administrator position. Her aptitude for computers and networking systems has gained her the current title of Technical Operations Manager. “As one of my previous bosses would say, I ‘keep the lights on’ at Federated,” quips Jean.
Crystal’s career at Federated, you can argue, started when she was just six years old. She grew up going into the office with Jean on some weekends and getting to color on the special green and white striped continuous printer paper. “Mom’s coworkers were always so friendly. When we went to visit mom, we also visited her entire department; the people smiled when you walked into their office and were genuinely happy to see you,” remembers Crystal. She continues, “Federated used to have ‘Bring Your Child to Work’ days and Christmas parties that made me think, ‘I want to work at Federated when I grow up!’” Once Crystal turned 18, she just waited for her opportunity to arrive.
In August 2005, it did. Crystal started in Federated’s Retail Customer Service department. From there, Crystal took every opportunity to learn something new. In her 15 years at Federated, she has filled roles in Category Management, New Item Development, and Labels & Packaging. Her current role is as a Project Manager in, you guessed it, Information Technology, like her mother. “While [at Federated], I moved into my first apartment, got engaged, got married, bought my first house, and had my 2 daughters,” notes Crystal. “I’ve literally grown up with Federated and all those who have come and gone.”
For the mother/daughter pair, working at the same company has truly been something they cherish. Crystal loves that she gets to work with her best friend every day. “My mom is the very best human on this planet. Not only do I get to have her as a mom, but also as a co-worker and teammate. She’s a permanent confidant.” Jean echoes her daughter. “I greatly enjoy being able to see and talk to Crystal almost every day. She is good people (let’s be honest, she is GREAT people!), and I don’t know that if we didn’t work together that we would have that chance.”
When you ask the pair if there are any challenges in working together, they genuinely have very little to offer. Crystal acknowledges that being together in the same department it is assumed, at times, that their roles are interchangeable in the minds of co-workers. “My goal has always been to live up to my mom’s legacy without receiving any special treatment, and to make my own mark to earn everything on my own merit,” Crystal explains. And according to mom Jean, she has done just that. “If there was a handbook for working with family, I’d call it ‘Be Your Best Self,’” Jean says. “Don’t assume you can just ride the coat tails of your family member. Crystal represents this better than anyone I know. When she started, she never wanted anyone to say she was getting special treatment because of me.”
Spending time together every day at work doesn’t mean the two shy away from talking about work off the clock. “Federated is like family after having worked here so long, so it just comes up in conversation,” says Jean. “We don’t consciously make a point to talk about it or not talk about it.” Crystal agrees, “It’s no different than coming home after work and talking to my husband about work. Only my mom understands from first-hand experience. Sometimes, having those conversations makes you feel validated.”
If either Jean or Crystal needs any validation, they don’t need to look any further than each other. In talking with these two, you can feel the mutual admiration when they discuss each other’s strengths. Crystal looks at her mom’s career trajectory with great pride. “My mom started as a Matcher in Accounting. With a high school diploma, she managed to learn new skills, take on any new challenge thrown her way, and surpass any expectation set for her to eventually becoming Technical Operations Manager, or, as I have so lovingly referred to her as for MANY years, ‘Grand Central Station.’ If anyone needs help with a system, they call Jean. After 30 years with the company, she is still learning new skills that she probably never thought she’d learn. She does her job with such integrity and compassion, and she sets the very best example of the woman I want to be.” Jean is equally proud of her daughter. “I am in awe of Crystal’s knowledge of Federated. Because she has held positions in different departments, she has a wealth of knowledge of different processes that we use. I am always calling her to tell me who to refer someone to or ask how something works. She is way more well-versed than I am about the company. She is also way more organized than I can ever hope to be.”
Hearing this mother-daughter team’s story is really sweet and inspiring. It’s a perfect tribute to Mother’s Day. Maybe this year, along with the flowers, you’ll send your mom a job posting!