Jennifer Schlimgen, Kahler Slater

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Jennifer Schlimgen, vice president, Kahler Slater.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

Most challenging would be the persistence needed to make things happen and to change a culture. Most rewarding would be seeing younger staff excel in their work and grow in both enthusiasm and business savvy when given plenty of elbow room. Winning the confidence of new clients is a close second.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

I admire anyone who is a smart, successful entrepreneur, whether leading their own business or bringing that kind of spirit and thinking to a larger organization in the form of new ideas, positive energy, emotional intelligence, and a deep understanding of their customers. I especially appreciate seeing women in this role despite the fewer female role models they have likely had to inspire them along their way.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Being part of the leadership team at Kahler Slater has been very gratifying, and is probably my overall career highlight. This is a group of enthusiastic, forward thinking, highly motivated peers, who are also very supportive of each other and the whole staff. I am proud of Kahler Slater’s long history of ranking as a national “great place to work.” That says a lot about the culture and contributions of many.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I would advise my 21-year-old self to worry less about whether I was in the right place doing the right thing. My strengths are not necessarily associated with traditional architectural skills, so I often felt misplaced earlier in my career. Opportunities present themselves and you can make the right choice when that happens. You can’t necessarily make it happen.

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What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I grew up in the Westport area, on the north shore of Lake Mendota, in what is now Governor Nelson State Park. I love the Madison area lakes, accessed in multiple ways – from downtown, the UW campus, and from city and state parks. I appreciate the high level of education here and the proximity to both urban and rural experiences. Dane County is a visually beautiful place to live, and I love working on the Capitol Square.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I am an addicted gardener. I have taken major vacations and even sabbaticals over the years to work in my garden.

What are your guilty pleasures?

I would have to say that working in the garden is also a guilty pleasure. My husband recently told me I was getting “soft” because it’s been many years since I asked him to hook up his portable outdoor lights so I could garden after dark.

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