Jennifer Dirks

Coffee Break


Jennifer Dirks     
President & CEO, TEMPO Milwaukee
1555 N. RiverCenter Drive, Suite 210B, Milwaukee
Industry: Member association/nonprofit
Employees: Three
Family: Single

What’s new at your company?

“TEMPO Milwaukee has a rich history of attracting and retaining professional women in the C-suite or with executive roles. Throughout our 41-year history, we’ve stayed true to this membership focus. However, we’ve also asked ourselves: What does the future look like for TEMPO Milwaukee? How do we remain relevant? What is our succession plan? As such, we introduced the Emerging Women Leaders program in the fall of 2015. The inaugural class of 40 mid-career women are shaping this program from the ground up, and are proving the future is incredibly bright for TEMPO Milwaukee and the Milwaukee business community. We look forward to advancing and expanding this initiative in years to come as we nurture these women, who are well on their way to becoming the next generation of TEMPO Milwaukee members.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?

“Remaining relevant and continuing to provide the best benefits and opportunities for our growing membership base. TEMPO Milwaukee has earned an exceptional reputation over the years for advocating, elevating and accelerating our members within the business community. We serve our diverse membership and community through educational programming, networking opportunities, relationship building and mentoring, with the goal of empowering women to achieve and sustain leadership roles. It remains a priority for TEMPO Milwaukee to continue along this path and remain relevant for future members and for the business community.”

What was the best advice you ever received?

“Challenge your comfort zone. Be able to take risks. This is a lesson I learned early in my career. I took some risks with my professional journey. Graduating college with a broadcast journalism degree, then deciding after 10 years to walk away from the only career I knew to transition to public relations was a risk. The move to PR wasn’t as intimidating as the transition from agency work to corporate, where I was basically an island of one. Then, two years ago I transitioned to the nonprofit world with TEMPO Milwaukee. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t take those risks.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?

“I might be the luckiest businesswoman in Milwaukee in that I have more than 325 TEMPO Milwaukee members to look up to and learn from. I am honored to have such an amazing group of mentors, confidants and women in leadership positions to support and guide me in my role with TEMPO Milwaukee.”

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?

“When I was a TV reporter working at CBS 58, I was attending an awards ceremony hosted by TODAY Show anchor Matt Lauer. During the event, my full-length zipper on my gown broke. I jumped into the nearest elevator hoping to get to the front desk and find a few safety pins. Guess who joined me on the elevator? Yes – Matt Lauer. I was mortified. I couldn’t speak or look at him. Several years later, I met Matt at the TODAY Show in New York and shared the story with him. Funny now – but not then!”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I am a foodie at heart and I love to entertain family and friends. My dinner parties have even been dubbed ‘epic’ and ‘over the top!’ I’m not quite Giada De Laurentiis – but admire her creativity and definitely her business savvy.”

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