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Mentorship on Water: Meet the Johnson & Johnson Rowing Club
Mentorship on Water: Meet the Johnson & Johnson Rowing Club
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At first glance, the Johnson & Johnson Rowing Club might appear to be a motley crew—trademark associates sculling alongside talent acquisition specialists, supply chain professionals alongside quality engineers. But if we look more closely, we'll see that what moves them forward perfectly mirrors what moves us forward at Johnson & Johnson.

This is their story, and it's in sync with our own.

"Berth" of a Team

The origin of the Johnson & Johnson Rowing Club can be traced back to a kind of 'Eureka!' moment for Michael Whiting, Plan & Source Standards Lead, Supply Chain Systems & Solutions. Four years ago, he stood amidst the roaring crowd on the banks of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, cheering on his daughter in the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta—the largest collegiate regatta in North America.

Like his daughter, Michael was experienced, having rowed men's lightweight crew at Cornell. So when he noticed that the regatta included a category for corporate challengers, his mind was immediately made up: Johnson & Johnson would enter a boat the following year.

And that's how the Johnson & Johnson Rowing Club was born.

At last year's Dad Vail Regatta Corporate Challenge, Jamie Wardell, Trademark Docket Associate at Johnson & Johnson, recalled suffering a humorous mishap. "I was rowing so intensely," she smiled, "that my feet come out of my shoes! I worked quickly to put my feet back into my shoes and row simultaneously—but then my feet literally exploded out of my shoes again. Everyone in the boat knew something was wrong. Well, no sooner did I get a handle on the shoes when I lost my seat, too, so I was unable to use my body and legs to row. I had to row with just my arms and time it correctly with the rest of the team!"

But fortune smiled on the effort: Like something out of Cool Runnings, the team managed to complete the race—and take first place. "It wasn't until we crossed the finish line," Jamie reflected, "that a team member handed me my seat back, asking me, 'Aren't you missing something?' The whole team burst into laughter."

Mentorship on the Water

Olympic rowers on television make the sport look easy, like gliding on water, but as members of the Johnson & Johnson Rowing Club are keen to point out—it's anything but.

"Communication is key with new rowers," Mark P. Grady, Principal Quality Engineer, DePuy Synthes, explained. "And that means trying different techniques for different people, remaining patient and developing drills to help refine skills. It's directly applicable to so much of our project work at Johnson & Johnson."

According to Mark, the three requirements of good rowing are "teamwork, mindfulness and timing. A boat can have a crew of eight solid rowers, but if the crew doesn't work together, they won't win."

Aaron Ridgeway, Talent Acquisition & Mobility Product Line Owner, Corporate Business Technology, agreed. "Rowing has definitely helped me grow professionally," he said. "It's taught me the discipline of focus and how to work as a cohesive unit."

Michael also emphasized the extent to which coaching, mentorship and learning new skills are fundamental to the whole experience. "I get great joy from teaching complete novices how to row," he said. "Supporting them as they acquire a new skill, and then cheering them on when they race a few months later at regattas—the dramatic improvement, from uncoordinated individual strokes to a synchronized team effort, is a joy to observe."

Jackie Scalone, Complaint Vigilance Manager for our U.S. Self Care business, said that the rowing team has helped her hone her management and leadership skills while getting to know her Johnson & Johnson teammates in a completely new environment. "A key part of being on the boat is trust," she explained. "Trust is essential to balancing the boat, and it's just as important while working on a project team in business."

Teamwork Embodied

In rowing, success doesn't hinge on individual performance, but the performance of a team. "The boat cannot launch and move efficiently unless everyone is present, knows their role and is synchronized in their actions," Michael said, drawing a parallel to the way collaborative teamwork drives bold innovation at Johnson & Johnson.

And while some members of our team, like Michael and Mark, have previous rowing experience, you don't have to be a veteran rower to join the Johnson & Johnson Rowing Club. Jackie, for one, has gone from inexperienced rower to captain of the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Row Team.

Aaron, likewise, had never rowed a day in his life before joining the team a few months ago. And yet, this relative newcomer captured the significance of the sport at Johnson & Johnson perfectly and succinctly: Rowing, he said, "physically portrays the value of teamwork."

Our Healthy Workforce

We're committed to having the healthiest workforce in the world—and we're engaging 100,000 or more employees to achieve personal bests in health and well-being by 2020 to get there. But for most of our rowers, it's already a commitment that they're living. Jamie, who is also a triathlete, said she's "always on the lookout for new ways to better my fitness. When the opportunity to try rowing was presented to me, I jumped right on board"—pun intended.

Most recently, our mighty rowers took on a noteworthy challenge by participating in the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, the largest two-day regatta in the world. And according to Mark, preparations for the event went swimmingly. He remembered one training session in particular with a laugh: "The motor on the coach's launch broke, and so we determined the best course of action was to have the eight of us tow—and row—the launch back in. The towing was safe, but it looked completely ridiculous and was certainly a harder workout!"

At Johnson & Johnson, we believe that teamwork should be fun, even when the goals we're pursuing, like changing the trajectory of human health, could not be more serious. So if you're looking for a career where you can collaborate to drive bold innovation, look no further than Johnson & Johnson. Check out all of the opportunities available to join us today.

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