Women In Wellness: Jess Graham of Phenology On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Get more sleep. We’re only just starting to understand how important sleep is to overall health. There are many that believe that getting good sleep is the single most important thing you can do for your health!
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jess Graham.
As a member of LGBTQ+ community, the youngest of four daughters, and the graduate of a women’s college, Jess has always been conscious of bias — in health, education, research, the workplace and in everyday life. So, after a successful 15+ year career in Financial Services, Jess pivoted to work she felt could have a more meaningful positive impact on society, which led her to senior leadership roles in human genomics (at Helix), data and privacy (at Facebook) and culture and technology (at Instagram). Needless to say, she’s extremely proud of being a founding partner of Phenology Labs (which is backed by DSM Human Nutrition), a company that is committed to women’s health and wellbeing.
Jess lives in Brooklyn with her wife, Kelly, and their goofy great dane, Philo, and is an active mentor in the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
The youngest of four, I was raised outside DC by a dad from New Orleans and a mom from England so I’m a good yarn spinner with a strong streak of pragmatism which I think makes a good foundation for a CMO. I have a goofy great dane, Philo and a lovely wife named Kelly and we recently moved from Brooklyn from San Francisco and are enjoying the East Coast.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main I
6 or 7 years ago, I had a cushy corporate job. I’d been in the same industry for almost two decades. I worked for a big, global company and I was promoted every couple of years. Things were great — I had stability and success that fueled my “real life.” My real life being everything I did outside of work that brought me joy, fulfillment, connection, purpose like travel, time with friends, learning.
One night, I went to a long-time friend’s apartment for a glass of wine and was telling her I was stuck, creatively, on a presentation I was building. When I started to talk about what I was meant to write — she stopped me and asked ‘Do you even give a S*&! About what you’re saying right now? You are a good storyteller and I am bored to death by what you’re saying.” First I laughed, then I sobered up and answered honestly — none of what I was talking about or doing sparked anything for me, I’d spent years doing things that were a means to an end.
Two months later I quit my job and dedicated myself to finding projects, people, companies, ideas that I could personally connect to and get passionate about, beyond a paycheck. It was my own Great Resignation. And I have been so much happier for it.
The experience was a great reminder that perspective is important (thank you, Jenn) and life’s too short to have a job with no purpose — which is why I am so happy to be working in wellness!
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One thing it took me at least a decade to finally learn was that I was indexing for efficiency and outcomes and not paying enough attention to relationships was not a recipe for success, nor did it make me happy at work. While in my personal life, relationships and friendships always played a key role in what brought me happiness I didn’t apply the same effort at work. But Relationships are what make the world go around — in private life and in work life. For me the key was in focusing on being vs doing, at least with some regularity. Switching from a constant focus on what I was executing to how I was doing it through influence and relationships made more things slide into place, with less effort, generally. And, because I was fostering relationships at work, it made my work life more vibrant, fun, and contributed to my success.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
As the global population ages rapidly, by 2025 there will be 1 billion women in menopause, and yet the options for treatment and support remain sorely lacking. By some estimates, less than 1 in 4 women talk about menopause with even their best friends — let alone in the office where the effects of this hormonal shift can be profound. But these symptoms, which are a fact of life for most women, create an estimated $150B in productivity loss. And that has an impact on global, local, and personal economies and is worthy of serious discussion as well as support for women in the workplace, not to mention impacts at home and on a woman’s sense of self. Phenology recognizes that each woman will have a unique journey through menopause, influenced by genetics, lifestyle, and environment. That’s why we are the first menopause brand taking a 360-degree view of menopause — and systematically improving every aspect of the experience with a truly comprehensive portfolio of tailored wellness products and personalized services, so women can focus on living their lives. We want to help make menopause better for everyone, and that means making women feel truly seen by helping women anticipate, architect and navigate menopause with insight and grace. And, knowing that women have been underrepresented in clinical research, our vision is to instigate change leveraging data and insights and contributing to research — in collaboration with our users — over time to advance the science and enable even better care for women during menopause.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I don’t think about tweaks, I think about directives based on what we heard from all the women we talked to going thru menopause and perimenopause.
- Know you deserve to feel well. By some estimates only 30% of women suffering in menopause (and I do mean suffering) actually do anything to help alleviate their symptoms. If you are suffering, there is effective treatment.
- Know you’re not alone. Humans are emotional animals who need validation. We need to know that we are “normal” and we need to feel seen. Menopause is a natural part of nature’s cycle for women.
- Consider the complexity of the human machine. In particular, the powerful mind-body connection. Consider a gratitude practice, reframing exercises, meditation — they are trendy AND they work.
- Move your body. Infusing movement into the day is important, especially for those of us who work from home and might have felt our worlds shrink and get less ambient movement during the course of a day. In addition to the physical benefits, It helps with focus, creativity, and mood too.
- Get more sleep. We’re only just starting to understand how important sleep is to overall health. There are many that believe that getting good sleep is the single most important thing you can do for your health!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’m already a part of the movement I want to create — for menopause. Women deserve better health and wellness research, options, and solutions across our lifespan, but especially during menopause which can impact physical, mental, and emotional health. All the innovation that’s taken place in fertility is awesome. The way we are talking about periods is also a step in the right direction, but we need to move menopause into the 21st Century and into the spotlight for innovation, discussion, and to provide real relief for women.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- There should be some overlap between potential and your comfort zone — but not that much. If you aren’t regularly challenged and ready to take some risk, you won’t grow
- Travel to build empathy, to be inspired, and to gain perspective.
- Never stay at a job when your values are out of alignment with the work, the company, or the leadership
- Time spent shifting your paradigm from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation is well worth the (considerable) effort (for some of us 🙋🏻♀️) and pays off in spades in the long run
- Enjoy each step in your journey. Keep your aspirations and goals high, certainly, but if you spend all your time striving, you can miss some really good stuff happening right NOW.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Obviously, they are all important causes but mental health for me, especially after the last few years of covid, is really one that strikes the loudest chord. We must accept that mental health is just that — a health imperative. Mental health is the foundation for so many important things — emotions, cognition, communication, resilience, self-esteem. It enables us to function as people — partners, co-workers, friends, community members — in a society. Without mental health, things breaks down at work, school, home and in our communities. We need to end the stigma and the shame and provide support people need to take care of themselves, mentally.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.