Project Manager Jennifer Dadamo

A conversation about the joys of multitasking, the importance of long-term client relationships, and life on a sailboat

In our last interview, we featured a brand new team member. This time, the spotlight is on one of Domain7’s “oldest” members, project manager Jennifer Dadamo.

Jen has been with Domain7 for more than ten years and we couldn’t imagine a world without her infectious laughter, bubbly personality and mad skills painting trees with Tilt Brush.

An avid multitasker, she wears many hats on any given day: from working out timelines, to taking on marketing or sales, to co-designing landing pages or brochures. All that gear shifting and project wrangling is done from her office with a 360-degree view of the Annapolis harbour: Jen lives and works on “Sea Cooper”, a 40-foot sailboat she sailed from New York all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.

Can you tell me a bit more about what you do at Domain7? What does your day-to-day look like?

I’m technically a project manager and engagement strategist, but I see myself as a jack of all trades. I do a little bit of everything: project management, marketing, sales, client engagement, billing, budgeting, strategy, a bit of design work, too. Basically, any Domain7-related work in Prince George’s County in Maryland is my domain. And I love it, because I’m a multitasker.

For the last ten years, I’ve mainly been running two programs of the Office of Transportation — RideShare and Employer Outreach. The idea is to get people to use public transportation, because it’s better for the environment and it helps relieve traffic congestion within the D.C. area.

What did your path to what you do today look like?

My background is in graphic design. I was very into print design at the time, but I also knew that web was becoming more and more important, so I minored in web design as well — back when we were still building websites in Flash. Oh, the joys of Flash! I briefly dabbled in animation, but it was a bit too tedious for me.

After I graduated, I really wanted to work at a place that would allow me to use my love for design in every aspect of the business. Like I said, I’ve always been a multitasker, and I enjoy being involved in all sorts of different areas. Getting hired by Domain7 as a project manager really allowed me to lean into that.

Given all these different areas you work in, do you have a favourite task?

There are a lot of events associated to the programs I’m working with — events to promote public transit, such as “Bike to Work Day” and “Car Free Day”. I love coming up with new marketing strategies around those events and working with designers on web projects and print materials. I absolutely love it.

What’s a recent idea or project you’ve worked on that you were proud of?

Brennan, one of Domain7’s designers, and I did a mini rebrand of one of my programs, the SmartBenefits Program. It’s part of RideSmart. I’d say, that’s probably one of my biggest accomplishments. Our approach was a little unconventional and involved us developing a new brand that strayed from the county’s colours. That was a pretty radical concept for the client, but it really resulted in a fresh look. We built a microsite for the program and it’s one of the best outreach tools I ever had the pleasure to work with.

The only way you can achieve continuous improvement is by truly engaging with a client and getting to know who they used to be, who they are, and who they can become.

What gives your work meaning?

I think the time and energy I put into the programs and the longevity of my involvement. It has become my baby and I love seeing it grow year after year. It’s exciting to see it developing and to see what new ideas we can come up with. And I believe in the program’s cause, too. I believe promoting transportation alternatives can make a difference for the environment. It feels really good to work towards a good cause.

When we think about agency work, we think one-off projects, not evolving, long-term partnerships. Do you think the latter is the better approach?

How are you going to achieve continuous improvement for your client otherwise? When you work with a client long-term, you gain so many valuable insights. There are so many connections you can make — based on experience, but also based on data measured over a long period of time. You see what’s working and what’s not, and from there you can ask the right questions: How can we improve? How can we change our strategy based on what we know and blow it out of the water the next time? How can we foster sustainable change?

The only way you can achieve continuous improvement is by truly engaging with a client and getting to know who they used to be, who they are, and who they can become.

If you had to pick one piece of career advice, what would that be?

Networking! Embrace it and use it to your advantage. Go out and meet real people. I think a lot of people today live a pretty solitary life, or they look online to try to find things. The value of interpersonal relationships gets a little lost sometimes these days, but they can open so many doors for you — professionally and personally.

What do you do in your free time?

I love sailing and anything, really, that involves being on the water. I’m such a fish. That’s probably why I live on a boat.

Living on a boat is different. It’s something you have to get used to, but I honestly love it. I don’t need a lot of space, and I love being able to just up and go whenever I feel like it.

Wait! What? You live on a boat?

Yes. I do. I live on “Sea Cooper”. She’s a 40-foot Irwin sailboat and named after my grandma. My grandma was a big part of why I got into sailing. When I was little, she signed me up for sailing camp, and I spent the summers with her. I went to camp for four years and she lead me to my love of the water. When she passed away, I knew I wanted to do something to honour her, so I did this little play on words: Her initials were C. Cooper, for Catherine Cooper, so I changed the C to S-E-A.

The idea to live on a boat came to me about three years ago, while I was working on a charter boat. I loved it so much I thought, “Why not do this all the time?” And then about a year ago, I bought “Sea Cooper” in Long Island, New York, and sailed her back here. It took me five days: down the East River, along Manhattan, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. And then I sailed her out along the ocean, along the New Jersey coast. There’s a canal that leads to the top of New Jersey and Delaware. We cut through that canal, and we came in through the top of the Chesapeake Bay and sailed down.

So that’s where you live now?

Yes. I’m in the Chesapeake Bay, which—little known fact—is the longest estuary in the United States. My slip [docking place] is in the state capital, Annapolis, at the harbour, right downtown.

What’s it like to live on a boat?

Living on a boat is different. It’s something you have to get used to, but I honestly love it. I don’t need a lot of space, and I love being able to just up and go whenever I feel like it. If I don’t want to be in my slip for the weekend, I just anchor somewhere else. I’m constantly here and there.

I love that there are so many sounds around me: Right now, I can hear some kids over there, getting ready for sailing camp. I hear a tugboat, the flapping of the sails, the lapping of the waves. Oh, and the rocking of the boat. Whenever I need a break throughout the day, I just pause and focus on all these sounds and movements. It instantly calms me, and it’s great at night, too. There’s nothing more precious to me than lying in bed and being rocked to sleep by the water.

What’s the longest sailing trip you’ve ever done?

That was probably my two-week trip up to Alaska. We started in Bellingham, Washington, and sailed throughout the San Juan Islands all the way to Port Hardy, at the top of Vancouver Island, and onwards to our final destination, Seward, Alaska.

On our way, I stopped in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island and that’s where I ran into a co-worker, Jamie. I took a photo of me and Jamie and posted it on Slack, which was really hilarious. Half the Domain7 office in Vancouver didn’t know I was doing this trip, so everyone was really confused, you know, “What the heck is going on?”

Can you remember a childhood story of yours that still personifies you to this day?

When I was eight or nine, we went on a trip to Disney World, and we stopped in front of the carousel in the Magic Kingdom. They have this “King Arthur”-type sword there and they invite a kid up on the stage to pull the sword out — you know, re-enact the story. And out of all the little kids I was chosen to go up. I don’t remember me actually pulling the sword out, but I do remember my mom later telling me that the people, who asked me up on the stage, said that I was one of the silliest kids they’d ever chosen to do this. Most of the kids are scared and timid, but I was very outgoing and silly. I was pulling on that thing, making all these faces and sounds, like “Heeeee”.

People tell me all the time that I’m still this bubbly, giggly, can’t-really-hold-a-straight-face person. I like that about me, and it still personifies me. And I still love Disney. Oh, and I went on to work for Disney years later, too.

You worked for Disney?

Yes. I did an internship and ended up staying for three years instead of nine months. I started the Disney College Program and worked at the Magic Kingdom. Back to the roots, I guess. I worked at a souvenir shop, called the Emporium. My manager at the time knew I was studying graphic design, and after my first year working in the park, she asked me, “Would you like to work behind the scenes and start making posters for all the tunnels that run throughout the Magic Kingdom?” They have all these signs for people who work there or to point visitors in the right direction, like, “Go this way if you’re looking for Frontierland.” Of course I accepted the job, and I stayed for three years. I did other work, too. I worked in the money room for a bit and counted all the cash at the end of the day. I did a little bit of everything while I was there.

“A little bit of everything” seems to be a theme in your life. You said you’re a multitasker. Why do you think that’s where you thrive?

I like to be able to see all the different aspects of something while doing everything myself at the same time. I think that’s the only child in me. The “understanding”-part is important, too. I really love to venture into different areas and learn and understand what is happening. That’s why project management is such a good fit for me: It’s very broad and there are all these parts to a project you can get involved in. I like to jump in and close the gaps: whether that’s coming up with an idea, or a brochure that needs to be designed, or doing research.

Is there any aspect of your job that you find challenging?

I find working remotely can be a challenge at times. Our main offices are in Vancouver and Abbotsford and I’m here in Annapolis, so often I work on a project with a team that’s across the country in a different time zone. That means I have less hours on any given day to communicate directly with the team on the West Coast. Sometimes that can lead to bottlenecks, but I think I’ve gotten much better over the years at not letting things get to a point where a project grinds to a halt.

One of the key things I’ve learned is to just run with things — to set a course and make time to get input from the team in Vancouver. But until I can make that happen, I’ll just stay the course and make decisions to the best of my ability. Developing that attitude made a huge difference and has been incredibly useful in keeping projects moving.