University of Texas Arlington #ELGLInspire Speaker: Marguerite “Maggie” Jones

Posted on February 19, 2020

Maggie Jones

#ELGLInspire is coming to University of Texas Arlington on February 19th! Learn more about our event speakers in these brief profiles, and connect with them before and after the event! To find information about all of the speakers, visit the #ELGLInspire homepage.

Marguerite “Maggie” Jones

Assistant Director, Community Development (Tarrant County)

What was the very first paying job you held (that you paid taxes on)?

Hosted, waited tables, worked in the kitchen, bartended (once) at Yia Yia Mary’s Pappas Greek restaurant in Houston, TX.  I had an amazing GM, Damian Hopf, who took the time to teach me everything he could from providing excellent customer service, how to work within a system and as part of a team, and to solve problems, all while having fun in an incredibly fast-paced environment.  I’d do it all over again.

What was your: undergraduate institution? Graduate institution? What was/were your degree(s) in?

What class(es) (if any) are applicable to your job today?

Before I answer this question, it is important to note that I hated reading for most of college, much to the dismay of my parents, who were both English teachers at some point in their careers.  Somehow in undergrad, I ended up in Dr. Ann Daghistany’s (Texas Tech) English courses and she completely changed my life.  Dr. Daghistany had a way of teaching in a way that made every one of us find reading and writing magical all over again.  She challenged us to share our thoughts and ideas and to put it all on paper. You know what you do a lot of in local government work?  Reading and writing.

In graduate school, I had the honor of taking several courses from Dr. Susan Opp (now at Colorado State).  My favorite was Research Methods.  In this course, we learned about the power of quantitative and qualitative data.  Data drives decisions, programs, performance – you name it – and it helps us tell our story and the story of our communities.  Data (or the lack thereof) challenges us to ask why and asking why helps us understand, learn, and grow.  In the wise words of Mike Bloomberg, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”  Data doesn’t just apply to work life; it applies to your life as a whole.

Participating in HKS’ Implementing Public Policy course has completely rocked my world in the most beautiful way.   So often in this work, we identify challenges that seem impossible to tackle, whether too big, too complex, too political, or too expensive.  Through Implementing Public Policy, we have learned to break these challenges down and identify entry points to increase opportunities for successful policy implementation.  Taking this course came at a perfect time for me in my career as I was frustrated with the seemingly constant road blocks; it equipped me with the tools to tackle my policy challenges in a different way and the courage to keep going.

What book are you currently reading? Would you recommend it?

Nonfiction: Rising Strong by Brené Brown.  10/10 would recommend.  The idea is “struggle can be our greatest call to courage, and rising strong our clearest path to deeper meaning, wisdom, and hope.”

Fiction: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.  I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t adore this book.  “Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.”  The imagery, the story, the characters. This book is amazing and you won’t want to put it down.

What’s the best networking advice for job seekers you’ve heard or shared? 

When I was a freshman at Tech, I was invited to hit up a bar with some friends to play pool.  The problem was I was 17 and couldn’t even get in to a bar.  When I told my friend this, he paused for a moment and said, “Walk in like you own the place.”  So, I did. And I beat him at pool.

I share this story not to tell you to break all the rules (although I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a rebel).  Confidence is powerful – but it isn’t just your confidence; it is how comfortable you make others in the room, too.  If you can put yourself and others at ease, you’ll do just fine.

What’s the fastest way to NOT get a job or internship with you? (e.g. what should potential applicants avoid doing if they were to ever interview with you for a position).

There are two questions I ask candidates during every interview: (1) How do you approach a complex problem? and (2) What’s a good day for you?

I ask these questions for a few reasons.  Are you willing to ask questions or ask for help?  Are you willing to fail forward? Are you able to acknowledge what you don’t know and learn?  I need you to feel comfortable with failure, with learning and trying again.

I also want to make sure your life is not 100% about your job.  Work is important, but your world should be bigger than your 8 to 5.  What you do outside of work is as critical (if not more so) than what you do at your desk; it also impacts creativity, productivity, and flow in your personal and professional life.

And the #1 thing(s) NOT to do – Don’t bash your last boss.  Don’t tell me something (or someone) is stupid. Don’t bring politics into the conversation.  Don’t be hateful. Just. Be. You.

Why should an undergraduate student consider a career working in local government?

Why not?

Local government is architecture, engineering, education, policy, law, development, planning, community, service, roads, water, waste management, transportation, finances, data, analysis, action, impact, and so much more – all rolled into one.  You don’t have to be good at just one thing – you can be a generalist and succeed here. I learn something new every day (and most of my colleagues do, too). The best part? Every day I impact someone’s life for the better, even if in a really small way.

Do you have a work or life motto? What is it?

Just one?  How about four!  Here are some of my favorites:

  • “No mud, no lotus.” – Thich Nhat Hanh 
  • “Collaborate with people you can learn from.” – Pharrell 
  • “Your brilliant first flop was a raging success!  Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next! … Life might have its failures, but this was not it.  The only true failure can come if you quit.” – Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
  • “I cannot be letting Lizzo down like this anymore.” – everybody on Twitter (and they are right)
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