Acacia Spotlight: Jess Rodriguez

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. The Month of May is Jess Rodriguez, Director of Business Services.

Heading into the fifth year, Acacia seems to be growing stronger and more coordinated and this is no accident – not a fluke in the system – but rather a result from the dedicated staff, clinicians, volunteers, and members behind the scenes, ones that are working towards the mission of the company. If Acacia was the human body there would only be one person that could embody the heart (and to be honest: lungs, brain, hands, etc.) and that’s Jess Rodriguez. As Director of the Central Business Office, Jess, along with her team, takes on the tasks of keeping Acacia moving behind the scenes.

A native to Southern California, having moved to the Inland Empire at 10 from Santa Ana, Jess found her way to the University of California, Santa Barbara for college and eventually found Acacia

How did you get started at Acacia?

Jess: I joined Acacia during my third year at UCSB as part of the first team of administrative assistants, with an additional marketing role. At the time I was working a pretty demanding restaurant setting, but I needed a change of pace for my own sanity and academic success. I found the Acacia job posting on its expiring date after a really tough day, and immediately biked over to drop off my resume in hopes the position hadn’t been filled yet. As soon as I walked in, I knew this was the place for me, and I made sure the owners knew that too. I think I even said, “I’m your new admin” or something in that brazen fashion. No regrets.

Dr. Brett Donnelly, Co-founder of Acacia, thinks only fondly of his first interaction with Jess.

Although she was nervous, she wasn’t going to let it stop her from becoming what she wanted and making sure that we knew how much she supported our mission.

First impressions of Jess?

Dr. Brett: In typical Jess fashion, she came over-prepared and eager when we first met her. She was so dedicated, passionate, and brave. I can still remember her interview. Although she was nervous, she wasn’t going to let it stop her from becoming what she wanted and making sure that we knew how much she supported our mission. These early interactions were indicative of the type of person that Jess is and why we have absolutely loved having her grow with Acacia!

What does Jess have that makes her a standout among the Acacia crew?

Dr. Brett: I think Jess not only works extremely hard but also extremely smart. She knows where Acacia is in our growth stage and therefore knows how to be clever in terms of how we can grow on limited resources. We also always like to say about Jess: “She gets s**t done.” This is incredibly important for her position and it is much appreciated. Finally, I think Jess also has a creative mind. She is always thinking outside the box and looking for new solutions, not just the same old ones that have been used.

Jess has been in support of Acacia’s mission since day one and has made exceptional effort to further the company and those around her. According to Jibe’s 7 Qualities of A Good Employee [1], Jess seems to embody them all, from dependability to self-motivation but this goes beyond an employee` – she’s a leader, a strong peer, and overall engaging person to be around – in and out of the work place. Dare we say it, she may be the most important person in the company! Jess’ initial reaction to this title sparked an “oh no” response but she seems to be coming around to the idea.

What if I called you the most important person in the company?

Jess: You know when Mia Thermopolis [from the movie Princess Diaries] finds out the fate of Genovia is in her hands? It’s just like that – a little nerve-wracking to think so many people would depend on you, but inspiring and motivating to see how much of an impact you can have. But seriously, what a compliment!

If you could write a movie about Jess’ time at Acacia, what would it be called?

Dr. Brett: Getting S**t Done: How Jessica Rodriguez Transformed Acacia.

From left to right: Dr. Keith Higginbotham (Co-Founder), Jess Rodriguez, and Dr. Brett Donnelly (Co-Founder). Photo by REDMOND DIGITAL MEDIA.

Continuing onto even greater things at Acacia, Jess, along with the other members of the Central Team, are looking forward to cultivating even more growth.

What has been a challenge for you in this company?

Jess: I think my biggest challenge has been accepting that I can’t be involved with or do everything. Acacia was so small when I first started and I was naturally involved in all that we were doing, so it’s been tough re-training my brain to step out of certain things. I’m really thankful for all the support I get from our team, because they’ve helped ease my anxiety in that regard.

What motivates you to continue your work?

Jess: As corny as it may sound, our mission and clients have always been my primary motivation. I consider myself lucky to have started at our entry level. Because of my front desk experience, I’ve seen the direct impact that Acacia has on clients, and it gives me great fulfillment to be an agent in someone’s journey toward growth.

What have you found to be an important aspect for Acacia (and you) moving forward?

Jess: Over time, we’ve formed and identified an “Acacia spirit” that we look for in potential new team members. There is no perfect formula, but it is empathic, supportive, and driven, among other things. Meeting others that emulate that spirit is one of the most exciting parts of growing the team, and keeping them is one of the keys to our success. We want every individual to feel this spirit whenever they’re at Acacia, so it’s important to us that everyone who joins shares the passion for what we do and embodies the Acacia spirit in some way.

She has shown me what a great leader looks like and encourages our whole team to work hard but also have fun and celebrate all of the little victories.

Amy Shirley, Human Resources Lead in the Central Business Office, reflects on her time time with Jess.

What about Jess impresses you most?

Amy: I feel so lucky to work with Jess because she is always so supportive, both professionally and personally. I sincerely feel like she cares about me as a person and genuinely wants me to succeed. She knows so much about everything and she never makes me feel silly for asking questions. She has a million things on her plate but she walks in the door each morning with a smile on her face. She has shown me what a great leader looks like and encourages our whole team to work hard but also have fun and celebrate all of the little victories. I truly believe the Central Business Office would not be what it is without Jess. 

Summing up Jess’ work and ambition into one phrase is quite the feat but we’ll take a stab at it: Jess Rodriguez – strong leader, supporter, and self-proclaimed Princess of Acacia – will continue to direct and nourish the Central Business Team into year five of Acacia’s legacy.

Anything you’d like to say to Jess but just haven’t yet or maybe you can’t stop saying?

Dr. Brett: Thank you, thank you, thank you! I look forward to continuing to work on large scale projects with Jess as we grow and seeing how she leads her teams!

Stay tuned for more insights with Acacia Spotlight and comment below with any other topics or people you want us to cover.

Author, KorbyQuan Reed

Smycal, E. (n.d.). 7 Qualities Of A Good Employee and Candidate (According to Research). Retrieved from https://www.jibe.com/ddr/7-qualities-of-a-good-employee-and-candidate-according-to-research/

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