Jennifer Torrance

Strategic Communications

Jennifer Torrance


Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, family and pets… anything goes! 

I grew up in upstate New York on 80-acres in a very rural area, something that helped me form my love of the outdoors. When I was a child, my family spent summers camping on Mount Desert Island. After I went to college, my parents moved there full time and I joined them in 1996. I now live in Connecticut with my husband Josh, teenagers Sophie and Noah, and dogs Teddy, Finnegan and Toby. But no matter where I live, Maine will always be home! 

What hobbies or interests do you enjoy in your free time?  

I play Celtic fiddle and I’m passionate about traditional music. Scottish, Irish, Quebecois, Acadian, Cape Breton — bring it on! I was the volunteer director for a traditional music school/festival for several years so I enjoy bringing great musicians to town for concerts in the community. I also love building things, spending time with my family and dogs, hiking, boating, etc. 

Tell us about someone in your life who inspired you or helped you become who you are today.

My Dad, absolutely. He taught me SO many things — to be interested in science, how to build things, how to drive, to be a passionate learner, to canoe, to love Maine... He's always been supportive and non-judgemental of me and my decisions, even when they weren't the ones he would have made. And, he brought me to JAX.  

What motivates you or helps you feel fulfilled?

I'm most fulfilled when I'm learning new skills, and applying them in direct and tangible ways. I like to get things done quickly and to see/touch the results of my efforts. Long-term, nebulous projects with no tangible outcome are soul-killers for me. I also REALLY like to solve problems, particularly for others. A good day for me is one where I've checked a lot of boxes and made life easier for someone else.

What do you do really well? Is there anything you wish you could improve?

I’ll try just about anything, so maybe that’s what I do best – a lot of different things marginally well! I'm a fiddler, a mom, a carpenter, a brand strategist, a creative, a retired opera singer. Other than that, I'm good at thinking through solutions to weird challenges, whether it's helping a scientist explain a difficult concept with a single graphic or figuring out how to make a too-tall range hood fit in our very short kitchen. If I don't know HOW to do it when I start, I'll research the topic until I figure out enough about it to figure out the problem. What I’d like to improve? I would like to be more empathetic. I’m in my head a lot and I don’t always clue in on how people are feeling. I also am easily distracted by 'shiny objects' and I have trouble staying on task with long projects. I overanalyze everything, so I'm terribly indecisive with anything that has lots of options. I guess I’ve got a lot to work on!

What’s an accomplishment you are really proud of? Is there something you want to do, but haven't done yet?

I’ve completed four marathons, an ultra-marathon and a half-Ironman triathlon. Training taught me a lot about patience and how much I can handle. I’ve also completed some really extensive renovations in several houses I’ve owned, including turning an empty basement and a dusty attic into livable space. I’ve done most of the work myself, including demo, insulation, framing, electrical, drywall, trim, painting, etc. Those projects were marathons of a different kind, now that I think about it. As far as what I haven’t done yet, I’d really like to learn to be present, to enjoy the moment rather than always thinking of what is next. I’ve always really admired people who can do that. Oh, and someday I'm going to learn how to weld giant metal sculptures. Is that weird? 

Let’s talk about your career journey. What inspired you to go into your current field? What first brought you to JAX? Has your job changed since you joined?

I never set out to be a creative or a brand strategist — in fact, I went to college for music! I really just wanted a job I could be reasonably happy in so I could live in Maine. My dad, who is now retired, was a research scientist at JAX and told me a ton about his work, so I knew it was a great place to be. I've been around laboratories my whole life — my mom was a lab tech, and as a child I went to work with her a lot (boy, do I have some stories about that!). In August 1996, I got a temporary job as a secretary in the grants office, and in October started a permanent position as a Research Administrative Assistant. My first big assignment was helping a group of faculty with a program project grant application for Ovarian Cancer, the very disease that took my grandmother from us when I was 14. Over the years, I’ve had fantastic opportunities to evolve my career at JAX. In my first job as an RAA, I had some free time so I offered to learn some graphic design to help the scientists with publications and slides (this was when we processed slide film in the darkroom, loaded the finished slides into carousels, and carried them to the conference room!). Within a year or so, I became a full-time graphic designer, and within a few years of that added management of the graphics group and print shop. In 2009, I started doing photography, video and animation, and managed the larger group doing creative work for all of JAX. About two years ago I added brand messaging, and in August 2020 changed focus to brand strategy exclusively. It's all felt like a very natural progression.

How do explain your current work to others? What’s your favorite thing about it?

I help people inside and outside JAX understand what we’re all about, and why the work we do is so important for people’s lives. My favorite thing about my work is that I can use my skills as a connector and a problem solver to identify common threads across departments and work areas, finding the elements that make JAX unique and special and creating ways to highlight them. I try to know just enough detail about each area but still stay high-level enough to see the big picture. There are loads of things I like about JAX, too. There are endless opportunities here for anyone who likes to learn, who can identify opportunities and be tenacious enough to drive them forward. The people I work with are fantastic, and I feel like our leaders genuinely care. And the mission — what could be better? Just talk to one of the many families impacted by our work. We're helping people in very real ways. It's very powerful.