Stephanie Watson-Todd

JAX® Mice, Clinical & Research Services, Project Management

Stephanie Watson-Todd 

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

I was born and raised in Chicago and the Chicagoland area. I went to college and graduate school in the city and worked there for 13 years. In my thirties, I started to dislike city life more and more. I’m an outside kind of girl who loves hiking, camping, fishing and when my best friend from childhood asked me if I would move to Maine with her, I thought “why not.” We pooled our resources and bought a house in Bangor on a foreclosure for $36,000. It had no kitchen and no floors and I figured out how to do most of the work to make it habitable. Currently, I live in Brewer, ME with my wife Jennie and our 4 children. We have two dogs, a beagle and a Catahoula Leopard dog.

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

My new hobby is freezing in the Penobscot Ice Arena watching my son play hockey…something he is very passionate about. When I find myself with some spare time I enjoy playing video games and spending time outdoors. My oldest son and I have taken up hiking during COVID and often venture out to try new trails, views, streams and ponds.

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

I attribute much of who I am to the influence of my paternal grandfather. For a period of time in my younger years, I lived with him and my grandmother. He was the first person I knew who lived his values unwavering. He was a highly intelligent man who did not have the opportunity to attend college due to World War II. He served as a Reconnaissance officer in Normandy. When he returned he became a crane operator in the steel mills in southern Chicago. Though he did not attend college he was a lifelong learner. As my guardian, he taught me to read by the time I was 3. But more than that, my grandfather believed that kindness, respect and unconditional love for others were paramount and that success in anything without that was not possible. The ways in which he lived out his beliefs have left a lasting impression on me and I strive to continue that legacy. In the days of great racial tension, he was the friend of everyone. He would spend his lunches out of his crane down on the dock talking to the stevedores, many of whom were immigrants. He would help them learn conversational English. They would bring him some of the most delicious food that I often got to try. For me, he instilled confidence in me that I could do anything. He always encouraged me to try and do whatever I wanted. What I know now as an adult is that if you have just one person who believes in you it can change the course of your entire life. My home life when not with my grandparents was tumultuous. I not only survived, I thrived because of the confidence that came out of that relationship.

What motivates you or helps you feel fulfilled?

I need to be part of something that makes a difference in the world. I’m very much a people person and I love being part of a team and working alongside others toward a common goal. The work we do at JAX is so important. Even though I am not a scientist and quite frankly Science was NEVER my favorite subject in school, I love using my experience and talents to support those who DO the science. 

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

I’m really good at finding creative solutions to difficult problems. I’m also really good at trivia games. I have a knack for remembering very obscure details. Lately, I have been trying to do things I’ve never done before. Most of those things are on the artistic side. I really don’t like traditional arts and crafts, but I do have a great appreciation for things like woodworking, stained glass and metals. I’d really like to improve my woodworking skills.

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

Although this has been some time ago, when I first moved to Maine and bought my house with no kitchen or floors I took classes at Home Depot and learned how to do the things I needed done. My biggest accomplishment was learning plumbing. Not only did I have plumb my new kitchen, I also had to re-plumb the whole house to re-direct flow to a new septic system on the opposite side of the house. When I sold that house it all passed inspection! I love to hike but I am afraid of heights. One day I am going to hike the Bee Hive.  

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?

Before moving to Maine I was a technology trainer. As a contractor, I worked in a lot of businesses and industries and learned a lot about what makes businesses run. I loved working with end-users and helping them find ways of doing their work more efficiently and learning new things. After moving to Maine, I taught technology and business courses and the local colleges and universities. One day I saw a job posting for a Business Process Specialist for the Customer Service team to implement a new ERP system at JAX. I applied and the next week was at a job fair with my students and I stealthily made my way to the JAX booth and talked to a recruiter. After several interviews, I eventually ended up here at JAX. I spent about 4 years in Customer Service developing and refining business processes before moving on to a similar position in Project Management working with the Project Managers on their new technology and processes. Then, one day a few years later there was an opening as the manager of the PM team and Breeding Services mouse rooms. The position had been open for a long time and I mentioned that I’d love to apply but I had no mouse room experience. Long story short, I got a crash course in mouse husbandry and operations and before I knew it I was getting my biomethods training and the rest is history. Turns out you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Some of the most humbling, exhilarating and exciting times at JAX so far were learning alongside my team and having them teach me with pride their proficiency and knowledge of the animals in their care. The organizational structure has changed a time or two since 2011 when I first did that but I will always appreciate the chance to work in the mouse room and the patience folks showed me along the way. I now lead the PM team that is now double the size it was in 2012. I’ve served in many different roles as we have grown in this area of the business and am grateful every day for the folks who alongside me supporting research around the globe.

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

I usually tell people I lead a team of project managers who support researchers searching for cures for human diseases. My favorite thing about my job is the people I work with. The Project Management team is an amazing group of individuals all committed to the work we do here at JAX. The breadth of knowledge and experience in this team is mind-boggling and their willingness to rise to whatever challenge is put forth is inspiring. Their passion and commitment are inspirational and I’m humbled at the privilege to be their leader. I also love our customers. I’ve had so many opportunities to speak with our customers and learn what they are trying to accomplish. I’m especially moved by those studying rare diseases. Their passion and determination motivate me and remind me of the important work we all do. I have literally sat and cried with some of them about the stories behind their research. It is such a privilege to be here.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I’m humbled and excited to be part of this project . I can’t wait to read and learn more about my colleagues. We have grown so much since I came here 15 years ago it is impossible to even meet everyone. Now, since COVID it is even more difficult as many of us have worked from home. This is a great way to stay connected.