In daily life at LEGO for Jennifer DuBuisson, communication is king.
As Senior Director of Government and Public Affairs at the LEGO Group, Jennifer works to engage and influence stakeholders across North and South America, on issues ranging from supply chain challenges to environmental policy. “I work with government stakeholders—congressional members, regulators, agencies, the NGO community, our customers, the media—basically anyone external to the company comes through our team,” Jennifer says. “I spend my entire day talking to people. The communication and presentation skills I learned at Bren have been so important.”
Jennifer works in an industry that is confronting its environmental impact. Companies that have relied on plastics and single-use packaging are investing in new practices—and people to drive those practices. “Toys have a lot of growth opportunities in product and packaging design. Plus, it’s simply a fun industry to work in. There’s a strong nostalgia for and affinity with the brands. For me, working in government affairs, that creates a great starting point for any meeting.”
Jennifer’s journey to her current position began when she was earning her undergraduate degree in biology and environmental science. After a revelatory course in college, she knew she wanted to pursue work in environmental sustainability. When she gave notice at her job in a ceramics plant, the company president asked her to hold on a moment, and then fetched a three-inch folder with the words “environmental stuff” written on the cover to show her he knew what she was talking about.
“Those words have always stuck with me,” she says. “And while I believe the phrase is a misnomer, ‘stuff’ can sometimes feel like an apt description because of the multitude of issues you’re working on. Thankfully, my education at Bren prepared me to wear many hats—to be a specialized generalist who can handle a variety of projects. Being someone who brings relevant insights to a lot of different projects can make you very valuable in a corporate setting.”
Thankfully, my education at Bren prepared me to wear many hats—to be a specialized generalist who can handle a variety of projects. Being someone who brings relevant insights to a lot of different projects can make you very valuable in a corporate setting.
One of her first jobs in environmental sustainability before Bren inspired her to reach for a position where she could make the greatest possible impact. Working in consulting, she started out mostly dealing with paperwork. “There were a lot of data and spreadsheets, and I just decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in a position to develop solutions to environmental problems. I wanted to be a decision maker.” She decided to look at graduate programs to help her advance her career, and Bren was an obvious choice. “It had a great curriculum, an emphasis on management that I appreciated, and when I met the people, they were amazing,” she says.
From there, coursework and internships led, somewhat unexpectedly, to the toy industry. Jennifer worked with the Bren Career Development team to hone her resume, and they shared it with companies looking to hire. She was hired by Mattel—not, after all, in the field of environmental sustainability, but in social sustainability. She used that as a stepping stone into the next phase of her career.
“The world is really big, and it’s interconnected,” she says. “It can be tough to get that one sustainability manager role. But once you get your foot in the door, there are many opportunities to practice and implement sustainability leadership. I started in social sustainability; I was working on issues related to fair wages, responsible sourcing, and ethical treatment. And from there, I was able to transfer to more environmental work.”
While her current work is also outside of environmental sustainability, Jennifer still draws on the work she did during her time at Bren. “Having a basic background in environmental science has been very valuable. It helps me to translate complicated life-cycle assessments and research and development work to external audiences. It lets me meet people where they’re at. Internally, engineers are working on these super-complicated issues, and they need to trust I’m going to present the work accurately. Externally, I need to be able to explain that work in terms of policy positions to NGOs and government officials, who may not have that technical background.”
Even more valuable than the coursework and skills she gained, though, is the network she built as a Bren student. She notes that because Bren students often work on interconnected fields, they not only look out for each by making recommendations during job searches and giving career advice, but also trade practical tips on doing their jobs. “Invest in your network,” she says. “When I left the environmental field, that was scary. But I had these amazing, inspiring people who helped me make the transition; some of them had done it themselves. And that was a huge help.”
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