Janet Schijns of Ocean Ridge holds Cassie Jo, her 5-year-old Labradoodle, and shows her collection of Star Wars and Wonder Woman figurines. Schijns runs her own company, the JS Group, a technology consultancy, and was recently recognized by the IT industry as Channel Partners magazine’s 2019 Channel Influencer of the Year. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Brian Biggane
Janet Schijns grew up in a small town in New Jersey, the daughter of the police chief. One thing she learned there, the Ocean Ridge mother of two says, was that it is important to give back to the community.
That giving-back philosophy remains strong with Schijns, who is CEO of the Ocean Ridge-based JS Group.
“We consult with firms who need help with their go-to-market plans,” she said of the company. “That means routes to market (sales), marketing and business development.”
Schijns, 56, enjoys helping her community look more beautiful as a member of the Ocean Ridge Garden Club. But her favorite cause is the Elle Foundation, dedicated to the idea that terminally ill kids need one more great memory before their time is up.
There’s a reason she is so passionate about Elle.
In 2008, the closest friend of Schijns’ daughter, Ashlyn, was Lauren “Elle” Richmond of New Jersey. Diagnosed with cancer six years earlier, Elle Richmond had achieved her dream of swimming with dolphins through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
But as Elle’s days grew short, Schijns became amazed to see her focus turn outward.
“The parents had spent almost all of their savings, done fundraisers and all these things, and it was at the worst part where there’s no hope left,” Schijns said. “And what made Lauren special is rather than think about her diagnosis, the last few months of her life were spent working toward how she could make it better for other people. She did some fantastic things.”
Out of that determination came the Elle Foundation.
“We were all good friends, but it didn’t really involve the social connection,” said Schijns. “Here was this child, who had these dreams that were never going to come true, and yet she wanted to do something more. She would constantly say, ‘I want to take care of the really sick kids.’ So that’s why I support it. To give a second wish to these kids.”
More about the Elle Foundation, which during the past decade has given a so-called “third wish” to 52 children, can be found at ellefoundation.org.
Q: Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A: Not really sure any of us, myself included, are ever fully grown up — sounds boring to a techie like me. I was, however, born in Mendham, N.J., and graduated from Montclair State University with a B.S. in finance. Growing up in a small town in New Jersey showed me how important it was to contribute to the community. My father was chief of police when I was a child, and this heavily influenced my life — showing me that you serve with honor and dignity whenever you are called upon to help.
Q: What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: Well, I did work three whole days in finance when I first graduated from college, and then realized it wasn’t for me (despite the degree my hard-working parents paid for!), but then I quickly transitioned to a career in technology marketing and sales.
As for actual leadership positions in my field, I am currently CEO of the JS Group, and have been honored to also have had leadership positions in several very large public companies, including EVP of solutions and services at Office Depot, chief channel executive and chief marketing technologist at Verizon and VP of channels at Motorola.
I’ve always been most proud of having raised two wonderful children, Sean and Ashlyn, who are both great adults.
Most recently I am very proud to have been named “Channel Influencer of the Year” by Channel Partners; it’s quite an honor in my industry.
Q: What advice do you have for a young person seeking a career today?
A: Pick something you truly want to do with your life, make it your career choice and then outwork your competition. Nothing beats hard work at the start of your career in the race to get ahead. Do it when you are young so that later in your career you can better balance your work and life.
I would also say that every connection you make with people is valuable. Save your contacts and keep in touch with them. Offer to help them and do it. Treat them as well as you would treat money in your wallet; they matter just as much. As your career grows, having the right contacts to reach out to for help will make all the difference in your getting ahead.
Q: How did you choose to make your home in Ocean Ridge?
A: My son, Sean, went to Lynn University and is an active real estate investor and broker. He called me and said, “Put this address in your GPS and go see this house.” We saw the house and loved it. We then attended a town hall to get a feel for the town and met a few neighbors and we were hooked. It’s a great town and it’s been incredibly welcoming.
Q: What is your favorite part about living in Ocean Ridge?
A: My husband, Roy, and I truly enjoy the sense of community. The people in the town care about each other and our environment and take action to ensure that things happen. I’ve joined the Ocean Ridge Garden Club as well, and am so proud of what the group does to help preserve and enhance the local community. Of course, I also love the beach. It’s just my favorite place to go and relax and unwind.
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: Darknet, and before you read it make sure you are OK with being truly frightened at the implications of artificial intelligence and its potential impact to our daily lives in the very near future. It seems futuristic when you first read it, but do your research and you will see many of the elements of the book (like voice-spoofing your likeness) are happening today.
Q: What music do you listen to when you want to relax? When you want to be inspired?
A: Country music is my go-to feel-good music. It’s simple and easy to sing along with. For inspiration, Queen, always Queen. If you aren’t a fan yet, go see the movie Bohemian Rhapsody and you will be.
Q: Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who inspired your life decisions?
A: I have been so blessed to have some truly great mentors. Great mentors spend the time to really get to know you and to help. Two of my most influential mentors were Mike Bauer, CEO of ScanSource, and John Stratton, COO of Verizon. They both helped me to succeed and to see the options open to me throughout my career.
My mother was always my biggest inspiration; she was a working woman long before it was popular. When I lost my mom a few years back my daughter, Ashlyn, stepped right up to be my biggest inspiration. She has challenged me to get back to being an entrepreneur and to take risks like joining the boards of startup tech firms and taking ownership shares in these firms as well.
Q: If your life story were to be made into a movie, who would play you?
A: I always say go big or go home, so let’s say Sandra Bullock. I think she would bring that fun spirit to my story.
Q: Who/what makes your laugh?
A: A silly knock-knock joke will always make me laugh, but to get me really going my husband, Roy, is the trick. He’s simply hysterical (it’s the Dutch birthright, I assume). He can make me laugh in any circumstance and takes every chance he gets to make me burst out laughing in public.