8 Questions with Annie Jollymore
In “8 Questions With…,” we share a brief Q&A with a staff member. In this edition, we hear from Annie Jollymore, MA, who joined Rosov Consulting in 2019, bringing experience in interviewing and qualitative analysis, teaching, and customer service to her role as a Project Associate.
1. What’s your area(s) of expertise and how has it been beneficial and led to success in your work?
I have several areas of expertise that have been beneficial to my work at Rosov Consulting. My methodological and analytical strengths are in qualitative data collection and analysis, particularly in the theory and practice of interviewing and observational methods. My sociological training involved rigorous studies in social interaction and meaning making that is invaluable at multiple stages of research, including designing interview protocols, conducting interviews and focus groups, making sense of what people say (and how they say it!), and teasing out patterns and themes in all the wonderful messiness that is qualitative data! And while I never actually conducted a focus group prior to joining the Rosov team, I have eight years of experience in classroom teaching that has included countless hours of coaxing students into reflection and moderating their discussions that has translated almost seamlessly into facilitating focus groups (including a recent round of asynchronous focus groups!).
In terms of content-knowledge, I’m a bit of a strange fit for Rosov: I arrived with no experience or knowledge around philanthropy, Jewish education, the Jewish communal sector, or Judaism in general! My areas of expertise and interest in sociology are American race studies and law/politics most specifically, and power and inequality more generally. While our work rarely deals with these issues in direct, focused ways, having a well-developed understanding of such social forces and keeping them in the forefront of my mind allows me to bring an unusual and generative lens to our work, especially in the analytical phase.
2. What experiences have led you into your current career path?
I’m a bit of an oddball here, too. I’m slightly older than most of the folks in my position at Rosov, reflecting a quite circuitous route that has kept me largely out of office-based work. I have always been interested in sociology, research, and understanding the contours and workings of the social world. I majored in sociology as an undergraduate but did not want to attend graduate school immediately. Instead I moved around a bit, from Chicago to New Jersey, back home to California, then on to Chicago again, working a range of jobs in the food service industry. I’ve been a hostess, a server, a bartender, and for a time, one of the best baristas in the Diamond District of Oakland, CA (latte art to write home about)! But sociology continued calling to me, and I eventually returned to school at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. After earning a Masters and defending my dissertation prospectus, I returned to California with my partner where I spent four years as an adjunct sociology professor at several colleges in the area. As anyone who has tried knows, and everyone else can imagine, living in the Bay Area on an adjunct salary takes a toll, and I began looking for jobs outside of education in which I could put to use both my sociological training and the diverse skills I’d been building in the classroom.
3. What do you like learning about most through your work?
There are so many ways to answer this question. On a practical level I’ve learned a great deal about project management and teamwork – coming from an environment where the majority of my intellectual and logistical work was done solo, it’s been a steep and fascinating learning curve around teamwork.
But truly one of the things I’ve enjoyed most has been learning about Judaism and the Jewish world. I am quite fond of language and have loved learning bits of Hebrew and finding myself recognizing and understanding more and more of the sprinkled Hebrew terms I encounter in interviews, focus groups, client meetings, and interactions with my colleagues. I’ve learned a lot about Judaism, as well, becoming more familiar with Jewish holidays, their meanings, and the traditions associated with them. I find myself noticing mezuzahs when I encounter them, and really enjoy seeing the pieces of Judaism that have surrounded me my whole life, heretofore invisibly. And connected with this, possibly the thing I enjoy learning about most is the inner workings of Jewish communities, including the interplay between social patterns and institutional patterns, and especially coming to understand better the interaction of different ideas and sub-groups throughout the Jewish community. A few of my favorite examples have been learning through our interviews with Israeli American Council’s Gvanim participants about the different experiences of Jews and Jewish communities in Israel versus the United States and how that impacts individual perspective and communal organization; and learning more about the diverse ethnic origins of Jews and how they interact with the specific American racial landscape in socially and politically complex ways. The opportunities to see and better understand the complex dynamics of an American subcommunity I knew little about before has particularly tickled the sociologist in me!
4. What do you like most about working at Rosov Consulting?
I think above all, I enjoy the flexibility and collegial atmosphere at Rosov Consulting. By flexibility I mean in part the logistical flexibility we are given to do our work when and how best suits us and our teams – I really appreciate having flexible hours, and working in a context that supports and honors both teamwork and individual needs. This is where flexibility meets collegiality! I really appreciate the supportive atmosphere at Rosov – this is evident in so many ways on both a personal and professional level. I am grateful for a supervisory system that transcends our project work and allows me to develop a relationship with someone in a more senior position who advocates for me and works closely with me on everything from professional development goals to troubleshooting a range of work issues – this has been an extremely positive aspect.
5. What are some challenges of your work?
A nebulous question! I would say that one of the biggest challenges of our work at Rosov, from my limited perspective, is finding the line between satisfying and educating our clients about the promises and limitations of our work and walking it. In terms of the challenges I personally encounter in my work, I’d say that as a Project Associate I constantly need to make adjustments in how I work and what I focus on based on the project lead I work with – it took me some time to fully understand the scope of my role because different project leads have different expectations of how work will get done and by whom. Realizing this was the case has eased the challenge, and the more I learn about my colleagues and our work the better I become at navigating it.
On a different note, one of my biggest challenges at Rosov, one that feels as though it’s becoming infamous, is recruiting and scheduling focus groups! In just a year and a half in the company I’ve now been through at least four major focus group scheduling processes, each one slightly different, and it is one of the most time-consuming, mind-bending, hair-pulling experiences I have here, and it seems to be this way each time. The learning curve on these may be steep, but it sure is long!
6. What have been the biggest changes in the field and/or your work specifically since you started?
My short tenure in this field does not allow me the scope of vision to properly answer this question. I do have a feeling, however, that there are stirrings of a movement towards inclusivity in Jewish communities that signals the start of a change we would be wise to take note of, and have already begun to heed.
7. How do you think your job and/or the field might change in the next 10 years?
Based on what I’ve heard in presentations, client meetings, and interviews related to our work with the Jews of Color Initiative—and combined with comments from Jewish educators, professionals, and community members I’ve heard in interview projects at Rosov—many Jewish communities and institutions have been slow to respond to the rising demand of representation and inclusion of all kinds of social differences. It seems likely that this struggle will be at the forefront of many efforts to maintain and strengthen Jewish communities in the years to come. My sense at this point is that (with notable exceptions) these changes have yet to take strong root in mainstream Jewish institutions, philanthropic organizations, or the consulting organizations that serve them, but they are beginning to, and both the massive national protests for racial justice and the lasting impacts of COVID-19 will only hasten this process. I think there is a good possibility this all means we are on the brink of major changes within the Jewish communal sector, and the evaluators and consultants that work within that sector will move with those changes – hopefully leading the way!
8. What do you think is essential reading to excel in your field?
I think there are a number of things that are a really good idea to read/read about, that I have not actually read. But for one, I think having a solid understanding of how Federations and Foundations work, and the history of these types of organizations in North America is extraordinarily helpful. I took the short course, taught by Wendy on a whiteboard in the RC Berkeley Conference Room, but a few books that have been recommended to me are:
- Understanding American Jewish Philanthropy – Mark Lee Raphael
- The American Jewish Philanthropic Complex – Lila Corwin Berman
There are a few sociological books and articles, some canons among them, that have provided me with a rich understanding of social interaction and social forces that inform much of my work in data collection and analysis:
- The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life – Erving Goffman
- The Forms of Capital and Distinction – Pierre Bourdieu
- The Division of Labor in Society – Emile Durkheim
- “Vocabularies of Motive” – C. Wright Mills
And sociology books for better understandings of race and racism generally, and how racism impacts data collection and analysis, specifically:
- Racism without Racists: Color-blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America – Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
- Racial Formation in the United States – Michael Omi and Howard Winant
- White Logic, White Methods – Tukufu Zuberi and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva