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30 Years in Business: Interview with Jennifer Reilly, President & COO

To celebrate Safety Partners’ 30th year in business, we’re sharing quarterly interviews from key players in the company. This quarter’s story is an interview with Jennifer Reilly, President & COO at Safety Partners!

What made you decide to work at SP?

It truly was the right place at the right time.  I had met Denise Aronson, Founder & CEO of Safety Partners, while working at my first job in industry where I was a researcher and one of the internal safety officers (Denise was our consultant!).  I was always very interested in the safety program and operations.  Fast forward about ten years and I was at a point in my career that I was looking to find a better work life balance while raising my two young children.  Although I was planning to take the summer off, I took a role with Safety Partners working about 1 day per week and the rest is history!  I loved it from day 1 and couldn’t get enough.

What do you love most about your career? About Safety Partners?

Since I was a kid, I have always loved science.  I love the fact that in my role at Safety Partners we get to “touch” many companies doing groundbreaking work in a very direct role and I believe in the service we provide.  Of course, we are not “doing” the experiments, but we sure can help influence the efficiency and productivity of the lab while keeping the researchers safe. Many of my colleagues at Safety Partners feel the same way, so it is great to be surrounded by other like-minded people wanting to make a difference.

Tell me about some of the unusual situations you’ve found yourself in:

I’ll never forget walking through the lab of a prospective client to eventually provide a proposal to support their EHS needs.  That was pretty typical, but what was unusual was that the lab was an absolute disaster, the worst I’d ever seen.  There were stains everywhere from chemical spills that had not been cleaned up, clutter everywhere, and definitely way too many chemicals…Boy did they need our help!  I remember forcing my best poker face to assure them that we could help and that the situation was not “that bad.”  Luckily, they had not had any serious incidents and they agreed to hire us.  We worked really hard to turn that lab around and I am proud to say we made great improvements. 

You recently celebrated your 15-year anniversary at Safety Partners – congratulations! Who are the people you most want to thank for reaching this milestone?

Thank you – I’m really proud to say I’ve been with Safety Partners for 15 years.  It is such an amazing organization.  My family has been a huge supporter of my career and I am forever thankful for them.  They are always giving me the confidence and drive to do better, especially if I am doubting myself.  Denise and all my past and current colleagues at Safety Partners have taught me so much.  I definitely have them to thank too.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone navigating a career change or entering the EHS career path?

My advice is to not overthink it and do it!  There is so much uncertainty in navigating a career change.  I was so hesitant about leaving the bench and overanalyzed it for months (and maybe even years as Denise would reach out every so often to get me to consider a role at Safety Partners).  I kept asking myself, “Will I like this new path in EHS?  Will I be good at it?  Will I miss the bench work?”  The only thing that is certain is that you will never know if you don’t try so you just have to get comfortable with the uncertainty and do it!  Hopefully you’ve also surrounded yourself with supportive colleagues too.

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