People on the Move: Jennifer Cross welcomes the chance to reimagine the office space

The times they are a-changin’ for office design. 

Increasingly, companies are looking to adopt hybrid office models, ones that allow employees to rotate in and out of work environments that have been reconfigured for shared spaces. 

Jennifer Cross, through her new role with MARANT Construction, is now helping clients reconceptualize what their offices could look like.

“I just think this is such an interesting time in business and in our personal lives as we reimagine what working means to us,” said Cross, 49, in an interview to discuss becoming the new business development manager in Ottawa for the commercial interior office construction firm. “I find that conversation just so fascinating.”

Jennifer Cross

Cross, who was born and raised in Perth, Ont., started out studying political science at Carleton University before realizing what she really wanted to do: interior design. She got her diploma at Sheridan College.

“I love the industry,” said Cross, a former Forty Under 40 business award recipient. “I’m very interested in how design shapes our life, how the spaces that we live in change us, and how they can either help or hinder, how they can inspire us, how they shape who we are.”

The Gen Xer has survived the fallout from the dot-com bubble burst and global financial crisis. When she was starting out, there were very few professional female role models in her life. When she gave birth to her first child, she was back to business 10 days later. 

“My whole career has sort of been fighting for a place at the table and juggling children.”

Most recently, Cross was director of residential developments at Flux Lighting. Before that, she was with Ottawa-based marketing agency TRUEdotDESIGN, working as director of strategy and business development with clients in architecture, design, engineering and real estate.

The Ottawa job market is hot, especially in the construction sector, Cross acknowledged. “It’s as if every post on LinkedIn is about somebody switching jobs.”

The timing felt right to make a move says Cross, who’s now an empty-nester. Her children are ages 22 and 20, while her stepchildren are 23 and 19. “There’s no way I’d have had this kind of bandwidth five years ago.”

She put considerable thought and planning into deciding what she wanted to do next. “I really, really wanted to find the right spot for me because I didn’t want to just make another change. I’m not just making lateral moves; I’m not just leaving one job for the same job.”

For Cross, it was about rethinking her career and her life and then finding a company that fit with her new vision. Figuring out the next move, she said, “made it a lot easier to get rid of the noise. There are so many opportunities out there that you can just be like, ‘That’s interesting and that’s interesting’ but if you have core values about what’s really important to you about your career, it’s very quick to dismiss what’s not going to work for you.

“I want to add value somewhere and be valued.”

Cross, who’s ambitious and career-driven, credits her business coach with helping her to reach her goals. 

“My role with MARANT came together like magic. I was just so clear about what I wanted, what I was looking for. As soon as we met for an interview process, we all knew it was the right fit for them and for me. It’s like nothing I ever experienced before.”

The website for Toronto-based MARANT features headshots of every individual who works at the company, from its president to its general labourers, plus a tiny tidbit about each one.

“There’s definitely this powerful mission that everybody’s working together to accomplish something and they value their team first. For me, that’s just a critical thing that you want to be part of,” said Cross, who started her new job in late April.

Other moves

Lennard Commercial Realty continues its industry expansion in Ottawa by bringing on like-minded established professionals. It recently recruited office leasing specialist Paul Cook as a new partner. Cook was a vice-president with CBRE in Ottawa, having spent 18 years there. Earlier this year, as previously reported in People on the Move, Lennard recruited CBRE Ottawa office co-founder Ian Shackell as a partner and his son, Matt Shackell, who’s now VP. Lennard, a full-service commercial real estate brokerage, is planning to grow further within the next couple of months. 

Kandas Miller has joined Colonnade BridgePort as its director of residential real estate. The full-service real estate investment company is expecting Miller to be instrumental in growing its residential property management business. Miller, who grew up in Ottawa, was vice-president at a local property management company, with a focus on residential assets, prior to joining Colonnade BridgePort. She has experience working in all areas of residential property management, including leasing, portfolio management and business development.

The Royal Ottawa Foundation has recruited Ann Symington from the CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) Foundation to become its new vice-president of philanthropy and partnerships. The charitable arm of The Royal has also hired Shaundra Mitchener as its manager of community partnerships and events. Michener worked for nearly 14 years for the Ottawa Senators Foundation.

Christa Dickenson is leaving Telefilm Canada to become CPAC’s new president and CEO, effective Sept. 12. She worked at CPAC earlier in her career before going on to spend 16 years at Rogers and, later, serve as president and CEO of Interactive Ontario. She’s been the CEO and executive director at Telefilm since 2018.