Content provided by Robyn Murray, Freelance Writer
11-year-old Stryker whips open the door and jumps into his mother’s parked SUV.
“Hey mom, did you see me coming this time?”
“I did see you coming this time!”
It’s 3 p.m., and J.J. Schenkelberg has just driven five miles from her house to pick up her two kids from a west Omaha grade school. Children stream out in organized lines, class by class, waving to their parents as they skip forward to meet them – bubbling with stories.
Stryker buckles up and is soon followed by eight-year-old, redheaded Tori. “We’re planting a garden,” Tori tells her mom after hopping into her seat. “In a container to see how the water cycle goes.”
Being there for this daily routine is one of the perks of Schenkelberg’s job as a senior portfolio manager at CLS Investments. She comes in to the office one day a week, and the rest of the time she works from home. It’s a flexible arrangement that helps her balance work and home-life priorities, while keeping her engaged in both worlds. As a parent and portfolio manager, that’s where Schenkelberg is most comfortable: engaged, involved in the details, and knowledgeable about the people behind the data.
“I like to feel what’s happening with the companies; I like to get that story and get involved,” she says. “It’s through that process that I learn, and I develop – and live, really.”
Schenkelberg had been working at CLS six years when she decided to ask for a change. “It took me a little while to get up the nerve,” she says, seated at her desk located in a small annex off her master bedroom. She wasn’t sure how her boss would respond to hearing she wanted less time at the office. But she was finding it difficult to advocate balance in financial management, when she didn’t feel balanced in life.
With some trepidation, Schenkelberg walked in to her boss’s office, but quickly realized CLS didn’t want to lose her. Together, they started working on a plan – maybe they could lessen the workload, or she could sub-advise current funds – then, she thought of a solution.
“I vividly remember one morning I was driving into work, and I texted … “What if I work from home?”
Within minutes, she got her answer. Yes.
“CLS is great that way,” Schenkelberg says, “allowing people to have that flexibility and take ownership for what we’re doing. That’s part of the culture … which I think is why we get really good ideas too.”
The decision was a gift of empowerment, she says, one that makes her a happier person and a better financial manager.
“I can more efficiently allocate my time,” she says, and that makes her more accessible to advisors and clients. “Having my home office allows me to explore investment ideas … at any time of day.”
Schenkelberg, who got her bachelor’s degree at Kansas State University and her master’s at Creighton, was first drawn to accountancy (where career flexibility was a motivating factor). But after taking a finance class, she discovered her true passion. “That’s where I fell in love with it,” she says. “I loved looking at what makes companies tick.”
“There’s a story to it,” she says, “why this company could be successful in the future, why this area of the market will perform in the future. I’m really drawn to that part of it, which makes me more of a fundamental type of investor.”
“What draws me to investing,” she says, “is being part of a business and building a successful business.”
While neither of her parents worked in finance, Schenkelberg does attribute her management approach partly to her mother. “My mom was a coupon clipper and sales shopper,” she says. “I actually would say in a lot of ways that I do what my mom does as far as looking for sales – it’s just that I do it with companies instead of products.”
“Bingo!” Stryker shouts, spotting a yellow car as they turn down the street to head home. That’s another routine Schenkelberg gets to be a part of now, Yellow Car Bingo. The family pulls into the driveway – the sound of joyful barks from Rocky the chocolate Labradoodle puppy in the background along with excited chatter from the kids (who both have a homework-free night ahead). Schenkelberg unloads the car and heads back to her office.
There, Schenkelberg will make financial decisions for companies and investors with two reminders of why those decisions matter: a note from her husband taped to her desk and Tori seated in the armchair beside her.