Jennifer Draughn, Custodial Services Superintendent, manages a team of 19 responsible for keeping Yale’s treasured museum and gallery areas sparkling clean, including Yale’s treasured Art Gallery and Center for British Art. With a warm smile for everyone, Jennifer balances getting the job done with being fair and supportive to her team.
Jennifer, born in Stamford, Connecticut, is the youngest of nine children. Before coming to Yale as a casual in 2002, she was busy raising four kids and going to night school earning her GED. After a brief stint as a casual, Jennifer was hired as a full-time custodian on the medical campus. Four years later, with a solid reputation as a natural proactive leader, able to work calmly and effectively with others, her manager encouraged her to apply for a superintendent position, which led her to where she is today.
Taking advantage of the Yale Home Buyer’s program, in 2008 she bought her first home. Today, her children are all grown and she is a doting grandmother. Jennifer and her husband regularly volunteer locally, giving back to the community.
Jennifer is very proud of her staff and of all that she has accomplished professionally and personally. Jennifer and her team share a mutual respect for her and each other. She recently sat down to answer some questions about her life and career.
What was your very first job?
I was a camp counselor-in-training for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. I was about 13 and made $10 a day. I’d assist the camp counselor, who managed kids ranging in age from 5 to 12. I learned to have patience dealing with kids, even though I was a kid myself.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
I was a Girl Scout and my mom was our troop leader. Every year we’d have to fundraise by selling Girl Scout cookies. I remember the living room being packed from floor to ceiling with boxes and boxes of cookies.
Best advice you ever received, and from whom?
I don’t remember who I heard this from, but it stuck with me. “Don’t look down on others unless you are helping them up.” I believe you start by finding the good in someone and try to bring that goodness out and let them shine. I feel strongly that you need to help those working for you and give them support. I encourage my staff and others here at Yale to try for a higher position or inform them about benefits such as the Home Buyer’s Program. My team is amazing. Together we accomplish a lot on a day-to-day basis.
What advice would you give someone working at Yale?
Keep doing your job and do it well. People will recognize it. I was recognized by simply coming in every day and doing the best job I could do. Be respectful, but always be your own person. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Favorite Yale memory?
When I was still a custodian working at Science Hill it was pouring rain one day. The drains were clogged with leaves and water began to pool in this one area and started to flood the building. I jumped into waist-deep water and moved leaves with my feet opening the drain as the water started receding. Had I not done that, the Sloane Physics Lab would have sustained severe flood damage. I’m a lady, but I don’t shy away from getting my hands dirty to solve a problem!
What do you love about your job?
The fairness that I provide to my staff and everyone I meet. I don’t play favorites. I like to say everyone is a favorite. I treat everyone the same, that is a big deal to me. I often think that it is one of the reasons I got this job.
What is your biggest challenge at work?
Getting new staff to trust me and letting them know that I’m here to help. I’m their manager, but I understand that everyone has tough days. I’m a parent, believe me, I get it. Stuff happens, together we can work it out.
My husband and I are part of a social club called the Elm City Cowboys. We cook breakfast for the homeless on the New Haven Green the second Sunday of every month. We like to give back to the community and have done other events like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s walks and fundraisers.
What was your first car and what happened to it?
My first car was a turquoise Mercury Tracer. I don’t remember the model year. When I bought my next car, I gave the Tracer to a family member who needed it. I give all my cars away. Over the years I’ve given away seven cars, some to family and a few to local families in need, who otherwise wouldn’t have any means of transportation.