Park Profiles: Meet Jennifer Padilla!

Kristen MihalkoBalboa Park Cultural Partnership, One Park - One Team

Meet Jennifer Padilla

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Jennifer is the Director of Visitor Services at the San Diego Natural History Museum. She was the recipient of the Friends of Balboa Park’s inaugural Betty Peabody Emerging Young Leader Award.

You were the inaugural winner of the Betty Peabody Emerging Young Leader in Balboa Park Award, congrats! What was it like to receive this award?

Thank you! It was surprising, humbling, and an honor. Being recognized with an award tied to Betty Peabody, who has done so much for the Park, and hearing about the work other honorees had done was inspiring.

What brought you to Balboa Park and more specifically, the NAT?

I worked in college athletics before coming to the Park, but my personal passions have always lied with museums and the arts. I had exhausted all of my opportunities in my previous job, and found the opportunity here at the NAT. The job was the same description as my previous one, but involved what I love. Balboa Park is my favorite place in San Diego, so it was such a great opportunity and I was lucky enough to get the position.

What has surprised you most about working for the NAT and working in visitor services?

There is never a dull moment working in Visitor Services! Every day there are new questions and situations; the museum always has something interesting going on. I was surprised at how welcoming everyone was when I first began working here. It made me feel accepted and like I was meant to be here.

You have had very low team member turnover since becoming the Director of Visitor Services, how do you continue to keep your team members motivated?

When I arrived at the museum, the morale in the Visitor Service department was low and negative. I began to think of ways to bring the department together, but what can you do with little to no money? I started with simple and free bonding activities, like team member movie nights. Everything was always after work hours, free and not mandatory to attend. These events allowed staff members to get to know each other outside of the work place. Additionally, I never ask anyone of my team members to do something that I would not do and I try and be out on the floor with them as much as I can.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

I do not like to fail, which is a great self- motivator in its own. I also strive for my work to be respected and to be well done if it is going to have my name is tied to it. Another motivator is seeing a team member learn, succeed and grow from their time working with me.

What has been the most challenging and most rewarding part of your job?

My biggest challenge is juggling new and more managerial duties and operational duties without neglecting progress that has been made. I love working with my team, so it is difficult for me to not be on the floor with them and to be okay with taking care of large projects behind the scenes and attending meetings.

The most rewarding part is when I receive positive guest comments or emails about my staff, glorifying them and the great customer service they provided. Pulling off the seemingly impossible and the feeling of community not only in the museum, but in the park as a whole.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I am a huge fan of the arts. I am currently taking ballet classes and also lapidary stone and gem cutting classes (here at the Spanish Village!). I also love taking trips with my husband, music, and reading.

Do you have a favorite book, TV show, movie, or song and why is it your favorite?

My favorite book is Alice in Wonderland, and has been my favorite since I was little. Every time I read it, I uncover details that I had never noticed before, even as an adult I continue to find new elements of the story. The book is imaginative and witty, and is influential in my work as I have to use my creativity to problem solve every day.

What is your favorite spot in Balboa Park?

There are so many beautiful spots in the Park, but my favorite is the Desert Garden across from the Rose Garden. It is said that Dr. Seuss was inspired by the different plants in this garden and I can see why! I love how interesting the cacti look and the random shapes and sizes that make them look so alien-like.

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