‘It took a pandemic to slow me down.’ – How to Embrace a Major Life Change

Change is not something that we usually seek out. There’s something uncomfortable and even scary about mixing things up. When a change becomes something that completely alters your life, that fear and discomfort quadruple. Allison Jernigan, owner of Ruby Rock Marketing and former Vice President of Business Development for Cinemark Theatres, opens up about how the pandemic gave her the push to make a major life change with her career and learn to face the discomfort of change.

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What is the first “real” growth moment you remember in your life? How did that growth change you?

There have been a few memorable milestones along the way — personally and professionally. Leaving my small hometown and going off to college, landing my first internship, and starting my first real job out of college were all pivotal moments when I felt like I leveled up and accomplished something on my own.  

Becoming a mom was a significant growth moment. With our first-born (he’s now 13), I remember holding him for hours and just staring at his sweet little face while he slept. That feeling of complete adoration and love, and being responsible for raising this little person, brought so many wonderful feelings and emotions. I felt like I instantly grew up overnight.

Have you dealt with change over the past year?

The past year has been one of the biggest turning points in my career. After a 20-year career with Cinemark Theatres, I took a giant leap of faith and made a major career change. With a series of opportunities that only God can have a hand in, I had the opportunity to launch my own marketing consulting firm. 

I started at Cinemark right after completing my Bachelor’s degree from University of Texas at Dallas. I was extremely blessed to have a growing career path there, starting out as the Executive Assistant to the head of Marketing. I had so many amazing mentors along the way who took me under their wings. I was able to return to UT-D for grad school, taking advantage of the generous tuition reimbursement plan that helped me earn my MBA. I was with the company through major changes, acquisitions, IPO, innovation, expansion, and digital transformation. Several doors opened along my path allowing me to advance my career. In spring and summer of 2020, when our theaters were closed, it was the right time for me to take a step back and make some big decisions. 

Is change something you personally avoid or embrace? 

Historically, I didn’t seek out or experience change too often. I wasn’t inclined to necessarily ‘lean in’ to change or even make it happen. Not in this capacity anyway. I worked in the same office for over 20 years. I had the same commute every day. It was a perfect constant for me through all of my life seasons: engagement, grad school, marriage, first house, starting a family, three maternity leaves each five years apart. I was able to flex my work/life balance as needed, and I had built a team that was like no other. We shared a unique bond and camaraderie. They were one of the hardest parts of my decision to make a change. Once my decision was made, sharing the news with my staff was incredibly tough. I felt like I was ‘breaking up’ the team.

It took the pandemic—and the master work of God—to force me to slow down, get back to the basics, and evaluate my life from a fresh perspective. 

This past year, the launch of my own business and the opportunities it has provided have been incredibly rewarding experiences. God has placed some truly amazing women in my path. I strongly believe in the power of a squad, a village, a crew, and a troop. My incredible husband supported and encouraged me from the beginning. When I entertained the idea of a career change, he supported me and helped me see the big picture. Without his encouragement and belief in me, I never could have done it. With this support team and God, I’ve learned to fully embrace change. 

I have grown tremendously over the past year. Being more present for my kids has made me a better mom. I can take them to school, fit in a workout (self-care is a must!), and start my work day. While work and home life all happen under the same roof, the flexibility this allows is so valuable. I can take one of our boys to practice and catch up on industry news and trends or prep for the next day with my tablet on the sidelines. I have also stretched my ‘mind muscles’ in ways I never imagined. That is rewarding!

In your opinion, why is the growth of change such an uncomfortable thing? 

We become comfortable. I think this is human nature. We go where we know. We tend to settle into routine, and it’s the path of least resistance. While the idea of stretching ourselves sounds appealing and courageous, actually stepping out and growing is harder than it sounds. Change is scary. 

What words of wisdom would you share with a fellow woman in the workplace who is standing before a massive change in her life?

FIND a mentor, and BE a mentor. Women need women to uplift, encourage, support, coach, and advise. This is why I love 4word so much. They have attracted this community of like-minded, faithful women. Mentoring does not have to be an official program, although 4word has an incredible mentorship program. We need each other now more than ever. I would not have been as successful in this major career change and new path over the last year without my tribe. Whether I need to bounce a business idea off of someone, or I simply want to chat about “mom life” over a cup of coffee, a friendly face is just a phone call or email away. Mentoring is so fulfilling and rewarding, and there are many times that I learn as much (maybe more!) from my mentee as they learn from me.

Allison Jernigan is a respected Marketing Executive with over 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry. As Vice President of Business Development for Cinemark Theatres, she led the national sales team with a footprint of 350 movie theatres across the country. She now leads Content Strategy for BINGE Networks, an award-winning entertainment streaming app.  She also owns her own marketing consulting firm, Ruby Rock Marketing. Allison has served in board and leadership committee roles for several community organizations, including Junior League, Sky Ranch, and Leadership Plano. Allison resides in Frisco, TX, with her husband John, and three boys — Brayden, Gavin, and Cole.