By Johnny Jackson
Jea Gackowski said she was ecstatic as she placed the online order for a new Chevy Equinox, painted black pearl, and stamped with Mary Kay insignia.
That's her reward for being a top trainer for Mary Kay Cosmetics.
The 47-year-old said she has settled into her role with the cosmetics company the past three years. Each Tuesday night, she hosts meetings to help train up-and-coming sales consultants, whom she advises, and helps guide in the ways of leadership and business.
"The thing that Mary Kay lets me do is touch a whole lot of different areas to help women," Gackowski said. "You're able to help women find ways of earning extra income and work on business skills. Emerging leaders need to be found, and they need good business-women mentors."
Gackowski said she works as an independent sales director for Mary Kay, only after she has clocked out of her job as vice president of manufacturing and corporate compliance officer at the McDonough-based Encompass Group.
She began working as an industrial engineer at Encompass Group, about 24 years ago, after earning a bachelors degree in industrial and apparel engineering from Southern Polytechnic State University.
Gackowski lives in Stockbridge with her husband of 13 years, Pete Gackowski. She said she chose not to have children, a life and career decision she admits she is not certain she won't, some day, regret. However, she said she has enjoyed the successes in her life and career.
She attends Salem Baptist Church in McDonough. She also holds several memberships in community groups, including one with the McDonough Arts Council and on the board of directors of Haven House, the area's shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
Gackowski said she hopes her own experiences and successes provide inspiration to the 49 women, ages 23-68, she helps train for Mary Kay. She said her influence can help mold independent women leaders, young and old.
"I don't think corporate America is equipped today to deal with the issue of training women leaders, because corporate America is in the middle of trying to reinvent itself in the economy we have today," she said. "We need to not fool ourselves, the glass ceiling ... is still there. You can work with it, but you have to have the skills and the confidence in getting there."
Gackowski works with women on goal-setting, money management, working with different personalities and background types, and creating balance, while organizing work and home. She said she also believes women can have options in the business and corporate worlds without sacrificing their families.
"Find a way to set a schedule and balance," she said. "You don't have to do everything yourself. In my case, I try to let logic guide me, and not guilt. And get help, and find good mentors. Go find the successful people and ask them how they did it."
At Mary Kay, she earns what she calls "scholarships," or money she uses to create free cosmetics baskets to give almost randomly to women she believes would be appreciative of the gesture. She calls it her Magnolia Project.
"My satisfaction comes when I see people being hopeful, instead of fearful," she continued. "I get to help other women with no strings attached, and it's just flat fun. Economy aside, girls still want to have fun."