Life at MIND: Celebrating Independence and Community

July 3, 2019 marked exactly one month that I have been with MIND Research Institute, and in my honor (not really, it was to celebrate Independence Day), MIND hosted a good, old-fashioned barbecue.

As a new colleague at MIND, one of the things I heard about several times during my interview process was the positive culture of the organization. I was told that MIND was different than a lot of other places, because of the people here. I’ve gotten to meet a fair number of my colleagues in our Irvine office over the past month, but I haven’t had a chance to spend much time with them. The barbecue provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate my one-month anniversary with my new colleagues.       

Our leadership team got to work chopping fresh ingredients in the kitchen, organizing supplies, coordinating logistics, and making sure that even JiJi had a presence.


At the barbecue helm was CEO Brett Woudenberg, with help from Karin Wu, EVP and Executive Director of Social Impact, and Javier Mendoza, Software Engineer. There was a little something for everyone: hot dogs, bratwurst, bacon wrapped hot dogs, turkey dogs, and even plant-based hot dogs.


I started working when I was fourteen years old and I’ve been lucky. I have had the honor of being a member of incredible organizations, like a top-ranked business school and several Fortune 500 companies.

In my eighteen years of being a member of the workforce, this is the first time that a CEO has cooked me a veggie hot dog. The first time that an EVP sliced the tomatoes for my plate. The first time that a Chief Data Science Officer chopped the onions that went on top of my hot dog.

But I’ve learned that appreciation, service, and dedication to our team and each other are some of the many special things about working for MIND Research Institute.


The Engagement team and I paired off and played Cornhole together, not because we had to, but because we wanted to. Even though Nick and Tatiana destroyed Edith and I (sorry Edith, we both know I was the weakest link), I had fun. As I ate, I watched new teams formlaughing and having a good time together. 


I have a big family and for holidays we love to get together. Usually, we gather at my dad’s house because he has a pool table and a beautiful backyard. My awesome stepmother Becky once joked that, “you know you’re having a good time together, when you forget to bring out all of the food.”

Usually, we forget the rolls warming in the oven. Sometimes it’s my dad’s favorite Jell-O. The best parties are the ones where you have so much fun enjoying each other’s company that you don’t even notice that there’s food missing.

So when Kathleen, who keeps all of our heads on straight, found a delicious looking mango cheesecake in the fridge after the barbecue, I smiled to myself. Of course we’d forgotten the mango cheesecake. We didn’t need it because we were already satisfied with our hot dogs, great conversations, and time spent together.


And in case you’re wondering, when we did eat the mango cheesecake, we ate it together in the kitchen like family would.

Thank you to my MIND Research Institute family for showing me kindness, patience, and a place like no other.

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Jolene Haley

About the Author

Jolene Haley was the Content and Community Specialist at MIND Research Institute. In addition to creating content for MIND, she is an author, avid reader, and lover of iced coffee.


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