Third Act Podcast

Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.

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Jeannie Diefenderfer: The Challenger


On this episode of The Third Act Podcast, we talk with The Challenger, Jeannie Diefenderfer, whose innate pursuit of the hardest challenges led her to a highly successful global career at Verizon. Jeannie spent 28 years working for Verizon following her education at Tufts University where she studied chemical engineering. Picking the hardest major and on the lookout for the toughest challenge, she joined the wonky and male-dominated Network Group at Verizon, eventually working her way up to the Senior Vice President of Global Enterprise Customer Care.

Liz Tinkham (00:18):

Hi. This is Liz Tinkham and welcome to Third Act, a podcast about people embracing the third act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The third act begins when your script ends, but your show is just not finished. On today’s episode, I talk with Jeannie Diefenderfer, the Challenger. Jeannie had the classic first and second act. She was a top student in a challenging major at Tufts university, and she followed that by a terrific career rising through the network organization of horizon Jeannie, always led her life finding and taking on the hardest of challenges. In our Third Act, though, she’s focused on what, for many of us, is the hardest challenge. Being fully present for our family, friends and ourselves. Jeannie, welcome to Third Act.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (01:05):

Thank you so much, Liz. I’m delighted to be here with you.

Liz Tinkham (01:08):

We’re delighted to have you and thinking about this, you’re my second person from Verizon, second woman. So there must be something in the break room, coffee for super achievers serum. But seriously, it would a great legacy of supporting female leaders there, that….

Jeannie Diefenderfer (01:26):

Yes, absolutely.

Liz Tinkham (01:28):

I like to start with a bit of background on my guests first and second act. So your first act, which is the school was at Tufts. So tell us more about how’d you end up at Tufts, why’d you pick there? What did you do?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (01:42):

Ah, so I was born and raised in South Korea, Seoul, and came to US in ‘74. So went to Sacred Heart first, in Manhattan and then public junior high and public high school in Queens. So for me, the whole college search process was so new. Frankly, I didn’t get much help from home because nobody really knew how that process worked here.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (02:11):

And so I followed my guidance counselor’s direction at a school and flipping through the book, right, like everybody else… I remember those, I don’t even know what they’re called, but just going through them. And Tufts came about through a bunch of other schools in Boston area and it was one of those schools that I wanted to take a look at. Long story short, went on the campus tour with other schools in the area as well. I just fell in love with it.

Liz Tinkham (02:40):

What did you plan to study? And then what did you end up studying?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (02:44):

Being the Asian-American, the model minority kind of a person, of course. It was always like lawyer, doctor, engineer. It’s always like that. It was process of elimination for me. I have this disease, I guess, where I always want to tackle on the hardest thing. So I take Chemical Engineering.

Liz Tinkham (03:06):

Oh my gosh.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (03:07):

I know. Of all the engineering majors, it is the hardest they say, and it has the most number of requirements. So I said why not? So I picked it and there you go.

Liz Tinkham (03:22):

That is the quintessential first act. Overachiever, I’m sure your grades were good. Picked the hardest thing. I did something similar, I picked aerospace engineering.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (03:33):

Well, there you go.

Liz Tinkham (03:34):

Which was just a notch down from Chemical engineering.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (03:39):

Well I don’t know about that.

Liz Tinkham (03:39):

Oh, I don’t know. Chemistry was my nemesis in school. Okay. So, but what did you end up graduating in? Chemical engineering or something else?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (03:46):

Yep. Chem E. Yeah.

Liz Tinkham (03:48):

Wow. Now how did you then end up at Verizon?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (03:53):

Oh my God. I could summarize my life. I was thinking about this the other day, it was like serendipity all the way.

Liz Tinkham (04:00):


Jeannie Diefenderfer (04:00):

So 1984, I graduated with a chemical engineering degree. One. thing I knew was that Chem E’s made the most money as a starting salary.

Liz Tinkham (04:08):

They did, you’re right.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (04:10):

So unfortunately, 1984 was one of the worst years for Chem E’s. So I applied to dozens and dozens. All of the chemical companies came down to essentially Procter & Gamble, great company. And I was interviewing with New England Telephone as a curiosity. Didn’t even know what telephone companies did other than, “What did they do? Like, telephones?” Being the young person that I was. But I did go for the interview, had a great interview. Those days they made you take these tests, which was crazy and I did well on the test. And so there was a backup for me to stay in Boston.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (04:48):

And I fully intended, by the way, that I’d just park myself there for a year or two until my industry improved. And then I’ll jump up to some place more relevant. So I decided to start as a management trainee with New England Telephone, fully expecting that I wouldn’t stay there long, and 28 years later…

Liz Tinkham (05:17):

Oh my gosh. So they probably didn’t care what your major was. They probably looked at you’re smart.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (05:23):

I think I did a pretty good job convincing them that… I think I was the first college hire Chem E or something. And I told them, I said, “Look, an engineer’s an engineer. And you’re getting out of me like you get out of any other engineer.” I was probably BS’ing half the time.

Liz Tinkham (05:55):

Okay. So let’s skip ahead. So the last job is, well it was a huge job and that’s I think where I met. You were Senior Vice President of Global Enterprise Customer Care.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (06:05):


Liz Tinkham (06:07):

So, how did you get to that, what was that and then how did you make the decision to retire?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (06:11):

So before that job, I was still in network. I did a few other back and forth, but ended up back in network, running the network that worked out for the float. So I have the engineers, I had the planners, I had the operations folks, Oh my God, it was an incredible job. And then we bought a few companies like MCI and a few other big ones. And we entered into the whole enterprise business, which was not our really strength. So all of a sudden we have this huge operation and function. The leadership asked me to take on the enterprise customer care because of my network background. And, frankly, we’re selling network products to these humongous enterprise customers. And because most of those customers were my peers, it was a really good fit. And again, my initial reaction was like, “Mm, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Jeannie Diefenderfer (07:12):

But eventually I said, “Okay, I’ll do it. And it was an amazing experience, amazing experience. I had frankly, people in, I swear to God, I felt like every country and Asia-Pac, EMEA, and all over. And it was such a great learning experience. And people who have never done serving customer job, at the levels that were… I recommend it so much, because it just makes you a better executive.

Liz Tinkham (07:43):

I agree. Yeah.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (07:44):

So, yeah.

Liz Tinkham (07:45):

Because you learn directly from them. Yeah.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (07:46):

Oh my God. And they’re not shy, because they’re as big as you are. We’re talking like DOW 50. They’re not gonna put up with anything. And that really taught me humility and humbleness and also appreciation for all the things that they’re trying to accomplish. So that really gave me an opportunity to look at the world through the customer’s eyes, which was fantastic. And then our company was going through changes. So we had leadership changes at the top, the wireless and wireline functions were converging together. And it was like everything else. It was time to refresh. And I started to see a lot of the people that I work with beginning to step out. And of course it was time. I always say ventilation is a good thing.

Liz Tinkham (08:33):

I agree.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (08:34):

So I started to watch all that and I looked around and when I think about like, “What else am I really dying to do in the company?” I really couldn’t come up with a lot. Because when I look at technical operations, network, all that stuff—I’ve done all of that. And it was just so much fun. I had 28 years in the business, the company was going through a culture shift somewhat, and leadership shift.

Liz Tinkham (09:00):

This is when Lowell came in? So they switched to a more wireless culture?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (09:03):

Yeah. Lowell was like first year, I think maybe second year, but I had retired maybe like a year or two ago.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (09:12):

Yeah. And I remember. At some point, it’s like, “Oh my God, if you’re leaving I’m gone.”

Liz Tinkham (09:19):

I think I know that same feeling. I don’t want to be the oldest person here, and the last one standing.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (09:24):

And everyone’s like, “What are you talking about? You’re like a baby. You’re staying here.” And my daughter was going off to college. So that was a milestone. And Derek, my son, who’s four and a half years behind her. I think he was going into eighth grade. And I thought this could be a good time. And I was beginning to sense culture shift. And it was different. And whether or not I liked it, as I look back on it, it was just a change. And as I looked at my life, I turned 51. I thought this could be a good pivot.

Liz Tinkham (10:06):

When you decided to retire. Did you know what you were going to do next?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (10:11):


Liz Tinkham (10:13):

Oh zero. So let’s talk about that. So, funny thing, because we obviously prep a little bit for this. You told me that the best thing about embarking on your Third Act was this whole notion of “Just say no.” And I told you that my advice from people was to just say yes. So you said no for a while.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (10:33):

Basically like a year. Yeah.

Liz Tinkham (10:36):

How did that go after you said no?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (10:38):

It was a little hard in the beginning, because you always have this, somebody sitting on your shoulder, “Going home? They’re never going to come back to you. They’re never going to come back to you.” You keep on saying no.. But I went with my gut and went with the advice that I’ve gotten from people I respect, who weren’t saying “Say no forever,” who were saying, “Hey, this is a huge shift. You’ve been head down for 28 years, if not your entire life. And it’s time for you to look back and say, ‘And what do I really want to do next?’ And for you to do that, you need time…” One of my direct reports used the word detox, I remember. “You need to detox.

Liz Tinkham (11:27):

We have this Accenture. We had this big training facility out of St. Charles, Illinois. And I say, is there a detox center out there? Because we used to have to go every single year. I’m like, “You need a detox on your way out.”

Jeannie Diefenderfer (11:39):

Right, exactly.

Liz Tinkham (11:41):

Okay, it felt strong. So you have a small kitchen cabinet of people who give you advice. So who’s in that kitchen cabinet and what were they telling you to do other than to say no?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (11:50):

And honestly it’s a fluid group. I mean, I originally started out with—I talked to Ivan, I talked to Jim Stern, who was the board chair at the time at Tufts. I was a trustee at Tufts and I admire him greatly. And he’s somebody who’s been around the professional and corporate circuit for a long time and great mentor and coach. Ivan, of course is a fantastic mentor. And a few others that I go to. And everybody gave me slightly different advice, but I always say to people that the best mentors and coaches I’ve had in my life—now that I look back—are the ones who never told me what to do, but gave me the optionality of paths. And when I asked for prescriptions, they would say, “Oh no, that’s your call.”

Liz Tinkham (12:49):

You will have to figure it out yourself.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (12:50):

And sometimes frustrated about that, it’s like “Come on.” They would tell me like, “No, no, you got to make your own call.” But I really love that because it really forced you to think about what is it that you want to do? And does it align with inherently your values? And I go back to people and there are others who’ve been added on in my life over the years. And one of the wonderful things about those folks are, I may not talk to them often, but when I do, it feels like I just talked to them yesterday, which I love. It’s like good friends. And I love that. And I have to say in the last… Oh, eight years now, since I retired. I mean, the number of brilliant, grounded, incredibly mature, wonderful women that I’ve met since then. I mean, it’s phenomenal. And I love that. They just give me so much energy.

Liz Tinkham (13:52):

Yeah. I would agree. I would agree.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (13:54):

So that’s fantastic.

Liz Tinkham (13:56):

And I feel like I’d never really got that opportunity other than to meet the women at Accenture and people like you, who are clients, but not outside of that… just because I didn’t have time. Which is so silly. And I wasn’t looking for it, which I think was a mistake.

Liz Tinkham (14:17):

We both have families, we’re both KPI driven, which is why school was great, why work is good because you’ve got all these KPIs. But you mentioned this thing called when you’re thinking about your Third Act, “the unit” and getting your family involved. So talk a little bit more about that.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (14:33):

Yeah. So, and this is a revelation and recognition that I’ve learned to discover. I have to say, Liz, to be really honest, that when I look back at my professional life, it’s something that I didn’t focus on honestly. So I was the traditional husband and wife roles, although for me and my husband, it was reversed, because George being the mature one in the family… When we decided to have Mia, he already had a lot of years in the business and he said, “You know what, if they offer a sweetener package, I should take it because I would rather stay home. Your career is taking off. And it’s hard to say no to this really good package. And I’d rather have one of us home when…” basically when she gets off the bus from school. And I thought I was so grateful, honestly, because I didn’t even think that. Because I didn’t think that’s what men did honestly.

Liz Tinkham (15:36):

Very unusual at that time.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (15:38):

And George was much older than I am. So he’s lived life and is much more mature in that regard. And so, it was really, for me, I was the breadwinner, my career was taking off and George was the trailing spouse. But, having said that, I treated my family life and my kids as a separate unit, away from my professional life. And I look back and we all do, Type A’s… I used to self rationalize my decision around quality of time versus quantity.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (16:17):

So when I was working like a crazy woman, people used to ask me, like, “So how do you balance that? How do you be the perfect woman doing both?” I was like, “Well, there’s no such thing. But I think I focus on quality rather than quantity. And I make sure that I’m present at the right places for my children.” And that was a way for me to self-rationalize my decision-making process. I look back honestly now and say, I really wasn’t that present all the time.

Liz Tinkham (16:50):

Yeah, I wasn’t either. I hear you.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (16:52):

And again, it made my kids who they are, thank God. Knock on wood. They’re both wonderfully value-driven, grounded human beings, which I think is wonderful. But I look back and now what I think that I didn’t have, that I would advise, and I do with a lot of young rising women with small children or trying to have children is… I found this with my kids. Kids are so much wiser and more resilient than we give them credit for. And if I had involved my kids from the very beginning, I think my life could have been fuller. I think my holistic unit of life, whether or not it’s family, work, whatever. And George would have been easier to be honest, because I didn’t have this… I lived with guilt all my life. Well, that’s sort of a forgiven.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (17:59):

About “Oh, I couldn’t make it to that or do this. I had to travel seven days in a row,” all that kind of stuff. And I wish I had done more of it. And now what I tell younger women is I want them to learn from all of my mistakes.

Liz Tinkham (18:15):

I do, too. I say the same.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (18:16):

Yeah. So I was just talking to a woman last week and she has young kids in elementary school during this time, which has to be so hard. And I told her, I said, “Think about ways to integrate involving them and your family unit in everything you do.”

Liz Tinkham (18:34):

I think you had even mentioned, it’s almost as though, I wouldn’t say it’s a KPI, but it is in some ways, the unit is another part of the decision-making. So you have this work thing, which is so easy to measure. “Oh, I’m going to get a promotion.” Like, “Let’s see, what would I get paid? What would be the responsibilities? How would I be measured? Can I do that? Yeah. Okay. I’m going to go for it.” But then you want to balance that against how’s that going to impact the unit at home. And I love that suggestion to say, get them involved, talk it through. What does it mean? And I can remember, you did the same. “Okay. I’m going to Manila. I’m going to India. I’ll see you guys I guess, in like a week, two weeks. Not sure. Bye. Hope everybody’s tests go well. See ya.” Now I will say, and you probably had the same. Sometimes my kids came along or they got some interesting opportunities because of it. But, me, me, me.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (19:35):

Yeah, exactly.

Liz Tinkham (19:36):

Oh, since you’ve retired, I mean, have you been able to put that unit concept more front and center? And if so, how?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (19:43):

You know, it’s funny because now my kids are grown up. So when I first retired, I was like “Oh my god, I have a second chance with my son. He’s in eighth grade, I’m going to be so present.” It backfired. You don’t go from working 70 hours a week to on him all the time. And of course Mia, who was going off to college, right, in 2012. As soon as she found out I was going to retire and stay home, she looked at Derek and said “I feel for ya, man.”

Liz Tinkham (20:13):

I have one left at home, too, and the same. The older of the two said, “Oh my gosh, mom’s home. That’s going to be hell.”

Jeannie Diefenderfer (20:22):

I was like, “Goodbye. I’m out of here.” And one thing I learned through that first year, probably, of retirement with Derek, who was in, I think at the time, middle school—is no, you don’t go all in, because they also have their own semblance of a life. And you’re not in it all the time. And you can’t switch that on them without giving them the opportunity to transition.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (20:50):

George is one of the most, I am so lucky in this regard, because I married somebody who is so low maintenance, Liz. That only thing he worried about was are you going to be like, “Okay, you have to be okay with yourself.” It’s true because I’m fine, no I’m going to be fine, but are you sure you’re going to be able to manage all that free time? And it got to where nothing’s really changed in a way. Because it’s not like I retired and I was following him around the house, like, “Oh, what are we doing? What are we doing?” Because we were so independent human beings. So he kept on doing what he does, which is… he’s got lots of friends that he goes to see, or he plays golf with, or whatever that may be. And I also had an external life. So it shifted in that way in terms of time, but it didn’t cause this clash of, “Whoa, now you’re telling me we’re all of a sudden, we’re like a unit and we have to do everything together.”

Liz Tinkham (21:57):

So, board work. So you’re on several for-profit boards. How did you get involved in that?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (22:02):
Well, it’s so interesting. My first one came about as what everybody tells you. It didn’t come from a recruiter, as much as recruiters are helpful in general ways. It came from connection. Business colleague through my network. So that’s how my first one happened.

Liz Tinkham (22:18):

Through a network. Yeah.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (22:19):

Yeah, and then you know how it is, Liz, the board work to me is still a closed ecosystem, and trying to get into your first board, we have to fight that catch 22.

Liz Tinkham (22:30):

Mm-hmm. I mean, compared to your job, what do you like about being on the boards and what don’t you like?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (22:36):

And again, it’s because I love challenges so much, something to work on. I really like the challenge of making an entity and management better by oversight, insight, and governance without actually running the darn thing yourself. But sometimes it’s easier to jump in and do it yourself. But when you say, “No, that’s not my thing.” Sometimes the harder thing to do is to influence the outcome by being a great board member. And I find that work amazingly challenging and rewarding.

Liz Tinkham (23:21):

You had said to me that…

Jeannie Diefenderfer (23:23):

So I love that.

Liz Tinkham (23:24):

Yeah. That you believe boards are like a point of entry to hard work, which I’m not sure everybody looks at it that way. And we have a lot of listeners who are trying to get on board. So say more about that.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (23:34):

So it just stresses my observation, in the eight years that I’ve been at this and what I’ve observed is that we’re at a time of transition in board work where traditional boards in the past were more of, and it still is in many ways. So board work is considered the epitome of success. So it’s the pinnacle of your accomplishments. When you had a really, really successful career.

Liz Tinkham (23:58):

The top KPI. Too-doo!

Jeannie Diefenderfer (24:00):

Yeah. Then you want to get on a board. And as many as you can, because you want to become a professional board member or something like that. And I just think that when you have that mentality, you tend to look at it as a point of destination and arrival. And when you think of work that way, what happens is you work really, really hard to get there. But once you get there, you relax and you think, “Okay, I’ve done all the hard work to get here. So now I can relax and think of it as gravy work.” Well, no, that’s not where it’s going. And it hasn’t been in the last few years. So I look at board work as a point of entry, meaning it is really the next phase of hard work. It’s just different hard work, which means you have to go in with a mindset that says, “I’m going to learn as much as I used to learn. I’m going to execute as a board person in terms of my roles and responsibility, just as hard as I was in management. And I am going to do everything in my power to make that company better.”

Liz Tinkham (25:11):

In your eight years, have you seen a change in the way your fellow board members approach being on a board, have things changed?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (25:18):

I think it’s getting there. I don’t think we’re there yet, Liz. I think we’re in that active fertile ground of that. And there’s a lot of debate. I mean, there’s a lot of debate in board circles and I love that, having the debate about a faction of boards who think that boards are getting too into management work when you think about strategy.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (25:40):

When you think about ESG, when you think about all these topics. There are some people who believe, “Wait a minute, all that work belongs with management. Boards should advise, boards should oversee and look at metrics.” And then there’s another faction that says, “Well, wait a minute. Board should be more involved, not doing the work but boards should be more involved in actually working with management in strategy formulation, in ESG formulation, in stakeholder management. So what’s great right now is we’re smack in the middle of those discussions. And I think it’s fun.

Liz Tinkham (26:13):

Yeah. I’m sure it depends on the management team as well, how much they let you in as well.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (26:18):

Completely, completely. And in fairness to them. Most of them have grown up in the world of “I run it and you advise me.” So when you start to me, looks like you’re trying to cross that line in the sand. I get a little nervous.

Liz Tinkham (26:34):

The two boards I’m on are in complete opposites. One’s very buttoned up. We run everything, agenda that the management team presents. The other one is like a , I called it a rugby scrum.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (26:44):

I love that.

Liz Tinkham (26:45):

The board meeting starts, there’s an agenda topic. And then, boosh! Everybody just jumps in which I prefer actually that latter one, because that’s the way… And I’m sure for you as well, you grew up working, because there was just so much new stuff going on all the time and it was all hands on deck, just trying to sort it out. I like the collaborative aspect of that. And so, many of our listeners through the Athena Alliance want to get on a board. And in addition to working your network, any other advice you might give people?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (27:17):

You know, I often ask aspiring directors when I talk to them about their first board work is, I tell them to do the homework of think deeply about why you want to get on a board. And just thinking through that would be to me, helpful. Because it makes you go through the process in your head about what’s valuable to me about that work. Although, then everybody else tells me that it’s important. Other than people telling me that it is the pinnacle of accomplishment. Because as a chair of the nom-gov committee in one of my boards, when I interview for board members, that’s the first question I ask because I get a lot out of the answer. In terms of the thoughtfulness. And then there’s so much available information, frankly, out there around the roles and responsibilities of the board, going through all of the regulatory environment for a public company boards. And there is lots of information out there on private company boards, how the committees work and what are the no-nos, what are the risks?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (28:15):

And the risks are getting bigger and bigger, what are the current hot topics that’s been talked about at board work? Just doing homework around those things. And then think through the personal experience that you’ve had around, “What did I really enjoy in my career? What was I really good at? And how did people come to me as a go-to person to fix a problem or whatnot?” And then juxtaposing those two things to figure out “What do I want to do with that?” And then formulating a narrative. When people ask you those questions, or even just having a conversation, then you have a thoughtful conversation about board work that has the intelligence, the research, and also thoughtfulness around how you add value. To me, I think that would be really important.

Liz Tinkham (29:17):

So, your third act now is for-profit, not-for-profit advising?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (29:23):

Yeah. So it came to me through a friend who’s in the VC community and of their portfolio company CEOs. I help leadership in companies, mostly CEOs, as they’re trying to scale their business from being a startup to a growth stage. And then trying to look at the big things, and knowing when to delegate. So I helped them with leadership development. I helped them with finding the right people. I helped them with letting people go—ooh, very hard, very hard for people to do.

Liz Tinkham (29:58):

Right, yeah. It is hard.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (29:59):

Hardest thing. Yeah? And just being a counterpoint to their thinking around their business and their people development and talent management. So yeah, I did that. It’s really fun.

Liz Tinkham (30:12):

And then fun. What do you do for fun?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (30:14):

Yeah. So I’ve discovered yoga, when I retired. I’m a yoga person. Not as often as I like, but I’m still working on it. I love it. I love to play golf, Liz. So I lately, in COVID period, I’m out there two or three times a week, which is fun. I’ve discovered backpacking and you and I talked about how I did.

Liz Tinkham (30:37):

We did a little bit. I love backpacking too, never thought that I would but I love it.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (30:44):

And my family is like, “Are you crazy?” George told me that, if I wanted him to come with me on a backpacking trip, that I would have to carry his mattress.

Liz Tinkham (30:53):

Oh, come on.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (30:57):

He’s like, “If you carry my queen bed mattress, I’ll go with you.” It’s like, I’m not doing that. I did that already as a boy scout. But I get it. But what I love about it is because I tend to overthink a lot of things. And it’s the only time where I only think about where I’m going to put my foot next and nothing else.

Liz Tinkham (31:18):

When you’re hiking. Yeah. So I told you, I was in Glacier National Park last week, which was amazing. But the problem was also overthinking, which my husband just kept kidding me about the whole time. Is when you pull into the park, they hand you this yellow strip of paper about the bear alert. And there are signs literally everywhere about grizzly bears. And so I had that bear spray, tacked onto the front of my shirt. And I practiced though, like whipping it out of the holster and I made my husband practice and he was just funny.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (31:51):

You are funny. You are insane.

Liz Tinkham (31:54):

But I over-thought it. And the whole time I was hiking, all I could think about was, “Are we going to run into a bear?” And we never did, but they do make it front and center there. So it was great.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (32:03):

Well, and they should.

Liz Tinkham (32:05):

They should.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (32:05):

It’s their responsibility. It’s funny all the times I’ve hiked on the AT and also in the Smokies, lots of bears around, you could see evidence of them. But I’ve never actually run into one.

Liz Tinkham (32:17):

I think they tend to avoid people for the right reasons, but..

Jeannie Diefenderfer (32:19):

Exactly, exactly.

Liz Tinkham (32:21):

But people are stupid as well. Trying to get pictures of them. And in Yellowstone, I guess some girl was trying to pet a bison, stupid stuff like that. So.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (32:31):

Oh my God. Oh my God. Yeah. So hiking, yoga, golf, and then for thinking, going back to the unit, I mean, for me, just trying to be present for my family and loved ones when they want me to be present. Not necessarily when I want to be present, not necessarily when I want to be present.

Liz Tinkham (32:48):

That’s so what I’ve been trying to do, Okay. I’m going to stop.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (32:51):

That’s always harder for me. Yeah, working on that. And then of course, continuously learning. And I’ve been meditating, I think I mentioned to you since January and I like to think I am a practicing (somewhat) Buddhist. And going maybe back to school at some point to explore the notion of ethical leadership or business ethics and spiritual leadership. And just to explore, I love to go back to school and take liberal arts classes that I never got to take as a Chem E.

Liz Tinkham (33:27):

A little art history. I never took any of that either. Music.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (33:32):

Would be so good, right?

Liz Tinkham (33:35):

Gosh, you see you and I are too much alike. So, I thought about naming this podcast I’m Not Done Yet because that’s how I feel. So what aren’t you done with yet?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (33:42):

Oh gosh. I don’t think I’ll ever be done with myself. One of the wonderful things about getting older and I’m 59, so I’m going to be 60 next year, Liz, and I look at the next 10 years and I look at like 2031, I’ll be 69. And I say, you know what? Just being open to and not being afraid to the point you made all the wrong things that could happen, but really working on my own fear to just be open-hearted about continuing to learn and not being judgmental. It’s something I’ve been working on as much as I can because I find that I have been conditioned, and it’s my DNA too. So, part of it is like, I can be good if I’ve put other people down. And just not comparing yourself to others. Because it’s such an easy trap. And it’s a short-lived trap. You never go any place sustainably good with that. So just, yeah opening myself up to be compassionate and not being judgmental.

Liz Tinkham (34:53):

Oh, that’s great. That’s great. Well, Jeannie, thank you so much for joining us on Third Act. So where can our listeners find you online?

Jeannie Diefenderfer (35:01):

Well, so they can find me on LinkedIn mostly.

Liz Tinkham (35:04):

Okay. We’ll put it in the show notes.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (35:06):

I’m not a big social media person. That’s a whole ‘nother story I think I can figure out where it comes from, but yeah, LinkedIn’s probably the best place. And I’m working on my website,, but it’s not ready for prime time.

Liz Tinkham (35:21):

Okay. So we will put the LinkedIn on the show notes. So thank you. It’s great talking to you.

Jeannie Diefenderfer (35:27):

It was great to talk to you as well, Liz. Thank you so much.

Liz Tinkham (36:34):

Take care. Thanks for joining me today to listen to the Third Act podcast, you can find show notes, guest bios, and more at If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe and write a review on your favorite podcast platform. I’m your host, Liz Tinkham. I’ll be back next week with another guest who’s found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life.

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