2019 30 Under 35 Profile: Jessica Kelner


Jessica Kelner, 30

Jessica Kelner
Benefits & Compensation Specialist; Dakota Supply Group


After graduating from the University of North Dakota in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, Jessica Kelner started working at Amazon in its customer service department.

Each year, as the holidays approached, Amazon would hire about 300 people for the shopping season, she explained. During that hiring rush one year, Jessica was asked to help with employee recruitment.

“So I tried my hand at recruiting and I was totally hooked,” Jessica explained. “I really got the bug for HR and wanted to pursue it more. They didn’t have any full-time HR positions at Amazon then, so I went looking for a more permanent one.”

As it turned out at the time, the best position in HR happened to be in electrical distribution, with the Dakota Supply Group in her hometown, Fargo, N.D.

“I didn’t know much about the industry and had only a little HR experience when I started. But I met with the HR department at DSG and it has turned out to be a really good fit,” Jessica said.

Jessica started at Dakota Supply as an HR assistant in 2014. So as a new hire in Human Resources, did she go through the traditional “start in the warehouse” phase of training? Sort of.

“I was actually lucky enough to do a lot of job-shadowing that first month,” she explained. “I job shadowed with almost every department that we have. I did the warehouse and later the city desk for a while. I even went out on a couple of meetings with outside sales and got to listen in on a few phone calls with inside sales. So they really set me up well.”

That general exposure to the various departments would prove invaluable later on.

“In HR, my customers are the DSG employees. While I didn’t really need to get too involved in the industry specifics, I would be still hiring for those positions” Jessica said. “So I wanted to know what exactly those departments did. What does the job look like from a day-to-day standpoint?”

In 2018, Jessica was named an HR generalist and earlier this year she was promoted to her current position of benefits and compensation specialist.

Just as many of her Dakota Supply colleagues in sales have to be constantly learning about new technologies and product developments, Jessica also has to keep on top of various new approaches in HR and updates in employee benefits and related issues.

“I’ve always been learning. They have a big passion for it here at DSG,” Jessica said. “Even when I first started, I listened and I asked a lot of questions. There was not a conference or a meeting that I was invited to that I turned down. I just wanted to know everything from A to Z.”

Jessica was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. As if she wasn’t busy enough with her duties at Dakota Supply, she and her husband Blake recently became parents with the birth of their daughter last October.


Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. My advice would be that it is okay not to know everything right away. I think sometimes it’s tough for my generation to know and acknowledge that. We don’t expect you to know everything when you first start. Be humble enough to ask a lot of questions and to learn as much as you can. Always keep learning and keep an open mind with everything. Also, find a mentor in your industry and ask them every single question that you have.

I was so lucky to have my direct supervisor as my mentor (Melissa Lunak, chief human resources officer). When I first started, she had an open-door policy where I could join almost every meeting or phone call; anything where I could join in and learn just by being exposed to the information. So my advice for young professionals is to find a mentor and remember that it is okay not to know everything right away.

Q. How do you see the industry attracting a more diverse workforce?

A. Having a diverse workforce is certainly a strength for any company. From an HR standpoint, we are really focused on getting our company name out in the community and educating people on what the electrical industry is all about. Electrical distribution may not be a glamorous industry but it sure is interesting and impactful! So when we better educate people on what it is we really do, it becomes an industry you can see making a career out of. This attracts a bigger and more diverse group of talented applicants.

The opportunities within the industry are endless right now. There’s new technology and new positions being created every day. It’s important to show this to everyone, not just those who are already in the industry.


Tagged with ,
Joe Nowlan  is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at

Comment on the story

Your email address will not be published.