Age 35 | Business lead, IDI Actuarial and Product Development Group, Principal Financial Group Inc.

Jennifer Soma estimates she spends about 30 hours a week outside work serving in various volunteer roles, nearly all of it in the evenings and on weekends.

“Being involved has so many rewards,” she said. “You get to serve a cause, and you also have the opportunity to make new connections – it’s really exciting.”

Helping animals has always been a passion for Soma, who currently shares her Ankeny home – appropriately equipped with a big fenced yard – with her four senior rescue dogs.

“I only adopt ‘seniors,’ that’s my niche,” she said, which fits with her philosophy of serving the greatest need.

“There are a lot of things in life that may be hard and difficult to face,” she said, “but that’s where the greatest need is. I genuinely want to make a difference, and I have a passion for what I do. So that’s why I throw my heart into these things that are important to me.”

Having grown up in Jewell, Soma witnessed the kindness her mother and grandmother displayed towards animals, and heard stories about her great-grandmother as well.

Soma received a Bachelor of Arts in communications and health studies from Iowa State University; while she was a student, she became interested in animal welfare issues and began volunteering at shelters.

Before joining Principal Financial Group Inc. in 2007, Soma worked for the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) as a human resources liaison and supervisor. During her time with ARL, she was involved in major rescue efforts of animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and flooding in Iowa.

She’s also a big supporter of Drake University, where she earned a master’s degree in organizational performance. “I loved it so much I continue to stay connected,” said Soma, who chairs the university’s Graduate Student Advisory Council. In her work for Principal, Soma oversees product development and new initiatives in the individual disability insurance business, serving as a liaison between the information technology, quality assurance and operations areas.

One of her new interests this year is her work with the Ashcraft Library Project, a program that provides books for children to read at the Polk County Jail while a parent is visiting an incarcerated family member.


Five reasons she’s a 40:

• Recognized in 2012 with the U.S. Presidential Volunteer Service Award - Gold Level for volunteering more than 1,000 hours.

• Serves as a board member and volunteer for AHeinz57 Pet Rescue and Transport.

• Volunteers and lobbies for Iowa Voters for Companion Animals/Iowa Friends of Companion Animals.

• Serves on Drake University Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Concentration Mentor Program development committee.

• Serves on the Women of Innovation committee for the Technology Association of Iowa.


Mentor: Mike Colwell, executive director, Business Innovation Zone

Fun facts:
Twice named an all-state vocalist while in high school.


Presenting the 2013 winners:

Desmund Adams, Principal, AdamsDouglas
Lindsay Alderman, Client operations manager, LightEdge Solutions Inc.
Erica Axiotis, Director of development, Mercy Foundation
Kate Banasiak, President and CEO, Diversified Management Services Inc.
Erin Beamis, Senior vice president of logistics and operations, IronWorks
Jonathan Brendemuehl, Marketing events coordinator, Bankers Trust Co.
Curtis Brown, Economic development director, city of Ankeny
Matt Connolly, President, Generation Green Builders Co.
Lawrence Cunningham, Director of business development, Catchfire Media LLC
Angela Dethlefs-Trettin, Director of community investment and initiatives, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
Josh Fleming, Digital strategy director, Lessing-Flynn Advertising Co.
Felix Gallagher, Principal, PharmServ Solutions
Lori Gelhaar, Director of career services/ corporate relations, Kaplan University
Tina Gray Carstensen, Marketing coordinator, Shive-Hattery Inc.
Shane Greenleaf, Vice president/commercial banker, First American Bank
Danielle Haindfield, Shareholder attorney, Ahlers & Cooney P.C.
Emily Harris, Patent attorney and shareholder at Davis Brown Law Firm
Matthew Harris, Division administrator, Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Angela Hilbert, Sales and marketing director, Deerfield Retirement Community
Joey Hinke, President, Miller, Fidler & Hinke Insurance Agency Inc.
Hannah Inman, Director of communications, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Keegan Kautzky, Director of national education programs, The World Food Prize Foundationn
John Lozier, Pediatric interventional cardiologist, Pediatric Cardiology P.C.
Dennis McDaniel, Police chief, Windsor Heights
Rachel McLean, Vice president/consultant, Ruan Cos
John Mickelson, Associate managing director, The PrivateBank & Trust Co.
Keith Olson, Commercial associate, NAI Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial Co.
Matt Ostanik, President, Submittal Exchange LLC
Benjamin Page, Director, Des Moines park and recreation
Dustin Peterson, Partner, McGladrey LLP
Nick Renkoski, Director of marketing and communications, Des Moines Metro Opera
Rachel Rowley, Partner, BrownWinick PLC
John Ruan IV, Vice president, financial institutions, Bankers Trust Co.
Jennifer Soma, Business lead, IDI Actuarial and Product Development Group, Principal Financial Group Inc.
Heather Starr, Real estate agent, RE/MAX Innovations
Aimee Staudt, Director of development, Knapp Properties Inc.
Courtney Strutt Todd, Shareholder attorney, Davis Brown Law Firm
Nikki Sylverson, Event Director, Des Moines Wine Festival Foundation
Howard Tempero, Experience design strategist, Spindustry Digital
Tony Timm, Executive director, Central Iowa Shelter & Services