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.