Skip to main content

Paddling With Purpose

Along with other breast cancer survivors, CSL Seqirus’ Jennifer Maroon finds community and inspiration in dragon boating.


The Chinese tradition of dragon boating got its start 2,000 years ago but it has some new participants: breast-cancer survivors who are choosing the “magical sport” as a demonstration of resilience and community.

Jennifer Maroon, a Customer Account Analyst Manager at vaccine developer CSL Seqirus in Summit, New Jersey, is one of them. She says dragon boating – paddling side-by-side with 22 people including a drummer to keep the rhythm – is more than a just exercise or a hobby. It’s a source of life lessons that has taken her across the country and all the way to New Zealand, where she participated in this year’s International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission Dragon Boat Festival.

The New Zealand festival included more than 240 teams from 30 countries. According to a medical journal article, the first dragon boat paddled by breast cancer survivors dates back to 1996, when researchers were challenging the belief that vigorous upper body exercise was unhealthy for breast cancer survivors. But that proved to be untrue and “dragon boating has been embraced as a complementary exercise therapy by the cancer survivors participating in this magical sport.”

Maroon said the long hours of practice and competition, sweating and giving your all as a team has taught her about perseverance and collaboration – lessons that apply to both work and play. At CSL Seqirus, Maroon co-leads a team of account analysts to ensure customers are getting the support they need.

Here’s how she describes five lessons learned on the water:

  1. Success requires synchronicity: No matter how strong a paddler you are, the team will not move quickly unless everyone is in sync.
  2. Give open and honest feedback: During training and racing, we are constantly improving ourselves, competing for faster times and more efficient stroking. To help with this, our coach and seasoned paddlers offer feedback when form and technique needs improving. As a team leader and a people leader at work, I meet one-on-one with my direct reports and offer constructive and positive feedback on a regular basis.
  3. Trust in each other: When paddling, we focus on the paddler in front of us. We trust that everyone is carrying their own weight whether at work or on the water. Trust is crucial in setting the stage to take risks, solve problems and have difficult conversations.
  4. There's always more to learn: There are constantly new terms and new techniques to learn, so you have to go through the process, because there are no shortcuts. For example, I have two new hires and I tell them all the time, you are going to be inundated with information. And if you're anything like the majority of the people that get hired here, you just want to get in there and start working. But I got to tell you, it's not going to happen like that. It's going to take time.
  5. Show gratitude and celebrate the team: - If half the team shows up, we can't compete. So, we give credit where credit is due. We recognize and celebrate everyone's contributions no matter how small. At CSL we have Celebrate the Promise, where we are encouraged to give shout outs to recognize the great things that everybody in the company is doing, no matter what department they are in. Everybody's doing their part to move the business forward and it's great to be recognized for the parts that we all play.