Jen Cotter ’94 pursued a career path that led from a television internship in college to her role as a Peloton executive.
By Katharine Gammon
Jen Cotter ’94 says she’s been lucky in her life. But fortune favors the prepared mind, and she has always been ready to tackle big challenges — from television shows to her current role as chief content officer at Peloton, an interactive fitness company.
Cotter was in the first generation of her family to go to college, and when she arrived at Seton Hall, she took a television production class — and fell in love with the behind-the-scenes aspects of the business. “Why not do a job that you could have a lot of fun at?” Cotter recalls. She went on to major in communications and minor in psychology and Japanese.
In the spring of her senior year, Cotter lucked into a dream gig: a semester-long internship with the “Late Show with David Letterman” in New York City. She commuted in and out of the city by bus to work a full-time job as her friends were enjoying the end of their college years on campus.
One thing that has led Cotter through her career, she says, is a knowledge of her unique strengths. As she worked as an assistant to Letterman’s executive producer, she realized she could use what she had to her advantage.
“I wasn’t the smartest person in the room. I was never the funniest person in the room — it’s hard to be [that] at Letterman,” she says, in a characteristically understated way. “But I was really focused. I knew my place; I was solutions-oriented. I wasn’t emotional, and I loved being there.”
Allyson Jerome ’94 roomed with Cotter at Seton Hall — they met during their first year.“ [Jen] was smart, friendly, outgoing, humble and funny as heck,” Jerome says. “People gravitated towards her. I still see all these same qualities in Jen today.” Cotter was working while her classmates were still wondering what to do with their lives. “We knew she was certainly capable of great things.”
Early on, Cotter worked as a writer’s assistant, a production coordinator, and at other entertainment jobs — a process of elimination to find out what she liked, she says. Eventually, she began developing content and talent, creating shows such as “Snapped” and “Girls Behaving Badly” on Oxygen before moving to the Home Shopping Network.
Then she got a Peloton bike and was able to stream studio-style classes led by an instructor into her home. Cotter instantly understood the importance of the connection because she had learned so much about the power of on-air hosts at HSN. “I got the Peloton, and I fell in love with it for all those reasons.” When a job opportunity came up at the company a few years ago, she saw it as the perfect fit, tailor-made for her professional expertise and passion for Peloton.
Cotter says Peloton is attuned to its 4.4-million strong customer base, and members connect with each other as well as the company. As chief content officer, she helps design classes and guide the instructors.
Peloton offers thousands of classes, and any one of them would provide a good workout. But Cotter knows how much members love their instructors, so she and her team spend a lot of time thinking about ways to curate the lessons to suggest the best options for a busy member who may want to go on a quick ride but does not have time to pick from all the options. “The entertainment value is something that we cherish, and [we] continue to develop the production quality, making sure it looks the best and invites you in the quickest,” she says.
Combining entertainment, personalities, and music is all part of the promise of fitness content in the future. Peloton now offers 10 types of workouts, including strength, running and yoga — with plans to keep innovating. “I can’t even imagine that I got this opportunity in life – I’ve been so fortunate along the way.”
Katharine Gammon is a freelance writer based in Santa Monica.