Janette Marx

Janette Marx is the first female CEO of billion-dollar Airswift – which operates in the traditionally male dominated energy industry.

She has over 25 years in the recruitment sector and recently lead on a ground-breaking merger with Competentia to establish Airswift as the world’s foremost technical workforce solutions provider.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have worked in the recruitment industry for over 25 years and after joining Airswift almost 10 years ago as a COO, I haven’t looked back! In 2018 I became CEO and have been focused on growing the company and building a strong team of exceptional individuals. Although I’m originally from California, I relocated to Texas in 2014 and I now call Houston home. As the energy capital of the world, it is great to feel at the center of this evolving industry! After getting my bachelor’s degree in business management, I went to Duke for an MBA which helped to shape my future career trajectory. I enjoy scuba diving and playing golf for fun, and I co-authored my first book last year, which was all about helping women rise up, with each chapter offering insight into what it truly means to overcome hardship, stay afloat, and build confidence in the face of adversity.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I started in recruitment like most people do – I fell into it. I needed to work to support myself during college, so I applied for a job as a Customer Service Manager and I’m so glad I did because I quickly fell in love with it, and I excelled. I was promoted for my performance every six months for four years straight and then I realized I didn’t want to do anything else. Recruiters have the unique opportunity to change someone’s life by supporting them in their career journey, and that is incredibly special. I knew I wanted advancement, but it wasn’t until my admissions interview with Duke that I said I want to be a CEO. From there, I put my career in my own hands and went after it!

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these? 

Yes, I have. From learning how to navigate a new boss, a cross country move or progressing my career in line with my self-imposed expectations, there are always challenges to overcome. I have learned that with any challenge, I need to be honest with myself and own the real problem. I’ve asked for direct feedback and ensured I was open to that feedback. By creating a sense of ownership and not blaming anyone else, I empower myself to change and deal with it head on.  At that point, I can adapt to make the most of the situation or decision.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

All the people that I have mentored along the way and have celebrated their own successful climbs to the top. Seeing other people shine, grow and overcome is more of an achievement than anything else can ever be.

Another success that I am very proud of is leading the integration between Swift Worldwide Resources and Air Energi in 2016 to become Airswift. We were able to double our size and our geographic reach overnight and this merge really put us on the map as an industry leading energy workforce solutions company. We also were able to retain a significant portion of the employees, so we have many tenured staff from both companies still with us today that have been promoted multiple times!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

Building resilience. To have it, you must be able to communicate with intention, have the courage to confront reality, possess the ability to navigate certain situations under pressure, and adapt to thrive in life. Your response to challenges sets you apart because your reactions are completely in your control.

Sometimes in life we seek challenges and sometimes they find us. Our level of resilience is sharpened with each challenge we overcome. Resilience is a foundational element that shaped my career and leadership style; without it, I would not be the leader I am today.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

My answer for this one would differ depending on if they are trying to excel from a tech perspective as an individual contributor or trying to get into management of teams. From a tech perspective, it is important to stay current and see what industry trends are dictating. Try to stay parallel to the curve, not ahead of it, because it changes so frequently. From a management perspective, you need to build both your reputation for your work product and your ability to build relationships across all levels of the organization. Many times, top performers want to get into leadership yet undervalue the strength of an internal network at your company. Let your current leaders know you want to grow into management. Volunteer for councils and cross functional work groups. Sign up for management training and become a student of leadership both through internal and external resources. Own your path by accepting the help and advice of others around you.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?  

I am hopeful that there is so much awareness today vs 10 years ago, but it is still a challenge. We now need to turn that awareness into action and think about how we shift the paradigm in organizations to encourage a truly diverse team structure. It takes work, but the reward is exponential. There are studies that illustrate a diverse team is more productive, more efficient, and more profitable. The change is not easy, so I encourage everyone to pause and think about where they naturally go to hire their teams from… are you being creative and searching for talent from various sources?

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology? 

I would encourage a mentorship program within the organization or align with an outside entity like the American Staffing Association (ASA). They have a superb matching program, and I am still in contact with all my mentees from years ago, which is so special.

Create an atmosphere that is welcoming for women to work in tech and be aware that women will not always follow the same path as their male counterparts.  Many times, women self-select out when they think they won’t be able to do something perfectly.  As leaders of companies, we need to seek these women out and help them change their perspectives about what is achievable.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

As a society, we need to get more young girls interested in tech and then keep that interest throughout their education and into the University level.  Making tech “cool” for girls will give us an influx of new graduates into the industry.

Once they are in a company, a key item is creating a safe working environment. Often IT is viewed as not the most embracing of functions within an organization, so it is up to us as leaders to change that mindset. I strive to make that change within our organization every day, and I encourage all other leaders to do the same.