Jen Marsden SharkNinjaJen Marsden is Director of Design Engineering at leading home technology firm SharkNinja and is originally from the Wirral, Merseyside.

From a young age she was fascinated by engineering, sparked by her Dad, who having previously worked as a Navy Engineer, would teach her about how things work.

Jen’s interests grew throughout secondary education and she gained a place to study Design Technology BA at Loughborough University, graduating in 2005.  She started her career as a junior designer at Vax, where she worked on floorcare products for 11 years, swiftly working her way up to Head of Product Development. Keen to progress her skills in a different sector, Jen joined SharkNinja as Design Manager in 2017. Over just three years, Jen has progressed to a leadership team role. During her time heading up New Product Development for the Ninja Heated category, she has led the team through the development of several hero products including the Foodi Pressure Cooker, Ninja Foodi Health Grill and Which? Best Buy’s Ninja Air Fryer.

In 2019 Jen made moves to take her career to the next level, as she headed up the launch of SharkNinja’s London WE Lead initiative. WE Lead was born in the firm’s Boston office, with the objective of being a social and professional network for women in the US team. Inspired by this and by her own experiences as a woman in STEM, Jen began work to launch a parallel programme in London. Consisting of internal panel events, talks and clinics, the objectives of WE Lead are to provide a supportive, professional network for women in SharkNinja, to directly tackle the main gender equality issues surrounding women in STEM and to spread awareness of the wealth of career options and various avenues to get into STEM, both at SharkNinja and more generally.

Jen’s actions are truly inspirational within the STEM community. She continues to lead her career as Director of Design Engineering, but is also putting immense passion and drive into establishing the WE Lead programme for her colleagues. She hopes to not only increase understanding of the trials faced by women in STEM and how these should be overcome, but to tackle the root of the cause of the industry’s gender imbalance through strategic partnerships.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly, from a young age I was creative and always enjoyed arts and design subjects at school.  As I worked towards my A Level subjects, it was maths which I found to be most interesting and as a result, rewarding.  This combination led me to go on to University to study design, but the diversity of career options was never really highlighted to me during my school years.  Part of my course involved a year working in industry where I joined the design team for Salton Europe (now Spectrum brands) which manufactured consumer products for brands such as Russell Hobbs, George Foreman and Carmen.  It was this exposure to consumer product development that forged my aspirations to work in this industry, designing market leading products for the mass market.

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

More often than not when meeting new customers or clients the assumption is made that I do not work within the engineering team. Whilst I don’t feel this has directly impacted my career growth, it highlights that this is an extra hurdle for me, to always work that bit harder in order to prove my position and capability.  The lack of female peers and leaders has sometimes fed into that insecurity, however, it has also been a big driver in wanting this situation to change.  The WE Lead programme is about providing a support network and raising awareness of this gender imbalance within technical and leadership roles.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I would have to say the progression to my current role. As Director of Design Engineering for Ninja Heated New Product Development, I work with fantastic teams across the world to deliver products which positively impact peoples lives.  It’s exciting to be a part of a category which is growing significantly and bringing such innovative and exciting products to life.

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

It’s important to feel challenged and to continue challenging yourself to further improve and I think a major factor in ensuring this happens is honesty.  From having the ability to admit when you don’t know something, to being open and honest with team members or stakeholders, honesty ensures direction and alignment is always clear.  This is hugely important in driving success both individually and for the business.  Being open to and seeking feedback has enabled me to build on my strength areas and identify growth opportunities.

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

Try and get a good mentor or mentors, someone who can support both your personal and career development.  This does not have to be someone you work with directly, and in fact it’s important that the conversations don’t become performance based. It’s about finding somebody with good and varied experiences who can give feedback and guidance – I believe this is the best way of broadening your skills and knowledge base by enabling growth in many areas.

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

Yes, I believe barriers very much prevail and it is these which are at least partly responsible for the continued gender imbalance in STEM. Throughout every stage of the British education system, there are more boys studying STEM subjects than girls. Although society is working hard to move away from gender stereotypes, an unconscious, implicit bias still remains, and many people still associate scientific and mathematic fields as ‘male’ and the arts and humanities as ‘female.’ Additionally, there is a great absence of information, guidance and encouragement to enter STEM experienced by girls, which is a further factor feeding into the low levels of females choosing to study these subjects and enter the STEM workforce. Sadly, the barriers don’t stop there. I recently read that although there are now one million women working in STEM in the UK, only 5% of leadership positions in technology are held by females, which really shocked me. There is no simple answer to overcoming these barriers, but I believe it starts by everyone realising they have a role to play, whether you are a parent, teacher or employer, girls and women need to be aware of the wealth of opportunities available to them in STEM and given guidance around how they can start a career in the industry and continue to flourish.

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

Firstly, I believe the industry should be working closely with the education system to teach children and students about technology from a young age, shining a light on its instrumental role in shaping the world we live in and highlighting how students can get involved in this exciting sector. Secondly, the entry routes into these professions need to be diversified and for awareness of these to be greater. Alternative avenues firms should look to invest in might look like apprenticeships, work experience weeks, or shadowing schemes. Finally, there need to be processes in place so that female employees progress at the same rate as their male counterparts. Organisations must implement initiatives to support women to advance to more senior positions as well as gender targets at all levels. I am so happy to be working for a firm which recognises the importance of gender equality in the workplace and has implemented initiatives to address it. Through the WE Lead programme, SharkNinja runs a series of events aimed at raising awareness of gender issues amongst all employees, creating a global support network for women across the business and providing education and entry avenues to students through joint ventures with universities and schools.

There is currently only 17% 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?

It would have to be to increase the number of females in leadership positions.  The percentage of women in tech overall is low, but those in the highest positions in a technology role, as mentioned, is only 5%.  Changing this will not only help younger generations to be inspired to follow careers in similar industries, it will also help break down the unconscious gender bias that still exists across many generations.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are lots of great resources available for inspiration.  There’s a great Podcast Playlist called ‘Women in Tech SF – Empowering Podcasts’ which has a lot of insightful podcast channels with episodes covering topics such as working in a male dominated workplace, why there are so few female CEOs and talks with successful business women who discuss their career paths and challenges.  Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook has a short, but really inspiring TED talk about women in leadership, or lack of: https://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders#t-445745 there are plenty of other TED talks too which are a great source of information (https://www.ted.com/search?q=women+in+technology)

There are also more and more events, festivals and conferences being held which talk more about the topic, and celebrate the success of women within the technology industry, including;


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