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“Having someone who you can discuss ideas with and work with through tough times makes life easier and you a better manager” with Penny Bauder & Jennifer Minor

As leaders and managers, you are often required to go at it alone. This idea is not good for you or others around you. Everyone needs someone to talk with and everyone needs a break from time to time. Having someone who you can discuss ideas with and work with through tough times makes life […]

As leaders and managers, you are often required to go at it alone. This idea is not good for you or others around you. Everyone needs someone to talk with and everyone needs a break from time to time. Having someone who you can discuss ideas with and work with through tough times makes life easier and you a better manager. If you are not as lucky to share your management tasks with another person, make sure you surround yourself with people you can lean on when you need it.


As a part of my series featuring accomplished women in STEM, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Minor. Jennifer Minor is a partner at Vernier Software & Technology and a manager in the Software Department. Throughout her 17 years at Vernier, she has been able to work on multiple remarkably different projects, allowing her to continue to grow her skills as a developer and as a manager. Being part of Vernier has allowed her to create software that is used in science classrooms to teach the next generation of scientists.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Starting in middle school and continuing throughout high school I was able to take a computer programming class every year. As my skills and confidence grew, so did my desire to continue my education and earn a computer science degree.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

I have worked on many projects over my 17 years at Vernier. Some of the most memorable have been when I was working with open source projects with people all around the world to create a software for our LabQuest line of devices. It has been rewarding to watch those products be used in multiple countries to teach science.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

After college I moved to Boulder, CO and began working for a startup. During my first week, the hiring manager was on vacation and gave me a task to complete. I got settled and started to code furiously, intent on proving my worth with my skills. After a couple of days of heads-down coding I returned from lunch with my 44oz soda ready to work through the afternoon. One of my new coworkers stopped by and commented that my rather large caffeine supply meant that there was finally proof I was a legit developer. He taught me an important lesson that day — we are much more than just what we can develop on a computer screen. A little sense of humor will go a long way to developing key relationships with coworkers who you end up relying on later and who make you better than you could ever be alone.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our products allow students to see real-time data as they perform science experiments. Having that immediate feedback allows them to tweak their experiments and see the effect on the data they are collecting.

One of my favorite stories is from a work day many years ago when Dave Vernier set up an enclosed environment with a plant, CO2, and O2 sensor. As the sun came through the window I witnessed the CO2 drop and the O2 rise. Reading and learning about photosynthesis is one thing, but being able to see the process in action made me think back to my high school science class realizing the sensors, software, and curriculum our company provides would have allowed more students to engage with the sciences.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Using technology in the classroom can be an extra challenge in a very short and fast-paced environment. At Vernier, we spend a lot of time trying to reduce the stumbling blocks to get our sensors into students’ hands and make them useful.

Over the last couple of years the rapid adoption of Chromebooks has been a major disruptor in the education market, bringing technology into the hands of every student. The opportunity to provide software and hardware that could be used in the classroom with Chromebooks was exciting but challenging. After evaluating existing software, we decided to write a new software title from the ground up that would not only work on Chromebooks but also on any other platform a teacher might have in their classroom. In the same time period we also developed a new line of Go Direct Sensors that allowed the students to use them easily across multiple devices either connected with USB or wirelessly through BLE. This was a major undertaking for our company and it was very exciting to be able to provide the same experience to our customers no matter what hardware was available to them.

Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

We need to get more women in STEM careers because their approach to solving problems is unique and valuable. While I think there have been great strides to get more women engaged, I think there is more that our education system could do to understand what inspires women and to teach to them.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Just be yourself and know that you provide value. Most likely, as women, they are already very thoughtful and observative so my advice would be for them to focus on advocating for themselves. They should know that it is important to understand what they need to be successful and ask for support in those areas. It will only make them better and more valuable to their team.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Delegate as much as you can and build trust with your leads. A good friend once told me that she managed so that she wasn’t needed. I think that is a good way to think about managing, especially a large team — make it so that you are essentially not needed.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Teachers and previous managers have been supportive and pushed me to be better. I appreciate all of them and what they have taught me along the way.

I currently co-manage our software group with Ian Honohan. We split duties and step in to help each other when it is needed. Every day I learn from him and appreciate the support he gives me. I am learning from his strengths while he learns from mine. As a female, I think we look at situations and deal with challenges in unique ways. When we all work together, like Ian and I, we bring the best sides out in each other.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I make myself available as much as possible to volunteer, especially when it involves science and technology. I anticipate as my parenting duties lighten that I will make a larger impact outside my own house. While I look forward to the future, it has been a privilege to watch my three daughters become independent and strong women.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Make yourself available with regularity.
  2. Even though it might feel like it is about you, it rarely is.
  3. Just be honest with people.
  4. Remember that everyone wants to be successful.
  5. Work hard and do good things.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As leaders and managers, you are often required to go at it alone. This idea is not good for you or others around you. Everyone needs someone to talk with and everyone needs a break from time to time. Having someone who you can discuss ideas with and work with through tough times makes life easier and you a better manager. If you are not as lucky to share your management tasks with another person, make sure you surround yourself with people you can lean on when you need it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Your work life is a large part of who you are, so make sure that you put yourself into a situation that you are able to be successful.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Megan Rapinoe would have to be my choice for her strength, leadership, and advocacy, on and off the field. Being in the stadium watching her lead the US Women’s Soccer team to a World Cup win was a surreal experience for me and my family. I can only imagine how the experience was for her. Then after the game, listening to the stadium chant “Equal Pay, Equal Pay, Equal Pay” was an experience that I shared with my daughters and not one that we will forget anytime soon.

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