Help amplify the voices of other women. This is critical. Lift other women up, strengthen their voice and help them learn to not be afraid to speak up. There is room at the table for more women, so it’s important to continue to help make that space.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenni Ramsay.
From Nova Scotia, Canada, Jenni Ramsay is the oldest of three children. Raised by a father who had been working in tech for many years, she grew up with an interest in gaming and technology in general — there was a PC in her house as far back as she can remember. Jenni graduated from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology, intending to pursue a career with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. However, instead Jenni became a crisis intervener at the local women’s shelter until her move to the U.S, in 2009.
Once in the U.S., Jenni shifted gears and career paths — applying for a job at Lenovo in 2012. Since then, she has worked across sales, product operations and now is a Worldwide Product Manager for the Workstation business unit. Recently, she was responsible for disrupting the workstation market with her latest product and has been the face for customers, media and sales teams around the world, driving the momentum with her passion for technology. She loves learning what people can do with the technology she supports and is anticipating what is yet to come. Jenni lives in North Carolina with her dog Samwise and cat Lavender and loves to game (video and tabletop), lift weights, hike and garden.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
While I’ve always been a self-proclaimed nerd, my path into the tech industry wasn’t as direct as you might expect. I went to school to earn a degree in policing with hopes of becoming a domestic violence victim advocate. But when I moved to the US, my plans changed a bit. My degree wasn’t the same in the US as in Canada, and there were additional requirements for policing in the States. I actually applied at Lenovo after hearing about the job through a friend because it appealed to my love of tech, and with my Dad being in IT for decades, I thought it could be a good fit. Nearly ten years later, it turns out it was.
In my current role with Lenovo’s workstation business, not only am I constantly learning new things, but because of my love of all things tech and my aptitude to dive straight into complex topics, I’m able to have meaningful conversations with customers about how computers impact their day-to-day jobs. I’m constantly amazed at all the things customers can accomplish thanks to the power of workstations — everything from making movies and video games, to designing smart cities, to scientific breakthroughs like going to Mars.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I’ve always loved gaming, so you can imagine how interesting it has been getting to work with some of the studios that created my favorite games. I love knowing that they are using the workstations that I manage to create the next generation of games.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Lenovo has been a wonderful company to work for. I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow so much in my career, and have been very impressed by their efforts to be inclusive and foster diversity. For instance, it’s so encouraging to see other women in leadership and engineering positions across the company. My team and others are quite diverse and bring together the voices of people across different backgrounds.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
The life of a product manager is anything but dull. As you can imagine, the PC market has seen tremendous growth driven by a surge in notebooks and mobile workstations over the course of the pandemic. As many continue to work from home, we expect more companies will shift toward a hybrid computing model to maintain ongoing business continuity and employee productivity. My team is currently working on our next generation of workstations that are targeted at professionals working on the most cutting-edge projects within their organizations. This includes healthcare workers conducting medical research, designers and developers creating movies and games, and engineers doing everything from building new cities and vehicles to helping design and run renewable energy.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. 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?
As a woman working in IT for nearly a decade, I’ve started to see more and more companies with initiatives targeted specifically at bringing more women into these types of jobs. I’m encouraged by this, but I’d like to see this trend continue and branch out into other spaces beyond IT. Personally, I feel that there is still work to do. One way I think we can help with this is getting girls interested in STEM early on in school and making sure we nurture those interests throughout their education to keep them motivated when they reach the job market.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
Many women are caregivers to children or even other family members. Something I’d like to see more of in the future is the ability for remote work and flexible hours so women don’t have to choose between a career in something they love or taking care of the ones they love. Additionally, because there are traditionally more men in STEM roles today, I think sometimes women feel like it’s hard to be seen or heard in these positions, or that there is pressure to work twice as hard. Unfortunately, our desire to prove our value by feeling like we must do it all ourselves and do it perfectly in order to be noticed or rewarded can often lead to burn out, feeling overworked and underappreciated.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Regardless of your position within a company, don’t be afraid to ask questions!
- It is ok to make mistakes. Though this is great advice for anyone, I think it’s even more important for women in jobs/professions where we tend to be under-represented. Mistakes are how we learn and grow, and if we want to see more women represented at all levels in STEM, we need to create space for women to challenge themselves and learn along the way.
- Don’t think you can’t do a job because of the requirements listed on paper. I think a lot of women are scared to apply for a position where they don’t consider themselves an expert at ALL of the criteria listed. This holds a lot of talented and driven women back. If you are open to learning and can show that, then apply for the job! Even though I don’t have a tech-related degree I have a personal interest and knowledge in the space, a broad background in sales and operations, and I have proven myself in many other areas that earned me the Product Management position I’m in today.
- Help amplify the voices of other women. This is critical. Lift other women up, strengthen their voice and help them learn to not be afraid to speak up. There is room at the table for more women, so it’s important to continue to help make that space.
- Be heard. Don’t let people talk over you or push you aside. Own your message, projects, products and be the authority for them. You can’t expect others to stick-up for you if you don’t stick-up for yourself.
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?
While I have been incredibly fortunate to have many people at Lenovo support me throughout my career, it has been my Dad who has helped me achieve everything I have. He was my first introduction into the world of technology, and I’ll always be grateful for the work ethic and drive he helped instill in me growing up. He has always believed that I could do anything I set my mind to, and encouraged me to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. It’s that confidence and drive that has encouraged me to keep reaching and know there are no limits. Every time I video chat with him and tell him how things are going, the best thing is to see how proud he is of me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I try to give back as much as I can. I am involved with a group setting up a mentoring program with executives and promising young talent at Lenovo, and I also participate in corporate volunteer activities with the local food bank and Red Cross. Beyond work, I also try to find ways to give back not only to my community here in North Carolina, but to my home province of Nova Scotia. Currently, I am looking at opportunities to work with local schools to mentor young girls interested in STEM.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The one quote that has stuck with me through my career is “Keep going until you’re proud”. I used to worry so much about what other people thought of me and if I was ever ‘good enough’ to do what I wanted to do. At the end of the day, it’s up to me to push myself and make MYSELF proud of what I’m doing and all the things I’ve accomplished.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders 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 🙂
There are so many incredible people I would love to have even 10 minutes with, but Susan Wojcicki — CEO of YouTube, would be my first choice. She has such an incredible background, working with some of the top tech companies in the world. But she is also a champion for women in tech, and vocal about gender inequality in these fields. We hear talk all the time about pay disparity, and more roles for women, but she brought her own experiences of discrimination into the spotlight for the world to see. To see a C-level executive still go through it in their career, and be strong and vocal enough to bring it to the public is inspiring. I would love to sit and hear more about her experiences and what drives her.