Women Who Reign: Jenny Wen
“Never be too busy to take time out of your day for those who matter most.”
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m interning as a product designer at Square this summer, and I’m a fourth year student at the University of Waterloo studying Systems Design Engineering. At school, I help organize Hack the North — Canada’s largest hackathon, and one that actively encourages hackers from underrepresented groups and first-timers to attend.
Fun fact: I got halfway through a degree in urban planning before I realized I wanted to do something in STEM instead.
What # would define your life journey?
Hmmmm. Maybe something like #embracefear, or something. I always feel like I’m doing the right thing when it’s kind of scary — it means that it’s something new, or something I don’t think I’m capable of doing. On the other side of the coin, I find it terrifying when I learn something, and get in the habit of doing something that used to be scary to me, but just isn’t anymore. It means that I’m not taking enough risks, and I need to push myself to find the next frontier, something bigger, and something scarier to challenge myself to do or learn.
Favorite website / app:
Instagram, because I’ve been using it as a sandbox to get better at seeing and understanding the places I’ve been traveling to, and probably Wunderlist — I have folders and folders of lists. Everything from groceries I need to pick up, to long-term career goals. Without it, I’d probably just forget everything and never get anything done!
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I saw Michelle Kwan speak a few weeks ago, and I remember growing up, watching her and recalling that she was the first Asian-American person in the spotlight that I remember identifying with, so she was definitely a childhood lady hero. Anyway, flash forward like, two decades, and she’s been working in diplomacy, and now on the Hillary Clinton campaign. In her career now, I think she’s made such incredible use of her fame as a skater to be a genuine role model for young women, so she’s remained a lady hero to me into adulthood, too.
Also, my parents. I definitely didn’t show them enough gratitude as a kid, but because of them, I never thought of math and science as something that I couldn’t do because of my gender.
Song that makes you want to dance:
Ways to Go — Grouplove. I’ve been jamming it on repeat for a few weeks now.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
In my first couple of years studying engineering and working as a developer, I started to feel really subconscious about the way I dressed and presented myself. I wasn’t sure if by putting on makeup and wearing girly stuff, if people would take me seriously — the whole #ILookLikeAnEngineer stuff, you know? I think it took me a few years, but I realized that the girly version of myself, the one that liked getting dressed up, doing my hair, and putting on makeup — that was the best version of myself, and the version of myself I felt most comfortable in, so at this point, I’ve just embraced it. Not everyone should feel like they have to do this stuff, either, but I think it’s hard to find who you like to be when you stick out in a crowd, already. I don’t know if there was really a strategy for me to learning this about myself. I think as I got more validation from like, peers, mentors, managers, and professors, about my work, I think I got over some of the impostor syndrome I had, and realized that I didn’t have to look a certain way for people to believe that I could do the work.
Somewhere at the intersection of design and technology, working for a civic or social cause.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Pay it forward. I think it’s so, so important, in disciplines where we already have so few people to have as role models, that as we learn and become more confident, ourselves, that we help other young women do the same thing. It’s incredibly rewarding.