Women in Technology Series – Jen Marshall, CEO Brainmates

Women in Technology Series – Jen Marshall, CEO Brainmates

Published 8th March 2018 by Kristen Reid, Senior Consultant – Strategic Partnerships | Davidson Technology

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Kristen Reid, Senior Consultant – Strategic Partnerships at Davidson Technology talks with Jen Marshall, CEO of Brainmates to gain insight into her successful career in Product Management.

Jen Marshall, CEO Brainmates

You’ve had quite the colourful career! What can you share with us about your journey so far?

I started off in media production and quickly moved to producing 24/7 news at Sky News. Working in television honed my writing skills and gave me the opportunity to report significant stories, including the Bali bombings and the capture of Saddam Hussein. It also provided my first opportunity to lead teams of people. Over time, my interest in running the business grew and I decided to tackle an MBA. That was the catalyst for my first Product role at Optus, where I learned about data, user testing and commercial decision-making. Since then, I’ve led Product teams at Fairfax, doing some great work, like rebuilding afr.com.

Moving from journalism to product might seem like a strange progression, but I’ve met quite a few others who’ve done the same. One similarity is in media you are making content for an audience, and as a product manager, you’re making products for buyers and users. The sensibility for the end-consumer is common across both.

What is your current role and how long have you been in it?
I’ve been CEO at Brainmates since March 2016.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced moving from Product into the CEO role?

I’ve never done business development before this role. And it’s certainly put me out of my comfort zone to be on the other side of the pitch. I’m grateful for the advice and support of those around me and have deep respect for those who are able to build productive and sustainable business relationships. I’m still learning every day…

What’s the best thing about working in the Product arena?

I’m fascinated by what’s coming next and everything that’s new. Product puts you at the centre of building the future and I think that’s really exciting.

What’s the most significant change in you have seen in the Product space?

Product leaders are increasingly seeing value in people with soft skills. These days its recognised for a Product Manager to have an impact, they need to be able to influence, hear others, and make sense of a complex world. Technical skills are still sought after, but the emphasis on leadership and positive behaviours is growing.

What advice would you give 20-year-old Jen Marshall?

It’s really hard to pick just one thing to tell my 20-year-old self since I’ve learned so much since then!

In the past 18 months, I’ve been keeping a Five Minute Journal. In the morning I write three things I’m grateful for, as well as setting three key objectives for the day. And in the evening I write three amazing things that happened during the day, as well as anything that I can do better in the future.

I think this practice would be really powerful for my younger self, since there are great benefits in the practice of gratitude and being deliberate in planning the day. I also really enjoy this quiet time of reflection.

If you could invite three people to a dinner party (live, dead, famous etc.) who would they be and why?

  1. Sheryl Sandberg (COO Facebook, Founder Lean In and author), because she’s had such an impact in her lifetime.
  2. Peter Singer (Ethicist, author), because he is a progressive thinker who has elegantly tackled societal issues and an Australian considered world-class in his field.
  3. Judy Slatyer (CEO of Red Cross Australia), because she’s had a diverse and interesting career and I’m interested in the work of the Red Cross.