Career Notes 7.16.23
Ep 158 | 7.16.23

Jennifer Addie: Finding creative solutions. [COO]


Jennifer Addie: Hello, my name is Jennifer Addie and I'm a creativity and innovation expert. I'm also COO. and Chief Wellbeing Officer at VentureScope and MACH37 Cyber Accelerator.

Jennifer Addie: I wanted to be everything at once. I really wanted to be an astronaut, early on, uh, but I loved people, I love working with people. I wanted to be a doctor, I wanted to help people, uh, where they needed the most help, and I wanted to give back as much as I could.

Jennifer Addie: I ended up going into cognitive neuroscience, uh, of all things, and I'd always been really active on computers, you know, for a young age through my aunt and through the schools. And so I had a real baseline understanding and comfort level with how they work and a real appreciation for the growing number of things they could do in society. But it was the human side of it and the interaction with the computers, that was really fascinating to me and so by the time I got to university level, I focused on interdisciplinary studies where the overlap of computer science, neurobiology, psychology, linguistics, and philosophy all intersected and influenced one another.

Jennifer Addie: So through that I experienced how models and systems thinking of one field could help other fields grow and evolve. So things like neural networks and linguistic structures and processing and biomimicry or consciousness, you know, philosophical frameworks, things like that. And so I took that and went on to take on jobs in programming, database administration, product development, and it was there in the design of those products where the deep need for security really emerged as critical, uh, in my consciousness. So I started out doing a lot of change management consulting, a lot of problem solving, and it ran across the gamut of industries and that's really what brought me to cyber, because that was very cutting edge back in the day when I first started working on it over 20 years ago. And that's also what brought me to startups. Because those were the small companies that were taking a lot of risk and out there exploring, you know, to find the next steps in any industry.

Jennifer Addie: I think my leadership style is pretty interactive. I really find it fascinating to see where people come from, and I find that people are most passionate about what they care about most. And so, it's different to say, oh, this is an interesting cyber problem, from saying, I love health care, and I really want to help people in this industry, how can cyber help them? And so, what I try to do is find what people are passionate about, and help them grow that in their own lives, and link it to the things that are important for the technology to move forward, for the company to move forward, so that it's a positive sum game. It's win win for everyone involved.

Jennifer Addie: Well being has become a very important part of my life and the way that we run VentureScope and MACH37. We have had formalized programs for about five years now because the need was so great. But I came to it through my own experiences when there was too much of one thing in my life. Maybe an imbalance, too much work, that type of thing And so I developed actually a project, research around creativity and well being and the symbiosis between them that is to say If you are able to use creativity to solve the problems that are preventing well being, it allows you to thrive more in life and if you are living a life that is fuller of well being, then you're able to be more creative and have those thinking skills and coping skills um, to thrive. And so they are very much interrelated and self care, unfortunately, is sometimes really not emphasized in a work hard, play hard culture. But it's really important and so sometimes the most simple things, like getting enough sleep or taking a step back and reframing things, can allow people to navigate the ups and downs and so to have the skills to weather those storms, to have those networks to lean on is incredibly critical.

Jennifer Addie: I absolutely agree with the idea that, that creativity is far more than artistic capability. It is very much centered on problem solving and in fact, the master's degree that I received in creativity focuses on creative problem solving as a process. They've studied it for over 50 years in that program. They've been looking at the psychology and the neuroscience. behind how we function when we are creative and so I encourage everyone to really see their strengths, whether it's in programming or, you know, in the arts, you know, that as creative, because really it, it is something that's in all of us and it, it's a skill set that can be built and fostered.

Jennifer Addie: Every day is different. Usually, my days include, you know, time working with clients on key problems, you know, trying to figure out what they're looking to solve, sometimes bringing in lessons from startups to help them solve those problems. I connect with a lot of startups on what tech they're offering and what their go to market strategies are and what they might need in terms of acceleration or connections within our network and, and then I'm, I'm, I'm connecting with my team members, right, helping them build awareness, building skill sets, helping them grow in their careers and understand what we can deliver to the world and how we can have impact and often I am also teach at several universities, Columbia, Stanford, Hopkins, a bunch of Air Force Academy. So we have a really nice way of sharing some of the lessons we have learned through our experiences as entrepreneurs and founders, as running an accelerator, as professional innovators that can bring this skill set to younger and younger generations so that they can integrate it into their personal worlds or as early as possible. But at the end of the day, I invite people to come to it from wherever they are. Everyone has a starting point, so start with something that you love and care about, and then find the elements in the work that connect to it. And the last thing I'd say is don't assume you don't know enough about that new topic about whatever it is about entrepreneurship, about cyber. There's a lot of fear, the people don't believe they don't have the skills to come in, but everyone started from zero somewhere, and so the best thing you can do is, is find what you love and move forward.