WIN Spotlight: Jenn Torry
Welcome to the latest “WIN Spotlight,” our ongoing series that celebrates inspirational women in our community. Each interview features a member of WIN who is championing innovation at her organization. We dig into the diverse perspectives, influencers, missions, drivers, and dreams of these leaders, and of course, share practical tips.
Who are you and what do you do?
Hi, I’m Jenn. I’m a senior innovation consultant at a product and service design company called Fluxx. I also co-lead our diversity & inclusion steering group. Whilst I specialise in insight generation and proposition development, I love my job because I get to wear many hats depending on what the project requires. One of the things I’m most passionate about is working with startups. I’m a mentor for female founders at WE Innovate, Imperial College’s flagship female entrepreneurship education programme designed to support the next generation of women entrepreneurs accelerate their startups. I also love writing and am a regular contributor to Fluxx Studio Notes.
What are the life moments that most influenced who/where you are today?
Before I worked in innovation, I spent 10 years working in advertising agencies, both in NYC and London. I love figuring out what makes people tick. But I got super frustrated by the shallowness of the industry. We couldn’t change what was being sold, only how. And too many times, I felt the products we were creating campaigns for didn’t solve the problem customers had to begin with. So I up and left to help do something about it.
If you had to choose one, who is the woman that most inspires you? Why?
My mom is one of the most amazing women I know. She has this incredible ability to connect with anyone of any age, and from any walk of life. For real. It’s impossible to have chit-chat with her; she gets right into your soul, ha! Whatever you’re about, she just encourages you to be more of that thing. It’s from her I got my insatiable curiosity for the world. And it’s that sense of curiosity that makes me a good innovator.
What is your favorite quotation?
“If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing the boundaries enough.”
What is the best advice someone has given you?
Never to compare yourself to others, but rather to compare yourself today to the person you were yesterday.
I think it’s human nature to try and ‘measure up’ to our peers, but this advice reminds me to focus on my unique strengths. Wherever I’m going, I want to get there because I’m the best version of me possible. Not because I’m trying to be something I’m not. Authenticity is the trait I most admire in others so I strive to be my most authentic self every day.
What unique perspective do women in innovation bring?
We NEED more women in innovation to overcome the ‘one-size-fits-men’ phenomenon happening in what are meant to be gender neutral products. I just finished reading Invisible Women, by Caroline Criado Perez and it was a real eye opener. For example, octaves on a standard keyboard are 7.4 inches wide, and the book references a study that found this disadvantages 87% of adult female pianists simply because their hands are smaller than mens’. And even with smartphones, the average man can fairly comfortably use his device one-handed, but the average woman’s hand is not much bigger than the handset itself. This kind of stuff is more than annoying for women; it’s (albeit likely unintentional) an unfair bias and we need to change it.
What is your advice for any woman in innovation / the next generation of female leaders?
Persist. Resilience might just be your greatest quality. Keep challenging the status quo and don’t apologise for it.
What excites you most about the world of innovation right now?
At risk of sounding like a total cheese-ball, it is SUCH an exciting time to be alive! We’re going to get to tell our grandkids that we were the ones who programmed the first robots. The smart automation of repetitive or more data processing type work frees us up to be more human; more empathetic; more creative. And I think this world could use a good dose of humanity about now.
Saying that though, we do need to take serious caution not to programme our own human biases into some of these breakthrough innovations. When computers are routinely making decisions about whether we are invited to job interviews, eligible for a mortgage, or a candidate for police surveillance, the stakes are high.
How is London unique in how it does innovation?
The spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well in London. The ‘silicon roundabout’, as we’re now called, is a hub for startups. And there are over 150 incubators or accelerators in London alone. It’s the thing everyone is doing. Innovation is fashionable here. This makes me happy.
What challenges do we face in London specifically?
I hate to say the B word… but Brexit. Whatever, and whenever it finally manifests, Brexit will shake the business landscape in London big time. I can already see my clients’ appetite for risk decreasing and R&D budgets shrinking. I hope this is short-term and subsides once the dust settles. British innovation may be revered, but breakthroughs are only possible by bringing together the best people from across both Europe and further afield. Brexit creates some barriers to this which, in my humble opinion, means that we, as innovators, need to champion fast failure and pushing boundaries now more than ever so London can maintain a position of leadership in innovation.
Photos by Juan Lozano
Interview done by Justine Lai
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