Celebrating Women’s History Month
In honor of National Women’s History Month, we spoke with several inspiring female leaders at Humanscale about their careers and accomplishments.
Briefly describe your professional background.
“Since 1986, I have worked as an owner, partner and co-founder of Humanscale to establish a successful sales organization of more than 300 sales professionals and managers throughout the Americas. I am currently overseeing our Global Healthcare and IT Distribution organizations along with expanding Humanscale Consulting globally.” - Heather Fennimore, President, Global Healthcare & IT Distribution
“I started my career as a strategy consultant across a variety of industries and quickly found that my passion was in companies that created real products that made users’ lives more enjoyable, healthier and fun. For me, it’s always about ‘how do I get a customer to connect with a product and see it as a part of their lives?’” - Leena Jain, Chief Marketing Officer
“I was industrial designer for about a decade and have always been passionate about sustainability from a design perspective. As a designer, I knew the choices I made in mass-produced goods would be repeated over and over again so I paid a lot of attention to sustainability and the materials I was using. While working at Humanscale, I represented the design team in one of the company’s first meetings to achieve BIFMA® level certification. I was quite vocal during this meeting and was later asked to lead the initiative. This initial project expanded into growing sustainability for our whole company and making sure we have a clear vision and focused effort. - Jane Abernethy, Sustainability Officer
“I started my career straight out of high school as a receptionist and by the time I left the company 5 years later, I led all administrative and accounting functions as Operations Director. After then working for a tree service company, where I was quickly promoted to Controller, I realized that with my aptitude for numbers and work ethic, I could start my own business. Within a few months, I had a full schedule of providing accounting services for a variety of small businesses including a manufacturer of anti-glare computer screens. It is that same manufacturer of anti-glare screens where I just celebrated my 30th work anniversary as Chief Financial Officer.” - Michele Gerards, Chief Financial Officer
“I joined Humanscale in 2006 after receiving my Master’s Degree in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute. Before accepting my current role of Design Director, I worked as a Senior Industrial Director and Researcher. In this capacity, I worked on product development and research across our seating, monitor arms, healthcare and lighting categories.” - Mesve Vardar, Director, Industrial Design
“While I am very passionate about what I do, it’s the people we have working at Humanscale who also inspire me. I remember hiring lot of the folks who are now in senior roles at Humanscale when they were very young. Seeing them grow and fulfill their dreams and aspirations has been very rewarding.” - Heather Fennimore
“I’m very much a product person. I’m really inspired by the companies I work for and the products they create. I couldn’t see myself working at a place where I didn’t 100% believe in the product and the connection it had with its end user. I’m also very much a team person so I really look to the people I work with on a day-to-day basis to give me inspiration and drive.” - Leena Jain
“I’m drawn to challenges, problem-solving and working with people to make things better than they have been.” - Jane Abernethy
“My role and responsibilities have afforded me the unique position of being able to affect change and create a vision for my departments. I am inspired by the creativity and the continuous need to learn new things as the company grows.” - Michele Gerards
“I’m inspired by travelling, learning about different cultures and seeing how people live. I also find inspiration in art and different design disciplines.” - Mesve Vardar
Mesve Vardar on World's Greatest
What has been the most rewarding part of your time at Humanscale?
“Building Humanscale has been my life’s work. From the beginning, my vision has been to bring ergonomics into mainstream corporate institutions, as well as into the vertical markets of hospitality and healthcare. This has been the foundation for the company’s growth and has been an exciting and rewarding experience.”- Heather Fennimore
“Given that I’ve been here six weeks, every day is still a learning experience for me. The real rewarding part has been getting to meet all the different people and learn all the different businesses. After 12 years in one industry, it’s exciting and rewarding to focus on something new.” - Leena Jain
“Internally, my sustainability team had been working very hard on initiatives to really make a positive impact through sustainable manufacturing. We'd been making good progress, which was very rewarding. But once we started to tell people about our program, the response was overwhelming. I had all kinds of people reach out to me - customers, sales reps, internal employees. Of course, our team is proud of our accomplishments but one of the most rewarding things is to see other people share our passion and want to be involved.” - Jane Abernethy
Jane Abernathy speaking at Humanscale's Sustainability Talk Series[/caption] “It has been extremely rewarding to work with all the great people at Humanscale over the last 30 years. I have learned so much from all of our team members and while there are many challenges ahead, I am proud of how much we have all accomplished.” - Michele Gerards
“Working on a product from research to production is incredibly rewarding. Among the products that I have worked on, Humanscale Healthcare’s T7 cart stands out the most. It was a completely new industry for us and the result was a truly innovative design that is positively affecting how healthcare caregivers work.” - Mesve Vardar
What is some of the best career advice you’ve ever received?“Very early on, my father told me that you can do anything you want to do. The only barriers are the barriers that you either believe exist, or that you allow to interfere with your growth.” - Heather Fennimore
Heather Fennimore, 2015
“The best career advice I’ve ever gotten is that to be the best at what you do, you really have to love it through and through. There are a million smart people out there who could do your job but you’ll do it best if you’re passionate about it and truly believe in your work. If there’s something you’re not passionate about, leave it to somebody else who is.”- Leena Jain
“I remember talking about making a career change with my dad and he said that ‘truth, beauty and goodness’ are what’s really important. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing that with design, with how people interact with a product, or in a different way – as long as you keep these guiding principles in mind.” - Jane Abernethy
“The importance of curiosity. The continuous questioning and re-examining of how things work, why we do things, how it all comes together and what shapes the next creative solution.” - Michele Gerards
“At the start of my career, I was freelancing for Humanscale and a small design consultancy at the same time. When the time came to commit to one company, a former professor of mine advised me to choose Humanscale as it would expose me to both design and engineering. Humanscale was outside my comfort zone, as it required a mechanically adept designer, but I followed his advice and found an appreciation for engineering that I didn’t expect.” - Mesve Vardar
If you could give anyone, especially women, one piece of advice about how to succeed, what would it be?
“Women in particular have a lot of life decisions they need to make as they grow in their professional careers. My biggest point to share with other women is they cannot look back and have regrets. Whatever choices you make, carefully consider ‘Will this be something I regret in the future?’ I would say live your life with no regrets.” - Heather Fennimore
“Don’t be scared of taking a leap of faith, especially in your first few roles. If there’s a job that sounds interesting and appealing to you, don’t hesitate to try it. You may find that it leads you down a path that becomes a great future career.” - Leena Jain
“Expect people to treat you how you want to be treated. It's been my experience that people always live up to my expectations - both when the expectation is set high and low. It may not happen at the first meeting, but it's eventually where they end up. It’s important to pay attention to your own expectations..” - Jane Abernethy
“If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well, regardless of how easy or how difficult it is. Celebrate every day you learn something new.” - Michele Gerards
“Take risks and step outside of your comfort zone. It’s rewarding to come out the other end and see how much you’ve learned and perhaps even find something new that you enjoy.” - Mesve Vardar