“You May Be The Catalyst For Change And Just Don’t Know It Yet:” CitrusAd’s Jennifer Garner Talks Women Leading Tech

“You May Be The Catalyst For Change And Just Don’t Know It Yet:” CitrusAd’s Jennifer Garner Talks Women Leading Tech
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Young women killing it in tech are on the rise these days and the chief of staff at CitrusAd, Jennifer Garner, is championing the trend.

Despite being under 30, Garner’s had a roller coaster of a career. She paved her way into a high position at a successful tech start-up, but only after a plethora of other positions and workplaces, including another Brisbane start-up, a vocational rehabilitation office, and a homewares store.

Now that Garner is well established in the world of marketing she’s on a mission to make workplace equality the norm. She believes it’s the unique skill set, experiences, and ways of thinking that make women so important in an ever-evolving industry like tech.

With the 2022 B&T Women Leading Tech Awards fast approaching – of which CitrusAd is one of the many valued sponsors – we spoke with Garner about getting women involved in tech, the importance of the chief of staff role, and understanding one another.

B&T: For you why is it so important to support Women Leading Tech (WLT)?

It is important to us to support Women Leading Tech as an employer in the space that looks to close the gap and bring gender parity to an industry that has been and still is male-dominated. The unique skillset, learned experiences and diverse ways of thinking that women bring to their careers is exceptionally valuable in a fast-paced, ever-evolving industry like technology. Not only that, when young women in tech can see their pathway paved by other women leaders in tech, we start to break down the barriers-built generation by generation. After all, when you see it, you believe it.

B&T: The theme of this year’s WLT event is “Be the change you seek,” on this note what steps are you and your business taking to ensure greater inclusiveness and equality in the industry?

CitrusAd, being in an industry that is traditionally dominated by males (advertising technology) is challenging the norm. We are an inclusive organisation that has good female representation across senior leadership roles (with over 50% of VP positions and above held by a female). We actively promote and encourage women to get into tech – whether that is through hosting product roundtables, supporting women in digital initiatives, or our market leading employee benefits program that assists women in their careers here at CitrusAd

B&T: Can you tell us about your work history and current role and what some of the biggest challenges/obstacles you’ve faced are?

My career history has been somewhat of a roller coaster from working in a failed technology start-up, to paving the way in a successful technology start-up all within 5 years and under 30! Part of that is due to the hallmark trait of my personality to always say yes. This may be both my biggest success and failure factor though. My biggest challenge is using my voice to get a seat at the table and imposter syndrome is rife! Especially when I’m surrounded by talented, successful men with careers that far outweigh mine in tenure, it is quite hard to look at myself on the same level. Though the Chief of Staff role is the role allowing women across all industries to break into the C-Suite level. I’m exceptionally fortunate to have a mentor that as soon as I joined the business was willing to put their faith in me, harness my untapped potential and really helped me recognise my value. I won’t ever claim to code – nor should anyone let me, but what I do know is business and how regardless of the industry it’s all about harnessing the power of employees, hiring the right people, with the right attitude to drive success.

B&T: What is your most-career defining moment? How has this changed you?

After working in a failed start-up emotionally investing myself and tying too much of my identity to that workplace and then having it fail leaving me not only in a financially shocking position, but also a mentally shocking position. I realised how much more careful I needed to be in terms of selecting the right people I work with, people that will have your back, just as much as you have theirs. Start-ups and scale-ups for that matter are no easy business to work in. You must be so many things at one time and the only way to get through that time is to surround yourself with great people. Additionally, as I’ve progressed through my career and surrounded myself with like minded individuals, I’ve become less attached to the notion of must have a degree in order to be suitable for a particular role as I’ve found that my hospitality experience has served me better in my myriad of roles (more than my marketing degree)!

B&T: What advice would you give to young women hoping to become leaders in a statistically male-dominated technology space?

Own your voice, be loud, surround yourself with great women and men, and always be hungry to learn. As women, we are naturally subjected to biases outside of our control, learnt through generations. You must be prepared to stand up for yourself, and have honest conversations. But all in all, always be willing to give it a go, if you don’t see the pathway you want, go get those bricks and start paving it. You may be the catalyst for change, and just don’t know it yet. Support other women, it baffles me that regardless of how much gender inequality we see, other women still seem to diminish other women’s success or work against them.

B&T: Being in a management position, what have you discovered to be the best way to promote and nurture women’s careers?

Being a part of the conversation. Educating the men around me and bringing to light the biases we experience as women not just by men, but our own learnt behaviours. Additionally, as a man in leadership always seek to understand and create a positive, trustworthy, and honest environment – a lot of the time it can be so difficult to speak up due to fear of losing a job, respect or being unfairly labelled.

B&T: On the same token, how can we empower and encourage more young girls to consider a career in tech? 

Representation, once you see it you believe it. This should start in the formative career years of high school, educating teachers, career counsellors etc that the industry is changing as well as actively seeking out to have this representation as an employer. Recruiting the right person has nothing to do with gender, making the decision to better consider or seek out applicants that are diverse does.

B&T: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Seek to understand rather than be understood. 

B&T: Which women have inspired you and played a role in becoming the leader you are? 

My best friend Danielle, she will always be the hype woman I need in my corner when my confidence is low. Everyone, female or male needs someone like that in your corner. The women around me, coming into the business as the first female in the region, I got to have what I hope is a positive impact on the cohort of women we now have here at CitrusAd. These women are driven, dedicated and so incredibly intelligent. They are the real-life super woman juggling work, home, kids, social lives etc.

B&T: Can you outline the best ways women can support other women in their organisations? 

Let people in and be a person of trust, so often women don’t use their voice as a fear of being labelled vulnerable, weak, or emotional. On the flip side, when we speak up too much, we are often labelled as difficult to work with, challenging or annoying. Women can support other women, by allowing a safe space to have those conversations and as women in leadership, it is our responsibility to allow those conversations to be heard with no fear of judgement or detriment. 

Find out more about the Women Leading Tech Awards HERE.

Tickets to the awards are on sale HERE.

As an initiative created to support gender parity and representation across the tech industry, Women Leading Tech is an event inclusive of non-binary and gender diverse members of the tech industry, as well as any individual identifying as a woman.

Thank you to our Women Leading Tech sponsors:

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citrusad Jennifer Garner women leading tech

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