Jennifer Herron is an entrepreneur and CEO of her own company, author, seminar speaker, SWUGN member, and most importantly, an engineer with expertise in model-based CAD. Her dedication and contributions to the engineering community has also made her a SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering recipient!
Jennifer Herron knew she wanted to be an engineer at a very young age. When she was 8 years old, she helped her dad re-wire an electrical switch; by the summer, she started experimenting more and made walkie-talkies out of 2x4s and nails.
Jennifer founded Action Engineering in 2003, which is a registered Women-Owned Small Business. “I had a little bit of side design work from my regular job, and starting my own company sounded fun. I kind of kept it on the side with a regular job until 2008. In 2008, it became my primary business. In about 2010 it started growing specifically into model-based. Before it was kind of a design consulting company, and now it’s really a model-based company and that’s all we do now. We have a total of 4 employees. We do consulting, training, and software tool selections.”
Another factor that motivated Jennifer to start her own business was that she liked the idea of being her own boss. Not only does she enjoy making her own rules but she realized after working for a few big companies, they don’t always have the flexibility that a smaller business has. “I like to do it the best way rather than just the way to get it done.”
In addition to being an entrepreneur, Jennifer is also a published author! To supplement her book, Re-Use Your CAD: The Model-Based CAD Handbook, she regularly gives seminars and is a leader in model-based topics. “This is extremely targeted training for people who need to get up to speed in that particular tool set for model-based definition with the standards that they have that are available.” Since she is extremely busy herself, Jennifer modeled her seminar schedules to work in a shorter time frame. As opposed to the typical multi-day course, she packs all of her info and knowledge into just a few hours. “They’re extremely short and efficient. They’re not 5-day long classes, they’re literally 4 hours of pretty intense lecture training, and then it’s just practice on the side. I figured if you’re a professional and you want to learn how to do this, you’re going to take it and just start applying it to what you have, your own work already.”
As a woman engineer, Jennifer has had her fair share of frustrations when it comes to working in a male-dominate industry. “The typical problem is that it’s still such a surprise that I have a very high level of technical expertise to people.” Jennifer has one instance that particularly sticks out in her mind: “I was a mechanical engineer intern; I went right to the machine shop to get my hands dirty and talk to the machinists, because I believe strongly in talking to the people that are going to make your parts. I had this 60 year old man ask me out on a date to a country concert. I was just like, ‘no. What?’ I was so in my own little mechanical engineering zone asking technical questions trying to learn all this stuff, and it flipped that way.”
So, what is her advice to any women wanting to enter a male-dominated field? “I think the first thing would be to keep it fun, and to have a healthy balance of letting things roll off you but then also still being able to listen.”
One of Jennifer’s biggest lessons she has learned from her career is “to be adaptive and to flip the challenging problem upside down because once you do that, you’ll see a different perspective. Then you’ll start kicking in the creative brain of engineering, and you can solve it.”
When Jennifer isn’t busy working, writing, or training other engineers on MBD, she enjoys going to paint night and skiing with her husband and son. Lastly, I asked if there was a movie about her life, who would be the lead actress? It didn’t surprise me when Jennifer responded with the sassy and intelligent Harvard grad, Natalie Portman!