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Jennifer Russell

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Name/Title/Company: Jennifer Russell, director of product development, Lochinvar

Age: 37

Educational Experience: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in professional studies, strategic leadership, Middle Tennessee State University

Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: Three-time Chairman’s Equity Award winner and President’s Award winner. Russell holds Two patents for heat exchanger and burner designs.

What does your day-to-day job entail?

As the director of product development, my day-to-day work varies widely. I spend most days working closely with the teams of engineers that develop our high-efficiency boiler, water heater, and heat pump products. My focus is to ensure we perform at a high level while also enjoying the work we do.

What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?

When I was young, I wasn’t exactly sure what a career in engineering entailed, but I always enjoyed math and science in school and excelled in those areas. My parents worked at Nissan, so I learned a lot about automotive manufacturing. As I grew up, I became intrigued with manufacturing in general. When it was time to choose a major in college, engineering was a natural progression and a great fit for me. I found product development early in my career and knew that it was exactly what I wanted to do. I am grateful to be passionate about the work I do every day.

What has been the most rewarding/proudest aspect of your engineering career?

Early in my career, the most rewarding aspect of my work was the sense of accomplishment that resulted as I stood at the end of a production line to watch the first launch of the product I’d spent the previous two years designing, testing, and certifying. In recent years, my proudest accomplishments have been the result of the success of others. As I’ve spent more of my time mentoring and developing other engineers, I enjoy watching them succeed and grow their careers more than I enjoy my own success.

What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example? Why aren’t there more women in engineering? How can we increase the number of women in engineering?

I was fortunate to be exposed to both engineering and manufacturing as a young child, which sparked my interest at a very early age. However, engineering is still a male-dominated field with only about 20% of engineers being female. STEM programs in elementary, middle, and high school are an important step to ensure young girls develop confidence in their capabilities in math, science, and technology and that they are connected to successful role models in these fields.

From a personal perspective, one of my greatest challenges has been balancing my work and home life. I want to give my best efforts to being a leader in engineering while also being a great wife and mother. It has been difficult to find the perfect balance, with maternity leave and foster parenting being the most challenging situations. Taking time away from work to start and grow our family left me behind on my projects, and I found it difficult to catch back up once I returned after being away for nearly two months.

How many years have you been active in the engineering sector? What’s changed the most in that time? What’s changed the least?

I have been in engineering since 2008 and at Lochinvar since 2011. Most of the change I’ve experienced has happened in the last four years, including the recent push for decarbonization and the implementation of heat pump technology.

Your academic background includes both business and engineering. How has this pairing helped advance your career?

I pursued my engineering education right after high school, which allowed me to enter the profession and discover my passion around product development. After working as a design engineer for nearly a decade, the opportunities I pursued along the way included both leadership and business strategy. In 2019, I started a master’s degree program that focused on strategic leadership and complemented the work I was doing around the development of our decarbonization strategies and product roadmap. The combination of these degree programs enhanced my work performance and prepared me to take on bigger, more complex roles.

You’re an advocate for decarbonization. This has been demonstrated through your work with the Veritus Heat Pump Water Heater. Tell us about this passion and your work with the Veritus technology.

I began my work with heat pump technology in 2018 with a small research project and then continued with a product development project in 2021, which resulted in our new Veritus Heat Pump Water Heater. I have been fortunate to lead the charge within our company as we tackle decarbonization needs through innovative product developments like Veritus.

What drives/motivates you every day?

The people I work with motivate me every day. I not only work with outstanding engineers but also exceptional people in every functional area of our company along with fantastic customers. I find joy in coming to work and collaborating with these brilliant minds, and I love helping others grow in this field.

What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?

My engineering bucket list includes strengthening my skills in electronic controls and developing engineering leaders that are able to far exceed the technical accomplishments and genuine love of product development I’ve experienced in my own career.

What’s one thing no one knows about you?

I may appear to be outgoing and extroverted, but I’m 100% introvert. My husband and children lovingly tolerate my introverted tendencies.

List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe precisely how they’ve shaped your success.

I have been fortunate to have several mentors throughout my career in engineering. Both Neil Rolph and Brian Iske have invested in my career since I started in engineering by giving me project assignments that allowed me to expand my knowledge in gas combustion development, heat pump development, leadership skills, and business acumen.

Cindy Hinds, Mary Sue Handel, Pat Ackerman, and Melissa Scheppele are female leaders within A.O. Smith that have supported me in my leadership journey and offered opportunities to connect with other female leaders across the organization through the Women’s Resource Network.

What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?

Be confident in your skills and abilities. Apply for one of our great job opportunities at Lochinvar or A.O. Smith!

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January 2024