Innovator Spotlight: Jennifer Elwell

Meet Jennifer

A graphic designer working in the stationery industry designing cards, invitations, and gifts! Jennifer has a Bachelors degree is in Computer Science from the College of Engineering at The University of Alabama. While one would think that those two fields don’t overlap in any way, she has found her engineering degree to be extremely beneficial over the course of her entrepreneurship journey. The ability to retain focus on a project and to think outside of the box have greatly benefited her career in the stationery industry.

Which woman inspires you the most?

While there are many women engineers that have made a difference in our country, the woman that inspires me the most is my mom. She was in one of the first graduating classes in Computer Science in the College of Engineering at Alabama. She then did some amazing work including helping create the program that calculated entrance into the UAB School of Medicine. After she had me she took a break from the field to be a mom which I loved and appreciate even today. But as my brother and I got older she was able to use her engineering degree to teach at risk students in my high school and then worked with my Dad to build a very successful engineering firm. Not only has she been a major contributor to engineering in our city, she now works as an ambassador for Hudson Alpha which is changing the face of medical technology  nationwide. Her diverse range of positions and job titles was made possible by her engineering degree. Her degree provided the foundation skills that were able to translate across various disciplines in the workforce.

What 3 adjectives would you use to describe yourself?

Focused, Creative, Critical Thinker

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people.

I’ve spent more time than I care to admit working on a database system to support my creative business. My background has spoiled me to expect software that does exactly what I want. When I can’t find a program that meets all my needs, I work to create my own. It helps that working in code is a fun pastime for me that I seriously enjoy. The feeling that you get when you finally fix a piece of code that isn’t working is pretty amazing.

What motivated you to start/be your profession or interest?

I left my software development job after I had my first daughter. I felt confident that with my education I would be able to reenter the engineering workforce at any time with only some short term education on advancements that had occurred since I had left the field. While I didn’t choose to go back into the engineering workforce, I found myself wishing to make a difference in some way once my children got a little older. And I saw a way to do that through encouraging relationships between people through beautiful and quality paper and gifts. Many don’t see a correlation between art and engineering, but all engineers have to be creative in order to think critically and outside of the box while developing unique solutions to problems. So while I’m not in the engineering field any more, my degree still gets put to use daily as I work to figure out unique solutions to the problems that my clients face.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Finding a way to express my creative energy and inspirations in a way that still allows me the freedom to be home with my children. While I definitely don’t claim to have mastered the work/life balance in any way, shape, or form, with Tales of a Peanut I am able to use my mind in an engaging way that helps alleviate some of the stress that occurs when you’re home with three young children. And I get to do all of that on my own schedule and my own terms. My organizational skills and internal motivation help me maintain a presence in both worlds — my family and my job — while working at home with small children.

What is the best advice you have ever received ?

“You can be a teacher with an engineering degree but you can’t be an engineer with an education degree.”

My Dad (an engineer) impressed upon me that with a degree in engineering my options after I graduated would be pretty limitless. The skills that are taught in engineering colleges across the country translate to almost any field. Our pediatrician and our ENT doctor both were engineers before they went to medical school. I use the skills that were taught daily in my graphic design business. Engineers work in every sector of the workforce and their education opens doors for them that another type of degree wouldn’t. While an engineering education will teach you the basics of mechanics and physics, the critical thinking skills that you learn are the most important and are able to apply no matter what direction you choose to pursue post graduation.

What is *your* best advice for young women today?

Don’t hide your intelligence. Embrace the way that God made you including your mind. Don’t let anyone intimidate you or make you feel less because you are smart and have excellent critical thinking skills. Women are capable of every thing that a man can do in the workforce and only by increasing the number of women excelling in engineering will we be able to reverse the prejudices that exist today.

Why would you back KiraKira on Kickstarter?

I DID back KiraKira on Kickstarter because I feel that encouraging girls in the sciences at an early age is crucial to expanding the female reach in engineering. I want my daughters to know that they can be anything and that engineering is not a profession that is limited to men. When I started college I had no background with programming or engineering because it wasn’t offered in my high school. KiraKira could make that kind of early education available to girls no matter what type of school that they are attend or where they live. And with an early immersion into the engineering mindset many girls wouldn’t be intimidated by the thought of entering an engineering college. I also believe that if girls were exposed to the technology available early and saw how fun and exciting it could be, more of them would pursue engineering degrees. The perception is that engineering is boring and nerdy and not fun at all, but the reality is far different from that. With early exposure to engineering hopefully girls will realize that and take the leap to pursue a degree in the sciences.

Jennifer Elwell is the wife of an aerospace engineer and the daughter of two engineers. She has three young children that she hopes will continue the family tradition of graduating from the College of Engineering at The University of Alabama. She uses the principles and critical thinking skills that she learned while receiving a Computer Science degree, in her business, Tales of a Peanut. You can keep up with her on her site and follow her on InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest.