Investing in Her: Jessica Mullen, Chief Innovation & Design Officer

News Culture
Jessica Mullen Mar 08, 2024
Jessica Mullen
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Empowering and investing in women not only fosters individual growth but also drives collective progress towards a more equitable and prosperous society.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we caught up with the women in our senior leadership team to hear more about their career journey, the importance of investing in women and the advice they would share with others looking to follow a similar career path.

In this edition, we met with our Chief Innovation & Design Officer, Jessica Mullen, to hear how she went from wanting to be a chemistry teacher to starting her career in the digital industry and building her own business.

Can you tell me about your career path so far? What led you to where you are today?

I’ve had a varied career journey so far, gaining experience in many different fields leading me to where I am today. When I finished school, I studied chemistry at Aberdeen University then teaching, with plans to become a Chemistry teacher. After taking a year out after university to work in the hospitality industry, I decided teaching wasn’t for me. One day I spotted an advert in the newspaper from an e-learning start-up looking for someone who had a background in education and science with an interest in technology. That was the beginning of my career in digital, as an eLearning Content Developer where I went on to progress to Production Director. During this role, I started my MBA.

I continued working in several director roles, moving into the agency world as an Account Director and then Client Services Director within the space of a few years, before switching to a service design consultancy as their Managing Director.

I’d always wanted to run my own business so it was only a matter of time before I did that. In 2016, CreateFuture was born. During the time of building a business, I qualified as a leadership coach, and when CreateFuture joined forces with xDesign in 2023, I moved into the Chief Innovation & Design Officer role.

What are the benefits of investing in women’s leadership and decision-making roles in various sectors?

There is a lot of evidence around gender diversity in senior leadership teams promoting company success, balanced decision making and more diversity across the whole business. Female leaders often bring a compassionate, people-focused leadership style and are skilled in creating psychologically safe environments for our teams to thrive.

It’s also incredibly important for other women to have female role models and see women in senior positions, especially in industries that are still predominantly male-dominated.

Who has invested in you? How did they do it? And, what have you achieved as a result?

Even though I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, my parents always pushed me to achieve and never doubted that I could do whatever I set my mind to. My Dad was an entrepreneur, with a strong work ethic, so I grew up around the idea of starting a business, taking risks and working hard.

My coach, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with for many years, has been a lifesaver sharing advice and key lessons alongside a number of informal mentors I’ve had at different stages of my career.

Who has had a significant impact on your life or career, and continues to inspire and motivate you?

Throughout the majority of my career, I’d always had female managers and worked within companies that were female-led. The lessons I’ve learned from them have inspired me greatly along my career path.

I’ve also had some negative experiences in toxic working environments. Working in these situations has motivated me to become the leader I wish I’d always had and to create an inclusive culture I wish I’d always been part of.

But mainly it’s my colleagues. They inspire and motivate me to be the best leader I can be.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field or aspiring to follow a similar career path?

Don’t be fooled by the description of ‘soft skills’ - they are the hardest and often the most important. Nurture them.