Jenna Berkenkamp is a Stanford senior, Symbolic Systems major, and the VP of Business Education. Having been a Mayfield Fellow, Jenna has unique insights on the startup world and will be returning to Gusto full-time in the fall as a Product Manager.
Let's hear from Jenna!
Thinking back, what led you to join SWIB?
I joined SWIB as a sophomore because I was looking for a strong community of women who are interested in supporting and learning from one another. I was interested in business generally, but wanted to hone more specific skills and learn about what opportunities existed for women interested in business.
What are some unconventional skills that you've gained from SWIB?
One skill I’ve gained from SWIB is how to delegate work to others - I think as Stanford students we tend to want to take on all the work ourselves to make sure it's executed perfectly, but I’ve learned you can get so much more done if you collaborate with others and have the benefit of multiple perspectives and ideas.
What's changed most about you (professionally and personally) since your earlier years at Stanford?
I have gained a much clearer sense of my interests and what I want to pursue and have developed the confidence to get there. I am now comfortable speaking in front of a large audience or cold emailing the CEO of a company that I’m interested in talking to. Stanford can make you feel small sometimes, but the confidence I’ve developed over the past few years has helped me achieve so much.
#1 best experience/moment from SWIB?
There have been so many great moments in SWIB, but one of my favorite experiences was leading an internal negotiation workshop. That was such a rewarding experience. Most of our members came in with no previous exposure to negotiation and left saying they had gained so much confidence in their abilities to negotiate. It’s such an important skill particularly for women in the workplace.
You've had some very cool experiences in the startup world as a Mayfield Fellow. What were some of the milestone moments?
As a Mayfield Fellow I gained a lot of exposure to some incredible entrepreneurs as well as venture capitalists, but the most defining part of the Mayfield experience was my internship this past summer at Gusto. I got to work with an incredible team and make a real impact on the company. I had such an amazing experience that I’ll be returning to Gusto as a full time product manager in the fall.
What was your personal journey in choosing your major?
I have a lot of very diverse academic interests. Symbolic Systems seemed like the perfect major to combine my interests in computer science, cognitive science and philosophy. It bridges the techie/fuzzy gap and has allowed me to develop both my creative and logical capacities.
What was your personal journey in choosing your industry of choice?
My decision to go into tech (and specifically product management) was largely influenced by my Stanford experience. The Mayfield Fellows Program exposed me to the fast-paced lifestyle and excitement of the tech world and I was immediately hooked. Startups are very scrappy and are not weighed down by bureaucracy or hierarchical processes - I knew I could make a big impact in tech even at a young age and develop a broad skill set. Product management lies at the intersection of business, engineering, and design, so it was a perfect fit for me as someone coming from such an interdisciplinary major.
You've had some very cool experiences in the startup world as a Mayfield Fellow. What were some of the defining/milestone moments?
You can make all the four-year and ten-year plans you want, but ultimately a lot of what happens in your life will be serendipitous. Try to embrace every opportunity that comes your way and speak to every interesting person you meet. Enjoy the ride!