In honor of Women’s History Month, we sat down with Jennifer Boyle-Lynch, Interim Director of Northeastern’s Center for Research Innovation (CRI), to talk about her passion for entrepreneurship, her impressive track record in leadership roles, and her career advice for women. At the CRI, Jennifer is an inspiring leader who aims to uplift the women on her team and foster equity at the university.
In her role at the CRI, Jennifer combines her extensive experience in business and academia with a passion for generating real-world solutions. She facilitates the movement of Northeastern’s use-inspired research from lab to living room — overseeing CRI programs that educate faculty, accelerate technological development, and spur venture creation. Jennifer fosters a culture of excellence and the establishment of enduring relationships between industry leaders and the Northeastern community that catalyze local and global impact.
Prior to becoming Interim Director, Jennifer served as the CRI’s Director of Finance and Operations. Before joining Northeastern in 2010, she worked in research administration at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as the International Project Coordinator in the Department of Nutrition. Her entrepreneurial spirit found expression in Nu-Print, the company she founded and presided over for 14 years before venturing into higher education.
Jennifer’s accomplishments, compelling leadership style, and dedication to innovation have not gone unnoticed. Last year, the CRI had a record-shattering year, and in 2017, she was the recipient of Northeastern’s prestigious “Outstanding Service Award.”
Keep reading to hear more from Jennifer and how she aims to empower the next generation of female leadership through her work with the CRI.
Tell us about your entrepreneurial background.
I started a printing company while in my early twenties and it was an amazing experience. I hit the ground running and learned a lot along the way, doing everything from hiring and management to sales and strategy. Growing a business with a lean team while managing the day-to-day operations gives you a wide lens perspective that I have used along my career journey. The company had a robust clientele spanning many different industries, and I enjoyed learning a little about each of the industries to best support their needs – that translates into my role today and how the CRI works.
The CRI has a broad understanding of many technologies and serves a myriad of stakeholders and constituents. I really enjoy that complexity and creating customized solutions to commercialize technologies that address societal needs.
What advice do you have for others on advancing their career journey?
The most important thing is to be open to new opportunities and possibilities. Sometimes we try to plan our future in so much detail that we may miss an opportunity if we’re not open to change. Regularly pushing outside of one’s comfort zone is important to personal and professional growth. I say always explore new interests, continue to meet new people, and never stop evolving.
What advice do you have for women interested in pursuing leadership positions?
Honestly, I am not sure I ever specifically intended to pursue a leadership role. I consider myself more of a problem solver and leadership naturally came with the territory.
However, over my career, I have acquired a tremendous base of experience and learned what motivates people. I’ve worked under effective and ineffective leadership and have created my own style based on what I appreciate in a leader. I encourage women to discover leaders they resonate with and adopt and develop skills they respect and admire.
Additionally, build your team. CRI has an amazing and dedicated team. I focus on empowering this team to do what they do best and create an environment where they can shine and grow. I want to create an environment at the university, and beyond, where women can be authentic and fearless in their professional journey.
How have you seen things change for women over the years in leadership roles?
Early in my entrepreneurial career, I worked with many banks, law firms, colleges, manufacturers, and service companies. There were not many women in leadership positions, and often times it was difficult to gain access to key decision-makers. So, I had to intentionally hire a diverse sales staff to help bridge the gender gap and interact with higher-level male leaders at the various companies and institutions.
Today, women still face many challenges in the workforce, especially in the area of equity and parity with our male counterparts, but there has been a definite improvement over the past 20 years. Having the topic front and center for open discussion has enabled this change. Transparency is imperative. Women holding more leadership roles and mentoring other women that benefit from their experience is key to continuing progress in this area.
Have you had any strong female role models or mentors throughout your career?
When I was younger and starting my company, my mother was my biggest supporter and encouraged me to take a chance. During a time when entrepreneurship wasn’t all that popular, her encouragement gave me the confidence to push forward. However, I didn’t have traditional female mentorship and instead learned a lot by trial and error. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had asked for more help from my female counterparts. I could have greatly benefitted from their experience. I encourage all young women to seek out mentors. There are so many women out there willing to help!
In turn, I believe as female leaders, we have an obligation to mentor others. There is no better feeling than watching the growth of your mentees and seeing them emerge as the next generation of women in leadership.