As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite” , we had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Maslin from Mieron, Inc.
Jessica is an entrepreneur and start-up founder with a proven track record of facilitating growth at all stages of a company lifecycle and building through acquisitions. With a background in both physical science and art, Jessica’s entrepreneurial spirit and drive for innovating technology has allowed her to enter business ventures in commercial production, media, application development, VR technology, and med-tech.
Jessica has been featured in by Forbes, ABC News, Technowise, Las Vegas Review Journal and as a speaker at technology conferences including AWE, Games for Change, International VR Healthcare Association (IVRHA).
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Thank you for having me, I’m excited to join you! I describe myself as a blend of science-meets-creative. I’ve always loved both science and art and am so thankful to have found my place in an industry where I am able to combine the excitement of emerging technology with the art of creating. My career path to being the COO of Mieron has been a winding road. I’ve worked almost every job in the book through high school and college, and graduated with a Bachelors of Science to enter the dental field, performing operational-based research using bone morphogenic protein. At the same time leading event planning and helping friends and freelance clients design their stores, menus, websites, and various businesses. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s don’t be afraid to try something new!
I ultimately became a partner at a creative agency, DayDreamCinema, where we were able to implement VR/AR/XR for location-based entertainment for some first-ever activations, including a national Black Friday doorbuster campaign. This early venture into XR was exciting, and one client project led to the introduction to a beautiful and inspiring young girl who had at 5 years old became a paraplegic after doing a backbend in her living room. This was a true eureka moment for me, when I saw firsthand how VR positively influenced her outcomes. It was so serendipitous to be able to combine the art of creating experiences with a technology that has since become a product in healthcare under MieronVR.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There are so many interesting stories — and I think the important thing here is to be sure to keep it interesting. Keep pursuing interesting opportunities at work and take the time to do the same in your personal life. Since I began leading Mieron, one of the most interesting things that has happened was our company winning a Eureka Park award at CES 2020! Yes, it’s a work accomplishment, as we were recognized for “Creating Technology that Helps People with Disabilities and the Elderly,” but we brought our entire team to Vegas at CES to man the booth and celebrate the landmark achievement. We came back to our office with a bunch of inside jokes, as spending 5 days in Vegas was the most interesting and at times hilarious team-bonding experience to go through.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I love that this question is posed as a ‘funniest mistake’ because mistakes are a learning opportunity, and you should be able to reflect with jest and compassion. Even though some mistakes may sting a bit more than others.
Years ago, I responded to an e-vite with the salutation “hey Ladies — looking forward to our meeting” — which is completely outside of my norm. When I showed up to the in-person meeting, the ‘ladies’ were two international men. They laughed at my realization and joked that it happens with their names, but I learned to never assume gender- which is now beautifully a growing norm!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful to many people that have been with me at various points in my career. I’m grateful for my parents who may not still fully understand what I do for work (they get it more now) and also mentors, investors, partners and friends. I am grateful for those that have believed in the vision and path and supported me commercially and personally.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Talk it out. I can be quite introverted at times as well, and in stressful or pensive situations can become very quiet and focused. Leading up to an important meeting, it’s essential to talk out loud the topics you want to cover, points to dig into, and questions that may be asked. This way you’ve already practiced the thoughts out loud, and your mind starts gearing up in different ways than just thinking in your head. If I’m driving to a high stakes meeting, I’ll talk out loud for the entire trip and have a pre-game chat about the topics of the upcoming meeting. This also helps me take lead in a meeting, since I already have gone through the agenda that I want to accomplish.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
A diverse team holistically is essential — and that goes with every level within your business, however big or small. To best communicate with your audience, you have to be able to relate naturally to people that are different from you. And I’ve learned from diversity within my own teams as I gain new perspectives from my colleagues that are different genders, races, and backgrounds than me — with different interests and pop culture references than me. It’s enlightening and inspiring to have a diverse team that can have open dialogues on work and social topics. I’m so thankful to have a team that embodies such diversity, and open-ness among each other to share how we’re affected by current events and translating those perspectives into our work.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
The best steps we can take is to build teams that fulfill these promises directly through your hiring practices. Hire underrepresented applicants, hire Young, hire Old, hire Career Shifters, hire Black, Brown, Asian, Men, Women and In-Between. From an executive perspective, you are creating a work environment that influences society. Create a workplace where individuals of different races and backgrounds collaborate, and those gained perspectives will translate to each of their personal lives and how they interact with others around them.
Body languages and nuisances vary between cultures, and in our work at Mieron as we create virtual environments and scenarios it’s important to account for these in the UX/UI and imagery that we create within XR environments.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
This question gives me a hah and smile! There are so many myths about being a CEO; that you just give orders for a team to execute, or you are the ideas person. In reality: you need to be the vision leader, but also the executor. There is so much work behind conveying an idea that has not been done and steps to identify for your own team to ultimately transfer the vision into a commercially available and desired product for your customer.
With Mieron, we wanted to enter the home of People with Disabilities to help improve their quality of life with various exercises conducted through VR. This meant taking a vision from conceptualization of never-been-done-before service and product, all the way through the finish line. Being an executive means building the team to help you get the steps and work done (not the myth that being an executive means that the team does it for you). Setting the timelines, budgets, and running the numbers to make the business viable; taking responsibility for the sales to get it out there and paying a close mind to how customers are receiving your brand. As an executive, you wear endless hats. And while you’ll have a team to support you with those hat roles, an effective executive is innately and continually involved in each of them.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Well, statistically there is a strikingly large venture capital gender gap. Even this last year, its reported that women-led startups received just 2.3% of VC funding. Women are usually poised questions that focus on how to tackle failures, while men are poised questions based on assumed growth. Even some of the stereotypes that women executives face may translate to strengths.
I am compassionate towards my team, and so they feel comfortable having hard conversations with me when those moments come up; and at the same time I am always practicing my negotiation skills.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The most striking difference is the way in which my career path has evolved and the moments in which I feel most fulfilled. I had made a shift into the entertainment business, and ultimately it circumvented back to my original background of medicine and science. My actual job was being a Creative Director, coming up with concepts for commercial activations, managing the team to execute the vision and maintaining the client. With the introduction to one artist and a location-based entertainment experience blending art and VR, I ultimately shifted back from creative into a more analytical role. Being a leader requires a consistent combo of creative and analytical work. Yet, the most striking difference once entering my role at Mieron was what I find most rewarding. I thought that managing a team, creating a product and a roadmap and working with healthcare professionals, and planning research initiatives would be the most exciting part of my job, and I do truly love those aspects. But the most rewarding part is seeing an end-user put a headset on and experience it for the first time. On the hard days at work, I can look at those photos or videos for inspiration to keep pushing myself and our team.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
To be a successful executive, you must have self-discipline. You can learn time management skills, and experiment with what methods work best for your own style, but ultimately you need to be able to take responsibility and accountability for your success and the success of your team. No matter your style of approaching the ‘hard conversations’ and ‘brass tax’ — you have to be able to confidently navigate and initiate those conversations. It takes practice, but you have to be willing to put yourself out there in those ways. Being a successful executive often entails being a confident negotiator, as you always have to advocate for yourself and for the company as a whole.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Don’t be afraid to negotiate! This goes for all levels in your career. Negotiations are important for your role and rates as well as workload so that you can be the most effective possible.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I have always been philanthropic in nature, and believe you can’t ‘wait for success’ to give back to your community. Being involved in your community to create business and social impact isn’t hard or expensive. We have participated in Media & Tech Boot Camps with The Boys and Girls Club and other youth organizations, and provided experiences at events for People with Disabilities, like the Land Meets Sea event in Long Beach. You can seek or create positive impacts in your community by partnering with organizations like The Boys and Girls Club to mentor a youth at any stage in your career. Spare one hour of your month to do a resume review virtually for a BGC member!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. You will be working the strangest hours and all of the hours.
Being an executive, and especially a founder means that you are not working from 9–5. I heard this a few years ago that ‘Entrepreneurs are people crazy enough to work 90 hours a week to avoid working 40’. Work doesn’t simply turn off or stay at the desk.
2. Set Alarms for Everything.
It helps the time go by more organized. When you set 20 minutes for laundry, 20 minutes for exercise, 20 minutes for email catch up, 20 minutes for writing documents… it helps maintain accountability for how you’re spending your time during the day. Also, you’ll be so busy that even though you’ve never forgotten a meeting ever if your life, it will happen at some point if you don’t put it in the calendar with an alert.
3. A Dog is the Best Thing Ever.
It makes you get up from your computer to go for multiple walks throughout the day. I come back to my desk inspired after taking a break to get outdoors even if just for a short amount of time. Plus, who knows how many hours you’d spend in front of the computer if not for the reminder to get up and out, especially working from home!
4. Block that Hour Off.
For years, I lived a less than 5 minute walk from Yoga on the Bluffs in Long Beach, and though I started work early everyday and ended late in the night, I would very rarely take that 10am hour to myself to participate in the local wellness ritual. Now I uphold a resolution to go for a sunset walk everyday — because the work will always be there, but eventually the day will not be.
5. Ask For Help But Be Precise.
I’ve often had a do it right do it yourself mindset — which has deterred me from asking for help. Whether it is the do-it-yourself physical labor in setting up an event because it had to be just right, or not divvying up more work responsibilities, I never asked for help because I didn’t want to be seen as unable to accomplish the goal. Early in my career in managerial positions, I found myself frustrated because I would ask for help from staff, and entrust a broad scope of work to them. The trick is to ask for help with precise intent. Outline segmented tasks for team members so they can work to help you accomplish the goal and accompany the initial ask with your immediacy and timeline. When asking for help from investors, mentors and partners, suggest concise ways that they can help you (ie: can you introduce me to so-and-so, I want to work in their field.)
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My eco-conscious side would be to make zero waste and community gardening more accessible for households with a Carbon Offset Credit and a system that makes sustainability more convenient.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
On success, a neighbor of mine once said “did you do everything you could have done?” In every endeavor you must set a series of goals. Along each step of the way, keep asking yourself honestly: “did you do everything you could have done?”
If the answer is No, use that information to make it to the next goal.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
One of my favorite things about tradeshows and in-person industry events is meeting fellow event-goes by sparking up random conversations. You never know who you may meet and how you’ll be inspired! I would love to have breakfast with Michael Acton Smith of Calm to collaborate on further disrupting our industry in exciting ways!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.