Meet Jennifer Lentner, senior director of marketing communications with Stryker and WMU volunteer extraordinaire. Lentner is a 1996 graduate of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. An active supporter and volunteer of Western, Lentner has served as a board member of the WMU Alumni Association since 2011 and is currently its president. In 2014 she received the Alumni Excellence Academy Award, given to those who “have embraced the expectations of our graduates to change the world.” Her volunteer work also includes serving as a board member of Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run and participating in the Women in Engineering Mentorship Network at WMU.
What’s your career path been like? What has been most surprising about your time at Stryker?
My career path has been somewhat “non-traditional.” I began at Stryker as an intern in manufacturing, and had the opportunity to take a full time role when I graduated. After several years in manufacturing and R&D, I had the opportunity to move into IT as a project manager. This was a great way for me remain in a role that had a technical aspect to it, but was not an engineering role. That was a great experience – I got to interact with a lot of different areas of the business, including sales and marketing. In that role I did a lot of sales force and marketing support, and after three years I had the opportunity to move to marketing communications. I’ve been on that side of our business ever since, and have had responsibility for marketing communications, medical education, tradeshows, employee communications and meeting planning in various combinations over the years. I also had the opportunity to manage our customer service and distribution functions for a period of time.
The most surprising thing about my time at Stryker is the path I’ve taken. I would never have anticipated that I would end up in Marketing Communications when I started, but it has been a great destination for me! I get asked all the time whether I would have studied marketing or communications if I knew that is where I would end up. My answer to that is no. Having an engineering degree and working as an engineer not only gave me a great foundation of problem solving and asking questions, it allowed me to see areas of the business that I would not have seen otherwise. Those experiences have a significant impact on how I approach my job today.
What are you passionate about in your work?
I am passionate about connecting employees to our mission of making healthcare better, and helping them understand that each person contributes to that mission, whether they are designing the next great medical device, building it, or shipping it out the door to the customer. It’s great to have purpose in your work, and if I can help someone experience that, it’s a good day.
How did your experience at WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences shape your success?
Of course my time at WMU and at CEAS gave me a great technical foundation. There are lots of places that you can learn the fundamentals of calculus, material science, machine design etc. though. What made the difference for me were the people that challenged and helped and encouraged me, and I’m really grateful for that. I have distinct memories of two professors that pushed me out of my comfort zone, and didn’t allow me to be a wallflower, or let myself off the hook by accepting “I don’t know” as the answer to a question. They made a difference for me, and that is a common thread I hear when I talk to other alumni as well. The interactions with faculty and staff that really took an interest in me made a big difference in the level of confidence I had going into the professional world.
What’s your favorite Bronco moment?
Well, I have lots of them, but a recent one was getting to participate in the alumni center opening as the president of the Alumni Association. That was a lot of fun – definitely a proud Bronco moment.
You have been a very active supporter and volunteer at WMU since you graduated. What makes a good alumni volunteer?
A good volunteer is anyone that feels strongly about the experience they had at WMU and is willing to pay that experience forward with their time, talent or treasure, in whatever amount they have to give. There are so many ways to give back, and everyone has something to contribute. You can mentor a student, welcome prospective students as an alumni ambassador, volunteer to speak in a class. If someone is interested in volunteering, I encourage them to find an area they feel strongly about and ask how they can help.
What’s the most incredible thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
On the personal side, my great family. My husband is a fellow CEAS alumni, and we have a 2-year-old that makes us laugh every day. Professionally, it was finding a company that does something that I am passionate about, and getting to work with great people. I came to Stryker because I wanted to work for a company that helps people, and do it with people I love working with, and I’ve been very fortunate to find that.
What is something people don’t know about you?
Well, as someone who works in communications, a lot of people don’t know I’m an engineer, even though I certainly don’t keep it a secret! Beyond that, a lot of people probably don’t know that I’ve been an auto-racing fan since I was a small child. My dad worked in the auto racing industry, and I’ve been going to work and racing events with him since before I went to school.
Lentner can be reached at email@example.com.