Janina Motter
Home Region

Tallahassee, FL

Undergrad Education

Stanford University

Previous Experience

Heliotrope Technologies, MadeSolid

“I want to set myself up with more long-term possibilities.”

As a high school student in Florida, Janina Motter “got interested in chemistry and studio art. I went to Stanford where I could pursue a high-quality education in whatever interested me.”

There, Janina found herself exposed to the more interdisciplinary practice of design thinking. She also gravitated from the “theoretical” aspects of chemistry to materials science “because it focused on new technology applications.” She stayed at the school to gain her MS in the field.

Given her diverse experience, Janina herself exploring roles outside of traditional corporations. “Larger companies,” she says, “were skeptical about my mixed background – start-ups were more open.”

Her first company collapsed after a year. But she found a more enduring – and rewarding – path forward at Heliotrope Technologies, a smart windows startup. Hired as a process engineer, Janina grew into a leadership role as an operations manager with a team of six. As the company expanded to fifty people, “I saw a bit of a plateau in terms of how much I could contribute. I needed skills that fell on the MBA side: how to raise funding, how to manage human capital.”

Pursuing the joint degree program with SEAS

Janina wanted an MBA because she is “passionate about empowering others – I’m looking for more client-facing roles. I want to set myself up with more long-term possibilities.” The joint degree program with Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) proved to be the right choice for Janina. “It’s a newer program targeting people like me interested in joining or launching startups and launching technical products. It also provides many opportunities for project-based coursework.”

In her first year, Janina has already demonstrated leadership, helping to plan the first Circular Economy Conference held at The Kennedy School. “The circular economy is about rethinking how we make and consume products, not to ‘use and throw away’ but as things that can be reused and repurposed more sustainably.”

At the Conference, Janina led the panel on “Research to Practice.” In her Technology Venture Immersion class, her team put together a pitch deck for the commercialization of a biodegradable plastic. This summer, she plans to work with Clean Energy Ventures.

Janina’s long-term ambitions remain open, but with a sustainability theme. “I plan to focus on ‘tough tech’ addressing larger societal challenges.”