10 Questions with Janelle Wang (she/her), Co-Founder & CEO at ACTON
Edited by Clarissa Bukhan.
Janelle Wang is an Industrial Designer turned entrepreneur with over 10 years of Strategic Product Development, New Category Creation & Design Thinking for Fortune 500s to Start Ups, bringing breakthrough innovation and sustainability.
Janelle was selected as one of “19 Influential Women In Mobility” in 2019, she was awarded Female CEO of the Year in 2016, and has been featured in WSJ, FastCompany, CNN, VOGUE, BBC, and more. She holds over 30 utility patents in innovation and design.
1. When did you know that you wanted to work in tech?
I decided I wanted to be in the tech industry when I was a kid. My father is a physicist, so I got motors, battery packs, and soldering tool kits as gifts/toys from my father at a young age. I hand made a portable personal electric fan at age 6 and have enjoyed making and creating things with some type of tech in them ever since.
2. Who is a role model that you look up to?
I looked up to Marie Curie. She changed the world not once but twice. She founded the new science of radioactivity — even the word was invented by her — and her discoveries launched effective cures for cancer.
3. Where is your hometown?
I was born in Northern China and spent the other half my life in Los Angeles. Now, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
4. What is a struggle that you’ve faced and how did you handle it?
Years ago, when I had just come back to work from maternity leave, I had to travel to Germany for 2 weeks. As a young, first-time mom, leaving my couple-months-old baby behind for the sake of trying to achieve a goal for work left me feeling very confused and frustrated. It made me wonder whether work / life balance really existed or not. After that experience, I reached the conclusion that there isn’t such a sharp line between these two; you will always have to have a dashed line in between. I learned how to find my own personal balance and to enjoy the process.
5. What is something that you are immensely proud of?
I traveled to Africa by myself when I was in my early twenties. This is something I’m proud of because it gave me a chance to experience new cultures, meet totally new people, and explore a brand new continent. That trip changed how I look at and feel about the world. As a result, I have no fear. I’m optimistic and I believe everything is the best arrangement.
6. What’s something that’s been on your mind a lot lately?
I’ve been thinking seriously about how to solve traffic congestion issues and how make our cities better places to live.
7. Favorite food?
My mom’s dumplings.
8. Favorite book?
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
9. If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
I’m still designer at heart, so I would like to draw/design/research as a designer for a day.
10. If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?