How She Got There: Jessie Garcia '12 & '13, Founder & CEO of Tozuda

Name: Jessie Garcia   

Year Graduated: 2012 and 2013

Major: B.A. in Global Studies ’12 and M.Eng Technical Entrepreneurship ‘13

Website: http://www.tozuda.com/ 

Twitter Handle: @tozudaLLC

Job Title and Description: I am Founder and CEO of Tozuda. Tozuda is an impact sensor manufacturing company. I invented Tozuda’s patent-pending HEX sensor while in Lehigh’s Technical Entrepreneurship program. The HEX is a passive measuring device that works without electronics to detect when force thresholds have been exceeded. I use my background in design thinking and experience with sports related concussions to help athletes recognize potential brain injuries with our first product. 

Favorite Lehigh Memory:  My favorite Lehigh memory has to be my last day of the TE program. My friends and I had just handed in our last assignment and decided to commemorate our time on campus by doing the traditional Lehigh Hill Crawl. We went to all the places we had fond memories on campus and chugged a beer at each one. The last stop on our tour was Linderman so we could shot gun our last Natty on the roof. As I was attempting to open the window to get outside, it completely shattered. I have a scar now that reminds me of all the fun I had romping around campus.

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

My responsibilities day-to-day deals with communicating with potential clients and partners, coordinating with our team members to hit our key milestones in engineering, design, and marketing, beginning to refine our funding pitches, and lastly filling out lots of paperwork; there are always forms that need to be complete. No typical days just yet. Entrepreneurship is like a roller coaster; one day you’re down and you think you hit a road block and then the next day, you see the problem from a whole different angle.

What is the best part of your job?

I love waking up for my job everyday because I have the ability to be creative, solve problems, and help others everyday.  Getting to create products is challenging, high in risk but also highly rewarding. If you’re willing to empathetically learn from and understand someone else’s needs, you can gain so many insights to make meaningful changes.

What’s something you’ve learned about the industry that you are in that wish you knew when you were just starting out?

Put yourself out there constantly. The more feedback you can get from potential users the better. Don’t be afraid of failure and rejection because its only going to lead you closer to your solution.

Do you have any advice for young women looking to get into your industry who are just starting out?

Look around you. Everything that surrounds you was built by someone no better than you or me. You can create! Start playing, making, and become dangerous with your skills! You don’t need to be a professional artist to make simple sketches or an engineer to take a computer science, welding, or woodshop safety class. Learn/teach yourself basic skills no matter what major so you can easily build your ideas! The more you can show what you are trying to develop in a simple and easy way, the more people will understand the problem you’re trying to solve. Your results shouldn’t be perfect; they just need to get your message across so you can get feedback on how to make it better. Ask, and you shall receive.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone or working with someone?

I look for someone who can come on to the team and contribute day one. Past experience is great, but I look for someone who has the skill set I need for the role given, has a yearning to solve the problems we are tackling, and is team oriented.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

I would have to say it was both Professor Lehman and Professor de Vinck in the TE program. They gave me to the confidence to make my idea a reality by making me dangerous with my entrepreneurship and engineering skills.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

“Speak your mind – even if your voice shakes.” – Maggie Kuhn

I also turn to literature when I need some wisdom in overcoming any obstacles I might be facing. My favorites are Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and Letters from a Stoic by Seneca.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

My first mistake in business was almost bringing on a close friend as a co-founder. Tozuda was getting attention and I needed help with the business on top of school work. While I got along with them personally and they were incredibly smart, their skillset was very similar to mine and had to let him go before the equity vested. Equity is the most expensive way to pay someone. It is crucial to save it for the potential teammates that add additional value to the team and bring a skillset you don’t have yourself.  Hire slow, fire fast.