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Life & Work with Majenta Strongheart

Today we’d like to introduce you to Majenta Strongheart.

Hi Majenta, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a maker. As a kid, I loved to bake, sew, build, and try any new tool I could get my hands on; beading loom, staple gun, overlocking machine, to name a few. With the support of my awesome family, early role models, and teachers, these interests grew into passions for fashion design, furniture design, architecture, ceramics, and fabrication of all types. (I’m really lucky to have grown up with parents who have incredibly talented and creative friends.) These passions led me to pursue an education in industrial design and sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I truly honed my fabrication skills in the wood and metal workshops on campus. Between my last two semesters, I interned at Supplyframe’s DesignLab and accepted a full-time position there upon graduating. Since then, I’ve worked my way up to Head of Design and Partnerships at DesignLab, collaborating with engineers, designers, CEOs, and community leaders to foster and grow our mission of championing open source hardware and making electronics product design more accessible.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
As with any career, mine has definitely had its ups and downs. One of the main challenges is being a queer woman in a straight, male-dominated industry. Personally, I’ve found that learning my worth and letting my work ethic speak for itself have gotten me far. Additionally, as someone who values teamwork and community, navigating company hierarchies has proven challenging at times, but I’ve found ways to traverse the corporate ladder through collaboration, communication, and problem-solving. I love the magic that often comes from collaboration, and I work hard to keep any environment I am a part of open and supportive. I take pride in being a positive contributing member to my community, and I am always looking for new ways to be involved with local initiatives that make design and fabrication more accessible to femme and nonbinary people and people of color.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
As Head of Design and Partnerships at DesignLab, I co-manage our design space in Pasadena and run the Hackaday Prize–our global engineering contest where we give away over $100k each year to open source hardware solutions that address socially impactful themes including conservation, assistive technology, and sustainability. In my time at the company, we’ve hosted innovators from MIT, NASA’s JPL, Google’s X Development, and we’ve supported a range of projects from high-precision low-cost robotic arms, to early earthquake detection sensors, to emotive robots for Alzheimer’s therapy, to name a few. Outside of my job at DesignLab, I design and build furniture and home accessories. Specifically, I love working with wood, metal, and recycled plastics. My passion for working with designed objects has grown from the understanding that shaping the objects people regularly interact with is an opportunity to affect the way people connect with technology, their environments, themselves, and ultimately each other. With this comes a great responsibility to create thoughtfully designed products that are produced with a sensitivity for material and appreciation for sustainability. Behind all of my work is my driving philosophy to stay curious, never be satisfied with what I know, and to take advantage of every opportunity to strengthen a skill; or in other words: never grow up, never stop growing.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Yes! I do. First, don’t be afraid to reach out to your idols; as long as you’re intentional and not sending a generic email, you’ll be surprised who will respond and be open to sharing their story with you. Second, stay open to every opportunity, and be flexible with your approach to achieving your goals. I never thought I’d be working in the electronics industry, but it’s turned out to be a really great fit and has helped me achieve my professional goals in ways I never expected. Third, foster strong working relationships within your company because you never know who your colleagues know or what wisdom they can impart. And finally, network, network, network! Go to every event you can, bringing with you the bravery to approach your heroes, the openness to opportunity, and the trust in your colleagues–past, present, and future. TL;DR Invest in yourself, your community, and your creativity.

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Image Credits:

Jordon Clark Thomas Woodward Tyler Young

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