Meet the Innovator – Jill Harris, VP of Operations at Tozuda Impact Indicators
We had a great time getting to know Jill! You can check out our YouTube channel for a recorded version of this interview, or read below to learn more about Jill and Tozuda.
Interview Questions - Meet the Innovator Jill Harris:
Hi my name is Jill Harris, and I'm the VP of Operations at Tozuda. Tozuda has been at Pennovation since February 2020, and we've been in business since about 2014. I have worked with Tozuda since 2019. We started off with a small office at Pennovation and ended up growing out of our space pretty quickly, and expanded to a second larger office right next door. Now we have two office spaces within Pennovation Works.
What product does Tozuda provide?
- We make impact indicators for head injury awareness and helmet damage indication. So it's basically a small, completely mechanical device, that attaches to the back of any helmet with just double sided tape. It turns from clear to red when a user has been hit with an impact that exceeds that threshold. And our motto is if it's red, check your head.
What is the best part about working at Pennovation?
- The best part of working at Pennovation is really the community and the event space. Everything and the events that occur here. It's really great to be surrounded by companies who are doing great things and are in similar stages - just getting to walk around, seeing everything that's happening, and feeling the energy when you walk in.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work and the most challenging?
- The most rewarding and most challenging things are really the same thing, just in the fact that being in a startup environment, it's so chaotic and you're always doing something. There's always more to do and it's all so spread out and diverse (the work you're doing). Being on such a small team and being in an operations role, I really touch everything within the company. It’s great and rewarding and really broadens what I get to work on in a day-to-day basis, but also can be challenging because I actually studied engineering and a lot of the stuff I'm helping with is on the business side. I've really gotten to grow and learn, but it can also be challenging working on things that I don't technically have a background in.
What does a typical day look like for you at Tozuda?
- It's changed so much throughout the years. My original position was a research engineer when I joined as a co-op. I was really only focusing on the engineering side, and just being on such a small team it really had to expand very quickly. Now I touch customer service, production, inventory, still do a lot with engineering, even customer relationships and vendor relationships. I think my day really looks like a lot of hopping around from silo to silo, especially now that our team is growing and we have a sales and marketing department.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to fellow start-ups or innovators?
- You just got to do it. You really just got to get shit done (pardon my language). Especially being in an operations role, there are just so many things out there that you're never going to get them done unless you just try and put your foot forward and start the process. There's a lot of things that take longer than you also expect, so it's better to start today rather than tomorrow.
How do you see Tozuda growing and transforming in the future?
- We actually just closed our seed round, which is very exciting. We're growing, hiring, and we've had more orders than ever, which has been chaotic but also very rewarding just to see our indicators getting out there. We'd love to grow even more and continue this process as we expand and work with larger organizations and make things possible.
What’s one thing you want people to know about Tozuda?
- One thing that I want people to know about Tozuda is how versatile we can be. The mechanism behind our product that we patented is really a brand new way to mechanically detect acceleration, which I think is huge and has so many possible implications and further applications than even I can think of. I'm really excited to see where we can go and what we can make next.
LIGHTNING ROUND QUESTIONS:
What are you currently reading?
- I'm actually rereading the Harry Potter series right now. I read that way too frequently, but I love it. I also just marathoned the movies. I am a little bit obsessed with Harry Potter over the winter for some reason.
What inspires you?
- I think what inspires me is just trying to do something that makes a difference or means something in some way. That's why I like Tozuda, because it is a completely novel invention and it's something that no one has heard of or seen before and that definitely excites me.
What led you to where you are today in your career?
- Me and Jesse, our CEO, actually went to the same high school. I found Jessie and Tozuda because our high school posted on our Facebook page that she was the commencement speaker for the upcoming year. I thought, wow, that sounds like a really cool company, so I reached out to Jessie on LinkedIn, basically asking if we could get coffee. I was a Mount student in Philadelphia going to Drexel at the time, and she said, yeah, sure, let's go grab coffee. That was pretty much that was the story, and she hired me after that and then I joined as my co-op and continued from there.
Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies?
- I am scuba diving certified. I love water and all things related to water. I guess back to the book question, I actually have read like 90 books this year so far on Kindle. They're just fun, easy reads. They're not all like War and Peace and things like that.