Jennifer Mitchell firmly believes in two things when it comes to her creative process: daydreaming and intense research. Add gathering diverse opinions and perspectives and you have LinkedIn’s senior manager of design-build workplace, a recipe for a successful construction enterprise.
“I think it’s extremely important to bring a variety of perspectives to the team especially in a design and construction project where the intent is to get outside of the box and be innovative,” says Mitchell, who was one of the speakers at the National Association of Women in Construction’s virtual conference in 2020. “The best outcomes evolve from diversity of perspective and diversity of thought. When we engage talent from different backgrounds and allow space for their ideas, their expertise raises our projects to new levels of innovation.”
This approach has served Mitchell well in her career, especially in her current role. The self-described lifelong learner is focused on LinkedIn’s carbon reduction efforts at its new Mountain View, California, headquarters, which is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2021. She notes that LinkedIn is proud to be part of Microsoft’s ambitious commitment to become carbon negative by 2030, which includes a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove from the environment all the carbon that the company has emitted since its founding by 2050.
Mitchell is perfectly suited to help lead this effort thanks to her background in the concrete industry and her roles in numerous sustainability projects. She knew there were opportunities to bring some of those green elements into the new LinkedIn headquarters, so she reached out to industry professionals she’d previously worked with to learn about their current projects and the new technologies they were using.
Additionally, as part of their efforts, Mitchell and the team at Central Concrete designed 15 different concrete mixes to reduce the amount of cement in them and replace that cement with recycled content up to as much as 70 percent.
“If we had used one or two mixes, we would have not been able to utilize as much recycled content but by custom designing a concrete mix for every different application on a project, we were able to really maximize that benefit,” Mitchell explains. “Ultimately we’re not done with the project; we’re still pouring concrete, but when the new headquarters building and garage are complete, we’re estimating greenhouse gas avoidance of approximately 4.8 million pounds.”
This focus on embodied carbon has opened the door to discussions on how other building materials will be used at LinkedIn, the senior manager continues. “We’re thinking about our South Bay campus, which is currently about 20 buildings and four parking garages, and strategizing for sustainable growth. We’re taking a very detailed inventory of our campus and ‘daydreaming’ about an eco-centric master plan, a very thoughtful approach to a net-zero future.”
Mitchell notes that “the campus master plan is not just about sustainability in the common sense. It is also about reimagining our space and amenities to align with the shift in values of our employees and members. From food to transportation, events, community, and wellness, all are on the foundation of sustainability. It’s really about asking, ‘How are we smarter and more conscientious about our workspace and our built environment as it relates to sustainability and embodied carbon?’ That is our next initiative—to explore our portfolio and the opportunities to drive down embodied carbon.”
The senior manager is thrilled to be part of the effort. She mentions how the workspace has changed dramatically in recent years and believes it’s more important than ever for companies to embrace innovation. “I think change is inevitable in any environment that values innovation, especially here in the Bay Area where the innovation is all around us,” she says. “Everything is about innovation, and the workplace is no different.”
She is especially proud to be on LinkedIn’s workplace team, whose members she describes as adept and passionate. “There’s an abundance of talent and an endless amount of ideas on this team. If we never slept, there would still not be enough time to explore them all.”
Indeed, Mitchell’s time at LinkedIn marks another chapter in a successful career in the construction industry. She encourages women to get into any industry they’re interested in, whether that’s construction or something else, and not let underrepresentation deter them.
“As a woman in the industry, having a passion for learning has guided my career. It is the motivation that drives me to challenge and seek answers and learn from the expertise of mentors,” Mitchell says. “They can be women or men. Surround yourself with people who both challenge and inspire you. Your growth is only limited by your willingness to embrace thought diversity. The more you expose yourself to diversity of thought, the more you will learn.”