Jen Esterline, Peloton’s Director of Mechanical Engineering, has spent her career designing consumer products. She’s worked for companies like Nokia, Fitbit, Fossil, and Harry’s, but, she said, “my heart is in consumer electronics.” Specifically, ones that do good.
“A lot of consumer products make people’s lives better in different ways,” Jen said. “Making people healthier personally speaks to me. Peloton products make huge differences in people’s lives, and that’s really inspiring and motivating for me.”
Working on great products is a worthy draw, but the other reason Jen was hooked on the opportunity at Peloton is that she’s a natural leader. “One of my favorite roles is just building a team,” she said.
To Jen, who leads more than two dozen engineers across the New York and San Diego offices, Empowering Teams of Smart Creatives means letting them do the work they were hired to do. “As I’m building and growing teams, I strive to hire and coach people with different perspectives. When I hire, I want to hire people who are smarter than me.”
Still, engineers are in the business of problem-solving, and that’s not always easy or motivating. High-energy, pep rally–type motivation may work for some teams, but Jen has found hers responds to a different energy. It’s about having real conversations about what’s tough—and how they can be resilient.
One achievement Jen is particularly proud of is the Rower. The development process started before Jen ever joined Peloton, but her team played a significant role in making it happen. In late 2021, there was a push to launch the product earlier than expected, so the team accelerated the job.
“The amount of work and the number of technical decisions we had to make in such a short amount of time was just amazing,” she said. “I haven’t seen it work this well at any other place with such a compressed timeline. It was a hard and complex project. That’s one where I felt really proud of my team.”
To see it through, Jen worked with other leaders to set up a “war room,” complete with a file release timer on the wall.
“The team really rallied around getting there, focusing on the issues and not getting caught up on who’s making what decisions, the more standard political drama. We were like, ‘We’re going to get this done, so what are the problems and what are we going to do to fix them?”
When they needed to, they hit the hype button (Thanks Chelsea Girvin!!). In this case, hype isn’t a metaphor. Someone actually bought programmable buttons for the war room—Ship it! one says. Another whines womp womp when pressed. “I don’t know if I like that one as much,” Jen said.
For those coming into Peloton, Jen encourages them to make sure they’re reaping the benefits of this value. If you don’t feel like you’re being empowered as a smart creative, speak up. That’s what the value is there for.
“Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your manager or your leaders if you feel like you aren’t empowered. Leaders, and myself included, may not be intentionally keeping you down, they legit might not be aware that you’re feeling like that or that they’re behaving in any sort of way.”
Jen said she uses it too when talking to other leaders.
“I try to influence and empower not just my team, but other teams as well. Having that value gives you a talking point. It makes it easier to say: ‘We really need to let the team do their thing and let them drive the decision-making. Otherwise, why do we hire all these talented and smart team members?’”