Jennifer Javornik, the director of Wisconsin’s video game developers association, woke up one morning with an idea for a children’s book in her head: A story about a mother who’s a tech executive.
More specifically: a story about her friend Ashley Powell, a sales executive with the software developer BendyWorks who had recently made Brava Magazine’s list of “women to watch in 2017.”
“(Javornik) just sent me a text message that said, ‘I think this would be a great idea,’” recalls Powell. “I probably wrote back ‘hahahaha, that sounds amazing’ and let it drop.
“Then she sent me the rough draft.”
The book is written from the point of view of Powell’s four-year-old son, who explains the ins and outs of what his mom does, from signing contracts with clients to public speaking. The book blends explanations of Powell’s work with whimsical illustrations of clients who happen to be T-Rex’s, and a trade conference full of aliens. The visuals, according to Javornik, ironically evoke the 1950s, when women were primarily portrayed as homemakers. (Javornik did not name the illustrator of the book, explaining that they wished to remain anonymous.)
In addition to showing Powell on the job, he book also features family-centric moments. One page shows Powell’s son talking with his mother on a video call when she’s on a business trip. Another shows the family, including Powell’s stay-at-home husband, waving good-bye as Powell walks out the door to work.
Javornik, who in addition to leading the state’s game alliance works as a Vice President of Sales with the Madison-based Filament Games, said a motivation for writing the book was her own experience coming to terms with not being a stay-at-home mom. Earlier in her career, when she worked as a technology consultant, she said she often felt guilty for not spending more time with her children.
“I really struggled those years,” she said. “I always had big jobs, and I traveled a lot. I really struggled with my kids. I really struggled with myself.”
It was years before she realized that she had nothing to feel guilty about, she said, and took pride in her decision to be a working mother. Now, with her book, she hopes to normalize the idea of mothers going to work — and even beyond that, mothers thriving and succeeding on the job.
Javornik also hopes that her book can normalize the idea of women working in one of the so-called “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and math. She said many girls don’t see typically see representations of women working jobs like Powell’s.
“They can’t imagine someone like them doing STEM,” she said.
Her plan is for “She's a Technology Sales Executive and She's My Mom” to be part of a series of children’s books highlighting mothers from all kinds of backgrounds who work in STEM.
Powell, for her part, also spends a lot of time thinking about the intersection of work, leadership and parenthood. She recently launched a private Facebook group called “Boss moms” as a support system for women who are trying to advance their careers while raising children. She said she just got her copy of Javornik’s book a few days ago, and read the book to her son. She said he though it was “very cool” to have a book written from his point of view.
BendyWorks headquarters at 106 E. Doty St. will host Wednesday’s launch party, where the book will be on sale for $10.