Jennifer Marko – NVIDIA
prioritizing employee well-being and satisfaction is more crucial than ever. Employee experience is a key differentiator in attracting and retaining top talent, and a positive work environment is essential for driving productivity, creativity and collaboration. From ergonomic furniture to modern technology and flexible work arrangements, a comfortable and contemporary workspace significantly impacts organizational success.
Ensuring that success is the daily focus for Jennifer Marko in her role as the global senior director for real estate planning and workplace design for NVIDIA.
“Our approach is to create a consistent brand experience as well as to continuously evolve to ensure we create the best workplace for our engineers throughout the many life changes and cultural nuances,” Marko says.
Santa Clara, California-based NVIDIA is a full-stack computing company with data-center-scale offerings reshaping the industry. The company’s invention of the GPU in 1999 sparked the growth of the PC gaming market, redefined computer graphics, ignited the era of modern AI and fueled industrial digitalization across markets.
Marko’s approach is data-driven design, and she emphasizes that workplace design is not a whimsical activity but must be based on information derived from people and NVIDIA-specific metrics. By focusing on impactful workplaces, Marko and her team have successfully created spaces that reflect NVIDIA’s innovative culture, speed-of-light work mentality, timeless approach to design and inclusive team environment.
A fantastic Voyage(r)
That philosophy is especially evident to anyone who steps inside Voyager, the second custom-created building on NVIDIA’s Silicon Valley campus.
With 750,000 square feet of space, the building is an illustrative example of synthesized functionality and design with people in mind. The triangular building is designed around human movement, a factor that considers every detail, space, scale and functional feature. In designing Voyager, Marko led a team that worked to ensure that the building’s design was based on data-driven insights and analysis, all tailored to create an optimal and effective workspace for the over 3,000 employees who call the space home.
“Our engineers require more collaboration and meeting space, so we took that into account,” Marko says. “Since we opened the building in February 2022, we’ve noticed that the ‘we’ spaces are being used far more than the ‘me’ spaces, even with 65 percent of the building being ‘we’ spaces. This substantiated that our employees were coming to the office for purpose, inspiration and collaboration, not necessarily to do heads-down work, which most are achieving at home.”
Adjacent to the previously completed Endeavor building, which spans 500,000 square feet and was finished in 2017, Voyager is connected via a park adorned with trees, collaboration areas and shaded by solar panels. Integrating the two buildings along with the new pedestrian bridge to NVIDIA’s leased campus creates a cohesive campus environment, fostering engagement between all of NVIDIA’s employees.
Stepping inside Voyager, one is greeted by a central mountain-shaped structure adorned with mammoth living walls that serve as a stunning centerpiece. A stairway scales the central mountain, creating an array of gathering and working spaces where employees can interact and share ideas. To ensure comfort in the collaboration areas, pergolas were built to provide a more human scale and feeling to the space.
Expanding beyond the focal point of the mountain, Voyager offers multi-level mezzanines on either side. There are active zones in the central area of the building buffered by enclosed meeting areas that lead to open workspaces by the window perimeters. What sets these spaces apart is the abundance of natural elements incorporated into their design. Grasses, vines, and shrubs cascade from long built-in planters, covering almost every surface and creating a vibrant and refreshing atmosphere. Large green walls further enhance the connection to nature within the building and provide wonderful acoustic buffering.
“Both of NVIDIA’s owned buildings at our HQs were designed with our CEO’s vision and inspiration,” Marko says. “His leadership established the building blocks and architectural integrity that was the foundation for our architects and our internal teams to drive towards.”
The workspace environment
Before the COVID-19 pandemic changed how workplaces operated, each NVIDIA employee had their own desk no matter how much time they spent there. The company also provided various services, like campus and commuter shuttles, car washing and refueling, wellness services and cafés. Once the pandemic hit, all but a few engineers and facilities people worked from home, so those services were scaled back to support those teams in a modified way.
Now, NVIDIA operates in a hybrid environment with each team determining the best working arrangements for their people based on the work they need to accomplish. For employees who don’t need to be onsite three or more days per week, Marko and her team created the FlexSpace program.
“This allows people to work from anywhere on campus and use a FlexDesk within their team neighborhood or any of the collaboration and workspaces throughout the campus. They just don’t have a dedicated desk,” she explains.
The FlexSpace environment includes fully outfitted desks with 34” curved monitors, ergonomic chairs, lockers and a reservation system that helps make the program easier for employees to navigate and embrace. This initiative, along with HR’s mobility program, has given NVIDIA employees the opportunity and flexibility to balance their professional and personal commitments.
Designing a career
Marko was influenced by her father, an architect, and a creative mother who excelled in real estate. She was interested in art and design at an early age—from constantly re-arranging her childhood bedroom furniture, building houses for her dolls and drawing dreamhouses in her sketchbook.
Marko earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Ottawa, and fulfilling her focus on design, she continued in college to complete an interior design diploma.
“From early in my career, I have loved combining my creative design approach with the grounding of data analytics and strong programming with thinking of how to create future workplaces. I realized that the love of providing great workplaces for so many people was what I was meant to do.”
After working in the interior architecture industry for 15 years, including managing an architecture firm in New York City, she was recommended to work within the real estate department on the client side.
At AIG, she led the design and planning team for five years, combining three positions into one role. She transitioned back to California to work for Genentech before joining Salesforce, where she held several senior workplace planning and design roles for over six years before joining NVIDIA in her current position in February 2018.
“I grew up all over the world, so working in a global role is something I have always loved and cherished,” Marko says. “Working with people from different cultures and business practices is incredibly rewarding.”
Keeping the company’s and its employees’ best interests is at the forefront of Marko’s mind throughout her career. She says she doesn’t see difficult situations as challenges but as opportunities.
“If you focus on what’s best for the company, then you will never go wrong. Dedication, communication and teamwork, laced with fun, are the keys to success.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. II 2024 Edition here.
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