At Appen, we know that we couldn’t do it without the people who work on and in the company each and every day. As a thank you for their hard work, we’re featuring one of our contributors each month through a series of blog posts and we’re introducing you to our executive team.
At Appen, we enable the most innovative companies with AI projects to succeed by solving data sourcing, data annotation and real-world model testing needs. Each day we strive to create the best training data that makes the AI space better and better. With over a million skilled contractors who speak over 235 languages and live in over 170 countries around the world, we can produce some of the highest quality AI training data on the market. But, we couldn’t do it without our contributors or team members. Which is why, we’re honored to introduce you to Jen Cole, Appen’s Senior Vice President of Enterprise.
Born in New Hampshire and spending her formative years in Maine, Jen lived the first half of her life on the east coast, before moving and spending the second half of her life on the west coast. She currently lives in Seattle with her husband, two teenagers, and a puppy newly adopted during the pandemic.
From her first job bussing tables at a busy oceanside restaurant to the halls of Appen, she’s put a strong focus on people, leadership training, and getting a varied education. With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology, Jen may not be the first person you’d think to be at the helm of enterprise for a company that creates training datasets for AI. So how’d she get into tech?
Getting into AI and Tech
Like many in the early aughts living in Seattle, Jen could smell the tech boom in the air. So, instead of following her original intention of becoming a professor, she started working with a startup focused on digital marketing technologies.
This led her to a twenty-year career building marketing technologies and delivering marketing services while wearing every hat possible in the industry. Her final step as a leader in digital marketing was to spend five years running end-to-end, technology-enabled businesses, managing them from sales to service to delivery. After which she brought her leadership skills and business experience to Appen.
When asked what brought her to AI, she quickly replied, “Who wouldn’t want to be involved in AI right now? It is such an interesting and exciting place to be. I love the varied and ever-evolving use cases, the range of clients, and the opportunities to be part of building useful capabilities that continue to change the way we all live.”
From an education in psychology to an early career in marketing services to working at Appen, the thing that has served Jen well is her ability to lead.
Lead with Understanding and Transparency
In addition to her bachelor’s and master’s in psychology, Jen also holds a certification from the G100 Women’s Leadership Acceleration program which connects and supports women in leadership roles.
With a focus on transparency and accountability for everyone, Jen works hard to create a work culture that’s fun and supportive. At the core of her leadership values is a “no apologies” culture that understands and acknowledges the complex lives of the humans we work with. Jen says “I focused on enabling parents to manage through the challenges created by COVID rather than succumbing to the trend of parents, and particularly moms, having to make the difficult decision to leave the workforce and put their career paths on hold.”
With understanding and transparency, Jen is the type of leader who improves the lives of her employees while also leaving space for her part of the company to grow.
Work at Appen and The Future
While talking with Jen, there was a clear throughline when it came to how she thinks of work and the future of technology: people. When asked about what she wants people to know about Appen, she responded, “We have incredible talent and expertise, people who are truly committed to the success of our clients and driven by the new and interesting use cases for our data collection, labeling, and testing capabilities. Yes, we have great tech, but honestly it is about the people and the tech, this is what enables us to evolve and grow with our clients.
Even when discussing AI and training data, Jen sees the people and how they’re effected. She says that while at Appen she has “learned to appreciate just how complex the use cases are, all of variations of data that is needed to truly create AI that meets the expectations of humans and is accessible to all. We still have a long way to go, and it is incredibly exciting to be a part of this future.”
And then, when asked about the newest technologies and developments she’s excited about for the future, Jen gave an unexpected answer. “I am really interested in technologies that will help us create community at work,” she says. “People want to continue to have the flexibility of working from home but increasingly we find ourselves in work silos, often challenged with lack of communication and personal growth.
To prevent these communication silos and lack of room for growth while working from home, she goes on to say, “We are in the early stages but I’m excited to see what some companies are doing with virtual workspaces, creating new types of work communities, and I expect to see some real advancements as we advance VR technologies.”
And looking towards the future, she sees a new generation of people who will have little patience for technologies that aren’t sensitive or trained to meet the needs of diverse populations. Jen has seen this change personally while raising two teenagers. On the weekends, you can find her enjoying all the natural wonders that the Pacific Northwest has to offer with her husband, dog, and kids. She laughs and then says, “Ok increasingly with my husband and dog as the teenagers are becoming less interested in family time, particularly after a year and a half of COVID lockdown.”
When it comes to success, we know, and so does Jen, that the key is people. With a strong focus on customer and employee success, we’re so happy to have Jen as a part of our Appen leadership team.
To learn more about Appen and our leadership team, visit our company page.