Jen Cole, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Enterprise at Appen – Interview Series
Jen Cole joined Appen in November 2021 and comes to Appen with more than 22 years of experience building marketing and enterprise data platforms, leading go-to-market teams and scaling. scale of technology service delivery. As SVP & GM, Enterprise Jen is responsible for the success of Appen’s Enterprise business, including go-to-market strategy, sales, delivery and operations to ensure continued growth and sustainable success for customers.
Prior to joining Appen, Jen was President of Sincro, an Ansira company, where she led a global team of 1,000 people developing advertising technologies, e-commerce platforms and marketing solutions for distributed ecosystem business environments. Prior to this, Jen was SVP Digital at CDK Global and focused on building digital capabilities within CDK’s end-to-end technology solutions for the automotive retail industry.
Jen holds a master’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Colgate University.
Could you share with us what a day in your life in Appen entails?
I lead teams all over the world, so my days are mostly spent connecting with team members to help them succeed. These days we do a lot of our work on Microsoft Teams, so I often start my day with calls with my European teams. The middle of the day is occupied by the American team and the end by Australia and the Philippines. I love the range of experiences that teams around the world offer!
Like I said, my goal is to help my teams succeed, whether that’s building the right support systems, ensuring we have good employee development, or equipping my teams with the tools and skills needed to effectively take care of our customers. I’m often the voice of our customers across Appen’s various teams, including our product development organization, so I spend time setting priorities, building business cases, and influencing where we focus our resources.
I spend a lot of time evaluating data, assimilating information and making decisions, often very quickly, in order to stay ahead of trends and adapt as needed in our rapidly changing space.
And, as much as possible, I engage with our customers. For example, a real highlight of this past quarter has been the resurgence of in-person events and conferences; you simply can’t beat the in-person experience of chatting with hundreds of experts in one place.
You have both a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, how has this knowledge of human psychology helped you manage large teams?
I have always appreciated the diverse perspectives that individuals bring to the table every day and have enjoyed exploring the impact our diverse experiences have on the way we approach life and work. Throughout my professional career, I have studied team dynamics and the art of bringing together great and diverse talent, leveraging individual differences to create highly effective teams.
What traits have you consistently observed in people who work well in AI teams?
Curiosity: There is so much to learn, you have to be a constant learner to be in AI.
Agility: Models are never perfect and will never be achieved; this space is one of perpetual refinement and pivoting.
Ethics: AI has a lot of power, so it’s important to have people dedicated to building ethical AI and constantly testing assumptions and biases.
The AI industry is notorious for dealing with a lack of ethnic and gender diversity, could you discuss the challenges of hiring and managing a diverse team?
I’m a woman who’s been in tech for 23 years, so I’ve personally had a lot of experience being the only woman in the room. It can be hard to fit in, find allies, and feel comfortable being yourself. Meeting the challenge is threefold:
1: Focus on hiring more diverse teams
2: Create strong internal development opportunities so that ethnic and gender diversity extends to all levels, and
3: Create an environment where everyone can be authentic.
In Forbes, you were quoted about the importance of celebrating and broadcasting new encounters and wins with clients. How is this handled when managing such large teams?
We bring our entire team together from around the world for monthly calls, and during those calls we spend a lot of time highlighting the use cases of the work we do for our customers.
We also spend a lot of time and resources creating playbooks for our teams. It’s about leveraging lessons learned from the work we do for our clients to improve our processes, tools and training. None of our customers have the exact same use cases, and my team does an amazing job of bringing their expertise and creativity to the table to help our customers solve their unique challenges. Given that we’ve been in this space for 25 years and work with thousands of companies around the world, there’s always more we can do to take our deep learnings and put them on the table as the basis for effectively responding to unique needs of each client. Needs.
The key to creating a great culture is creating a learning culture where teams proactively share and help each other to bring the best to our customers.
Ultimately, how do you keep those teams happy and motivated?
Hear from our teams: We have impressive, experienced and passionate people with big ideas.
Be Accountable and Real: I’ve found that people are happier and more motivated if they feel they can trust their leaders.
Treat each other with grace: The last few years have been difficult in the world, people need to support each other.
Take the time to get to know each other: we are largely a remote company, so I have found that you need to be deliberate and creative in building teams.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your work at Appen?
We work with companies that are developing an exceptional range of AI-powered capabilities, and these companies are on an ongoing journey that involves a wide range of data and support needs. Whether it’s simple or large-scale projects well suited to self-service, fledgling initiatives requiring intensive testing and learning, or incredibly complex projects requiring back and forth with our experts, I’m proud of our ability to meet our customers wherever they are. their journey in AI. We are constantly evolving with them, and that certainly makes our work interesting!