As the director of artificial intelligence strategy at Benefitfocus, Jen Clark (MS '14) works on leading-edge technology to solve complex data and AI problems. She credits her iSchool coursework with laying the foundation for her career in data science.
Where do you work and what is your role?
I'm the director of artificial intelligence strategy at Benefitfocus, where I specialize in making data trends and AI technology more accessible to solve business problems. I've been working in the technology sector for over ten years, and I currently lead our external quantitative and qualitative consumer research, as well as future-looking, responsible applications of artificial intelligence and data.
Benefitfocus unifies the entire U.S. benefits industry on a single technology platform to protect consumers’ health, wealth, property, and lifestyle. Our platform enables employers, insurance brokers, and carriers to simplify the complexity of benefits administration and deliver a world-class benefits experience.
What do you like best about your job?
I get to work on leading-edge technology, solving complex data and AI problems with some of the smartest, most dedicated colleagues and partners. My job is in strategy, so it can't be neatly categorized and requires new ideas every day. I get to work on many different projects, and I'm never bored. I'm also extremely proud to be a woman in technology leadership.
Why did you decide to pursue a degree in LIS?
I had been working in a lower level technology position, and I was really interested in "big data"—it was right around the time of all the hype. My undergraduate degree is in English literature, and I wanted to be able to bring what I loved about my humanities background together with new technology skills. It was the best of both worlds.
How did the iSchool help you get to where you are today?
Learning to code helped me to approach problems in new ways and made me a competitive data scientist. What has really shaped my career, however, were the foundations and theory. That strong basis taught me how to think differently and to dig deep for new solutions. Technology moves faster than we do, and without the intense work learning that theory, I wouldn't be able to apply so much creativity to my job.
What advice would you like to share with iSchool students?
Throw your heart into learning new things, sometimes even things that you can't yet appreciate. I cannot count the number of times I've referenced something I read or a problem that I studied. Be curious and ask lots of questions. Also, network and mingle—don't be shy to reach out to your classmates and teachers. I lived in Louisiana, and it was sometimes hard to make connections but always worth it. These are connections you'll have for your career. Take advantage of being around some of the smartest people in the discipline! Soak it in.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Not a surprise, but I'm an avid reader. I also really enjoy yoga, new restaurants, and live music. Recently I caught the international travel bug when I went to Japan, and this year I'm traveling to France for the first time.