On Call with us this episode is Jennifer Zhang, CEO and co-founder of WIZ.AI, a conversational voice AI solutions company that has been leading its adoption across use cases and markets starting from Southeast Asia. Beyond WIZ.AI’s growth over the pandemic, we also talk about how WIZ.AI has been pioneering voice AI in this field (e.g. voice interface design) with their team of experts and slew of patents. Jennifer also shares her learnings growing and leading a cross-border company, going from VC to founder, and thinking about the future of voice AI applications. What’s more is that we have don’t just have Jennifer on the show — catch WIZ.AI’s talkbot at the end of the call!
About our guest
Jennifer Zhang is the CEO and co-founder of WIZ.AI. Prior to WIZ.AI, she has been a VC across both sides of the Pacific, as Managing Partner of GCC Capital in Beijing and General Partner of Cybernaut Zfounder Ventures. Before that she covered cross-border entrepreneurship resources and content. She received her Masters in Public Policy from the University of Southern California.
Highlights and Timestamps
(01:12) Paulo introduces Jennifer and WIZ.AI;
“The features we have help customers to easily automate all these touch points and how they engage their own customers…after you have conversations with customers through the phone, through messages, all those things, we actually, summarize and analyze [the conversations], structure the data, do behavior analysis of their customers and behaviors and give some references, data, and also insights to our customers.”
(01:53) Leading AI in SEA;
“…actually most of the time, the customer drives us when they grow or when they find good use cases, find them in Southeast Asia, then they push forward, and when they go to Latin America, they will become one of our partners. So we are actually also learning how [to better] offer local solutions. Also, we have employees from 10 countries already, so that’s one part of [our growth that is] quite interesting.”
(13:22) Scaling AI Adoption Across Use Cases;
“…we are already in a good commercial stage, but we are slowly growing towards more use cases…we are starting with the phone because phone channel is the most challenging one because of the quality and also the applications [are wide], and it’s also limited by infrastructure. But in the future, I think we can drive more applications…it’s quite promising for the next 10 years.”
“I think all SaaS companies will become platform ecosystems, to invite more people to create things.”
(21:23) Leadership Approach Behind WIZ.AI’s Global Growth;
(28:58) Rapid Fire Round;
Editor’s Note: The transcript has been edited for cohesion and clarity in the writing
Paulo: Maybe you can give us a quick intro of, especially for those who aren’t familiar, what WIZ.AI is doing and how you and Jianfeng got together and started this.
Jennifer: Thanks. Let me actually briefly introduce what we are doing at WIZ.AI. So usually I make it quite simple.
Number one, what we try to solve is really the B2C communication problem for enterprises and SMBs so when we approach their customers, they will always need customer engagement and we try to actually automate that.
So starting actually with, for employees, because most of the use cases were starting use is actually the voice conversational call, both inbound and outbound calls. And now actually we have a lot of touchpoints — message, email, and also WhatsApp. So the features we have help customers to easily automate all these touch points and how they engage their own customers.
The second part which I think is quite interesting is after actually, you do so many actions — you have conversations with customers through the phone, through messages, all those things — we actually, summarize and analyze [the conversations], structure the data, do behavior analysis of their customers and behaviors and give some references, data, and also insights to our customers.
Paulo: I think it’s great that you explain it really from the customer’s point of view as well.
Jennifer: So also as I mentioned, we currently cover a lot of countries. Recently I think we just finished the testing of our 10th language. We can do Singlish, which is a Singapore local language, Chinese Mandarin, and we can do Tagalog and Taglish, and also Thai.
And we can do all Malaysia languages, like Manglish, and also Indonesia Bahasa and now we have Vietnamese and also Spanish for the Mexican market and Portuguese as well. So we’re actually exploring more the diversity of different languages.
We actually got a lot of customers out of Southeast Asia and also actually most of the time, the customer drives us when they grow or when they find good use cases, find them in Southeast Asia, then they push forward, and when they go to Latin America, they will become one of our partners. So we are actually also learning how [to better] offer local solutions. Also, we have employees from 10 countries already, so that’s one part of [our growth that is] quite interesting.
And also the domain which we started in is the financial industry — insurance banking, fintech, but now actually we have telecom, ecommerce, healthcare, and also quite diverse, different use cases for customer engagement applications.
“…actually most of time, the customer drives us when they grow or when they find good use cases, find them in Southeast Asia, then they push forward, and when they go to Latin America, they will become one of our partners. So we are actually also learn how [to better] offer local solutions. Also we have the employee from 10 countries already, so that’s one part of [our growth that is] quite interesting.”
Paulo: I think it’s great that a lot of the applications of WIZ.AI are actually also, as you mentioned, driven by the customers themselves. They ask for it and therefore you help them build it. And so I think that that’s really a cost-efficient way of figuring out where you want to build and where you want to go as a company.
And a little known fact for our listeners is that I was a tester for their Tagalog AI, Taglish language as they were building that part out. So I got to experience the early iterations of WIZ.AI. And I’m sure now it’s definitely a lot more sophisticated, and obviously, it’s been — I think that the time when I tested that I was probably like 2019, so sometime around that, and it’s already been like two, three years.
And I’m curious to know, what has been driving a lot of this growth that you guys are now able to really encompass a lot of different sectors? You mentioned a lot of different languages and countries as well. What are the key drivers, both maybe in the market as well as internally within WIZ.AI?
Jennifer: I think there are two parts. One’s really about digital transformation for the enterprise customer. Especially after COVID, everybody has the mindset that we need to do this automation or digital transformation, and this really gave us an opportunity, not only for the timing but also the needs were really brought up.
And also the second one is that we’re working with a lot of what we call digital natives. Especially in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and some other areas, they’re growing quite fast. And once they grow, their first choice actually is not to follow the previous infrastructure, like how people [work] with call centers, and how people actually structure things. They actually want to use something easy to adapt.
That’s actually how we play a crucial role there and help them grow as a growing company. So we have internally, two terms that we often use: one is to help the customer reinvent user journeys with enterprise and existing customers.
And actually, the other term is we usually engage with digital natives. I think Insignia also invest in a lot of like great ecommerce companies. So those great companies are using our technology and actually because they’re growing that fast that we can scale also quite fast.
“…we’re working with a lot of what we call digital natives. Especially in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and some other areas, they’re growing quite fast. And once they grow, their first choice actually is not to follow the previous infrastructure, like how people [work] with call centers, and how people actually structure things. They actually want to use something easy to adapt. That’s actually how we play a crucial role there and help them grow as a growing company.”
Driving Conversational AI Adoption Across ASEAN and Beyond
Paulo: It’s really interesting that we’ve actually seen some cases where WIZ.AI actually helped some of our portfolio companies as well. I think one of the ones that came on the news a year ago was with Carro where you built the talkbot for their customer service for their author retail marketplace.
And another thing I wanted to let the listeners learn more about and for you to really explain is what makes conversational AI, AI. Maybe you can explain to us, how it works? How does the AI — how is it really automated in a way that’s independent and doesn’t really need that much intervention from humans or any manual work?
Jennifer: Usually I explain the components of our core technology in three ways. Number one is what we call automated speech recognition, which is like a person’s ear. So when you receive information, you need to catch accurate data. So with transcripts, for example, converting voice data into text.
And the second one we consider as NLP, which is like the human brain. Usually when we talk in a very noisy background and also when you have interruptions and also when sometimes you didn’t confirm your intention, and the last sentence or two sentences I need double confirm. Those are the experiences, especially our brains need to handle.
And last part is what we call the people’s mouth, which is the text-to-speech models, which actually can take in very small sentence samples of yours and create similar ones to mimic yours.
So that’s actually three components combined together, to be one of the core products which we call the talkbot. But after that, we have a lot of data capabilities too like analysis, also showing also engagement with other channels, like WhatsApp channels, and also messaging channels and capturing different customer behaviors, and providing better insights to our customers.
“Number one is what we call automated speech recognition, which is like a person’s ear… the second one we consider as NLP, which is like the human brain…last part is what we call the people’s mouth, which is the text to speech models…three components combined together, to be one of the core products which we call the talkbot.”
Paulo: How flexible is it to cater to the different needs of the customers?
Jennifer: For us, we’ll suggest some typical use cases and we’re actually working hand in hand with customers on some of these cases, which we consider very productized. And also for some customer boarding use cases, like KYC use cases, we already work with certain industry partners, customers, and also then later we will drive more [adoption] with customers like, “Hey, regarding the whole engagement with your customers, are there any other pain points you want to solve?”
Then actually later we gradually drive new use cases when we collect enough customers’ insights and also their input, then that’s how we cross over all the different touchpoints of the whole user journey.
“…we’re actually working hand in hand with customers on some of these cases, which we consider is very productized…then later we will drive more [adoption] with customers…when we collect enough customers insight and also their input, then that’s how we cross over all the different touchpoints of the whole user journey.”
Paulo: And that’s something that you’re able to figure out from how they use the solution, and obviously, what they tell you as well. And you know, alongside WIZ.AI really growing and expanding across all these use cases, as you mentioned, obviously there are a lot more players today than there were like three, four years ago. So as the market develops further in the region, how do you see WIZ.AI, really standing out and creating its own advantages in the market?
Jennifer: Three things I usually always mention. Number one, it’s that we are really localized. So a lot of players in our industry, actually they’re just sending sales teams [in specific markets]. But then their product team is just centralized one place and their tech team is also centralized in place.
Localization of Teams Across Markets
But as you know, with WIZ.AI, in every country…the first team we build is actually the R&D and product team and then the delivery team, then the sales team. So that’s how we localize some of the products and also products and then also technology.
So in some countries, the pronunciation of the name, for example, in Thailand, it’s very very difficult. Then we need to spend a long time conquering that kind of challenge. Then I can make sure the products are really solving the last mile issues and know the problems the customer needs to solve.
Because most of the companies I see, especially big technology giants in our area, they’re not really solving — maybe they can like reach the general standards, for example, maybe their ASR can reach like 80% of the local dialect or local small language. But for customers, if they really wanna use [such technology], they need to actually drive 90% into commercial use. And usually [these companies] don’t do that.
And also even for the industry applications some terms and some applications are not requirements of the technology enhancement for that part. So we’re quite good at localizing and curating technology [for customers]. So our frontline in each market is very powerful. We call them the frontline to guide the war, and not really centralized in one place. So also it requires a lot of like management effort in doing that.
Pioneering Voice Interface Design
The second one I think is experience. So the technology for most of the time, you see AI, it’s actually a very cool code or application, especially for us, because we do a lot of like human touchpoint engagement. So actually there’s a lot of “arts” that are engaged.
For example, how you design the opening for the conversation, how you actually design a boundary for when your boss needs to collaborate with their human beings, how that boundary can be designed nicely and even like the different use cases — are you using the more like a man’s tone or a more harsh tone? Those are quite important.
And we call that voice interface design, which is awesome. The concept has just been growing recently because we’re quite an innovator in this kind of market. So that’s why we actually contribute a lot of best practices to voice interface design and also experience tailored for specific industries or different use cases. Those are actually parts that a lot of technology companies maybe don’t care about.
Leveraging Small Data
I think the last part is also quite important. We are actually really focusing on continuing to push the boundary of the technology itself. In the beginning when we actually started in the Singapore market, nobody really spent a lot of time to do the Singlish model and we actually invested a lot in that.
Once we were able to get the mixed language with Chinese, English, and local accent Hokkien mixed together, if we could actually build the Singlish model with very small data — remember Singapore just has five million people — and we could use the small data and actually build complicated models, that means in other markets we are much more flexible. So that’s actually, we are also observing what is the hardcore parts of this technology, growing. And we want to actually build our own advantage there.
“Number one, it’s that we are really localized…So we’re quite good at localizing and curating technology [for customers]. So our frontline in each market is very powerful…we’re quite an innovator in this kind of market. So that’s why we actually contribute a lot of best practices to voice interface design and also experience tailored for specific industries or different use cases…the last part is also quite important. We are actually really focusing on continuing to push the boundary of the technology itself.”
Pioneering Voice AI Development
Paulo: I really find the last point really interesting — we know all about big data, but then you’re able to create these AI models from small data so to speak, which really requires another level of innovation I believe to actually get there.
And speaking of really pioneering AI and leading the way here in the region, you guys have been recognized globally actually by the World Economic Forum, as one of the Tech Pioneers recognized this year. So congratulations on that.
And with regards to that specific recognition, how would you describe the conversational AI adoption that you’re seeing here versus elsewhere around the globe? And what are the unique things that you’ve learned with the markets that you’ve worked with versus other markets?
Jennifer: Southeast Asia is a very diverse market. Because of that, it actually gave me a lot of thoughts about how technology can push the boundary then also I feel sometimes you need to conquer a lot of barriers, especially in a small territory…So I think it’s quite important.
Second, sometimes you’ll see quite a lot of interesting use cases. When in other markets, maybe you don’t think doing outbound calls is very helpful for the traffic for avoiding because of your mindset and maybe you’re just buying the ads and getting traffic through that, but here, you find like actually using this kind of onboarding process can help you actually…convert higher funnels…so it’s a lot more flexible and also broaden my imagination about how I can apply to the company combining all these channels to drive the customer behavior. I think it’s quite exciting.
“[Southeast Asia] is a lot more flexible and also broadens my imagination about how I can apply to the company combining all these channels to drive the customer behavior. I think it’s quite exciting.”
Paulo: You would normally think that with this kind of like deep tech stuff, you would want to start in a more mature market, but actually there are advantages to actually starting in a region like Southeast Asia because the data that you can get the unstructured data and all of that actually make the AI more robust and it’s able to cater to a lot more use cases as we’ve discussed so far.
And speaking of specific examples, you’ve talked about Singlish, conquering that early on. Maybe you can talk about one example for a certain use case or a certain type of customer and how you’ve actually helped them grow their bottom line, grow their customer engagement, their user growth, and all of that.
Jennifer: We have some FinTech customers in the region and they want to actually [send notifications to] their users but these activities do not happen all the time. They have millions and millions of users and we help them finish one million calls within one hour.
Because a lot of customers…when they have elastic requirements or on-demand [requirements]…when you have campaigns…on some like specific days and you need to [send notifications or reminders to] the customer then, then you can use us. You don’t need to actually train a hundred-person army then end up [letting] them go the next day. That’s what I want [to emphasize]…we can fulfill [these kinds of] demands, which is quite important.
“Because a lot of customers…when they have elastic requirements or on-demand [requirements]…when you have campaigns…on some like specific days and you need to [send notifications or reminders to] the customer then, then you can use us.”
Paulo: So you can have those really like very massive, but not really like long-term use cases where they come out, but the impact can be really huge in terms of savings. So that’s definitely a useful example for listeners to know. And I also wanted to expand on what we talked about with being a WEF tech pioneer, and really that’s built on, as you mentioned earlier, the first layer of hiring that you guys do are really the PhDs and the scientists.
And so with that talent, you guys have already over 11 AI and talk bot tech patents. So WIZ.AI is definitely really a pioneer in this field. So how are you seeing sort of the key trends in terms of how this technology is developing, especially into the future? How far can this go? How far do you see conversational AI really developing and maturing?
Jennifer: I think so far, we are already in a good commercial stage, but we are slowly growing towards more use cases. There’s one part of that. And the second one is now we are starting with the phone because the phone channel is the most challenging one because of the quality and also the application [is wide], and it’s also limited by infrastructure.
But in the future, I think we can drive more applications — what about the metaverse in the future…it’s quite promising for the next 10 years. And also you can see more diverse applications, even now I already see quite a lot.
Paulo: Yeah, I mean if you think about the more common use cases these days it’s really [through mobile] as you mentioned, but actually the interface itself can really develop over time, and at the root of it, is really voice. It can sort of plug it in into different avatars, and I see a lot of these like Web3 apps where you can do virtual events and things like that, and maybe WIZ.AI can be a virtual customer service.
Jennifer: That’s awesome. You choose your avatar in the metaverse and you can choose your own voice tone…And also in the future, if we work with Hollywood…then like we can copy like [celebrities’] voices…
“…we are already in a good commercial stage, but we are slowly growing towards more use cases…we are starting with the phone because the phone channel is the most challenging one because of the quality and also the application [is wide], and it’s also limited by infrastructure. But in the future, I think we can drive more applications — what about the metaverse in the future…it’s quite promising for the next 10 years.”
Paulo: Things even like Kpop, for example, where you can create your own like artists and whatnot. That should be pretty exciting, and interesting to see develop and unfold over the next decade.
One thing I also wanted to talk about, and maybe you already like talked a little bit about it already, is that when we have SaaS companies on the show or AI companies on the show, they always emphasize that it’s not just about giving the people the product. Especially in a market like Southeast Asia, you need to have some initial handholding or market education, making sure that it’s actually effective for them.
So how does WIZ.AI think about this in a cost-effective way? Because sometimes if you spend too much time on a customer as well, it can be really costly as well from a manpower perspective. So how do you think about it to be really cost-effective while still being helpful to your customers?
Jennifer: That’s actually something I mentioned about how your productization is going towards the current directions, and also it’s one-sided but how you can enable, through your platform, your user to be more self-serving, and also you can accumulate a lot of good templates, you can just choose [simple] ways and see how other people are using a very nice template for their customer reception…
You don’t need to actually reinvent the wheel. Then if the platform and interface is easy enough, then once you go hand-in-hand wit them, teach them one or two use cases, then they will actually build by themselves. I think all SaaS companies will become platform ecosystems, to invite more people to create things.
Paulo: They sort of help each other out, improve their own experience, like gamers. They teach each other, “How do you win this? How do you do that?” That’s pretty interesting.
Jennifer: For example, you design a whole fintech user onboarding journey. You can probably do can revenue sharing with us with that design. So I think it’s quite cool.
“I think all SaaS companies will become platform ecosystems, to invite more people to create things.”
Paulo: Interesting. So the customers could actually also benefit from revenue sharing through you guys. So that’s interesting. Do you see that also WIZ.AI may be becoming, sort of the way that you onboard clients, also becoming an AI to teach customers how to use AI? Do you see that happening?
Jennifer: That’s actually a good idea because now on one side, our models now have intent. That means like customers using one simple intent can actually collect a lot of the data we have before, so they don’t need to train the model a lot. And like they can select a lot of intent in our database. So that’s one side helping a lot.
And the second one is we try to make sure all the designs are very [simple]. We’re making sure someone who doesn’t know anything about this, but understands their own business flow, can easily transfer into the WIZ.AI design flow. So that’s actually something our product team is working very hard on.
“We try to make sure all the designs are very [simple]. We’re making sure someone who doesn’t know anything about this, but understands their own business flow, can easily transfer into the WIZ.AI design flow. So that’s actually something our product team is working very hard on.”
Leadership Approach Behind WIZ.AI’s Global Growth
Paulo: You guys are best positioned to actually do that, because that’s already essentially what you’re doing for your customers anyway, so might as well do it for your own company as well.
And speaking of, even if I think AI will definitely change a lot of the menial and the manual stuff and the repetitive tasks, managing a company, bringing people together, running this at the top levels, we’ll still need humans to actually do that. And speaking of actually managing people and bringing people together, I wanted to ask what’s your approach?
Since you’ve been doing this already for the past 3 to 5 years, how do you approach bringing in and managing a team across several countries? You mentioned that it can be sometimes a bit of a logistical challenge having to let these teams run their own show, but at the same time, still making sure there are standards and all that. Well, what’s your approach to that, especially trying to find the right leaders in different geographies?
Jennifer: People are important. Your leaders are important and also that your culture is important. Transparency is important and being is easy to access is important. Being open is important. I think all the elements are actually combined together can really help you to operate day to day.
And the second one is we’re quite open. So we will try to encourage people to not only focus on current their countries. Actually, we support cross-region or cross-boundary collaboration. So even now, also we will try to shorten the reporting line, which is fairly flat. Then make sure…communication can be easy.
And the last part is I think as all the founders, designing companies is like designing your own products. We are actually all growing together with the company. So sometimes you find an idea, you share it with the leaders and try something together, but you find out it’s actually not so efficient then you just say like let’s change it. And I feel like that’s transparent.
I love the very important term called intellectual honesty. So my leaders, my teammates, know if I realize something is wrong, I need to speak out. So that culture can be straightforward. It’s important, especially for cross-border.
Most of the time when you see the cross-border issues, they’re because you don’t know what happened from different countries, and also like you have too many layers and also you don’t have any sense about the local insight because of the layers in communication and it sounds like something urgent cannot pass to you or pass other regions because they don’t really speak out. So I think it’s important to encourage those things.
And once you actually start to think about — for some of our Thailand projects, we are getting a Singapore colleague and also Indonesia colleague support from like sales to presales, from delivery side or training sides, so once actually they support one or two times actually they notice they have more career path towards like regional leadership, and also experience conquering more countries…Actually, they will be a pioneer to bring your company culture there.
“…for some of our Thailand projects, we are getting a Singapore colleague and also Indonesia colleague support from like sales to presales, from delivery side or training sides, so once actually they support one or two times actually they notice they have more career path towards like regional leadership, and also experience conquering more countries.”
Paulo: So you actually get the teams, not necessarily from that country, also involved to support and actually help in terms of the go-to market, which is really interesting because it also helps them with their own career development.
And a follow-up question I had to that is you mentioned that you guys are all growing as WIZ.AI is growing as well. How has starting this company and running this company impacted you as a person and impacted the way that you see the world? You came from VC — the dark side, so to speak. I’m just kidding — but you came from the other side of the table before WIZ.AI. So how has that changed your worldview?
Jennifer: I think most of time, actually, when you are in the VC world, you don’t need to work with a lot of people, you only select some of the people. And also you are the coach. So all the founders are players, you are the coach and you select the players, but they run the show.
When I was young, seeing this was cool because you can talk to the most brilliant people and the smartest people in the world. I believe most of founders are very brave and very smart, and that’s the reason you’re willing to bet them. Otherwise it’s not worth it.
I think also venture capital is a very interesting and challenging job, because those are the smartest people, and you are actually need to make money from them too as a VC. When you come to the founder side, now it’s your own show. You need work by yourself, you are the creator, you need to solve your own problems.
And there’s a lot of operation problems and you cannot really bring in the genius, VC guys at the early stages, but you are actually growing together with your teams. And people who are willing to work with you, maybe they’re young, they’re passionate, but they still need to [grow] a little bit with the professionalism.
They still actually need to explore their management skills. So those are people actually work with, which is a totally different type of people which you meet in the VC world. And also you need to drive the company’s direction and need to actually think deeper about what you should do next. And also [understand] why people follow you and your dream, is it really other people’s dream as well — you need to influence them; I think it’s quite important. You need to get your hands dirty to fix things.
It’s different from being someone sitting there and watching, but it’s a strong achievement [to be a founder]. I reflect on myself a lot and being a founder actually helped me be more patient. And as I mentioned, intellectual honesty as well.
I can be more empathetic about the teammates I have and also enjoy the good times and go through the difficult moments now that we are solving the problem together and we are the only people who can rely on each other in solving those problems. So I think that’s good.
“Venture capital is a very interesting and challenging job, because those are the smartest people, and you are actually need to make money from them too as a VC. When you come to the founder side, now it’s your own show. You need work by yourself, you are the creator, you need to solve your own problems.”
Paulo: You really feel that you’re playing with a team and that you’re all working together towards a shared goal. What advice would you give to your past self, your VC self now that you’ve experienced being a founder? What would you tell your VC self to change, in terms of how they engage with founders?
Jennifer: I think sometimes giving some help is good, But also the founder’s mindset is really extremely optimistic, and also very much a “creator mindset.” So when we’re working with VCs, sometimes I think I would love to actually having more problem solving partners, where we really bring to them our problems and they can help us a lot. That would be very much appreciated. But if they just see my financial statements, knowing where I am, I’m fine. When they don’t feel like teammates, but just someone on my cap table, the feeling is different.
“So when we’re working with VCs, sometimes I think I would love to actually having more problem solving partners, where we really bring to them our problems and they can help us a lot.”
Paulo: Somebody who can actually be there with you in the field and actually help solve very specific problems for you guys. Before we get into the rapid fire round, I wanted to get your sense of, where do you see this whole space moving in the next five years?
And what will the role of was that AI be in terms of its future growth, in terms of shaping conversational AI, not just here in Southeast Asia, but maybe in other regions as well.
Jennifer: Our ambition is to actually go global, and figure out more application and use cases for industries, and also I think we [want to] push the boundary of technology development and models [through] real business use cases. And the last part is we can explore more interfaces, not only for the phone line [but] also other interfaces, maybe cars, like those things, you can actually still have some kind of applications there.
“Our ambition is to actually go global…we [want to] push the boundary of technology development and models [through] real business use cases.”
Rapid Fire Round
What are the top 3 traits of a great CEO?
Jennifer: I already mentioned about braveness, which is also quite important, transparency…or intellectual honesty…fast learning.
Favorite book / podcast / resource to learn about AI?
Jennifer: Quite a lot, if you are very, very junior, just taking some class in Coursera Engineering School, they have the very basic ones and also a lot of books like Artificial Intelligence by Example. Maybe you can understand use cases like artificial intelligence, like engines, those other things, you can know the technology, you can know the applications. I think there will be quite a lot when you search on YouTube and books as well.
I first learned from the coursera engineering school. and then I read a lot of books and also I’m talking with a lot of tech genius guys…and also like later I learn more about the use cases. So that’s quite important. And you listen to the domain players, how they are driving the applications deeper. And that’s where the value is. So there’s so many books and classes, and you just need to from start from somewhere.
What digital technology/innovation excites you the most today? (apart from AI/ conversational AI)
Jennifer: I think the metaverse is quite exciting. Web3 is quite exciting we want to see another layer of worlds. We wanna actually figure out what is actually in the next level of applications. And also we want to know what happens in the enterprise applications in the metaverse.
Advice for professionals from other regions or markets looking to plant roots and play a role in Southeast Asia?
Jennifer: Talk to the local people. That’s quite important. Localization is quite important. and then you can pick some of the language like Bahasa. Actually I spent some time, learning Indonesia Bahasa and it’s very interesting. And I really try to learn Thai, but my writing is very, very bad. It’s been a lot fun because actually I learned language by understanding the local cultures and how they communicate and that’s actually quite interesting.
People who don’t really have roots in the Southeast Asia, I think the most important thing is receiving the market where you are, which is also my philosophy. I spend a lot of time with the different countries where we have customers and talking with them. All this insight is most important; getting your first hand insight, instead of digesting someone’s second layer insight. Then third layer insight will actually be really misleading.
Most memorable class / course you’ve taken or, if applicable, you’ve taught?
Jennifer: Maybe this time I won’t actually mention about a class, because when I was in the US, actually I was the part-time producer for the Road of Innovation. It’s actually a documentary. So I was lucky to interview a lot of genius founders.
And I know one of the cases or episodes I took is really, I sit in front of Engine Biosciences, one of the famous biotech companies, their first chief scientist. And that encounter was actually a lesson in my life. I still remember that. The story is very simple.
When you find that, you are working on this so many years and try to figure through experiments what can be a success, but even if you try so many times, they all failed, but the moment you go through this kind of experience, actually the path becomes positive…I remember all his colleagues actually very, very excited people all recall that moment. The people excited because that’s actually the breakthrough that meant that in the future, they can become a billion dollar company.
But before they almost burned out all their money. I saw his face was super calm and super quiet. People would think it is very exciting, but for him, he thinks that’s the right result after trying…this is supposed to happened like that. So that’s why I really touched me a lot.
Besides any other learning, that’s the impression I remember. If you really choose to do something, you are brave enough and you have your own judgment, just do it.
Favorite activity to de-stress?
Jennifer: Since I lack sleep, one of the things I like to do is sleep, but also I like reading, I like read a lot of things, very diverse topics. So sometimes you’ll see my catalog, I read all the times in my Kindle and also I like paperbacks too. Most of the time, I choose different topics.
I like anthropology. That’s actually a very interesting thing…you can see the ways of human being…there’s so many interesting things.
I read quite different types of books, which diversifies your mindset and you don’t need to really read about the same topic all the time. For example, if I am interested in architecture, so I read a lot architecture related. I also read seven important classes of physics.
Also I love books that can explain the complicated things in a simple way. I told all my leaders, don’t really writing those items like it’s nonsense or the sentence is complicated, just show the results in a table and turn complicate things into simple things. That’s actually something I learned.