Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be impactful, disruptive and transformative — but it isn’t easy. Amelia could never be the innovative product it is today without the work of dedicated visionaries reimagining the User Experience (UX) for the AI age, the R&D engineers turning science fiction into business realities, the insightful guides shepherding customers through their AI journeys, and the communicators responsible for telling the world what we do.
“The Real Women Behind Amelia” is our ongoing series highlighting IPsoft’s extraordinary women colleagues who contribute to making Amelia the industry’s leading cognitive solution for the enterprise. In this edition, we profile the contributions of IPsoft Senior Program Manager Jennifer DeVries. Jennifer has been with IPsoft for 10 years and responsible for making deployments quick and seamless — in fact, she was the program lead for the very first piece of software sold by IPsoft.
In this wide-ranging conversation, we talk about how IPsoft and its products have evolved through the years, Jennifer’s years as a volunteer EMT and her advice for young women entering STEM fields.
How would you describe the role of Program Manager with IPsoft?
It has changed over the years. It used to be a traditional corporate definition of a Program Manager — align the business objectives and manage a bunch of projects. Now, I’d say it’s more like a Technical Program Manager with a little bit of product management thrown in.
I’d say the common thread in my ten years here has been the goal of deploying our solutions as quickly and easily as possible, while also keep an eye on making sure our business objectives align to the product roadmap. These days we focus on things like scaling, high availability, security and Disaster Recovery (DR).
What kind of things do you consider with DR for AI?
With Amelia, we’re very concerned that she’s got high availability. So we have regular DR exercises to help us make sure users are never impacted by problems on the back-end. It’s fun to work with the teams of incredible engineers to make sure that Amelia always “just works” in every situation. I love that I get to drive project and product roadmaps that make AI fit seamlessly into an enterprise.
What was your first title when you came to work at IPsoft?
I came onboard as a Service Delivery Manager, but that position has since morphed into the Customer Relationship Manager role today. When I first started, Service Delivery Management and Project Management were all part of the same role. The concept of having a separate implementation department didn’t even exist. The very first time IPsoft sold our software to anyone, I was the PM/program lead for developing client delivery methods, and project, processes, and product delivery requirements. I’ve been in the lead role figuring out how to get our products to our customers ever since.
What kind of positions did you have before this position?
I was a technical team lead for IBM supporting AT&T’s billing systems. And then I worked for the Department of Defense as a Project Manager, but also helped out writing SQL code for classified applications (and some non-classified ones) for the PdM NetOps.
What are some things you’d like to see Amelia do in the future?
I’m really excited she’s getting into healthcare. I really believe that AI will help solve the global doctor shortage. I fundamentally believe that because of the things I’ve seen her be able to do. I’ve been a volunteer EMT, so I know the importance of making healthcare available everywhere.
Tell us about being an EMT.
In New Jersey, EMTs are all volunteer. Unless it’s a big city, EMTs are all volunteers. I don’t have the time to do it anymore, though I still am certified (I’ll keep my certification because it’s hard to get, so I’m not going to let go of it). But being an EMT is exactly what you think it is. You call 911 and you see my smiling face with an ambulance. I mean I can tell you stories that will make your hair curl. I did that actively for around 12 years including stints where I’d volunteer a full shift at night and still show up to work the next day — can’t do that anymore.
Volunteering as an EMT is a way of helping your community on a level that few understand, but everyone depends on. In the course of my “active riding,” some of the more heartwarming stories involved helping a girl who got her hand stuck in a car CD player, and helping a lost Alzheimer’s patient find their way back to their loving family unharmed. For me, there’s a real peace to be found helping your community. It is a core part of who I am as a person. It is also part of the reason I believe in IPsoft’s mission for responsible AI.
You also work a lot trying to cultivate more women into STEM fields.
My church has an education initiative for teenagers including a STEM program and I help with programs that remove the stigma and foster the fun, cool things you can do in STEM. The program does everything from helping girls become programmers to working in IT, business and leadership roles.
I also enjoy mentoring new project managers as they join the IT/PM world. One of the great accomplishments I have here at IPsoft is the building of our first mentoring program for the non-technical staff. I am going to quote a woman leader that has helped me in my career, Jean Hill. She reminds all women in IT that we have a responsibility to pay it forward and mentor young women coming in to IT.
What advice do you give to young women in the field?
A big one is that they should seek out mentors from both genders. I find it’s helpful to explain to younger employees, particularly millennials, yeah, men and women do think differently. That’s not wrong. There’s nothing broken. We just approach things fundamentally differently. So take a moment to understand that he’s coming to the table from a different position. There’s nothing wrong. Just appreciate that and learn that divergent opinions foster innovation.
Also, I just tell them: Look at where we started and where we are. I’m the first career Project Manager at IPsoft. I’m the first woman that had the title Senior Manager here. Now we have several women in leadership roles, and sponsor Girls Who Code events! It can be done.
What would you say to young women to inspire them to pursue careers in STEM?
It’s a lot of fun and you get to play with some really cool stuff as part of your job!
Five Fast Fun Facts
What is your favorite depiction of AI from science fiction?
I’ve always loved the Star Trek computer. It inspired me as a girl as something that I would be able to experience in my lifetime.
Name a technology you’ve recently come in contact with that made you think, “Wow, I’m really living in the future.”
I was slow to get a smart watch, but now that I have one, it amazes me what I can do without having my phone on my person.
Name a notable real-life innovator whose contributions inspired you.
A thing your co-workers would be surprised to learn about you.
As a tribute to those who were lost on 9/11 and our countries resiliency, I did a five-year photo project showing the recovery of the NYC skyline on the Fourth of July, which people can check out here.
Your last meal would be?
There is a Polish tradition at Christmas call Wigilia, a feast of 12 dishes where the famous pierogis are served and this magical soup made with imported Polish mushrooms.