Paving the way for women in tech: a chat with Jennifer Jones

Christine Nedilsky Aug 9, 2018 • 4 min read

Jennifer Jones is a data scientist. Because predicting behavior is a huge part of her job, she came to her interview extremely prepared. “This is what happens when you interview an introvert,” she said, opening a notebook to reveal pages filled with her well-thought out answers. We managed to break away from her notes to talk about her role at ZapLabs, her love for nature, and the many opportunities—and challenges—women face in this industry today.

How long have you been with the company?

“Two years!”

Tell me a bit about what you do here.

“I work as a data scientist,” Jennifer answered. “It’s a combination of analyzing data, programming, and identifying new insights and questions to answer. Ultimately, we try to identify, understand, and predict consumer behavior, provide insights to help brokers and agents work with clients, identify new features or modifications to add to the app, and work on tools to enable better data quality and analysis that makes everything else possible.”

Why do you like what you do?

Jennifer likes to investigate, solve problems, and continually learn new things. “Being a data scientist is fun and challenging and allows me to use my scientific and analytical side as well as my creative side.”

Why do you like working at ZapLabs?

“The senior leadership team are very receptive and they care deeply about the success of the business as well as the employees and maintaining a positive team culture.” She also likes that ZapLabs allows her to work in residential real estate—but without having to be in sales.

What are your hopes for the product in the future?

Jennifer enjoys seeing improvements that help consumers find their dream home, and believes there is plenty of room for growth in the algorithm to help make that happen. “We can use data science to help consumers find homes that they might not find on their own.”

What role does technology play in your life?

Although Jennifer likes learning about all the new, exciting gadgets and consumer devices, she wouldn’t necessarily call herself an early adopter. “I get more excited about advancements about tools and techniques to solve problems,” she explained.

Back when she lived in Portland, Jennifer volunteered at a community organization called FreeGeek—a nonprofit that recycled old computers and used those parts to build new computers to donate to volunteers and underserved people in the community. “I taught a class on how to build desktop computers and install Linux and basic programing commands.” When I asked her how she learned how to build a computer, she seemed surprised. “I think…I think I just looked inside.”

What would your dream house look like?

“My dream house is warm and inviting, with lots of direct light and sun and a large yard for a garden, fruit trees, and other plants and flowers.” She said she would like to buy a fixer upper and enlist Drew and Jonathan Scott from HGTV’s Property Brothers to help make it her own. “The exposure would benefit ZapLabs!” she said with a smile. She may be onto something!  

What do you do for fun?

When she’s not working in front of a screen, Jennifer likes to emerge herself in the great outdoors. “I like being outside in the sun and experiencing nature—whether that’s hiking a trail in Muir Woods or working in my community garden,” she said. She’s also a big fan of DIY projects, and likes listening to music and watching action comedies.

What advice would you have for anyone who is interested in a career in data science?

“Start from a place of technical knowledge—statistics or physics or mathematics is really useful for not only applying the tools and libraries that exist, but also understanding what they do, the limitations, and when to use them.” She went on to say persistence, resourcefulness, keeping an open mind, questioning, and being pragmatic also help.  

“The field is exploding—and it has a huge diversity problem. People who want to join the field that are underrepresented need to just go for it anyway—even if you question your own abilities. Be aware of and look up concepts like imposter syndrome, stereotype threat, and implicit bias to recognize that any of your own insecurities aren’t necessarily due to internal reasons, but have kind of a larger external context,” she said.

What is your favorite quote?

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”—Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Christine Nedilsky

Christine is a Content Strategist at ZapLabs, focused on creating engaging original content such as Community articles, case studies, and email campaigns. Christine also manages Zap and ZapLabs social media channels, curating news and tips to a growing agent user base and prospective candidates.